Baker Mayfield wanted to commit to change this offseason.
After a disappointing 2019 season, Mayfield wanted to do as much as possible to make his third year in the NFL his greatest since he was the Browns' first overall pick in 2018.
He was still going to have his strong arm. He was still going to have his confidence. He was still going to be a great teammate.
All those traits, however, are going to come in a different version of Mayfield.
The 2020 form of Mayfield includes four pounds of lean mass that will make him more nimble in the pocket. He'll also have a firm grasp on head coach Kevin Stefanski's new playbook, designed to make the most of Mayfield's quarterback strengths and the Browns' other top offensive weapons. Mayfield's head is clear, too, and he's not letting the struggles from last season creep into his mind as he begins another year in Cleveland.
"I'm in a much better state mentally and physically," Mayfield said. "We're just ready to roll. I attacked where I needed to to be a leader for this team and this franchise. It feels a lot better, and we're taking things one day at a time, as we should."
Mayfield's offseason commitments were made after he passed for 3,827 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in 2019. The Browns had high expectations during training camp, but the offense rarely flashed the consistency many people around the league anticipated after Mayfield's rookie season when he threw 27 touchdowns, the most ever by a rookie quarterback.
The Browns will certainly need more production from their offense to improve from last season, and that's the main theme from Stefanski's playbook, which contains zone-based schemes, offers more opportunities in the run-game and features an effective dose of play-action plays.
It's also built to cater to Mayfield's arm strength and increase workloads for running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, two of the most talented running backs in the league. Opening the run game, however, will give Mayfield more opportunities for big plays to receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
"Scheme-wise, I think my attributes match up to what they want to do," Mayfield said. "Not only that, I think it matches up to our team and the people they have brought in. Our whole offense, just mentality-wise, culture-wise and of a no BS policy, you are going to know exactly what we want to do and you are expected to do it."
Check out photos from the first day of Browns Camp
Mayfield, of course, wanted to improve his own individual game, too. That's why he worked with a nutritionist and strength coach in Austin, Texas, where he spent most of his offseason. He wanted to take advantage of the unusual offseason created by the COVID-19 pandemic — which kept players away from team facilities until the beginning of August — and spent extra time focusing on the playbook and building his body into great physical shape.
"I think with the long offseason and online meetings and info work, I was able to get my body healthy and ready to roll," Mayfield said. "I really worked on things one at a time. Scheme-wise, since we weren't trying to install and get out on the practice field and run plays, we could really take our time with it."
Now that team practices have begun, we can finally see how far the offseason work will go in Mayfield's performance. He'll be surrounded by talented players at every corner of the offense, too, and the stage is set for Mayfield to take a big leap.
Stefanski has already seen some of Mayfield's work pay off in the early part of training camp. Even though the Browns have been confined to individual workouts up until Friday, Stefanski has been complimentary of the way Mayfield has carried himself around players. He's molded into a core leader of the Browns, and players want to win for him.
That's what any coach wants from a quarterback. He has yet to coach him in a real game, but Stefanski has plenty of confidence in Mayfield.
"I think I've seen a guy who has taken his job seriously and has made sure he's ultra-prepared for the job," Stefanski said. "We haven't practiced yet, so we have to get a few days into this to make any statements about any player, but I really like where Baker is at from a schematic standpoint, a physical standpoint and definitely a mental standpoint."
The 2020 version of Mayfield has arrived. Expectations are still high, but Mayfield isn't focused on what the end result will be this season. He's locked in on how the Browns can be a better team in training camp.
So far, it appears his plan has worked.
"I think it's an unbelievable opportunity for everybody in this building right now," Mayfield said. "With the moves we've made, the pieces brought in and the culture being built right now, we're excited to get out there and show what we've been building behind the scenes. We have a new team and a new staff, and we're ready to roll."