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Baker Mayfield on the charged Browns: ‘If we don’t have chemistry, it doesn’t matter’

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Baker Mayfield has been down this road before with a boatload of talent on the attack, and that Browns ship sank to 6-10 in 2019.

He won’t let that happen again. He’s got some of the same stars around him, including Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt, but he’s learned the hard way that talent can be fool’s gold.

“We have a lot of great players, and this doesn’t take anything away from them because I love these guys,” Mayfield said Wednesday during his Procamps Youth Football Clinic at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills. “But it doesn’t matter who we have, if we don’t have chemistry and we don’t do our job, it doesn’t matter.”

A fit and well-groomed Mayfield have taken matters into their own hands when it comes to building on what they’ve done in the off-season.

“I would say we don’t take anything for granted when it comes to chemistry,” he said. “I think communication and over-communication is just because we’re in the same system and we speak in the same terms, but you have to over-communicate. I think the most important thing is not to leave anything unsaid, and for me that’s where we are now.”

For Mayfield that will be a lot easier in the second year of a system for the first time in his pro career. Now that he’s mastered the attack, he can lead with more moxie and scream with more authority. He also leads it back with the same varsity team.

“The same system gives me more confidence,” he said, “just because just I now know how to push those guys. When I definitely went to the mini camp, all the coaches and players saw that I felt much more comfortable in the system again. But [it’s] just hit the ground. Not that we’re going to start where we left off, but that’s always the goal to keep improving and building on what we’ve got. We have to start fresh and that’s the most important thing. We are not given anything. We have to earn it.”

One of the biggest storylines for Mayfield is the return of Beckham, who suffered a torn ACL against the Bengals on October 25. Beckham has been vengefully rehabilitated and resembles his 24-year-old self in speed and fitness. He and Mayfield worked on their timing last month at Camp Mayfield in Austin, Texas, and also on a limited basis during minicamp.

“About a month ago I would have said he looks really, really good, and I know after talking to him that he feels even better,” Mayfield said. “So I’ll show you that for myself.”

Mayfield should also have better chemistry with tight end Austin Hooper, who had an adjustment period last year when he came out of Atlanta, and with David Njoku, who wasn’t quite up to par last season but promises to be off the jump this year.

“What I always try to repeat is that last year doesn’t matter, good or bad,” he said. “You have to start fresh. It doesn’t matter if your team was in the Super Bowl or if you didn’t win a game. You have to start fresh and lay the groundwork to focus on next season.”

With the Chiefs first on September 12, Mayfield stressed the importance of a strong start. One more defeat last season and they would have missed the play-offs, so every game is crucial.

“Obviously it’s important that we have to be a lot better early in the year,” he said. “More consistent. If we get a lead, keep the aggressiveness, stay ahead, don’t let teams back in the game. I think it’s a little bit of everything for us. I think for me it’s controlling the ball and controlling the pace as an attack as a whole.”

While the offense will build on its success in 2020, the defense now has the talent to keep pace, with as many as nine new starters from new faces John Johnson III, Greg Newsome II, Jadeveon Clowney, Takk McKinley, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Troy Hill.

“Good players, but great locker room boys, great leaders,” Mayfield said. “You can tell we were very young as a team, and to get some of those veterans on the defensive, just the leadership they bring to help with guys like Denzel [Ward] and Myles [Garrett] and some of our younger players.

“They are leaders, and that’s the most important thing. You always have to have a team-first mentality, and those guys we brought in do just that. ”

However, his message on that side of the ball is the same as on his side.

“It’s not going to happen just because we brought in some guys [on defense] and we have the same people on the attack,” he said. “We still have to go out and do our job.”

It is that unique focus on winning that allows Mayfield to block any thoughts about his contract extension that could happen during the season.

“I really think it’s about winning and I think everything will come naturally,” he said. “I’m not worried about it at all because if we win, we’re on the right track.”

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