Written by By Kelsey Workman, CNN
In the end, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson decided against playing his star rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield, during the preseason in an effort to build up his arm strength. The move paid off on Sunday, when Mayfield took his first snap as a pro, playing in a preseason game in Detroit.
Despite the obvious benefit of less game film to study, Jackson still opted to leave Mayfield out of the opening two weeks of exhibition games. Before the game, Mayfield expressed confidence he would prove himself during his pre-season action — particularly if given more chances.
“I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Mayfield said of playing during the preseason. “If I wasn’t selected for this year, I feel like I would still be ready to go. I mean, it really is that simple.”
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While Mayfield’s numbers weren’t quite as impressive Sunday as his performance against the San Francisco 49ers in the first preseason game last week, he demonstrated undeniable potential with his quickness and athleticism.
“Baker was good. I thought his accuracy was good, his feel for the game was good,” Jackson said after the game. “I think he’s going to be really good.”
The Browns had only played Mayfield on five snaps prior to Sunday. Given the team’s woeful record in recent years, it’s clear the organization is pushing Mayfield as hard as it can during his rookie season. So far, so good.
But it may take him more time to deliver on his talent. Of the other four rookie quarterbacks in the league, only Pittsburgh’s Joshua Dobbs has seen any game action. Houston’s Deshaun Watson, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill and Oakland’s AJ McCarron still have their pre-season schedules to finish.
As he explained after Sunday’s game, Mayfield has the luxury of a long time to work on his craft. After an open week next month, the Browns will have a bye week to prepare for their game against the Baltimore Ravens on December 9, and the rookie quarterback has already earned a vote of confidence from his coach.
“He can be the best of the rest of the year,” Jackson said. “I know that.”