Adam Hunger/Associated Press
Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, the top two picks in April’s NFL draft, made their preseason debuts Thursday night as the New York Giants hosted the Cleveland Browns in an exhibition tilt at MetLife Stadium.
Barkley, who played two series with the Giants starters, wasted no time flashing his big-play ability and finished the opener with five carries for 43 yards.
Mayfield, meanwhile, captained Cleveland’s second-team offense and went 11-of-20 for 212 yards and two touchdowns before he gave way to third-stringer Drew Stanton in the fourth quarter.
Baker Mayfield Wows With Composure, Poise Beyond His Years in Debut
If Mayfield had any jitters Thursday night, they didn’t show.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner took over for starter Tyrod Taylor late in the first quarter, and it wasn’t long before he commandeered a 14-play, 72-yard scoring drive that showed off a bit of everything from his polished arsenal.
For starters, Mayfield looked composed and confident as a passer. His throws were largely on the money in the early going, and he climbed the pocket with the trademark patience he flashed at Oklahoma to calmly scan through his progressions and keep the chains moving.
Thanks to those traits, Mayfield was able to sustain the Browns’ second scoring drive with a pair of third-down conversions and a fourth-down conversion before he hit tight end David Njoku for a 10-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone:
.@BakerMayfield’s FIRST preseason TD pass was gorgeous.
2nd TD for @David_Njoku80 tonight. 👏
Eric Galko @OptimumScouting
Baker Mayfield’s first TD pass (in pre-season) to David Njoku.
Baker’s drive here is exactly what NFL coaches covet for a rookie QB. Long drive, showed comfort under pressure, processed quickly, and remained aggressive yet composed. #Browns
Mayfield also displayed an ability to make throws on the run when he fired a strike to Antonio Callaway for a 24-yard grab along the sideline:
The Checkdown @thecheckdown
Baker has been MAGIC on 3rd down. 💪💪💪 @bakermayfield @Browns https://t.co/UWYxx1joXY
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Mayfield unleashed a rope off his back foot early in the fourth quarter and linked up with Callaway for a 54-yard score on a quick slant:
The Checkdown @thecheckdown
Baker Mayfield making throws like a veteran 🤧 @bakermayfield https://t.co/ENfCdyVL3P
Perhaps those are glimpses of greatness that will send a message to prospective free-agent signee Dez Bryant.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
When you find out @bakermayfield is the real deal 👀 https://t.co/9h2Yfx0mLn
Mayfield will have a chance to add to his highlight reel next Friday in front of a raucous home crowd when the Browns host the Buffalo Bills in Week 2 of the preseason.
Saquon Barkley Flashes Scintillating Upside on 1st Carry
Barkley left Penn State as one of the most heralded running back prospects of the decade.
On his first carry Thursday night, he made sure everyone knew why.
After side-stepping would-be tacklers in the backfield on an inside zone play, Barkley made a decisive cut upfield and burned past Browns defenders for a sizzling 39-yard gain:
At that point, the hype train started to barrel down the tracks:
However, that was as good as things would get.
Barkley’s next four carries went for a total of four yards, and he was predictably lifted before the first quarter came to a close as the Giants sought to keep him out of harm’s way.
Quiet finish and all, it was hard not to be blown away by Barkley’s opening statement as he further demonstrated an uncanny ability to churn out chunk gains out of narrow rushing lanes—or perhaps ones that didn’t exist in the first place.
The Giants will hit the road for Week 2 of the preseason for a showdown against the Detroit Lions on Friday, Aug. 17. Cleveland will head home and host the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium the same day.