NFL Training Camp Notes: Baker Mayfield Silencing the Haters and More
Training camps are in full swing across the NFL. The Hall of Fame game is already in the books, and the first full week of preseason contests will begin in a few days.
As those exhibition games rapidly approach, position battles are heating up. With so much happening throughout the league, it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest news and updates.
Luckily, we're here to help, with this look at notes from camps around the NFL—beginning with the latest involving the top overall pick in this year's draft.
Baker Mayfield Balling Out in Browns Camp
The Cleveland Browns' decision to draft Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick in April was met with derision in some circles. The brash Heisman Trophy winner wasn't as tall as Josh Allen, critics said. Or as polished as Josh Rosen.
But if early returns from Berea, Ohio, are any indication, Mayfield is demonstrating the same thing in the pros he did when he walked on at Oklahoma. Though he's short by NFL quarterback standards and a bit unorthodox, he can play nevertheless.
"The Browns have been floored by Mayfield so far," Benjamin Allbright of Mile High Sports Radio tweeted. "Well ahead of where they thought he'd be."
At the end of July, head coach Hue Jackson said his young quarterback has consistently impressed.
"Baker Mayfield has been everything I thought a quarterback should be for our organization thus far," Jackson told reporters. "He's doing the things that we want him to do the way we want him to do it, and he's exceeding those things. Because he's putting in the time. He doesn't have a pride or [arrogance] any kind of way."
Mayfield will see his first game action Thursday against the New York Giants. If he shows out well there, the hype will build. So will calls for Mayfield to start Week 1.
But there's a catch…
Mayfield Isn't Starting for the Browns, Really
Several times this offseason, Jackson has insisted veteran Tyrod Taylor would be the starting quarterback when the Browns square off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1.
Though Mayfield is reportedly impressing in training camp, Jackson's answer still hasn't changed.
"I'm not changing my mind," Jackson told Peter King of NBC Sports. "Tyrod's starting. That's no reflection on Mayfield. He respects what I'm doing for him long term. He may not like me for it now, but he'll thank me later."
It's still far from certain that Mayfield is ready to take the field in an NFL game that counts. But if he shines in the preseason, calls for the future to be now in Cleveland are only going to grow.
Jackson sticking to his guns no matter what would be a very Cleveland thing to do. But if Mayfield keeps tearing it up, he's going to force Jackson's hand.
And if the Browns get off to another terrible start this year—Cleveland has started the last two seasons 0-14—Jackson won't have a quarterback controversy to worry about anymore. Or a job, for that matter.
Sam Darnold Has Legit Shot to Start Week 1
Soon after Sam Darnold hit the practice field for the New York Jets, positive reports began to trickle out.
Jets wide receiver Jermaine Kearse told Steve Serby of the New York Post that he's been impressed with what he's seen so far from the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft.
"He's an athletic guy. ... He's just as accurate on the run as he is in the pocket," Kearse said. "It'll help to extend plays in situations where he has to get forced out of the pocket. It allows us to find areas to get open. He keeps his eyes down the field, so we just gotta find the open areas for him to deliver the ball."
Those positive reviews appear to extend to the coaching staff.
Team sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the former USC standout "has a very fair shot" to be the Jets' starting quarterback when they face the Detroit Lions in Week 1.
"He has to keep progressing, preseason will be critical, and he probably is a year away, when he turns 22," Schefter tweeted. "But Jets love what they see and he has a legit chance to win job."
Friday's primetime preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons just got a lot more interesting.
Browns Trade WR Corey Coleman to Bills
Two years ago, the Browns decided quarterback Carson Wentz wasn't worth the No. 2 overall pick. After trading down in Round 1, the Browns settled on wide receiver Corey Coleman as their first pick at No. 15 overall.
It worked out about as well as most of Cleveland's first-rounders from the past decade, which is to say it was a disaster.
If Coleman turns his career around and fulfills even a fraction of his potential, the trade will be a coup for the Bills. For the Browns, it's another personnel embarrassment.
At least Cleveland fans will always have the memory of Coleman's horrible drop against the Steelers that sealed the Browns' 0-16 season in 2017. That play sums up his NFL career well.
Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin Moving Up Depth Chart
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear likely to finish last in the loaded NFC South this season, especially with Jameis Winston set to miss the first three games due to a suspension. But they aren't without talent, especially in the pass-catching department.
"Chris is playing really well right now," head coach Dirk Koetter said, per Stroud. We look at it as if we have four starting receivers. All four of those guys [Evans, Jackson, Godwin and Adam Humphries], the only guy that really hasn't been a starter (in the NFL) is Chris. The other three have been, and we believe Chris is every bit in that same category."
For his part, Godwin told Stroud he's ready for the challenge.
"Last year I was a little bit under the radar, and I'm fine with that," Godwin said. "It allowed me to prepare as if I'm a starter, so you saw when I got my opportunities, I was able to take advantage."
Jackson is reportedly having a fine camp and will play plenty in three-receiver sets, but Godwin is younger, bigger and is a better blocker as well.
It looks like he's getting his shot.
Texans DE JJ Watt Has Sights Set on Fourth DPOY Award
It wasn't long ago that Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was being mentioned as perhaps the greatest defensive player in NFL history. He was named the league's Defensive Player of Year three times in the four-year span between 2012 and 2015.
