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Michigan’s offense can learn from Baker Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns debut

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Body punches add up, but it’s great to have a quarterback that wants to go for the knockout right away

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Wasn’t that exciting?

In case you missed it, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft was thrown into the fire down by two scores late in the first half on Thursday Night Football.

Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor suffered a concussion, which made way for one of the more memorable debuts from a rookie quarterback in quite some time.

Former Oklahoma Sooner, 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield shredded the New York Jets defense and got the Browns their first win since 2016.

Mayfield’s presence changed the attitude of the fans in the stadium, it made his offensive line start protecting better than they were with Taylor in, and it changed the scheme of the Browns offense.

The numbers do not lie, the plan of attack became different once Mayfield came in

No play is dead when a QB can do this

The offense began to ran up-tempo effectively, Mayfield consistently threw strikes over ten yards down the field with authority into small windows

If you’re still with me, let’s talk about the Michigan Wolverines.

The quarterback position greatly shapes how the offensive unit performs and the type of gameplan the coaches will implement on a weekly basis.

To this point, QB Shea Patterson has played at a high level more often than not, currently ranking No. 17 in the nation with a 70.8% completion percentage. When evaluating film of his, he continues to pass the eye-test and more film keeps piling up that would indicate he has elite arm talent along with reliable elusiveness.

There comes a point when you can’t take the car out for a test drive any longer. You not only have to buy the car, but you have to test its limits.

Earlier this week Michigan assistant head coach and passing-game coordinator Pep Hamilton talked about how the Wolverines like to establish the run early in games:

“I think Coach Harbaugh’s football teams have always had the philosophy of throwing body punches early in games. I would even dare to say that started when Coach Harbaugh played here at Michigan for Coach Schembechler. That’s part of the Coach Harbaugh offense, I don’t think that’s going to change. And everything else comes off us being able to try and establish the line of scrimmage.”

Hamilton went on to say they go out and play every game with that mentality. I applaud that type of smash-mouth football.

Body punches early in games do add up by the second half, and the running game can really impose their will on the defense all while chewing clock in the process.

Back to Mayfield for a moment... while I’m a supporter of body punches, landing haymakers that can knock an opponent out work just as good or even better. And Mayfield threw haymakers from start to finish. He throws them whether he’s up 14 in a game or down 14, Mayfield’s foot is always on the gas. And against the Jets, Mayfield’s passing prowess actually opened up the running game. Yes, the play of a quarterback can set up for body punches.

It’s still early in the season, Patterson hasn’t faced enough stiff tests for us to know the QB he really is yet, but it would be worth taking a look at how well he can do leading the team on multiple drives where we see pass-pass-pass-pass on the drive summary instead of run-run-run-run. I only promote this type of thinking if there’s a secondary that can be exploited and beaten by good execution from the QB.

Michigan fans haven’t known the Jim Harbaugh who’s had an elite quarterback as his starter, thus they know him as a coach who relies on the run heavily.

Don’t let the first few years at Michigan fool you, Harbaugh loves quarterbacks like Mayfield.

Harbaugh loves a QB who can knock a defense out.

Although Harbaugh has always embraced ground and pound, he let his quarterback Andrew Luck destroy teams with his arm and legs. Harbaugh and Luck’s last season together featured 32 TD’s by Luck, along with 453 rushing yards. That isn’t exactly a vanilla type set of statistics.

If Shea Patterson has the ability to beat the likes of Ohio State and everyone else on the schedule, there is absolutely no way that Harbaugh won’t utilize Patterson in a more prevalent manner in games to come.

Michigan offensive lineman Michael Onwenu said earlier this week that they haven’t even used half of the offensive playbook.

I do expect the pistol to be integrated more as weeks roll on, more read-option, and a more balanced pass-run ratio than we’ve seen thus far. The fact is, the past two weeks Michigan could have ran it every single play and still came out victorious versus Western Michigan and SMU, but the stiff tests are here now, Big Ten season is about to start.

Baker Mayfield’s debut performance is the type that initially made me love football as a kid in the 1990’s, and that love for the game gets rejuvenated each time I see something special transpire on the gridiron. It’s always refreshing to see a quarterback that is prepared, and in return the coaching staff rewards him by giving Mayfield ample opportunities to showcase his abilities.

I’m not saying Shea Patterson is Baker Mayfield, nor am I comparing Michigan to the Cleveland Browns, but there were certainly a few things the Michigan offense and Shea Patterson could utilize from Mayfield’s performance if they happened to be watching the game on Thursday night.

Maybe it’ll help them in a big game in November. Haymakers are lethal.