Alex Van Pelt “definitely” notices a level of confidence from Baker Mayfield

USA TODAY Sports

In 2019, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield had the wrong coaching staff. In 2020, he had the right one.

Mayfield consistently improved throughout the 2020 season, fulfilling his potential as a franchise quarterback while flourishing under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski. Mayfield seems to be ready to build on last year’s progress.

“He was impressive,” offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt told reporters this week regarding Mayfield’s performance in minicamp. “There are a lot of areas and a lot of pass concepts that we wanted work on in this minicamp that maybe he did not completely own last year and wanted improvement in these plays. He has shown that. A lot of that is just working through progression and knowing where to go next if one and two are covered, and he got that accomplished in this camp. We are very happy with where he is right now.”

Van Pelt also was asked whether Mayfield has a noticeable confidence level.

“Definitely,” Van Pelt said. “In the last seven or eight games last year, he really played really well. I think he now feels that. He understands what that looks like and how he has to operate within the system to be successful. Now that he realizes that, you see it more in practice.”

Operating the system is the key. Working through the progression is the key. And that’s why concerns linger regarding the return of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham’s talent is undeniable. His potential impact on the offense, given his ability to draw double coverage, to catch any pass that comes remotely close to his body, and to take a short pass and explode for a long gain, is significant.

The concern comes from this simple fact: Beckham has a history of clamoring for the ball. He genuinely believes that the more he gets the ball, the more likely it is that the Browns will win. In the past (specifically, in 2019), the obsession with getting the ball to OBJ became an obvious distraction from Mayfield’s ability to focus simply on throwing the ball to the open man. The Browns developed an urgency to get the ball to Beckham, defenses knew it, and defenses exploited it. By successfully keeping the ball away from Beckham early in a game, the entire Cleveland offense could easily be short-circuited.

It was too much pressure on Mayfield. It’s the kind of pressure that causes a quarterback to wait a little too long to move to the next receiver in the progression. It’s the kind of pressure that causes a quarterback to throw into coverage when he shouldn’t. It’s the kind of pressure that becomes a distraction.

That’s why the narrative developed last season that the Browns possibly could be better without Beckham. Removing Beckham from the equation removed the pressure of getting the ball to Beckham. Now that he’s back, the question becomes whether he’ll adapt to an offense that got to the final eight without him, taking whatever comes his way and never politicking for any more targets than he naturally gets as a result of Mayfield running the offense and deciding whether Beckham is open, throwing it to him if he is, moving on to the next receiver if he isn’t.

That’s the key here. Mayfield runs the offense. Beckham and the rest of the receivers and running backs need to realize that, and to fully submit to it. That means no one talks about wanting the ball more than they’re getting it. That also means that, if anyone does it, Mayfield tells them to stop it.

Mayfield’s performance last season gives him that power. If Beckham can get back to being the player he once was and if the question of whether he’s getting the ball enough never emerges from within the locker room, the Browns could indeed be ready to contend for a berth in the Super Bowl.

9 responses to “Alex Van Pelt “definitely” notices a level of confidence from Baker Mayfield

  1. I hope OBJ likes winning more than he likes individual stats. He seems like a bright guy, so I I’m counting on him to figure it out.

  2. How did this turn into an OBJ screed?

    The coaching staff and management in 2019 was focused on getting OBJ the ball. They constantly said they were trying to get him involved and that was obviously the instructions given to Baker.

    You can ask Cowboy fans how Mayfield and OBJ were doing together in 2020 before OBJ got hurt.

  3. Yeah hopefully as in that Cowboys game, when teams are bracketing him, Stefanski schemes creative ways to get the ball to OBJ. It’s p nice that he can take a blown up end around and turn it into 6, or can catch a dime of a deep pass from his buddy Jarvis for 6, or can launch a deep bomb on a trick play himself if needed.

    I’m sure that he’s heard the narrative that the Browns are better without him and that could work in the team’s favor as it may motivate him to fit in.
    I think it’s right to believe that the coaching fit is demonstrably better and there’s reason to imagine stefanski et co will manage this all fairly well.

  4. When Mayfield was trying to force the ball to OBJ in 2019, that was under a different HC, OC and in a different system than he was in 2020 when he grew exponentially as a QB. Browns have multiple weapons. OBJ is but one of them.

  5. Confidence has never been his problem. Talent and accuracy have been. He couldn’t get OBJ the ball or Hooper, which suggests its not an OBJ problem its a Mayfield problem. Only Mayfield could manage to freeze out 2 of their 3 best passing weapons on offense.

  6. 2021 is the season where The Browns will decide if they need to look for another QB. If Baker fails to impress, and they keep/extend him anyway, then The Brown’s window will close over the following 2 – 4 seasons and all that great team building of the last few seasons will revert to the same ol’ Browns we all know and love to hate.

  7. Here’s what you don’t hear a lot of after OTAs and mini camps…

    “Yeah, he’s playing scared. It’s like he’s seeing ghosts.”

    Everybody is in the best shape of their lives and every injury is progressing in spectacular fashion.

  8. I’m sure this was a relief for Browns fans to hear Bakee is showing confidence.

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