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Baker Mayfield confident he can play 'a whole lot better than last year'

Cleveland’s 4th-year QB is ready to hit the ground running into 2021

From the moment he arrived in Cleveland, Baker Mayfield has made it abundantly clear he's not into comparing himself to anyone else. He's carved his own path, whether it be as the charismatic star at Oklahoma to the leadership he's shown as the Browns' starter for the past three seasons.

That's why Mayfield on Thursday wasn't necessarily into the idea of comparing his trajectory to other quarterbacks, past and present, when it came to the difference between a third and fourth season in the NFL.

For Mayfield, as he sits as the leader of a team with big plans for 2021, the goal is simple: Be better than the very good version fans saw last season.

"I can play a whole lot better than last year. I know that," Mayfield said. "I am trying to improve each year. When it comes to looking at other guys in third to fourth years, I do not compare myself to anybody. I try and be the best version of me."

Check out photos from the second day of Browns Camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus

The version of Mayfield in 2020, particularly the one that finished the season with a flurry, provides a heck of a starting place for a quarterback determined to improve.

After an up and down start, Mayfield really hit his stride Week 7, when he led the Browns to a wild, high-scoring victory over the Bengals on a day when he lost his top wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., on one of the game's first plays. Over the final 10 games of the regular season, Mayfield put together his best stretch yet as a Browns quarterback, completing close to 64 percent of his passes for 2,468 yards, 16 touchdowns and just two touchdowns. He was just as good in the playoffs, throwing for 467 yards, four touchdowns and an interception in the first two postseason appearances of his young career.

Mayfield, though, wants more of those playoff opportunities in 2021. To get there, he sees it as imperative for him to be even better than he was during that prolific stretch of 2020.

"We have to have a true identity rolling into this year where we can grow as the season goes on," Mayfield said. "You do not want to peak early. You want to be good, but you want to continue to get better each week. I think that continuity is going to help us with that."

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has been impressed by Mayfield's approach, mindset and physical appearance in his second training camp with the quarterback. He joked that Mayfield "screwed up" by showing up in such good shape for 2020 training camp and set the bar too high for himself. Even still, Mayfield came back to Berea last week in even better shape than the previous year.

It was symbolic of how receptive Mayfield has been to the coaching and guidance from Stefanski and his staff.

"Baker, like a lot of his teammates, you ask him to do something and he does it," Stefanski said.

"He's the leader of the football team and he does a great job of that. That's always going to be a part of his gig as the quarterback. Specific to the offense, he's got great input. He and (offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt) share a lot of ideas, myself included."

Mayfield said he's "absolutely" comfortable taking ownership of an offense that has already proved to get the best out of himself and his teammates. More importantly, he's surrounded by a group that came back almost entirely intact from last season, including his full starting offensive line, talented running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. Understandably, the expectations are high for a unit that proved to be one of the best down the stretch in 2020 — no matter how many injuries or absences it endured.

It just hasn't led to any complacency, as evidenced by Mayfield's must-improve mindset in every facet of his game.

"If you are not doing your job, then you might be distracted, you might be trying to do too much or you might be listening – good or bad stuff on the outside, you never want to listen to it," Mayfield said. "You never want to get too high and never want to get too low. I think that is something that I have tried to emphasize in my daily routine.

"That is my job to be the leader for these guys and stress that."

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