EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — There were no nerves for Baker Mayfield as he made his NFL debut but the Browns rookie quarterback admitted it was a different feeling.
No matter, Mayfield — the first-overall pick in the NFL Draft this past spring and Cleveland’s signal-caller of the future — demonstrated the talents that made him so coveted in Thursday night’s 20-10 win over the New York Giants.
Mayfield finished 11-for-20 with 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a nice pass
The outing — which, to be clear, was far from perfect — was no profound revelation to head coach Hue Jackson, who lauded the former Oklahoma star and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner.
“I thought he did some good things, I’m not surprised by anything Baker does because I see him do it on the practice field,” Jackson said postgame. “Obviously, the throws he makes, the poise he has, he demonstrated all of that in college so I’m not surprised by it.”
Mayfield really shined with his composure in the pocket, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Njoku in which he stepped up, planted his feet and zipped a strike in between a pair of New York defenders. Later on, Mayfield tossed a well-place ball to rookie speedster Antonio Callaway, who turned a slant route into a 54-yard yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Mayfield shrugged off the performance, focusing on details — substitution errors, penalties, etc. — that must be corrected going forward. “Did some things well, but there’s definitely room for improvement,” he said. “It’s good to get it out there early to where you can work on that and make sure it doesn’t happen again and then I’m happy with where we progressed, you know we got into a little rhythm.”
While the Browns have made clear their intentions to sit Mayfield behind veteran starter Tyrod Taylor, it was comforting to watch the rookie play well under the bright lights. The performance, of course, could be a harbinger of things to come in the future.
“I think Baker looked like he belonged and made some plays out there,” left tackle Joel Bitonio said. “It was cool to see the No. 1 overall pick make things happen with his speed, his arm and leading the offense. He looked comfortable out there.
“It’s what I’ve been seeing; I mean, no drop-off,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry added. “He comes in there and he makes plays.”
Taylor, who finished 5-for-5 for 99 yards and a touchdown, also offered kind words for his understudy. “He looked good out there, played well, completed some balls, went out there finishing drives and scoring points,” he said. “Stuff that we expect him to do.”
True -- the Browns hope Mayfield can be their long-term answer to decades of futility at the quarterback position. While Thursday night offered some promise, Cleveland — including Mayfield — recognizes he has much to learn.
“This is his first opportunity and he will grow from it,” Jackson said. “There are things he will learn from and continue to get better at, but I thought it was a good start for him.”