With Josh Gordon out against the Saints, Antonio Callaway had to step up and he did so with a huge game-tying touchdown catch. That was just the preview.
Antonio Callaway was a risky pick coming out of college. He had issues, but had shown a lot of talent. Everybody knew that if he could just keep his head in the game, he was a special talent who could dominate.
So, the Browns took a chance on him in the fourth round, hoping they would find an undervalued gem.
Then, Callaway was cited for marijuana possession over the summer. It was concerning, but he was still able to play in Week 1 for the Browns. However, with a healthy Josh Gordon and newly arrived Jarvis Landry, Callaway was only in on 16.7 percent of team’s offensive snaps.
So, in a game where Tyrod Taylor wasn’t his accurate self, he had no receptions.
Then, Josh Gordon was ruled out for Week 2. After he played 85.9 percent of snaps in Week 1, the Browns needed somebody to step up for them.
The Saints have Marshon Lattimore, who would play good coverage on Jarvis Landry, so somebody else was going to have to catch passes if the Browns were to have a chance of winning.
Callaway did just that. He caught three of the four passes thrown in his direction for 81 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown showcased exactly how special he can be and how perfectly he fits with this team.
The Browns needed somebody to make a big play and when Tyrod Taylor launched that ball deep, it looked like nobody was going to get there. Callaway seemed to have another gear that he shifted to, accelerating to catch the ball and tie the game with less than two minutes remaining.
He got all the way up to 21.48 miles per hour on the play, the third fastest speed run by an NFL player this year. He came in just behind Tyreek Hill who owns the top 2 spots.
That ability to take the top off of a defense is exactly what the Browns need. Landry is an elite slot route runner and will occupy defenders underneath. While defenses have to focus on Landry underneath, Callaway can use his speed to get in behind defenses.
That opens up the field for a lot of big plays to him. Presumably, he will assume a role similar to that which Kenny Stills had when playing with Landry.
Stills had 15 touchdowns and 30 plays longer than 20 yards the last two years. That is the role for Callaway now and he is more than capable. He showed it to us on Sunday and will continue to do so the rest of the season.
The best part about this for Callaway is that the Browns showed their faith in him with Gordon out. He was in on 86 percent of snaps and ran 27 routes. Those numbers are way, way up from Week 1.
He is likely to maintain numbers similar to those, and potentially even more routes, as long as he stays on the field. Callaway is easily the biggest winner of this trade and can turn his expanded role into a huge week.