The Cleveland Browns took the field for their first preseason game of the 2018 NFL season, beating the New York Giants, 20-10, Thursday night. The Browns first- and second-teamers went into the half with a 13-3 lead, showcasing a strong start for the team. Overall, Cleveland outgained the Giants, 372 to 310 total yards. Although they struggled to find any room running the ball, the Browns did most of their work offensively through the air. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was perfect in his two series in the first quarter, completing all five of his passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Baker Mayfield followed Taylor and played a couple quarters or so, finishing the day 11-of-20 for 212 yards and two touchdowns. The two quarterbacks were the story of the preseason opener.
Let’s start with Taylor. He was nearly perfect in his first two drives as the Browns starting quarterback. He threw with quick decision making, getting the ball out quickly to his targets. His accuracy was on point, too. The touchdown throw to tight end David Njoku illustrated these points really well.
As you can see above, Taylor reads the defense and sees that he has a mismatch in the right seam. The veteran does not wait too long to throw the ball because he knows that the safety is closing down on tight end David Njoku. He throws the ball in stride to Njoku before the safety could get to him. His timing and accuracy allowed the second-year tight end to run it all the way to the end zone. Taylor’s short stint was impressive and showed why he is the capable starter for the Browns this season.
Mayfield was also impressive over the course of the two=plus quarters he played. His pocket presence and arm talent were on display over the course of the game. The Browns offensive line was not good on Thursday, so the rookie was faced with pressure in the backfield throughout much of his time in the game. When he was faced with pressure, he moved effortlessly inside the pocket. He moved out of the way of the pressure, while keeping his eyes downfield. He had a few throws where he would evade the pressure and then throw it to a target. He also showed off his wheels when he thought the running lane was there.
Early on in the game, Mayfield’s ball placement was not up to the level he normally throws the ball, but as the game went on, he started to show off his pinpoint accuracy. He had numerous throws where he threw the ball where only his receiver could get it. He showed this ball placement both in the pocket and on the run.
The play above shows these two abilities. Mayfield is faced with pressure from his left side, so he left the pocket to the right sideline. Rather than run down the field, he kept his eyes downfield, searching the field for a target. He finds wide receiver Antonio Callaway cutting back toward the sideline and fires an absolute dart to the the rookie. He placed the ball to the sideline where only the receiver could catch it. Mayfield had a really good start to his career, showing off the talent that led him to be taken No. 1 overall.
The Browns two quarterbacks told us one big thing on Thursday: They have two competent quarterbacks who can start. Both players were impressive in their Cleveland debuts. The offense was moving, even though the run game had very little production on the night. It was fun to see the Browns actually have quality guys running the offense. It’s only one game, but Cleveland, I think we have some quarterbacks!