BEREA — Everyone who has seen the viral videos of Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield dancing knows he has moves.

His footwork on the football field is even more impressive, though.

Mayfield's offensive linemen deserve credit for the Browns allowing just one sack in the past four games, but the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft has played a major part as well. His pocket awareness and knack for maneuvering away from the opposing defense's pass rush have been vital to the offense's success.

"When we get in bad positions, he helps us out a lot," left tackle Greg Robinson said Wednesday after the Browns (5-7-1) practiced for Saturday night's road game against the Denver Broncos (6-7). "We appreciate it because some guys can’t get out of the pocket. They just have to stay there, so you have to block longer.

"It's just a great feeling when you're getting beat at times because it's liable to happen. At that moment you see him scramble out of the pocket, it's like you can take a deep breath. You don't want to relax because you don't want that to happen again, but it's just a bonus when you have guys that can do that."

Mayfield took 20 sacks in six games under coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Since the Browns fired them and promoted interim coach Gregg Williams and offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens on Oct. 29, Mayfield has taken just three sacks in five games, three of which they've won.

Robinson replacing undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison as the starting left tackle has been a huge factor. Another one is Mayfield's improved feel for the rush.

"It's something that of course you can learn, but you have to see yourself do it wrong and then correct that and know that you have to take the feeling that you've had when the play was going on and equate it to the film," Kitchens said. "Then go back and say, 'This is the same type of situation.' It becomes a feel.

"That comes with a little playing experience and knowing where his eyes are and knowing the timing of the certain routes when he needs to buy a little bit more time. It doesn't have to be but 6 inches, 8 inches. Just moving a little bit in the pocket gets him into the position to throw the ball."

For example, in Sunday's 26-20 win over the Carolina Panthers, the Browns faced third-and-17 at their 49-yard line when defensive end Mario Addison rushed off the edge against Robinson. Mayfield stepped up and shuffled to his left before launching a perfectly placed 51-yard touchdown pass over strong safety Eric Reid and into the arms of wide receiver Jarvis Landry with 8:27 left in the second quarter.

"He plays with no fear," Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods told Denver reporters. "You can see that he’s leading that team and doing it as a rookie. He’s not afraid to throw the ball into tight windows, and he does a good job extending plays. He’s always sliding, getting in and out of the pocket, and his vision is down the field."

The Browns hadn't allowed a sack in three consecutive games for the first time since 1988 until the Panthers snapped the streak in the third quarter. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn lined up in the slot, blitzed without being blocked and dropped Mayfield for a 6-yard loss.

Otherwise, Mayfield has kept his jersey clean for a month, a trend the Broncos, who are tied for fourth in the NFL with 40 sacks, will put to the test in prime time.

"It's just playing ball," Mayfield said. "Whenever they're in a rush wide and we need to be able to push those guys deep and step up in the pocket, finding those lanes, creating plays, because it's not going to be perfect. It's not going to be seven-on-seven out there every play.

"You're going to have to try and find plays, and our receivers are doing a great job of staying alive and working down the field trying to get open late. We're doing a good job of that. That has continued to help us get the ball out and create bigger plays for us."

 

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.