Baker Mayfield may thrive with more play-action passing under new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski
The Cleveland Browns hired former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as their new head coach this offseason. That could bode very well for quarterback Baker Mayfield, who regressed as a sophomore in the NFL.
It is not yet known if Stefanski will call the plays in Cleveland as he will give offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt a chance to do so in the preseason and then make a decision. Van Pelt has called plays for one NFL season -- in 2009 with the Bills and they finished 28th in scoring at 16.1 points per game.
Last year, the Vikings finished eighth in scoring at 25.4 ppg with Stefanski calling plays. Many offensive play-callers script the first 15 plays every game. Per Pro Football Focus, the 2019 Vikings ranked fourth in the NFL on their scripted plays in expected points added.
Even if Van Pelt gets the full-time play-calling job, Stefanski is going to have a big say and it's expected the Browns will accentuate the play-action passing game. Consider: Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins led the NFL in 2019 in touchdown passes on play action (14).
Mayfield, meanwhile, completed 57.5 percent of his passes last year at 6.6 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a 69.4 passer rating with no play action. With play action, Mayfield completed 64.7 percent of his passes at 8.9 yards per attempt, nine touchdowns, three picks and a 106.2 passer rating.
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Offensive lineman Joel Bitonio has been in Cleveland since 2014; that year, Kyle Shanahan was the team's OC and play-caller, and Shanahan, the 49ers' coach, is now considered one of the best play-callers in the NFL. Bitonio already sees similarities between Shanahan and Stefanski.
"There's definitely a chance to do some things on offense that we're excited to do,'' Bitonio said this week to Cleveland.com. "Baker, I think he works in this offense great. He's going to be able to sell those runs and set up in the pocket. It's not just drop-back passing 50 times a game, which is benefit to the O-line, too. If you can sell the run and play action, boot and run keepers off the run game, it is going to give Baker another second or two to have guys get open and run routes.''
Cleveland has an Over-Under win total of 8.5 for this season at William Hill sportsbook and is a +135 underdog to end the NFL's longest playoff drought. Mayfield's season props will be around 3,900 yards and 24 touchdowns. He threw for 3,827 yards and 22 TDs last year but also 21 interceptions. Mayfield already will be playing for a fourth head coach since entering the league.
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