In two seasons, Coleman has 56 catches for 718 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s missed 13 games with injuries.
The lingering image of him from 2017 came in the season finale, when a fourth-down throw went through his hands as he stood by himself at the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ 10-yard-line. Had Coleman made what was an easy catch, the Browns would have had four more downs to avoid a winless season.
Instead, Coleman sat forlorn on the ground, a representative picture of the 2017 Browns.
In the draft, the Browns took a fourth-round chance on a troubled but talented player when they selected receiver Antonio Callaway. General manager John Dorsey said Callaway’s talent was worthy of the first or second round.
What does Callaway mean for Coleman?
That will be an interesting question to see answered. The two are very similar style players.
Callaway stands 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds. He ran a 4.41 40 at his pro day.
Coleman is 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds. He ran a 4.37.
Both are fast, short, stocky guys who in theory are excellent at run after catch.
And both have been valuable as kickoff and/or punt returners.
Both have similar skills. Both have some off-field issues.
One key difference in the two: The Browns’ patience in waiting for Coleman to emerge is being pushed. Callaway is being given a fresh start.
Any uncertainty about Coleman’s future revolves around his production. In two seasons, he’s been targeted 129 times and caught 56 passes, or 43 percent. One year ago in the offseason, coach Hue Jackson said the 2017 season was time for Coleman to step up. He didn’t. Coleman struggled with a rookie quarterback, and the numbers in all his major statistical categories went down. He played in nine games, and finished seventh on the team in receptions, behind Rashard Higgins (who was re-signed after being cut at the end of training camp) and Ricardo Louis.
To say that it’s put-up or shut-up time for Coleman is not an exaggeration. The Browns drafted Callaway and took the risk they did with his background for a reason: They believe he can play.
There’s one important qualifier, though. To say Callaway is ready is premature. Callaway didn’t play in 2017 and hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 1, 2016. He has a lot to learn and a long way to go.
To say Callaway will automatically force his way on the roster is not realistic. But if Callaway does emerge in the offeseason and especially in preseason, it will be interesting to see if it ripples to Coleman. Then again, Coleman can put this all to rest with his play on the field.
One reality of the many regimes in the post-1999 tenure of the Browns hovers, however: A player drafted by the regime in control has an edge over any holdovers, especially when the holdover’s production has been lacking.