Baker Mayfield Will Get the Chance to Beat the Browns in Week 1 for Panthers

Mayfield has been named the starter for Carolina to kick off the season against Cleveland

Baker Mayfield throws a pass before a preseason game against the Commanders.
Baker Mayfield will have the opportunity to stick it to his former team.
Scott Taetsch/Getty

When the Carolina Panthers open their season in Charlotte against the Browns on September 11, former Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield will be under center for the home team.

Selected No. 1 overall out of Oklahoma in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield beat out incumbent starter Sam Darnold, who was selected two picks after Mayfield out of USC by the New York Jets, for the job despite only being a member of the Panthers since early July when he was traded by the Browns. When Cleveland dealt Mayfield to Carolina, the Browns were hoping it’d be Deshaun Watson who’d be replacing him as the starting quarterback. But thanks to last week’s ruling about Watson and the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him, the Browns will be without the 26-year-old’s services for the first 11 weeks of the season. That being the case, it’ll be journeyman Jacoby Brissett leading the Browns against Mayfield in Week 1.

Had the Browns and Panthers played last season, it would’ve been Mayfield and the Browns taking on Darnold and the Panthers. Instead, this time around, it’ll be Brissett and the Browns taking on Mayfield and the Panthers while Darnold watches from the sidelines and Watson, who can’t return to the team until November 28, watches from home.

“When we started this process, we were looking at three things,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said after announcing Mayfield as the team’s starter. “Number one, mastery of the offense, number two, situational football excellence, and number three, moving the ball and getting guys involved. That’s been our focus all along. Baker has made a lot of improvement, a lot of growth in all three areas in a short amount of time.”

Mayfield’s ascension to the top of the depth chart in Carolina could be a short one if he underperforms as Rhule is in his third year running things for the Panthers and ownership will likely want to see some results following a pair of disappointing seasons. An unrestricted free agent following this season, Mayfield has millions of reasons to play well and prove that he has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL. That’s what the Browns thought they were getting when they selected Mayfield at No. 1 and, for the most part, the 27-year-old lived up to expectations when he was healthy enough to do so. But Cleveland thought they could do better, hence the move for Watson. Week 1 will be Mayfield’s first chance to show the Browns they made a mistake. Depending on how he plays, it may also be his last.

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