The face of modern football has always been the quarterback position. They are the center of all but a few teams and arguably have the most impact than any other position in sports. In short, if you find a good one, you don’t let him go.
The problem is that good QBs don’t come along often enough. At some point, it gets to be where the top guys are like Mt. Rushmore. The same four faces every year. It gets old.
Eventually, a new generation has to come in and give the league a youthful shot in the arm to revitalize the position. It’s been a while since that’s happened. Teams were so desperate that serviceable starters are getting paid like good ones and the good ones are getting paid like Tom Brady. Last season, Deshaun Watson showed the football world that things are about to change.
With week one of pre-season in the books, I thought it would be a good time to check in on how the next generation (meaning guys still in their rookie contracts) of quarterbacks looked to talk about a few that really stood out each week. Keep in mind that it is pre-season so, take everything with a grain of salt, but for some of these guys, it’s all we have.
If we’re talking about future quarterbacks that stood out, we might as well start with the reigning number one overall pick Baker Mayfield. I genuinely believe that after two decades the Browns have finally found their guy.
The kid is just fun to watch. He reminds me so much of Russel Wilson when he started out. I saw every throw and run he had last week against the Giants, and one thing was clear. When he’s in, it’s his offense.
Mayfield looked like he had done this for years. His command of the offense pre-snap was very impressive, and his confidence, leadership, and energy just oozed out of every snap and spread throughout the team. His mobility is what will drive defenses crazy.
There were plenty of times when the Giants had every target well covered, but Baker saw an open hole and ran for a chunk of yards. Like Wilson, Baker is more of a scrambler than a runner, so his eyes were always upfield.
What impressed me the most was his ability to read the defense. Most young quarterbacks struggle with this and will often go with their first read or make bad decisions if it’s covered. Baker was seeing the whole field going through his reads until he found the right one.
His accuracy and ball placement were no surprise as he was at the top of these categories in college. Baker made every throw and showed a mastery of the back shoulder throw with good instincts for when to throw the ball away. He also showed good poise, toughness, and awareness under pressure.
You might be wondering why he’s not the unquestioned starter if he looked so great. The answer is simple: Baker Mayfield looked great against backups. He got away with things that would have cost him against first string defenses. I saw a few throws that should have been picked against better competition. He threw too many passes off his back foot. At times he looked jumpy and erratic in the pocket even when he didn’t need to be.
The Browns also did a great job protecting him. They didn’t ask too much of him, often calling quick and easy plays. They also let him operate from the shotgun most of the time and called play-action every snap he had under center to give him that extra second to get his bearings. I also want to see him throw deep a bit more.
Overall Baker Mayfield had an excellent first outing, and he showed great promise. Could he start now? Maybe, but why rush it? With Tyrod Taylor at the helm, the Browns can and should be patient with him until he’s ready. Tyrod may be the guy for now but there is a buzz in Cleveland, and Baker Mayfield is at the center of it.
Week two of pre-season continues on this weekend and with it, more chances to shine. Who will stand out this week?