Mayfield set for rough test against Ravens’ rabid defense
CLEVELAND (AP) — Baker Mayfield’s first NFL start came inside Oakland’s notorious Black Hole.
No. 2 will be against some nasty black birds.
It can only get easier after this.
The top overall pick in this year’s draft, Mayfield faces a major challenge in his first career home start on Sunday as the Browns host the Ravens. Baltimore’s ravenous, second-ranked defense has not given up a touchdown in the second half this season and made Steelers star QB Ben Roethlisberger look lost last week.
Now they get a rookie to feast upon.
Mayfield knows what awaits him.
“Baltimore has obviously been historically a great defensive franchise,” he said. “They trust what they are good at, and they are going to run it. They are playing well right now. I expect them to continue to do what they are good at and also throw a couple of wrinkles in there for me.”
For the most part, Mayfield handled everything the Raiders threw his way a week ago in his first career start, a 45-42 loss in overtime. Showing some of the same poise and playmaking ability that made him a college star, Mayfield passed for 295 yards and two touchdowns. However, he committed four turnovers and the Browns (1-2-1) blew a 14-point lead in the second half and dropped to 2-33-1 in coach Hue Jackson’s tenure.
Still, Mayfield, who came off the bench on Sept. 20 against the Jets and led the Browns to their first win since 2016, handled the adversity like a seasoned pro and converted a few more doubters into believers.
The Browns may have finally found their leader.
“I think Baker Mayfield is this generation’s Brett Favre or John Elway, if you will,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “This guy knows where he wants to go with the ball, and he’s very accurate, has a quick release. He’s really playing well. Obviously, he’s playing well because they scored 42 points last week against Oakland, and they are the Top 5 of scoring offense. So, I think he’s done a nice job filling in, and it seems like they have more rhythm with him as a rookie, every play he’s in there.”
Mayfield’s about to face a defense like he’s never seen. Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley knows the Ravens well. After spending six seasons with Pittsburgh going up against Baltimore’s tenacious defense twice a season, Haley smiled when told about Martindale’s praise of his young QB.
“He’s carving a (Pro Football Hall of Fame) bust?” Haley said. “I will hold my stance. I am excited about a lot of the things that he is doing. This week will be a real test. We will know a lot more come Sunday evening.”
Looking to get an advantage on Mayfield, the Ravens watched tapes of his games at Oklahoma and grilled tight end Mark Andrews and tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who were teammates with the Heisman Trophy winner.
“There’s really not that much that those guys can tell you,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You kind of talk about it, but I can’t really say we’ve gotten any great information that way, to be honest with you. Honestly, I thought we’d get more.”
Asked if he watched HBO’s “Hard Knocks” to learn more about the Browns, Harbaugh shook his head. Mayfield was prominently featured on the documentary series this summer.
“I never watch ‘Hard Knocks.’ Nope. Not a fan, not interested,” he said, perhaps sending a message he doesn’t want to be considered for the series in the future. “Couldn’t care less about ‘Hard Knocks,’ just for the record.”
The Browns aren’t giving rookie Nick Chubb nearly enough touches. They know it.
“He has to get some,” Jackson said after Chubb rushed for 105 yards on just three carries, and scored on two long runs last week. The Browns intend to increase his workload this week, mixing Chubb in with Carlos Hyde, who has scored five touchdowns but isn’t a breakaway threat.
Chubb has made the most of his 10 carries, rushing for 146 yards. According to Elias, Chubb is the first back in league history to rush for 100 yards and score two TDs on three runs.
If Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s first four games are any indication, he’s going to have a fabulous season. He’s thrown for 1,252 yards, eight touchdowns and just two interceptions and has quickly developed chemistry with new receivers Willie Snead, Michael Crabtree and Jon Brown.
Still, with 12 games left, Flacco and Harbaugh are not looking too far ahead.
“Through four games, it’s a quarter of the season. You could say we’re on schedule, but we’re never satisfied,” Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
“We’re only four games in,” he noted. “Obviously, we like some of the stuff we’re doing. We can get better at a lot of stuff, like always.”
For Browns rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison, Sunday’s matchup with Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs will be a measuring stick. Hopefully, Suggs doesn’t use it on him.
Harrison has sought advice from retired Browns star Joe Thomas, who had epic battles with Suggs over the years. The undrafted free agent insists he’s not nervous about trying to block one of the league’s best defenders.
“I’m just going to play my game, how I play every weekend, not going to try to do anything different, just stick to the script,” he said.