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Tyrod Taylor Named Browns Starting QB over Baker Mayfield During 'Hard Knocks'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2018

Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) talks with Baker Mayfield (6) during NFL football training camp Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Ron Schwane/Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns seemingly didn't trade for Tyrod Taylor to have him sit on the bench.

Tuesday's episode of Hard Knocks on HBO featured head coach Hue Jackson telling Baker Mayfield he will be the backup quarterback to start the season.

NFL @NFL

.@Browns HC Hue Jackson sits down with backup QBs @bakermayfield and @drewstanton. The season finale of #HardKnocks re-airs Wednesday (10pm ET/PT) on @HBO. https://t.co/mPZjTUyfcq

"[It's] a lot of responsibility for you [Mayfield]," said Jackson, via Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com. "Doesn't change for you [Drew Stanton]. Still got to be ready to play, ready to go. But that's the direction I want to travel. So I wanted you guys to know that."

Jackson went on to praise Mayfield for his performance thus far with the Browns: "You've come in here the right way. You've handled everything the right way, and I think that's important for this football team. You're a very talented young man. Keep grinding."

Taylor led the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs last season for the first time since the 1999 campaign and will look to snap a postseason-less streak for the Browns that dates back to the 2002 season. Cleveland acquired him from Buffalo via trade this offseason as part of a passing-game overhaul that also included trading for wide receiver Jarvis Landry and drafting Mayfield No. 1 overall.

Despite the status as the top overall pick, Mayfield was not able to overcome Taylor in the race to become the starter. It wasn't much surprise given Jackson's comments during the preseason.

"I have not changed. I'm not going to change," Jackson said, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. "Tyrod Taylor's the starting quarterback here, and Baker's the future of our organization."

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Taylor will be tasked with turning around the quarterback struggles that have largely led to the Browns being a punch line in the NFL under Jackson. They have won a mere one combined game in the two seasons under the coach's direction, although he was an offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals before taking the Browns job and has the background to work with a veteran in Taylor.

Cleveland's starter spent the first four seasons of his career with the Baltimore Ravens and saw hardly any playing time, throwing just 35 regular-season pass attempts during his tenure. However, he was the primary starter for the Bills in each of the last three seasons and reached impressive highs.

He was a Pro Bowler in 2015 with a career-best 3,035 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. Taylor then threw for more than 3,000 yards again in 2016 and led the Bills to the playoffs last season behind 2,799 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and four picks.

Taylor also brings another dimension to the game with his legs considering he tallied 1,575 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground during the last three years with Buffalo.

That running ability will be key since Football Outsiders ranked Cleveland's offensive line a mere 22nd in the league in pass protection last season. When plays break down, Taylor will be able to escape the pocket and grant a talented pass-catching group additional time to find space downfield.

That group includes veteran leadership with Landry, young potential with Antonio Callaway and David Njoku, and game-changing talent with Josh Gordon.

It is likely too much to ask Cleveland to go from a zero-win team to a playoff-bound one in the course of one offseason, but Taylor and that group give it a chance to demonstrate significant improvement in 2018.

He will be tested right away against two playoff teams from a year ago in the opening two weeks. Cleveland starts the season against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers before traveling to New Orleans to play the Saints in Week 2.

Browns fans will have a good idea of what Taylor brings to the table against some of the best the league has to offer right away.

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