Baker Mayfield is ready to throw some passes against opponents other than his own teammates.
For the last month, Mayfield has attempted to lead the offense through learning a new playbook despite playing no preseason games. The Browns have only been able to use team practices to identify and correct mistakes, and both the offense and defense are eager for the challenge of playing against an opponent not wearing an orange helmet.
Week 1, however, has finally arrived. In four days, Mayfield will have his wish answered against the Baltimore Ravens.
"It'll be good to go up against somebody else," Mayfield said. "We know what we have to do. We've installed everything, and we're putting together a good gameplan. We'll have that ready to roll so we're ready to go out and execute."
The challenge, though, will be difficult. In team practices, Mayfield's biggest "threats" have been DEs Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon and CB Denzel Ward. On Sunday, he'll attempt to put together a strong performance against the talents of DE Calais Campbell, LB Matthew Judon and CBs Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters — all Pro Bowl players.
Sure, the opponents will be different, but the competition won't be any easier.
Mayfield is confident in the new playbook, though, and the Ravens will be a great first test to see how far the offense has come in understanding the new schemes and installs from coach Kevin Stefanski. A 1-0 start to the season, which the Browns haven't had since 2004, would mean even more against the AFC North rival.
"It's obviously a big game," Mayfield said. "It's obviously a great opponent. Those games count more so in the standings at the end, so it's a very big game for us against a great team."
For Mayfield, Year 3 as Cleveland's quarterback hasn't felt any easier than his first two seasons in the NFL. Every offseason so far has required him to learn a new playbook, build a relationship with a new coach and help teammates grow into new offensive schemes.
Mayfield has juggled the same quantity of tasks in his third year as a rookie, but there's plenty of optimism that this playbook is here to stay. The new systems have a clear fit into the strengths of Cleveland's offense — top-tier running backs, big play receivers and a strong-armed quarterback that thrives on play-action plays — and should deliver peak production from the Browns' star-studded cast of offensive weapons.
"As an offense, there's a lot of accountability," Mayfield said. "You've got to be where you're supposed to be. You have to be there on time, and the same goes for my reads. I have to listen to the footwork, go through the reads and trust that (the coaches) are going to call plays that will get the ball into the hands."
Mayfield knows what it takes to beat the Ravens' top defenders. The Browns played their best game of the season the last time they were in Baltimore when they won 40-25 and totaled a season-high 530 total yards. The Ravens had no answers to Mayfield or RB Nick Chubb, and the Browns built and executed a game plan to perfection.
That's the goal again for Week 1. Mayfield said he's reviewed some of the tape from that 2019 game to digest what worked so well, and he's hoping to trigger some of that magic again Sunday.
"I think all tape is relevant when you play a team with the same coordinators," Mayfield said. "It's all relevant to see how they'll scheme you up and defend your whole team. They added a lot of new personnel as well. Since we don't have any preseason film to go off of, we'll have to go out there, execute our plays and adapt."
That's the key word Mayfield is looking to do best in Week 1 after months of taking reps against the same players and similar defensive looks. Now, the playing field has finally switched to a new opponent.
And Mayfield can put his new offensive plays to the test.
The Browns' offseason roster on April 1, 2021