Antonio Callaway’s talent is obvious.
The speed, the balance, the strength, the hands. It was all on display Sunday against the Texans. How many other players can gain 70-plus yards on back-to-back plays? Not many.
On the other hand, the Browns gained no ground on the Texans in that sequence: once because of a holding penalty, and once because Callaway fumbled near the goal line. He also was the intended receiver on two of Baker Mayfield’s three interceptions. On one of them, Callaway was supposed to work back toward Mayfield. He didn’t, and that combined with a late throw from Mayfield resulted in a turnover.
“We had not worked on (coming back to the ball),” Callaway said of his part in the interception. “But now we have worked (on) it. Everything is looking right.”
That play represents another step in Callaway’s NFL education. The other part of Callaway’s game that sticks out is he's raw, or at least a little rusty. Remember, he was suspended for his final season at Florida.
The Browns took all of this into account when they drafted him in the fourth round. They knew it might take him awhile to adjust to playing again, and that the learning curve might be a tad larger than the average college player because of the time he missed. Asked to play a major role from the very first game, Callaway has been a significant contributor with 33 catches for 472 yards (second on the team) and three touchdowns (tied for first).
That’s why you acquire a leader like Jarvis Landry, who has helped Callaway and other young players evolve into the players the Browns know they can be. Landry’s approach to helping Callaway is to focus on the positives and build from there.
“After the game, the simple thing I told him is that you are putting it on tape that you can make the big plays, that you can catch the ball in traffic and still use your speed to score,” Landry sad. “Teams will see that, they will recognize that. You will just start getting open more and more. I think that the door is definitely about to open up for his career.”
Callaway’s future is bright, but the Browns are still trying to shine some light on the present. And when viewed through that lens, Callaway’s mistakes can be frustrating, especially when coupled with such in-your-face talent. Callaway’s clearly an asset, though. And his coaches see him learning from each new experience, be it high or low.
“I think Antonio has tremendous upside,” offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens said. “He is a young guy that did not play any football last year. He is continuing to work every day on focusing on what he has to do and I think that he is doing a better job of doing that. I think (inconsistency) is the sign of a young player.
“That is part of growing.”