Baker Mayfield was selected first overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft, and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen was selected six picks later at No. 7. While the two may not have the same linkage as Sam Darnold of the New York Jets does to Allen thanks to his status as leader of one of Buffalo’s divisional rivals, Mayfield is still a player to whom Allen will be compared over the course of his career.
The two young quarterbacks have yet to meet in a regular-season game, but that will change on Sunday. Which Browns players will we be watching aside from Mayfield?
QB Baker Mayfield
We’ll start with the obvious—the second-year quarterback has regressed significantly this season. After a rookie season where he threw for 3,735 yards and 27 touchdowns in only 14 games, Mayfield has not been nearly as good this season. His completion percentage is down from 63.8% to 58.7% this year, and he has only thrown seven touchdown passes through Cleveland’s first eight games. Mayfield also leads the NFL with 12 interceptions. Against a tough Buffalo secondary, Mayfield faces another stiff test. The Bills allow only 185 passing yards per game, which is the third-best total in the league. It trails only the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots, two teams that have beaten Cleveland this year. In those two games, Mayfield combined to complete 28-of-53 passes for 294 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. If Buffalo can do what they’ve done all year, they can become the latest defense to frustrate last year’s first overall pick.
RB Kareem Hunt
Starter Nick Chubb is an obvious focal point, but I’m interested to see how the Browns deploy the dynamic Hunt, who returns from an eight-game suspension incurred as a result of domestic violence. Buffalo’s defense has been gashed up the middle on runs over the last few weeks, but they’ve also had a miserable time trying to cover screen passes. In 27 career games, Hunt has 79 receptions for 833 yards and ten touchdowns. He’s a dynamic threat both as a rusher and as a receiver, and his presence makes Cleveland’s offense incredibly dangerous. With some teams that have a stud running back, the defense can relax when the backup comes in, but teams won’t be able to do that with Hunt in the fold.
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The dynamic wideout with a diva’s reputation is immensely talented, and he’s sure to be shadowed by Buffalo’s top cornerback, Tre’Davious White. Beckham has essentially served as Cleveland’s co-No. 1 receiver this year, as he is tied for the team lead in targets with the next player on our list (and they have nearly identical stat lines, as well). Beckham has seen 67 targets, catching 39 passes for 575 yards and one touchdown this season. If Cleveland can match him up with Levi Wallace, Buffalo will have problems; however, if White sticks with him, then Beckham can be contained.
WR Jarvis Landry
A former Miami Dolphins wideout, Landry has been a thorn in the Bills’ side since his days in South Beach. In the last few years, he has leveled Buffalo players with dirty hits, first derailing the career of safety Aaron Williams and then laying out cornerback Taron Johnson in a preseason game. Landry’s stat line is incredibly similar to Beckham’s—67 targets, 36 receptions, 555 yards, one touchdown—but he operates mainly from the slot. This means that he’ll probably be covered by some combination of Johnson, Siran Neal, and Kevin Johnson this week. If the Browns can match him up against linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, however, the team will have something to exploit. Landry will be a big part of the game plan, especially in combating Buffalo’s combination zone coverages.
DE Myles Garrett
Cleveland’s top overall draft choice in 2017 was the first of two straight first-overall picks for the franchise, and he has not disappointed. After notching 13.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 29 quarterback hits last season, Garrett is off to a similarly dominant start in 2019. He already has ten sacks, a league-leading 11 tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback hits on the season. One thing worth noting, however, is that nearly all of his production came in the first two games of the season. Garrett combined for five sacks, five tackles for loss, and seven quarterback hits through the season’s first two weeks. While the other six games have still been impressive, it’s worth noting that he has not been as dominant since the Browns defeated Trevor Siemian and the New York Jets in Week 2. Stopping him will be paramount to success for the Bills on Sunday.