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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2020: QB Preview

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Who knows what will happen with the NFL season, but we will begin our training camp coverage anyway.

Cleveland Browns Training Camp Practice Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The pandemic has made for some depressing times in the world, but any glimmer of sports has been something people can get excited about. Is it something that we can really count on happening? As various sports start resuming practices, we’re already hearing about outbreaks at the professional and collegiate level. Now, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it is hitting some individuals with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Is the 2020 NFL season going to happen? What if a team has an outbreak in a particular week? Who knows. Despite all the uncertainty, we will carry on with our annual Cleveland Browns training camp preview. Fans will not be in attendance this year, but 90 players on the team are still competing to win a job on the 53-man roster, so let’s get started with the quarterback position.


Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

1. Baker Mayfield - Starting QB

Height: 6-1 | Weight: 215 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 3 years | College: Oklahoma

It is fair to say that Baker Mayfield fell into a big sophomore slump, as he never looked comfortable in Freddie Kitchens’ offense. After throwing 27 touchdowns to 14 interceptions in 2018, he threw 22 touchdowns to 21 interceptions last year, seeing his completion rate drop below 60% despite a tremendous rushing season by Nick Chubb and having Odell Beckham Jr. as a new weapon. There were other issues, such as the poor play of the offensive tackles, but Mayfield’s mechanics were out of whack from the start of the season. Although he made some improvements as the season went along, his decision-making was still suspect and his inability to ever roll to his left contributed to his predictability.

Mayfield needed a change in year three, and he gets it with new head coach Kevin Stefanski. However, because of the pandemic, Mayfield hasn’t had a chance to work out with the team or his new coaches in person, which is going to make it more difficult for him to break some of his bad habits. With that said, Mayfield knows that his 2019 performance was not up to par, and has also promised to be more mature about not worrying about the media criticism that has been thrown at him.

I still believe in all of Mayfield’s tools as the Browns’ franchise quarterback, and hopefully having a veteran backup behind him who knows Stefanski’s system will be an asset he can lean on. Pro Football Focus does a great job in the video below explaining how Stefanski improved the efficiency of Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense in 2019 off of playaction, and believes with Cleveland’s new investments in the offensive line, that Mayfield will have much more time to throw in those situations this year:

Final Roster Odds: 100%


NFC Championship - Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

2. Case Keenum - Backup QB

Height: 6-1 | Weight: 215 lbs | Age: 32
Experience: 8 years | College: Houston

When Case Keenum was with the Vikings in 2017, he threw for a career-best 22 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. Since then, he has been a lackluster starter for the Broncos in 2018, and then the Redskins in 2019. That experience with Stefanski in 2017 was viewed as very valuable for Cleveland to have this offseason, which is why he was signed to a 3-year, $18 million deal.

“That is a huge part of why I was looking forward to being around Case,” Mayfield said a few weeks ago via video conference. “He was in this system, so I can hear his thoughts on how it is taught and how he reads it.”

Back in May, Keenum met up with Mayfield to practice with TE David Njoku, TE Austin Hooper, WR Damion Ratley, and WR Rashard Higgins for a workout. Keenum knows 100% that he was signed to be the backup and a teacher to Mayfield, but he’s also proven that he can play well if he were needed to start because of injury.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

3. Garrett Gilbert - Backup QB

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 230 lbs | Age: 28
Experience: 3 years | College: Southern Methodist

The Browns added Garrett Gilbert last offseason after the AAF folded. He was the MVP and league’s passing leader at the time, and had a decent training camp with Cleveland. Although Drew Stanton was technically placed on injured reserve last season, I saw it as Gilbert having won the backup job. In the preseason, Gilbert was 40-of-65 for 403 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mayfield started all 16 games in the regular season.

Gilbert won’t be the Browns’ primary backup quarterback this year, so he’ll be competing for the third spot with rookie Kevin Davidson. From a money standpoint, Gilbert is making just about the minimum for a veteran player, so that should not factor in to any decision. Gilbert showed a strong arm last year and has played in a quite a few different offensive systems in his career, bouncing from team-to-team or league-to-league. If Cleveland keeps three quarterbacks, I like Gilbert’s odds of staying on. However, from a roster flexibility standpoint, we’ve seen many teams carry two quarterbacks on gameday only, with a third on the practice squad (a younger player).

Final Roster Odds: 30%


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Harvard at Princeton Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

4. Kevin Davidson - UDFA Rookie

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 225 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: Rookie | College: Princeton

The Browns signed Kevin Davidson as an undrafted free agent following the virtual 2020 NFL Draft. In his senior season at Princeton, Davidson started in 10 games, completing 66.7% of his passes for 2,569 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. He was ranked as Dane Brugler’s 16th-best quarterback in this year’s draft class. Here was Brugler’s assessment of Davidson:

Receiving only FCS-level offers, Davidson was the backup at Princeton for three years (behind Chad Kanoff and John Lovett), taking over as a senior and drawing attention from NFL scouts. He passes the eye test with his size and arm strength, delivering catchable passes where his target can create. He hangs tough in the pocket to allow routes to develop, but lacks experience as a one-year starter (vs. Ivy League competition). Overall, Davidson has a smooth stroke and makes smart decisions based on pre-snap reads, but he struggles outside of structure, lacking mobility or consistency as a passer — he is an interesting long-term project.

Davidson’s chances of winning a job on the 53-man roster are very slim. Even if he wins the third quarterback job from Gilbert, I believe it’ll be via the practice squad for him. It’s always good to have a player like this around in camp, though — and last year, David Blough ended up being traded to the Detroit Lions and started the final five games of their season.

Final Roster Odds: <1%


Poll

What best describes your expectations for Baker Mayfield in 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Pro Bowl quarterback, among the best in the AFC. A huge turnaround from 2020.
    (134 votes)
  • 62%
    A nice improvement from last year’s slump, playing his part in a more efficient Kevin Stefanski offense.
    (280 votes)
  • 4%
    The same issues from 2019 will be present, leading to frustration and some rumblings about his future.
    (18 votes)
  • 2%
    Terrible, and he’ll be benched for someone who has run the offense better in the past (Case Keenum).
    (13 votes)
445 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If the Browns decided to keep either Garrett Gilbert or Kevin Davidson, who would you keep?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    Garrett Gilbert
    (213 votes)
  • 29%
    Kevin Davidson
    (88 votes)
301 votes total Vote Now