DALLAS — In this week’s Hey Mary Kay! I answer questions about Baker Mayfield, the Browns tight ends and more.
Hey, Mary Kay: Baker Mayfield is starting to worry me. As a No. 1 overall pick, Mayfield should be more of a quarterback that can win games with his arm rather than just being a game manager. His supporting cast is also one of the best in the league. Do you think he does have that ability to be a top tier quarterback in this league? — Jeff Lerner, Avon, Ohio
Hey, Jeff: I still do think that Mayfield can be a top-tier quarterback in the NFL as he gets more comfortable in this offense and as Kevin Stefanski learns more each week about how Mayfield can excel in this scheme. The opener in Baltimore was the first time Stefanski had seen Mayfield operate this offense live. As the next two weeks unfolded, he rolled Mayfield out more and also had him throwing out of the shotgun more. Mayfield operates better in space and on the move, where he has good sight lines. As he continues to gain confidence in the new offense, they’ll give him more to do. They were also able to run the ball the last two games, so they didn’t need him to do a lot. Sunday’s game in Dallas could be one where he has to prove he can pass with the best of them, and as you mentioned, he certainly has the talent around him to light it up. He also has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. I believe he’ll get better by the week, and that Stefanski will get better at showcasing his strengths.
Hey, Mary Kay: Why haven’t the tight ends been more involved in the offense to this point? I thought we’d see more out of Austin Hooper. — Gavin Domm, San Francisco
Hey, Gavin: The offense is a work in progress, and it will change from week-to-week. It’s a multiple scheme, with many strengths. One week, the run game will take center stage, and before long, the passing game will be humming along. One week, Odell Beckham Jr. might have eight receptions and 100 yards, and the next week it could be Austin Hooper. I think there will be enough to go around for everyone, but not all in the same week. Again, the coaches are still learning their personnel, and the nuances of how they work together. By midseason, the pass offense should be a force to be reckoned with, and Hooper will be a bigger part of it.
Hey, Mary Kay: Will Denzel Ward play this game, and how will the pass defense hold up against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ receivers? — Ben Jones, Macon, Ga.
Hey, Ben: Ward looked good in the early part of practice I was able to watch on Friday, and I believe he will play in Dallas. I think he feels better than last week, when he tried to gut it out on a groin injury against Washington. The thing is, he can tweak it at any time on a full-out sprint, and these receivers will test the Browns’ speed and man-coverage ability. If he can’t play the whole game, Kevin Johnson will likely replace him again. Complicating matters is the fact that Greedy Williams is still out with his shoulder injury. It’s a week that you would have liked to be able to count on your two starting cornerbacks. Fortunately for the Browns, Terrance Mitchell has filled in well for Williams.
Hey, Mary Kay: Do you think this Cowboys game will be the barometer on how good Baker Mayfield can be? — Jonathan Torres, Cleveland, Ohio
Hey, Jonathan: I think we’ll see signs of growth and progress in Mayfield, and I think he’ll need to prove that he can lead an explosive aerial attack while up against the No. 1 pass offense in the NFL. But I think it’s too early to draw sweeping conclusions on Mayfield’s career at this point. He’s too new in this offense to label or define how good he can be. By the second half of the season, the Browns will have a really good idea of his potential in this quarterback-friendly scheme, but it’s still a work in progress as they wrap up the first quarter of the season.
Hey, Mary Kay: Will Rashard Higgins get some playing time soon? — Sean N., Chicago
Hey, Ben: Higgins could be active as soon as Sunday in Dallas, but reps might be hard to come by until he beats out KhaDarel Hodge for that third receiver spot or he’s pressed into service because of injury. The good thing for Higgins is that he’s been working hard in practice and the coaches really like him, so he has a much greater chance of playing than he did last year under Freddie Kitchens. He just has to keep his head down and wait for his chance.
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