Wed May 27 5:33pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
In this Dec. 22, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield reacts during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Cleveland. The Browns quarterback said being away from football has given him time to reflect on his career and made him more determined to rebound from a tough second season in the NFL. Mayfield spoke Wednesday, May 27, 2020, on a Zoom call for the first time since the end of last season. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)
Baker Mayfield went back to his roots during this strange offseason, a time he's used to reflect and forget a season that didn't go well for the Browns' brash quarterback.
He's also worked on his golf game.
''I've always been a high-effort guy,'' he said. ''I am swinging hard still, but it is still not going straight.''
Neither is his NFL career, and Mayfield's spent the past two months trying to get it back on the proverbial fairway.
After an electrifying rookie season, he regressed significantly with Cleveland. On Wednesday, Mayfield, who will be playing for his fourth coach in three years in 2020, spoke to reporters for the first time since January, when the Browns' 6-10 letdown was followed by yet another coaching change, front-office purge and renewed questions about whether he's a franchise QB.
Mayfield knows the upcoming season is vital.
''There's no doubt Year 3 is always a big year in these contracts and timing-wise, everybody knows that,'' Mayfield said on a Zoom call from his home in Texas, where he's been holed up during the COVID-19 pandemic. ''I'm not going to put any added pressure on myself. There's no need for that. Because if I win, good things will happen. That's the most important part.
''If I play better, that's why quarterback is one of those positions that's the hardest in sports. If I play better, our team's going to do better. So I put that pressure on myself. So it doesn't matter what year it is, I have to be way better each year.''
Mayfield was way worse in 2019 than 2018. He followed a record-setting rookie season by throwing 21 interceptions, completing just 59.4 percent of his passes, with a paltry 78.8 passer rating. He lacked confidence in the pocket, never got on the same page with star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and had a handful of minor media meltdowns.
Nothing went as planned for him or the Browns, who fell flat on their collective face masks.
Mayfield is determined to learn from those mistakes. And, as he's done throughout his football life, prove people wrong.
To start, he's been noticeably low key. For him, that's a major change.
''I have a different approach this year,'' he said. ''Everybody who has been interviewed on our team has hit the nail on the head over and over about this is time to work. It is time to do our thing, instead of talking about it. This is the first media thing I have done, just because there is no need to be talking about it. It is just time to go do it and right now.
''It is moving in silence, which is fine with me. That is how I used to do it before getting on a bigger stage, so I am happy to get back to those roots, get back to the fundamentals to where I can accomplish the goals when the season comes around.''
Never one to mince words - on or off the field, - Mayfield feels time at home has given him perspective and a greater appreciation of his profession.
Circumstances have changed and so has he.
''You only get so many opportunities in this game that I have been blessed to play,'' he said. ''It does not last forever. To be able to take advantage of that and enjoy the moments, I think it is going to be good for me, getting back to that and having fun and enjoying the process of how to get to winning, because that is the most enjoyable thing looking back on it.''
In addition to down time playing board games or boating with his wife, Emily, Mayfield has spent a major chunk of the past two months getting to know new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, the former Minnesota offensive coordinator replacing Freddie Kitchens.
Mayfield is impressed with Stefanski, who recently moved his family to Ohio after being stuck in Minnesota when coronavirus changed normalcy and shut down pro sports.
''Kevin is obviously an extremely sharp guy,'' Mayfield said. ''He's able to relate to everybody. That is one of the best parts about him and being around him so far. Just hearing his message, everything he does is with a purpose.''
Mayfield was able to implement some of Stefanski's new offense recently after he invited nine teammates, including backup quarterback Case Keenum and newly signed Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper, to join him in Texas for workouts.
''A lot of them were here last year, but it was good for everybody to be around, speaking the same terminology and just kind of hanging out during all this,'' he said. ''You are kind of stuck at home, but we had a chance to get outside and throw a little bit.''
