I want to give a big thank you to the entire staff here at Dawgs By Nature, who have been continuing to put out great content over these past 1.5 months while I have been relatively idle tending to personal matters.
There is no better way for me to get back in the thick of things, though, than with our annual Cleveland Browns training camp preview, where I will go position-by-position until we have talked about all 90 players on the roster. As always, we start off with the quarterback position, where the pressure will always remain high on QB Baker Mayfield.
1. Baker Mayfield - Starting QB
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 215 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 4 years | College: Oklahoma
The big storyline surrounding the Browns’ starting quarterback right now is the status of his contract extension. There’s no doubt that Mayfield should be paid in the range of the upper tier quarterbacks, but I don’t think he’s going to get a Patrick Mahomes-type of extension.
Heading into last year’s training camp preview, I made the following assessment of Mayfield’s 2019 season: “...[Mayfield’s] decision-making was still suspect and his inability to ever roll to his left contributed to his predictability.” Based on the work that Kevin Stefanski had done with Kirk Cousins in Minnesota, I was optimistic about the Browns’ coaching staff getting Mayfield back to his fundamentals in 2020 — mission accomplished (and then some).
Stefanski turned Mayfield into a threat whenever he rolled to his left. Mayfield’s reads and confidence picked up in the second half of the season, somewhat coinciding with the injury to WR Odell Beckham Jr. My belief on that situation remains the same: Beckham is an asset and should be on the team, but Mayfield plays a bit more natural and free without him on the field. The chemistry between those two improved last year, but it needs to hit full stride in 2021.
Mayfield threw for 26 touchdowns to 8 interceptions last year, and also started to run the ball a little more at the end of the season to pick up first downs in key moments. The number one thing that I want to see Mayfield improve upon this year, as silly as it may sound, is his ball security on quarterback sneaks or designed quarterback runs for short gains. That cost the Browns in at least one game last year, and nearly cost them in another.
Cleveland will be viewed as a championship contender from the get-go this season, and they’ll have a tough match-up right out of the gate when they play it back against the Kansas City Chiefs. I’m not one to say, “Oh, Mayfield has to out-duel Mahomes in that game,” because I know it’s a tall order. But, with the level of talent Cleveland has, the expectations are higher than ever for Mayfield to have a certain standard of excellence week in and week out.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. Case Keenum - Backup QB
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 215 lbs | Age: 33
Experience: 9 years | College: Houston
Case Keenum is in the second year of his 3-year, $18 million deal to be an insurance policy for Mayfield. Although Mayfield has started all 16 games in each of the past two seasons, you don’t want a championship-level team to be crippled by a short-term injury to your starter.
Keenum isn’t a spectacular quarterback, but he’s proven to be effective under Stefanski, evidenced by a 22-touchdown, 7-interception career-year in 2017 with the Vikings. Keenum was 5-of-10 for 46 yards with Cleveland last year, and let’s hope that we’re fortunate enough that he plays that small of a role again in 2021. He can continue his teacher/mentor role behind Mayfield, as I also believe there is value in an entrenched starter not having to look over their shoulder.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. Kyle Lauletta - Backup QB
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 222 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 2 years | College: Richmond
The Browns’ third quarterback last year, Garrett Gilbert, was plucked off their practice squad by the Dallas Cowboys in October. Cleveland signed Kyle Lauletta to the practice squad to replace him. Lauletta was originally a 4th round pick by the New York Giants in 2018. He didn’t make the Giants’ roster in 2019, signing on to the Eagles’ practice squad afterward. After a very brief stint with the Falcons in 2020, he landed with Cleveland, where he now has a shot to be the team’s third quarterback (and third quarterbacks live on the practice squad these days).
BigTownBrown did a scouting report on Lauletta prior to the 2018 draft, which you can look back on here. He has a quick release and tall frame with some ability to run the ball, but his throws often come in low without the best velocity. Lauletta is the team’s third quarterback for now, but the team could easily decide to try out someone else for the role. I’m surprised they don’t have a fourth quarterback yet, which is common for training camp — so I’m expecting some form of competition to be added in the coming weeks.
Final Roster Odds: <1%
What best describes your expectations for Baker Mayfield in 2021?
This poll is closed
Pro Bowl quarterback, among the best in the NFL — a noticeable improvement from last season.
Still very solid and competitive, much like his 2020 season — but about the same as he was.
A bit of a regression with some slumps mixed in.
Who will the Browns’ practice squad quarterback be in Week 1?
This poll is closed