Can Baker Mayfield continue to play mistake-free football against the Chiefs? Hey, Mary Kay!
KANSAS CITY — In this edition of Hey, Mary Kay! I answer questions about Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, David Njoku, and more.
Hey, Mary Kay: Can Baker Mayfield continue to play mistake-free football? — Sean N., Chicago, Ill.
Hey, Sean: Mayfield’s lack of interceptions over the past 10 games are a major reason the Browns are playing for a chance to go to the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns against only one interception in that span, and the Browns are 7-3, including last week’s pick-free 48-37 victory over the Steelers in the wild card game. The Chiefs, however, had the second-most interceptions in the NFL this season with 16, including six by Tyrann Mathieu for third in the NFL. If Mayfield throws picks, the Browns will have a hard time winning the game. If he doesn’t, they’ll have a good chance because winning the turnover battle is key. Mayfield has learned to take the checkdown and throw the ball away. He’s not forcing it and he’s going through his progressions and finding the open man or one-on-one matchups. He’s mastered Kevin Stefanski’s play-action, wide-zone scheme, and he’s getting more and more confident each week. The offensive line should give him plenty of time to throw, but he’ll have to be on the lookout for Mathieu.
Hey, Mary Kay: Will Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson be up for a full game in Kansas City? — Ben Jones, Macon, Ga.
Hey, Ben: Ward and Johnson fared well in practice this week coming off of COVID-19, but they won’t know how their conditioning or wind will be until they’re out there playing. Myles Garrett didn’t know that he’d struggle until he tried to play almost a full game his first time out. Now, the Browns know to monitor him, and they’ll do the same for Ward, Johnson, Joel Bitonio and KhaDarel Hodge. Fortunately for the Browns, they’ve had other defensive backs such as M.J. Stewart who have gotten plenty of valuable reps over the past few months and will be ready to step in as needed. Stewart, of course, has made game-changing interceptions in each of the past two games, so the revolving door in the back end proved beneficial in the long run.
Hey, Mary Kay: What’s the outlook or prognosis for Greedy Williams’ future — Tom Eingle, Ruskin, Fla.
Hey, Tom: Williams is still recovering from the nerve damage in his shoulder, and is hoping to be back next season. The Browns seem optimistic that he will be, but it just depends on the regeneration of the nerve. It’s been five months, and it hasn’t responded the way anyone hoped . The Browns will have to have a good Plan B, which could include re-signing Terrance Mitchell. They’ll likely also look for a starting-caliber cornerback in the draft, free agency or a trade.
Hey, Mary Kay: This Browns team is so special. The odds have been stacked against them all season and yet they find away to get the job done. Do you feel they have enough left to beat the Super Bowl champs? Will Jack Conklin be back for this game? Thank you Mary Kay! You have been amazing covering this special team! Go Browns! — Jeffrey Lerner, Avon, Ohio #plantthebrownsflag –
Hey, Jeff: Thanks! And thanks for all of your great questions all season. Yes, I do think the Browns have a good chance to beat the Chiefs if they play a clean game and if Mayfield doesn’t throw interceptions. As mentioned above, the Chiefs are tied for the second-most interceptions in the NFL with 16, including six by Tyrann Mathieu. If Mayfield can avoid the picks and the Browns play an otherwise mostly mistake-free game, they can win and earn a trip to Buffalo for the AFC Championship Game against the Bills. I feel this way for a number of reasons, including the Browns being great in the red zone and the Chiefs being the worst red zone defense in the NFL. The Browns also pit their No. 3 rushing attack against the Chiefs’ 21st ranked run defense. But if Patrick Mahomes has an amazing, mistake-free game himself, he’ll be tough to beat.
Hey, Mary Kay: Can we expect to see Jedrick Wills Jr., Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter, Wyatt Teller and Jack Conklin start on Sunday? If so, what limitations might they have? — Andrew Sprenger, Amherst, Ohio
Hey, Andrew: The Browns will have their starting offensive line intact for the game, and if they win, it will be due in large part to its performance. Joel Bitonio is coming off the COVID-19 list, but said he wasn’t that sick, and should be fine. Jack Conklin sat out practice on Wednesday and Thursday with his hamstring injury, but returned on a limited basis on Friday. Conklin won’t be 100% but he should be healthy enough to get the job done.
Hey, Mary Kay: Where are we with keeping David Njoku? I never heard why he wanted to go, what is his contract status? Thanks and Go Browns! — Popoolajoy, St. Louis, Mo.
Hey, Pop: The Browns picked up Njoku’s fifth-year option for 2021 at $6.013 million, but it’s not guaranteed and he’ll only remain on the team if the two sides determine it’s the best thing for both parties. Njoku, who wanted to be traded before the season and then rescinded his request, finished seventh on the team with only 19 receptions for 213 yards and two TDs. Njoku and Baker Mayfield were seen disagreeing on the sidelines in the season finale against Pittsburgh over whether or not Njoku was open for a TD pass. The tight end stumbled but then regained his footing, but Mayfield had already looked for Jarvis Landry at that point, and found him in the end zone for the TD. My guess is that Njoku would still like a chance to go somewhere else and contribute more.
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