May 14th: Draft Values
Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins is learning his second offense in as many NFL seasons, but has impressed the new coaching staff with his knowledge in virtual meetings. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said Haskins is learning quickly and "speaking the language" of his offense, despite not being able to get on the field with the sophomore signal-caller. The former first-round pick is favored to start for Washington, but new head coach Ron Rivera said backup Kyle Allen would have an advantage in a QB truncated QB competition thanks to playing for Rivera in Carolina last season. Haskins struggled as a rookie, but showed promise down the stretch throwing five touchdowns to one interception in his last three games. Haskins is worth taking a flyer on as a backup QB in fantasy, and still has upside as a dynasty prospect.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Cleveland Browns have been the most aggressive team in their pursuit of free-agent edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney. The Browns apparently have the richest offer on the table for Clowney's services. While making an appearance on ESPN Cleveland's Next Level radio show, Schefter went on to state that he thinks Clowney is hesitant to play for Cleveland. The Browns would certainly love to add Clowney to bookend star pass-rusher Myles Garrett but they apparently will need to convince Clowney that Cleveland is the place for him to continue his career. It is possible that Clowney could still end up with the Browns as it gets closer to training camp.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones, who is heading into the final year of his deal in 2020, would like to finish his career with the Packers, but he knows that might not happen. Jones tied for the league lead with 19 touchdowns last year, but the Packers also drafted A.J. Dillon in the second round this year. Jones' agent, Chris Cabott, said that contract talks have taken place with the club. The fifth-round pick in 2017 had 1,558 yards from scrimmage in 2019 and needed the fewest carries (236) by a Packers running back to reach 1,000 yards rushing since John Brockington in 1971. But Green Bay hasn't given a second contract to a running back they drafted since James Starks in 2010. Jones is the best back in Green Bay by far, but he could lose even more touches in what could become more of a committee approach. He's unlikely to put up that many TDs again either, so Jones is more of a low-end RB1/high-end RB2.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell (foot) said that he's 100 percent healthy heading into the 2020 season and has been for several months. Campbell played in just seven games (three starts) in his rookie season because of injuries, ultimately finishing with 18 receptions, 127 receiving yards and one touchdown. The second-round selection should see most of his snaps out of the slot in 2020 with Chester Rogers out of the picture, and the second-year wideout could be an excellent late-round value pick with Philip Rivers looking to him underneath now. But he'll obviously need to stay healthy in order to do so.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said that quarterback Dak Prescott has remained in communication with the team despite being in long-term contract negotiations with the front office. "He's involved in a business situation, and I have full confidence he will be ready to go. There has been communication. This is the way these business situations go sometimes, and you respect that," McCarthy said. Prescott has yet to sign his franchise tag, and the two sides still have until July 15 to hammer out an extension. Regardless of whether that comes to pass, Prescott is a top-five QB1 coming off a career season as the Cowboys signal-caller.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (groin) said on Wednesday that he injured his groin in Week 2 of last year, which led to surgery for his sports hernia in February. Johnson hasn't received full clearance to return to training, but he's hopeful that he'll get the clearance "in the next couple days." The second-year wideout has spent time with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this offseason and is focused on gaining chemistry with him. The 23-year-old had a solid rookie season, catching 59 passes for 680 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games (12 starts), even with Big Ben suffering a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2. Johnson is being undervalued as a WR2 and could return excellent value as the No. 2 behind JuJu Smith-Schuster in his second season.
New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry lost half of his rookie season in 2019 after suffering injuries last preseason. The first-round pick couldn't get on the same page with Tom Brady upon his return midseason. Harry had trouble separating from defenders and caught just 12 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns in seven games. He was last among New England's wideouts with an average of 2.2 separation yards, according to Next Gen Stats. As a result, Harry is working with The Footwork King, Rischad Whitfield, in an intense offseason program. There's a focus on Harry playing higher and gaining more functional strength at the line of scrimmage. If the 22-year-old can become quicker with his feet with his excellent catch radius and size in the red zone, Harry could deliver on his first-round pedigree. He'll need to develop chemistry with Jarrett Stidham, but Harry should be in three-wide sets from the get-go in 2020.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who has two years left on his current deal with no guaranteed money left, said he won't ask for a contract extension and doesn't think it's necessary. Watt prefers to prove his worth on the field after playing in just eight regular season games last year because of a torn pectoral muscle. The five-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro pass-rusher has played in just 32 regular season games in the last four years due to injuries, but we already know he is a game-wrecker when he's healthy. Watt remains a top-10 fantasy defensive lineman in IDP leagues, but his injury history and age (31) make him more of a boom/bust pick every year.
Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kemoko Turay, who was placed on Injured Reserve last year after fracturing his deltoid and tearing a ligament in his ankle, has been rehabbing on the field and is poised to be a major pass-rushing contributor in 2020. In 18 games over two seasons in the NFL, Turay has 5.5 sacks and 18 QB hits with the Colts. At 6-foot-5, 248 pounds, Turay has the quickness and bend around the edge to be a successful pass-rusher for Indy if he can stay on the field. Head coach Frank Reich "feels good" about where Turay is in his rehab, and he's been able to rehab at the Colts team facility. The second-round pick could become more of a complete pass-rusher while training with former Colt Robert Mathis. He could be a great complement to both DeForest Buckner and Justin Houston on Indy's defensive line.
