DETROIT — Baker Mayfield made the most of his first NFL start.
The Browns rookie quarterback shined in Thursday night's win over the Lions, putting forth an impressive performance in a preseason finale that marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.
"I thought he did some really good things," head coach Hue Jackson said postgame. "I thought he played good, and I expected that he would."
Indeed, Mayfield, the first overall pick in the draft, showed poise and promise in a game where both teams rested their starters. Even so, it was the kind of display that has become expected of the former Oklahoma standout who has seemingly grown with each passing week since coming to Cleveland.
Mayfield capped that offseason of growth Thursday, passing for 138 yards while powering an offensive outburst that helped Cleveland build a 25-point lead at halftime. The showing was what he had hoped it'd be in the week leading up to the game as the Browns turn the page to the season opener against the Steelers and trim their roster from 90 members to 53 this weekend.
But first, Mayfield wanted to end the preseason on a high note. The NFL game, he said, continues to slow down, and it's starting to show.
"I think I've done things I wanted to do in the preseason. There was obviously things I wanted to change but that's why you live and you learn," he said.
"You get to watch the film and I think if I had to go get some of those opportunities back, I would do it different and that's what you want to see. You want to see growth, you wanted to see the learning part of it, you wanted to see the game slow down and it did."
Mayfield will take that approach into next week as the Browns go into regular-season mode. They host division rival Pittsburgh in 10 days, a game that marks the formal debut of a talented, new-look team that was overhauled in the offseason. Mayfield is among a score of new faces charged with turning around the franchise.
While the Browns have made clear Mayfield will sit behind veteran starter Tyrod Taylor this fall, they'll continue to facilitate his growth on the practice field and in the meeting room. He is, after all, Cleveland's quarterback of the future, and the Browns feel comfortable with the youngster if something were to happen to Taylor.
"I just think he improved every week. I thought tonight, making plays down the field with the ball and the accuracy of the ball, throwing the ball away in key situations in the scoring zones I thought was huge," Jackson said.
"I think he's growing every day because he's working at it. I think our staff's done a great job of coaching and creating the right environment for him, but again, he's improved every week."
Thursday night's game in Detroit punctuated that dynamic.
"Baker comes to play – I don't care if it's first (team), second, third. It doesn't matter to him," Jackson said.
"He likes playing and he looked at me one time because I called him over. He thought I was going to take him out. I go, 'No, I'm not going to take you out.' It's about eight minutes left in the second quarter (and) he thought I was about to tell him he was done. I wanted him to play a half because I think he needs to. He needs all the experience that he can get.
"I think we've done that part really well this preseason. I think he understands what the National Football League is and what he needs to do and how much harder he needs to keep working to get to be to where he needs to be."