Odell Beckham Jr. said 2020 is his year – and now, more pressure is on Baker Mayfield
A receiver can only be as good as his quarterback.
“I would honestly say this is probably going to be one of my best seasons. Bigger, stronger, faster – this is my time.”
What OBJ failed to acknowledge, however, is that the Cleveland organization is entering year three of the Baker Mayfield era – and just like the Browns’ Super Bowl aspirations live and die on Mayfield’s arm, so does OBJ’s return to glory.
The Browns made Mayfield the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and so far, he has enjoyed two up and down seasons in Cleveland.
In 2018, Mayfield started 13 games, leading Cleveland to a 6-7 record as a starter. The Browns finished the season 7-8-1 overall, a drastic improvement after finishing the previous year 0-16.
As a rookie, Mayfield threw for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns, completing 63.8 percent of his passes in the process. He threw 14 interceptions on the year.
So, coming into 2019, many thought Mayfield and the Browns were primed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and possibly, win their first playoff game since 1994. The acquisition of OBJ in the offseason furthered that belief.
— NFL (@NFL) March 12, 2019
However, things didn’t go quite to plan.
Mayfield started all 16 games and Cleveland finished the season 6-10, missing the playoffs and finishing 3rd in the AFC North. Baker threw for 3,827 yards and 22 touchdowns, but pitched in 21 interceptions, second most in the NFL.
Baker Mayfield just threw an awful game-ending interception at Pittsburgh. I still love him but it's getting harder and harder to defend him.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) December 1, 2019
Quick note: During his rookie and sophomore seasons, Mayfield has had nine games in which he didn’t throw an interception. Cleveland is 7-2 in those games. Mayfield has also had nine NFL games where he’s thrown two or more picks. Cleveland is 1-8 in those games.
So, with the 2020 season on the horizon, Beckham is at full strength, the Browns added Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper in the offseason, and Kareem Hunt is presumably ready to be a full-time member of the Browns’ offense.
The expectations in Cleveland are once again astronomical.
Team has a lot to prove, but does any QB in the league have a more talented huddle than Baker Mayfield? pic.twitter.com/XhO4dlRfAw
— Kyle Brandt (@KyleBrandt) May 5, 2020
Is this season also Mayfield’s time to shine? Can Odell have the breakout year he hopes to have without a new and improved Mayfield behind center? Is the success of the 2020 Browns all on the shoulders of Baker Mayfield?
Consensus seems to be it’s Mayfield or bust in 2020.
Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez believes the Browns have the weapons necessary to have a bounce-back season, go to the playoffs, and potentially win the AFC North crown – but it will be all up to their quarterback.
“What it comes down to is Baker Mayfield. There is no player in the NFL that has as much pressure as Baker Mayfield going into this next season … The microscope is on him and he has to deliver. They have given him everything … They’ve done everything to give him the keys to the Ferrari – now you just gotta go drive it … If he can get it together and play like I think he’s capable of playing, this is a team that I think can challenge Baltimore for [the AFC North] title.”
Mayfield’s key weapons on the outside, Beckham and Jarvis Landry, had solid 2019 campaigns. OBJ caught 74 passes for 1,035 yards and 4 touchdowns, and Landry caught 83 balls for 1,174 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Former NFL cornerback Domonique Foxworth thinks 2020 is a make-or-break year for Mayfield.
“The bottom line is either you produce or you don’t. I think Baker knows that this is a big year for him. They need to have success and he needs to show he’s the quarterback that everyone wanted him to be and thought he was … This is kind of a make or break year for him … He needs to show that he’s a franchise quarterback which we’re not sure about … Last year was hugely disappointing.”
Former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Damien Woody echoed Foxworth, saying that the 2020 season will potentially define Mayfield’s NFL career.
“They’ve addressed the issues that were plaguing them last year. They’ve addressed the offensive line … To me, this is going to be all on Baker Mayfield. Is this the Baker Mayfield we saw last year with 20 interceptions, or the year prior, where people thought this guys was the next superstar at the quarterback position?”
Along with Hooper, the Browns signed former All-Pro offensive lineman Jack Conklin in the offseason.
Jack Conklin agreed to a 3-year deal with the Browns for $42M with $30M fully guarantee, per @RosenhausSports. He earns $20mil in the first year. Wanted to keep it short due to the projected increases in the salary cap. Conklin will only be 28 when this deal expires.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2020
Going back to OBJ, former Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings thinks that he can return to form, but he’ll need an improved Mayfield in order to make it happen.
“This is all Baker Mayfield-based. That’s how high [Beckham’s] ceiling is. It’s Baker-based.”
"If Baker takes a step forward and thrives, then we'll see what Odell has always been in this league — an electrifying WR that is dynamic once he gets the ball in his hands. That has not changed." — @GregJennings pic.twitter.com/WQiq0faTgD
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) May 5, 2020
The spotlight will indeed shine bright on Baker come this season, and ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, for one, believes that 2020 will be Baker’s year.
I’ll say this again @bakermayfield is going to have a big season
-perfect scheme fit
-fixed the holes/flaws they had at OL
-will play with multiple TE’s on field
-the offensive line will play like an accordion-expanding the passing lanes off PA to help see@GetUpESPN
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) May 6, 2020
For Odell’s sake – and for the sake of the Cleveland Browns – we hope Orlovsky is onto something.