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick made an immediate impact when the team acquired him from the Miami Dolphins after Week 2 of the 2019 season. With Fitzpatrick getting thrown into the fire without knowing his new team's playbook, the Steelers had to limit their defensive packages. Despite the limitations, Fitzpatrick managed just fine in his new uniform, posting five interceptions, three recovered fumbles, and two forced fumbles. Now that Fitzpatrick has had the entire offseason to get familiarized with Pittsburgh's plays, he should be able to create even more problems for opposing offenses. Fitzpatrick with call the signals for the secondary this season as he will anchor a Steelers Defense that has loads of potential. The Steelers defense should be a high quality unit in fantasy in 2020.
Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said that it's his job "to make it mesh" with quarterback Gardner Minshew II. "I love Gardner's competitive spirit. Now it's just a matter of him getting some general knowledge of our offense and me figuring out what he likes, what he doesn't like, what makes him tick and go from there," Gruden said. In Gruden's last season as an offensive coordinator with Cincinnati in 2013, Andy Dalton had a career-high 33 touchdowns and career-high 4,293 yards. Minshew is set to be the team's starter heading into 2020, even if they sign a veteran QB before the season. The sixth-round pick a year ago showed toughness and mobility outside the pocket, but the ceiling isn't high and he remains in a run-first offense. Draft him as a midrange QB2, at best.
Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Scott Turner said, "I have a ton of respect for Adrian...There's a role for that type of back." Peterson will be entering his age-35 season and has over 14,000 yards on his legs, but proved to still be a solid option in 2019, running for 898 yards at a 4.3 yards per carry average. Turner gave the expected answers when asked about running back usage, saying that the team wants to "foster competition" and roll with "whoever gives [them] the best chance" to win. This may end up being a bit of a hot-hand situation, but it seems like Derrius Guice, Peterson, Antonio Gibson, and maybe even Bryce Love will have a role in this offense.
Cincinnati Bengals S Vonn Bell hurried the quarterback on 37.9 percent of his pass rushes as a member of the New Orleans Saints in 2019 - the highest rate among all defensive backs with at least 20 pass rushes. Additionally, his pressure rate of 41.4 percent was the second-highest mark among all defensive backs with at least 20 pass rushes.
New York Jets CB Brian Poole hurried the quarterback on 33.3 percent of his pass rushes in 2019 - the third-highest rate among all defensive backs with at least 20 pass rushes. Additionally, his pressure rate of 40.7 percent was also the third-highest mark among all defensive backs with at least 20 pass rushes.
Washington Redskins CB Kendall Fuller hurried the quarterback on 28.6 9 percent of his pass rushes as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019 - the third-highest rate among cornerbacks with at least 20 pass rushes. Additionally, his pressure rate of 38.1 percent was also the third-highest mark among cornerbacks with at least 20 pass rushes.
Baltimore Ravens S Chuck Clark finished in a tie for first among defensive backs with 78 pass rushes in 2019. He also rushed the passer on 18.1 percent of his 432 passing snaps - the highest percentage by any defensive back in the league with at least 20 rush opportunities.
New York Jets S Jamal Adams finished in a tie for first among defensive backs with 78 pass rushes in 2019. His sack percentage of 8.3 was also the best among defensive backs with more than 50 pass rushes.
Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley hauled in 63 of 75 catchable targets and scored seven touchdowns in 2019. Additionally, Atlanta quarterbacks enjoyed a passer rating of 114.7 when throwing in his direction - the 11th-best passer rating for any receiver or tight end with at least 50 targets. The passer rating mark was lower than it was when Ridley was a rookie in 2018; he finished eighth among receivers and tight ends with at least 50 targets at 119.9.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is hosting teammates for informal workouts in Florida next week. Many of Jackson's teammates are expected to be there, including wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. While NFL teams were recently given permission to reopen their facilities, it is still closed to players and coaches. The Ravens were the highest-scoring offense in the league last season and will be returning most of the key components on the offensive side of the ball. Boykin stated that there are also plans for additional workouts beyond next week. Jackson is primed to be the first quarterback selected in fantasy drafts this year.
Houston Texans WR Kenny Stills caught 40 of 45 catchable targets and scored four touchdowns in 2019. Additionally, quarterbacks enjoyed a passer rating of 124.1 when throwing in his direction - the fifth-best passer rating for any receiver or tight end with at least 50 targets.