It wasn’t so long ago that the Cleveland Browns were boasting about their deep wide receivers with the newly-acquired Jarvis Landry heading things up. He was to be flanked by Josh Gordon, a former first-team All-Pro, as well as a former first-round draft pick in Corey Coleman. With a slew of new quarterbacks and a new offensive coordinator coming from a prolific passing offense, things were bound to change.
The Browns traded all three of their quarterbacks way back in the spring. Since training camp opened, they have now traded two of their top three wide receivers. Coleman was moved back in August. He went to the Buffalo Bills but did not make the roster.
Then the New England Patriots picked him up. Coincidentally, they are the team that the Browns traded Gordon to…and they released Coleman to make room for him.
So what does this all mean? Well, for one thing, it means that rookie Antonio Callaway is going to be called upon to step up in a big way. The troubled wide receiver failed to catch a pass in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but on Sunday, with Gordon on the inactive list, he did catch three passes for 81 yards, which included a 47-yard touchdown late.
“That’s just a taste of what I can do”, Callaway said after the game. It was an impressive catch. Landry called it “big-boy football”, saying, “that’s what you expect out of him to do. You’re going to hear a lot more out of him this year, just like that”.
They’re going to have to, considering that they don’t have much else of note. Rashard Higgins has not done a whole lot since being there. The depth chart is rounded out by Damion Ratley, Derrick Willies, and Rod Streater, the latter having only just been signed following the Gordon trade.
Now, Callaway is a talented wide receiver, to be sure. The only reason he was a late-round pick is because he had off-field red flags that caused his draft stock to fall. Based on pure talent, he would have certainly been gone by the end of day two.
But it’s always a lot to ask a rookie to be a starter, especially this early on. The Browns don’t really have a choice, but to be frank, they can afford to do that. It’s not as though they are in win-now mode. They don’t even have their franchise quarterback in the starting lineup yet.
“I have tremendous confidence in his talent”, said Tyrod Taylor, the team’s current, non-franchise starting quarterback. “He’s a fast guy that you see track the ball”, he said. “He’s a fierce competitor”. The Browns have yet to compete to their first victory since the 2016 season.