Around the AFC North: How the Browns Plan to Get Baker Mayfield Back on Track

033020_AFCNorth
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield throws a pass during an NFL game.

Cleveland Browns: Plan for Baker Mayfield Is More Play Action

After setting an NFL record for touchdown passes as a rookie, Baker Mayfield's sophomore season was a big step back.

Mayfield saw drops in completion percentage, touchdown passes and passing yards per attempt. He had a spike in interceptions and sacks taken. Mayfield's quarterback rating went from 93.7 as a rookie to 78.8 last season – ranked 31st in the NFL.

Getting the 2018 No. 1-overall pick back on track is top priority this season in Cleveland. So how do the Browns and new Head Coach Kevin Stefanski plan to do it? More play-action.

Stefanski will bring a play-action, outside zone running scheme that he used last year as the Offensive Coordinator in Minnesota. It's a scheme the Ravens are well-versed in, as it's the same type of offense Gary Kubiak deployed in Baltimore.

According to Cleveland.com's May Kay Cabot, the hope is to give Mayfield more time and space to create big plays down the field, which was an area he shined in last season when given the chance, per Next Gen Stats.

"More play-action and the outside zone running game will give Mayfield ample time to throw, and when he has it, he's deadly accurate," Cabot wrote. "The Browns have supplied him with offensive linemen who can move well and execute the outside zone, and that coupled with more run fakes should result in a much higher completion percentage, fewer interceptions and more big plays."

According to Cabot, with play-action, Mayfield completed 66.5 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 102.5 rating last season. With no play action, he completed 56.4 percent of his attempts with 11 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 68.8 rating.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Excited for a 'Big Year', But Taking Precautions

There's a lot of excitement in Pittsburgh about the 2020 season after Ben Roethlisberger posted a video last week of himself throwing to his wide receivers for the first time since suffering a season-ending elbow injury last year.

"Honestly, man, I think it's going to be a big year for us," wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster told "Good Morning Football" last week. "We already have a solid defense. Our missing piece was Ben. … Just wait and let our pads do the talking."

However, there won't be as many Terrible Towels and "Renegade" won't have the same energy this season.

In anticipation of social distancing at Heinz Field, the Steelers are only selling half of their available 2020 individual tickets, per ESPN's Brooke Pryor. She reports that the Steelers are believed to be the first NFL team restricting ticket sales as a precaution.

In related news, Roethlisberger's beard trim did not please Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. Barbershops are not open in Alleghany County.

"Anybody who puts himself or herself into harm's way is something that I think we have to try to avoid," Wolf said Tuesday, per Pryor. "When you go to something like a barbershop and you're not protected, I don't care who you are, the chances of that virus actually wreaking havoc on your life increases."

Cincinnati Bengals: Carson Palmer Offers Joe Burrow Advice

Carson Palmer is well aware of the weight Joe Burrow will have on his shoulders. The former quarterback also was the No. 1-overall pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003.

Like Burrow, Palmer was coming off winning the Heisman Trophy and led USC to an Orange Bowl victory. What followed was an up-and-down eight years in Bengals stripes with two Pro Bowls, two playoff appearances and one tough knee injury.

On Friday, Palmer offered some advice to Burrow when speaking on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

"The best thing he can do is go in there and work his butt off," Palmer said, per Sports Illustrated. "He's a hometown kid. He grew up an hour northeast of downtown Cincinnati. That city's in his blood. He's got family and high school teammates and teachers and so many people pulling for him. He's going to have a ton of support.

"If you get shellacked in Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4 — just keep fighting because they are a couple steps behind personnel wise. There's a reason they're drafting number one. It's because they're a couple years away. So just come in and know that it's going to be a rough start from the jump. But coming off a national championship, coming off all the success he's had at the collegiate level, maybe his work ethic can come in and create a culture there that there's a certain level of commitment, a certain level of work ethic and expertise and professionalism that he can bring in and I hope to see that rub off on all the guys around him."

Palmer's point echoes what Kristopher Knox wrote for Bleacher Report about each team's biggest potential distraction for 2020.

"Burrow cannot get discouraged if he struggles early in his NFL tenure," Knox wrote. "Neither can his coaching staff, teammates or the Bengals faithful. There's a very real chance Cincinnati will again be one of the worst teams in the league, but that won't mean Burrow is a bust."

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