Case Keenum, Baker Mayfield helping each other navigate Browns new offense

Quarterbacks are leaning on each other early in training camp

Daryl Ruiter
August 19, 2020 - 7:01 pm

CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The decision to sign veteran quarterback Case Keenum in the spring was multilayered.

One, the Browns hoped Keenum’s experience and maturity would rub off on Baker Mayfield in the QBs room. Two, Keenum’s experience in 2017 with the Vikings would help Mayfield connect with new head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offensive system and third he is a legitimate option to play and could win games should the need arise.

Less than a full week into actual football practice – AKA training camp – the two find themselves leaning on each other.

“It is kind of a good give and take,” Keenum said Wednesday during a Zoom video conference with reporters, “because I like to talk to him about, ‘Hey, how does this guy run this route? What experience do you have with him?’ and how he sees this. It has been good both ways, and I am learning from him. I hope he is learning from me, but I have definitely learned a lot from him.”

It didn’t take long for Mayfield to make a positive impression on the veteran.

“I was really excited to work with him, and being here, it is impressive to see,” Keenum said. “I was telling somebody yesterday, he has a lot stronger arm in person than he does on film, and he made some really good throws on film.

“It has been fun to get to know him first and then see him work, see him operate and see how he interacts with teammates. I am very impressed.”

The Browns are Keenum’s fourth different team in as many years and sixth overall since the Houston Texans signed him in 2012 as an undrafted free agent.

Although he went undrafted and has bounced around in recent years, Keenum has built a strong resume. He has gone on to start 62 of the 67 games he’s appeared in and has a career completion percentage of over 62% with a 75-47 touchdown-interception ratio.

His most productive season arguably came in 2017 with Stefanski as his position oach in Minnsota that saw him go 11-3 as a starter for the Vikings completing 67.6% of his passes with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

“He is a son of a coach. He loves this game, he wants to win and he wants to be a part of winning,” Stefanski said. “I know that relationship is so important between the starter and the backup. I can tell you that he is eager to help this team win in any way he can, and that is supporting Baker in any way he can.”

This year has been challenging for Keenum – changing teams again and moving to a new city where he needed to learn Stefanski’s offense without any offseason practice time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stefanski’s offense differs from the one he helped coach three years ago according to Keenum.

“Oh, yeah, there is a little bit of everything,” Keenum said. “There is only one way to describe it, and that is 2020 Browns. Hopefully, it will be on full display come weekends in the fall.”

As a result, with camp underway, Keenum is taking advantage of every minute he gets with Mayfield.

“I think it is very important when we spend a lot of time together,” Keenum said. “Especially now with how things are with COVID, it is kind of spread out with position groups and in smaller groups so we are spending a lot of time together. It helps that we like each other. We respect each other. We get along, and I think our wives get along, which is great. Nothing else really matters if the wives get along.

“I think you learn from each other in a lot of different ways.”

During practice Keenum looks more comfortable and fluid than Mayfield has, which is to be expected considering what Mayfield has had to deal with early in his career – three head coaches and three different systems.

Mayfield also spent the offseason adjusting his footwork under the guidance of offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. The 2018 No. 1 pick has handled it well considering Stefanski is installing the system on the field for the first time instead of through a web cam and computer monitor or tablet.

“I think Baker is doing a tremendous job,” Keenum said. “He is coming in cold and he is operating getting in and out of the huddle, has great feet and great tempo. He is even able to speed up or kind of tempo slow down his drop at certain times, too, depending on the concept and where it is down the field. I have been very impressed with how quickly he has picked it up, especially with not having a spring together.”

The defense has gotten the better of Mayfield and the first-team unit through the first three padded practices but Keenum didn’t take kindly to the suggestion.

“Who is keeping score? I do not know. I think we are all growing. We are both growing,” Keenum said. “I think we are trading punches, if you will. I think we are competing. We are going at it. I think the defense has made some big plays, for sure. I think we have made some big plays, too. We have left some football out there, but we are learning and growing. I think both sides are doing a great job.”

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