For the second Wednesday in a row, Baker Mayfield essentially rested during the first practice of the work week. (Cleveland Browns)
Baker Mayfield’s lower-body injuries affecting him more than the torn labrum in left shoulder
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
Yes, Baker Mayfield has a bum left (non-throwing) shoulder that probably will need surgery. But the quarterback indicated Wednesday that his multiple lower-body injuries are affecting his game more.
Mayfield has been receiving treatment on a bone bruise on his right knee and a bruised heel on his left foot. The biggest concern now with the torn labrum in his left shoulder appears not to absorb a hit to it.
The lower-body injuries affect Mayfield’s ability to make plays with his legs, but also to make more accurate throws.
“Yeah, especially for me – kind of an unorthodox throwing motion when it comes to my lower body and just how violent it is,” he said. “Your lower body is so important in your throwing motion, regardless, so it has been definitely a different issue to overcome. But the shoulder stuff is kind of the new normal, and I am not really worried about that anymore. I still try and protect as much as I can.
“Like I told you guys, there are plays to be made with my feet, and that is where I have been kind of frustrated with that.”
Against the Lions, Mayfield appeared to have regained his mobility in the first half compared to previous games. He showed no signs of restrictions. He bootlegged right and left and made one run for 4 yards. He was 11 for 18 passing for 124 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
His troubles started in the third quarter when he aggravated the lower-body injuries on a sack and other hits after throws by the Lions. He limped much of the latter stages of the game. Continual penalties on offense contributed to his malaise, too. In the second half, Mayfield was 4 of 11 for 52 yards and one interception. His only play with his legs was a 7-yard gain on a keeper.
“I thought he made some nice plays there with his feet,” coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Certainly, that adds an element to any offense’s game. You look at some of the big rush attacks around the league, oftentimes there are quarterbacks who are a big focal point of that. Any which way you can gain those yards is a big deal.”
Even totally healthy, Mayfield’s legs aren’t going to be as much as a factor in his game as they are with Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson.
But if the lower-body issues are contributing to his throwing mechanic breakdowns, it would help explain Mayfield’s recent declining accuracy. He has completed 52.3 percent and 51.7 percent in his last two games (26 of 50 overall).
Here he comes
Kareem Hunt’s expected return should benefit Mayfield’s accuracy, especially considering the state of the wide receiver room (three receivers did not practice on Wednesday).
Hunt has missed the last five games with a strained calf muscle. In the first six games, Hunt’s 83.3 catch percentage (20 of 24 targets) was the best on the team.
That percentage should be high because most, if not all, of Mayfield’s throws to Hunt are within 5 yards. Hunt’s value is in turning short throws into explosive plays. Six of his 20 receptions on such short throws have turned into gains of 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 23 yards.
“That makes life easy on some of these check-downs where it can turn into explosive plays,” Mayfield asserted. “That is the kind of playmakers we have so we are looking forward to it.”
Hunt and right tackle Jack Conklin (dislocated elbow) were designated for return from IR, which means they were cleared to practice. The Browns are hoping both starters will be activated to the regular roster before Sunday’s game in Baltimore.
Hunt certainly sounded ready.
“Yeah, [we’ll] see how I feel during the week, but I definitely thinking I’m going to play,” Hunt said. “I always bring the fire, so I’m definitely going to come with a lot of energy and fire. I miss the game, I miss practice, I miss everything.”
The Browns’ bugaboo on defense has been third downs. They’re 24th in the NFL in allowing offenses a 43.1 percent conversion rate on third downs. Despite a down year in many defensive categories, the Ravens are first in third down efficiency, limiting offenses to a 30.5 percent conversion rate.
The Browns’ defense ranks higher in most every major category.
So I asked Stefanski why are the Ravens so good on third downs.
“They play very aggressive on third down,” he said. “They can blitz-zero you. They can drop everybody into coverage. They play man. They crawl up in your face playing very aggressive style. They have multiple rushers from a personnel standpoint that they can bring. They have varied type of rushers. The rookie No. 99 [linebacker Odafe Oweh] is long and fast. No. 93 [defensive end Calais Campbell] has been doing it for a long time. You have a bunch of really good guys who they can throw at you in the pass rush game.
“Third-and-anything, they rush well, and then they have good coverage. They have really good corners. It is a combination of rush and coverage.”
Mayfield’s participation in practice was very limited. In the 20 minutes open to media, he wore a stocking cap and hoodie and just took some handoffs …
Not practicing were: defensive tackle Malik Jackson (knee), receiver Jarvis Landry (knee), receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin) and receiver Anthony Schwartz (concussion). Of the receivers being available for the Baltimore game, Stefanski said, “I feel good about Jarvis and then I am just not sure on Schwartzy and DPJ.” …
Cornerback Troy Hill (neck sprain) and cornerback A.J. Green (concussion) returned to practice.