Sink or swim.
That’s the message the Browns have for third-year wide receiver Corey Coleman, who has struggled with consistency since he was drafted 15th overall in 2016.
“He’s been out here working. I’ve seen him every day. He understands this is a big, big year in his career,” first-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Friday. “Year 3 is usually the make-or-break year of what kind of you’re going to be. I’ve made that clear to him. He understands it, and he’s working hard accordingly to try to be the best that he can be.”
Cleveland, of course, hopes and believes Coleman will accept that challenge. As the team wrapped up offseason workouts last week, he made more than a few tough catches and demonstrated the talent that made him one of college football’s most prolific receivers.
When it’s counted, however, Coleman has yet to emerge as a consistent playmaker for the Browns, partly because of back-to-back broken hands that sidelined him for 13 games in his first two seasons. Staying healthy for OTAs and minicamp, head coach Hue Jackson said, could play an important role in getting over that hump.
“I think the biggest thing for Corey is that he’s been out here every day,” Jackson said earlier this month. “He’s been dependable. He’s been dependable and accountable. He’s working at it each and every day.”
In a new offensive system armed with veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, three-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, who returned late last season from a multi-year suspension, there’s optimism that Coleman — who has 56 catches for 718 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons — could benefit with a stronger supporting cast around him. It also means, however, he’ll be competing with Landry, Gordon, rookie receivers Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley and others to earn his keep.
Adam Henry, whom Jackson hired as his receivers coach this past winter, sees Coleman making strides on and off the field.
“He’s just got to keep working on it. That’s the biggest thing that he does. He comes in early. He works hard. He is taking notes. He is doing the little things, just learning the route techniques and things of that nature,” said Henry, who has earned a reputation as a no-nonsense, tough-love position coach. “Doing the things that he does well and to expound on that, just kind of tweaking some things. Mentally, just being in there. He’s chomping at the bit. He wants more. It’s just a progression each and every day.”
In what was a lasting image of Cleveland’s 2017 campaign, Coleman dropped a pass on fourth down late in the game that could’ve helped the Browns avoid their first winless season. It’s time, Jackson said, for the wide receiver to turn the page and grow into the player they all think he can be.
“For Corey, this is Year 3, and I think that he wants to take the next step in his development. He’s working. He’s getting to know the quarterbacks, all of them, as well as he can,” he said.
“I think that's all you can do at this point. I think that the real test will be once we go to training camp and really get into the season. He has to continue to get better and work at his craft, and I think that he'll do that.”