CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – They say confidence is everything in sports.
Baker Mayfield’s appears to be returning.
The Browns starting quarterback, who was sacked 40 times last season, got through last Thursday’s 35-30 win over the Bengals untouched after being sacked twice and hit 4 more times in a 38-6 Week 1 loss to the Ravens.
“We are going to lean on those guys and trust them to do that week in and week out,” Mayfield said. “We know it is a different opponent this week, but we have to carry the same mindset to go in there and execute.”
That confidence in his line will be tested Sunday when the Washington Football Team rolls into town.
Washington leads the NFL with 11 sacks, 8 of those came in Week 1 against Carson Wentz in a 27-17 win over the Eagles.
“They are really good up front. That is the challenge for us,” Mayfield said. “The game starts up front. We have to bring the intensity. They have great players. Obviously, Chase Young, a high draft pick, but he is playing like it. He is proving why they chose him so high. They have guys all around. It is not just him. We have to find completions, get the ball out, establish the run game and not let them be the game wreckers.”
It also helped Mayfield to see Nick Chubb and Kareem hunt account for 210 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground, softening up Cincinnati’s defense and setting up the passing game with play-action and roll outs.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski couldn’t have drawn it up better if he tried, and while the game plan will change week to week, the formula has Mayfield believing in Stefanski’s system.
“I am very comfortable doing it,” Mayfield said. “It does not just help me, though. It helps the O line move in the pocket where we are not just dropping back and letting teams tee off on us and having them having to react. It helps our run game out.
“When they have to worry about us pulling the ball and throwing passes and rolling out, that means they have to be a little hesitant on the backside, which opens up holes for some of those cutback runs, not that we had any last week because there were a lot of gashes front side. It just helps everybody out. It makes us more versatile, and teams have to prepare more for that.”
Momentum builder – After Odell Beckham Jr. caught just 3 of 10 targets for 22 yards in the opener questions about the superstar receiver’s fit in Cleveland immediately hit the airwaves.
The chatter went all but silent after Mayfield and Beckham hooked up 4 times for 74 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the win over Cincinnati.
Is that enough to build momentum for them going forward?
“Yeah, I think so,” Mayfield said. “We had a few more completions last Thursday so just continue to build that, get the ball in his hands and let him make plays.”
Tough love – Rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. had a tough training camp while going up against Olivier Vernon, Myles Garrett and even Porter Gustin in practice.
“It helps a lot going against those guys like that,” Wills said. “I have full confidence in myself, seeing those guys in practice like that every day. That is what they get paid to do, and we get paid to protect.”
That tough love seems to already be paying dividends as Wills has settled in quite nicely through 2 games, but he’ll be tested Sunday by No. 2 overall pick Chase Young and Washington’s front.
“He is just a freak of nature,” Wills said of Young, who has 2.5 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss, 2 QB hits and a forced fumble already in 2 games. “You do not see a lot of guys like him around the league. He just has a lot of size and ability and a lot of speed and power, which is a good combination of everything you need.”
Notable quotable – “I am a history buff, and I am raising two football history buffs. We watch a lot of YouTube highlight clips so they definitely know who No. 40 for the Chicago Bears was. Condolences to the Bears franchise, the Bears family and the Sayers family.” – Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski on the passing of Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers.
Injury report – DNP: DE Olivier Vernon (abdomen), DE Adrian Clayborn (hip), LB Jacob Phillips (knee); LIMITED: RT Jack Conklin (ankle/finger), CB Kevin Johnson (liver), C JC Tretter (knee), CB Greedy Williams (shoulder), LB Mack Wilson (knee); FULL: TE Stephen Carlson (shoulder), WR Jarvis Landry (hip), LB Sione Takitaki (shoulder)