As a star quarterback, Baker Mayfield has had his fair share of ups and downs in the NFL. That’s why I’m keeping a close eye on him as he joins the Buccaneers for OTAs. Mayfield has the potential to be a top-tier player, but he needs to prove that he can consistently deliver under pressure and adapt to new coaching and playing styles. With his skillset and determination, I believe Mayfield has what it takes to become a key player for the Buccaneers. But first, he has to prove himself during OTAs.
Baker Mayfield named Buccaneers player with most to prove during OTAs
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off their second Super Bowl victory in franchise history and the return of all 22 starters on both sides of the ball. However, as much as the continuity should be celebrated, there are still a few players who have a lot to prove during OTAs, and none more so than Baker Mayfield.
Who is Baker Mayfield?
Mayfield was a standout quarterback at the University of Oklahoma and was selected with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. He had a rough rookie season, but in 2019, he led the Browns to a 6-2 record over their final eight games and set the rookie record for touchdown passes in a season.
However, in 2020, Mayfield struggled once again. He threw for just 26 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, the same touchdown total he had as a rookie, but with two more games played. His passer rating dropped from 93.7 in 2019 to 91.4 in 2020.
But despite the struggles, Mayfield did lead the Browns to their first playoff victory since 1994, although it was largely thanks to the team’s dominant running game.
Why does he have the most to prove during OTAs?
Mayfield was brought to Tampa Bay to be the third-string quarterback behind Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert. However, he will have the opportunity to compete for the backup job with Gabbert, who is coming off a shoulder injury.
If Mayfield can impress enough during OTAs and training camp, there is a chance he could vault himself ahead of Gabbert and be the primary backup to Brady. This could be a huge opportunity for Mayfield, as Brady will turn 44 years old this August and there is no telling when he will decide to retire.
Furthermore, if Mayfield proves himself as a capable backup, it could open up future opportunities for him. With the way backup quarterbacks are valued in today’s NFL, Mayfield could find himself in line for a big payday in the future if he can prove himself as a reliable No. 2.
What are the challenges he will face?
The biggest challenge for Mayfield will be adjusting to a new offensive system in Tampa Bay. He had to do so in Cleveland last season and it clearly did not go well. The Browns went from being a team that relied heavily on the running game to one that wanted to air it out more often, and Mayfield simply did not look comfortable.
However, the good news for Mayfield is that the Buccaneers’ offense is not drastically different from what he ran in college or what he learned during his rookie season in Cleveland. He should be able to make a smoother transition to the Tampa Bay offense than he did to the Cleveland offense last year.
Another challenge for Mayfield will be the pressure of playing behind Brady. He will have to be ready at all times in case Brady gets hurt, and there will always be the shadow of Brady looming over him. Mayfield will have to show that he can handle the pressure and be ready to step up if called upon.
What does he need to do to prove himself during OTAs?
The most important thing for Mayfield during OTAs will be to show that he has improved his accuracy. In 2020, he completed just 62.8% of his passes, which ranked 25th in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks. He needs to show that he has improved his accuracy and decision-making during his time with the Buccaneers.
Furthermore, Mayfield will need to show that he is decisive in the pocket. One of the biggest criticisms of him during his time in Cleveland has been his tendency to hold onto the ball too long and take sacks. He will need to show that he is quicker in his decision-making and quicker in getting the ball out of his hands.
Finally, Mayfield will need to show that he has improved in his deep-ball accuracy. In Cleveland, he struggled to connect with his receivers on deep throws, despite having a strong arm. The Buccaneers have a talented group of receivers who can stretch the field, and Mayfield will need to show that he can take advantage of their speed and make accurate throws down the field.
Baker Mayfield has a huge opportunity in front of him during OTAs. If he can impress the coaching staff and show that he has improved his accuracy and decision-making, he could win the backup quarterback job and put himself in line for future opportunities. However, the pressure will be on him to perform behind one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the challenge.