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Most Important Questions

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Most Important Questions: No. 2 - How quickly can Baker Mayfield thrive in Browns' new offense?

Training camp can't get here soon enough. By then, we'll have plenty of answers to all of the loose ends surrounding the 2020 Browns.

For now, we simply have some questions.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be discussing those queries and analyzing the variables that accompany them. We've narrowed our list to 10, but there are certainly many more that will need to be answered by the time Cleveland opens the season against the Ravens in Baltimore.

We're continuing today with a look at the man under center and how he'll look to bounce back in a big way in 2020.

Baker Mayfield has always viewed himself as a quarterback who can thrive within the confines of any coach's system. 

Unfortunately, the former No. 1 pick has experienced a new one in each of his first two NFL seasons and will tackle a third in 2020 under new head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. Still, there's a renewed sense of optimism after a 2019 campaign that saw Mayfield and the rest of Cleveland's offense struggle to generate consistent first downs and points.

Just last year, Kirk Cousins put together the best season of his career with Stefanski leading the way as Minnesota's offensive coordinator. The Browns are similarly built around the same strengths the Vikings possessed — multiple Pro Bowl running backs, an experienced offensive line and weapons all over the field — to find consistent success in the wide-zone scheme.

Even without a single practice under his belt, Mayfield saw enough from the Vikings and Cousins to envision himself rebounding in a big way in 2020.

"I think it matches up very nicely with being in control, getting checks in the run game and just being efficient," Mayfield said in May. "Last year, I know, 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 is 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. Scheme-wise, I think my skill set matches up to that very well and also how he is coaching it. I think it is going to be a great fit."

Stefanski and Van Pelt certainly agree, and they've already identified a number of facets in Mayfield's game they believe can go to another level with a tweak here and there. Van Pelt has worked closely with Mayfield on his footwork, particularly when he's throwing out of the shotgun. From the first days of his hiring, Stefanski has devoured film of Mayfield, watching every snap — good and bad — the same way he did with Cousins.

Check out the best photos of quarterback Baker Mayfield this offseason by team photographer Matt Starkey

Perhaps more importantly, Van Pelt and Stefanski have been impressed with Mayfield the person and leader while they've worked with him virtually throughout the offseason. It's a major reason why they believe he'll hit the ground running when players and coaches are permitted to be on the field at the same time.

"I think Baker is keen on it," Van Pelt said. "He has done everything I would expect from him as a starting quarterback. His work ethic is great. He jumps into other meetings that are not required, and he will sit in the receiver meetings when they have them and will sit in running back meetings from time to time, as well. 

"He is all in."

The biggest challenge facing Mayfield and the rest of Cleveland's offense will be how quickly they get up to speed at training camp. 

The entire offseason was virtual, of course, and Mayfield was only able to arrange one session with some of his pass-catchers — a group that did not include Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, who were both recovering from offseason surgeries at the time. Every snap, every repetition will be vital as the Browns get rolling in August and get everything in order for their season opener at Baltimore.

The burden falls on Mayfield's shoulders to be as ready as he can be in these adverse circumstances. Both he and the Browns are confident he'll thrive in this new, unique situation.

"I have been very impressed with the work that he is putting in," Stefanski said. "He is all ears. He has taken everything and he is taking it all in. I think Alex Van Pelt and the coaching staff are really giving him a lot, and I do not see any limitations with Baker. 

"He has done a really nice job."

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