Baker Mayfield sees plenty of promise in new playbook from 'extremely sharp' Kevin Stefanski

Learning a new offensive system isn't anything new to Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield, who's entering his third NFL season, has already learned two new offenses under three coaches since he was the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft. The lack of continuity isn't ideal for any quarterback with the level of potential Mayfield owns, but he has good reason to believe the Browns' newest offensive look will be their best since he arrived in Cleveland.

Coach Kevin Stefanski, hired by the Browns in January after managing one of the most efficient offenses in 2019 as a coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings, has come to Cleveland with some of the more unique offensive schemes in the NFL. Two tight ends, the usage of fullbacks and play-action passes are not uncommon in Stefanski's playbook, which helped him make the most of the Vikings' offensive weapons and boost them to the eighth-best offense in the league a season ago.

Mayfield believes Stefanski will do the same for the Browns.

"Kevin is obviously an extremely sharp guy," Mayfield said. "Everything he does is with a purpose. It is a very deliberate message, and he has everybody believing in that on the staff. I think that is how the foundation should be set, and he has done an unbelievable job of that. (The Vikings) were a very efficient team for the last few years. That is kudos to him."

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry has spent his first offseason in Cleveland not only patching holes in the Browns' offense, but also adding players who will fit Stefanski's schemes and, ultimately, elevate the play of Mayfield.

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Jack Conklin, a four-year veteran, is a new insertion at right tackle. Jedrick Wills Jr., the 2019 first-round pick, has sky-high potential at left tackle. At tight end, the Browns drafted Harrison Bryant, winner of the 2019 John Mackey Award for best college tight end, and signed two-time Pro Bowler Austin Hooper to the biggest deal ever given to a tight end. They also traded for fullback Andy Janovich, who spent the last four seasons with the Denver Broncos.

It all circles back to Stefanski's playbook, which will be built around helping Mayfield make a crucial leap from a disappointing sophomore season that ended with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

"I think it matches up very nicely with being in control, getting checks in the run game and just being efficient," Mayfield said. "Last year was not a great year for turnovers, but I have always prided myself on not turning the ball over. That is something in the conversations we have had — where we do take our shots? It has to be smart decisions, and there is nothing wrong with throwing an incompletion every once in a while."

A deeper dive into the stats builds even more promise for the potential from Mayfield in Stefanski's playbook. 

One of Mayfield's most effective play types in his first two seasons has been play action, which is when the quarterback fakes a handoff to the running back to create more time for a pass. Last season, he completed 66.5 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions when using the play, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Those numbers could increase under Stefanski, who used play action almost nine plays per game with the Vikings last season. Mayfield's odds of cashing in on a big pass should grow with a revamped offensive line and the usage of a fullback, a position that specializes in backfield blocking that the Browns didn't use in their offense last season.

In addition to play-action production, the Browns could see an uptick in their run game, too. Under Stefanski's run-first philosophies, the Vikings were fourth in the league in rushing attempts and sixth in rushing yards. The Browns were 22nd in attempts and 12th in yards after Nick Chubb finished second to Derrick Henry for the league rushing title.

The Browns appear to have more production to tap into from just about every part of the offense, and all of it should help Mayfield break away from the struggles he faced last season. 

"I'm looking forward to the jump that this kid will take," Stefanski said in January after his hiring. "He is such a young player and the guys I have been around, when they put their mind to it and they start to grind on this thing and understand the whys and the concepts that we are teaching, I really think this kid has a chance to take off."

Even though they haven't taken an on-field rep together, the Browns have plenty of evidence to show why the connection between Mayfield and Stefanski should be strong. With proven talent at nearly each offensive position, Stefanski will have no shortage of weapons to use for a playbook that caters to an accurate quarterback and a strong run game. 

The Browns have both of those, and more. That's why Mayfield believes the shuffling of offensive playbooks stops this year. His abilities and the strengths of the Browns offense fits into Stefanski's schemes like a puzzle piece.

Now, the Browns will wait and see if the puzzle is complete and the offense is ready to click.

"If I win, good things will happen and good things will happen for our team and the guys around me," Mayfield said. "That is the most important part. That is why quarterback is one of the positions that is the hardest in sports. If I play better, our team is going to do better."

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