Only the great Lawrence Taylor has won the award that many times. No one has ever won four.
Watt wants to change that.
"That's the goal," he told Peter King of NBC Sports. "It's not the only goal, but it's a goal."
After two injury-marred seasons, Watt understands that questions linger about whether he will ever be the dominant force he was before his back and leg injuries.
"I don't expect anybody else to be convinced," he told King. "I don't expect anybody outside to have any reason to believe that. The last two years were two very bad years. There were some dark moments in there. But I've also come out the other side of it better because of some of the experiences that I had."
If the Texans roll out a healthy trio of Watt, Whiney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney in 2018, AFC South quarterbacks will have to run for their lives.
Cordarrelle Patterson Making Waves at Patriots Camp
With Julian Edelman out for the first four games of the 2018 season due to a suspension, the New England Patriots have a major hole at wide receiver. They tried Jordan Matthews as a stopgap, but they released him after he suffered a hamstring injury during training camp.
Another veteran castoff is having a bit more success.
Over five NFL seasons with two teams, 2013 first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson has struggled to make a consistent impact. He's never had 500 receiving yards in a season, and he managed only 31 receptions in Oakland last year.
However, Patterson has turned heads in camp with the Pats. According to Mark Patterson of the Providence Journal, he's routinely blowing past coverages and making highlight-reel grabs.
"He's a hard-working guy," head coach Bill Belichick said, per Patterson. "He's out there every single day. He's improved every day. He has skills in offense and the kicking game in a number of different areas, return skills, coverage skills, blocking skills, catching skills. He's got some experience, so he's able to utilize that. He understands his skill set and how it matches up against different types of players."
Showing out on the practice field and making a difference in games that count are radically different things, but Patterson is a lanky target in the passing game who runs like a gazelle.
Tom Brady could make good use of someone like that.
Greg Olsen Responds to Kelvin Benjamin's Slam of Newton, Panthers
The biggest news from Bills camp over the weekend wasn't rookie quarterback Josh Allen. In fact, it didn't have anything to do with the Bills at all.
"I mean, I felt like I would've been even more successful if...I don't know, man...If I would've...Looking back on it, I should've just been drafted by somebody else. I should've never went to Carolina," Benjamin said. "Truly, I just think Carolina was bad for me. It was a bad fit from the get-go. If you would've put me with any other quarterback, let's be real, you know what I'm saying? Any other accurate quarterback like Rodgers or Eli Manning or Big Ben—anybody!—quarterbacks with knowledge, that know how to place a ball and give you a better chance to catch the ball. It just felt like I wasn't in that position."
Talk about both barrels.
On Sunday, one of Newton's current teammates responded to Benjamin's comments.
"We enjoyed Kelvin," veteran tight end Greg Olsen told Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. "For the most part, he was a good person to have around. Things didn't work out here for him. I get it. I know what that's like. But you'd like to see him just kind of move forward to his team, embrace his new opportunity rather than go personal on it."
Olsen also came to the defense of his quarterback.
"I've told him a lot he's the best thing that's ever happened to my career," Olsen said. "Coming here, this has been the best eight years of my career, and obviously he's a big part of that."
As he's shown time and again over his 11-year NFL career, Olsen's a class act.
Cowboys Passing Game Struggling
With both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten no longer in town, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys passing attack could struggle in 2018.
According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, that's been the case early in training camp.
"The offense has struggled in getting the ball down the field," Archer wrote. "In the most competitive part of consecutive practices on Thursday and Saturday—either two-minute or play-it-out situations—Prescott had nine straight incompletions."
Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said a passing attack filled with new faces remains a work in progress.
"One of the things we've got to establish here in the coming weeks, in the four preseason games is really specific roles for people. Right now, you guys have probably noticed we're moving guys around a lot...But the thing that's got to be improved upon is, OK when it gets down to crunch time, this is the guy. He's the go-to player in this route or this play. We put this guy in on this concept, when we're game-planning especially, so it's specific to that. We're still a work in progress, but we're making strides. But we've got to make strides quickly here."
Whether it's a veteran like Allen Hurns and Terrance Williams or a youngster like Michael Gallup, the Cowboys need someone to emerge as a consistent producer at receiver. Prescott insisted he's confident things will improve.
"Still trying to gain chemistry," Prescott said. "It's going to come."
It better, as Dallas doesn't have much margin for error in the NFC East.
The Latest on Odell Beckham Jr.'s Contract
The contract status of superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been one of the New York Giants' biggest offseason storylines.
If the past few days are any indication, that drama isn't close to being over.
On Sunday, ESPN's Josina Anderson reported the Giants made Beckham an offer worth less annually than the three-year, $48 million deal Sammy Watkins got from the Kansas City Chiefs in March.
That's like looking at a Ferrari and then telling the dealer you only want to pay for a Camaro.
But according Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the two sides have reportedly engaged in more realistic negotiations.
"Over the past several days, Odell Beckham Jr.'s agent Zeke Sandhu & the Giants engaged in good-faith negotiations on a deal that would make him the highest paid WR in the NFL, sources say," Rapoport tweeted. "They aren't there yet, but the sides are encouraged a deal could be done before the season."
The current high-water mark for wide receivers in terms of average annual salary is Antonio Brown's four-year, $68 million contract with the Steelers.
Getting Beckham locked up is going to cost the Giants even more.