While the bulk of the attention paid to the Cleveland Browns this offseason has centered around their acquisition of All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., and the fact that doing so would pair him with his former college teammate, Jarvis Landry, the team is hoping they have more than two wide receivers able to step up.
Second-year Antonio Callaway is hoping to be that number three guy whose name people start knowing. A late-round pick last season, he is coming off a solid rookie year during which he caught 43 passes for 586 yards and five touchdowns. He can take a big step forward with the rest of the offense in 2019.
The Browns were of course among the several teams this offseason to hire a new head coach, and such teams are permitted to get their offseason program underway earlier than others, so they are already conducting their OTAs.
And new head coach Freddie Kitchens liked what he saw out of Callaway so far this year. He may be new to that post, but Kitchens was the team’s offensive coordinator for the second half of last season as well, a period during which they went 5-3, and Callaway caught 22 passes for 350 yards and three scores.
“He is in good shape relative to what he was in last year during training camp. He has added some explosiveness”, Kitchens told reporters last week about the 22-year-old wide receiver. “He has been catching the ball really well. He is doing a good job. Just like everybody else, he has to continue. It is what can you do for me tomorrow, not today; today is over”.
The Browns are not incredibly deep at wide receiver after you get past their top two, both of whom are earning $15 million per season or more, so Callaway stepping up would be big for them. Rashard Higgins is still around, but they don’t have anybody else who has really proven much. One name they acquires this spring was Jaelen Strong, a former third-round pick who hasn’t had the career many expected. He missed last season with a torn ACL.
Baker Mayfield had a good working relationship with Callaway as rookies, and he’s hoping that continues to build. He likes what he sees as he looks around him in the huddle.
“It’s kind of pick your poison now”, he said. “We have some pretty good talent all around – tight ends, running backs, receivers and then going in with the same offensive line. We have a good team. Now, it is what are we going to do with it”.
No matter how great your top two wide receivers are, there are always going to be those times when you need somebody else to step up. Just ask Bill Belichick when he made the New York Giants throw to Mario Manninham.