How many times have you sat in a movie theatre eagerly anticipating a new film only to be thoroughly disappointed by what you had just watched? You felt you had been let down after the previews seemed so enticing and scintillating but the movie itself just couldn’t live up to the hype. Many New Orleans Saints fans can probably relate after growing feverishly excited watching Callaway in the preseason. The Saints were coming into the season without a clear-cut number 1 or number 2 receiver.
All-Pro Michael Thomas was going to miss the entire season after still dealing with issues related to his ankle injury. The Saints had also lost Emmanuel Sanders in free agency to Buffalo as the team had to make some cap moves ahead of the season. Saints fans were then delighted to see Callaway’s performance in preseason and thought he looked the part as a legitimate threat on the outside. He flashed nicely in the 2nd preseason game versus Jacksonville, which was a de facto regular season dress rehearsal with starters playing most of the game. Callaway finished with 5 catches for 104 and 2 touchdowns and seemed like he would be a playmaker for most of the season. Simple case of the preview being way better than the movie.
Callaway’s regular season production came nowhere close to these numbers throughout the year. He only had 1 game in which he amassed over 100 yards receiving and only 1 game with more than one touchdown grab. At times his production was so anemic you wondered if he was even in the game. He had 12 games in which he totaled 50 or less receiving yards and 11 games in which he had 3 or fewer receptions. He finished the year totaling 46 catches for 698 yards and 6 touchdowns in 17 games as the team’s “number 1” receiver. The aforementioned Sanders finished his year in Buffalo with 42 catches, 626 yards, and 4 touchdowns in 14 games played as the team’s 3rd wide receiver. But was everything his fault?
It certainly didn’t help that the league’s all-time record holder for catches in a season wasn’t on the field to take pressure off him. It didn’t help that the Saints had to cycle through 4 quarterbacks last season due to injury or ineffectiveness. It definitely didn’t help the Saints offensive line was so marred with injuries it was starting guys fresh off the street at one point. Yes, Callaway's season was a microcosm of the entire Saints offense. Such high hopes to start before reality kicked in and knocked everyone’s beliefs out. A change for the better should be coming.
Callaway was pretty great in one statistical category and that was yards per catch. He was tied for 10th in the league at 15.2 yards per catch. That ability could pay huge dividends in the future when a guy like Thomas will return and command the full attention of defenses. If Callaway can win those 1 on 1 matchups as the team’s 2nd or even 3rd receiver, producing like that per catch could pay huge in how this offense looks in the future.
The Saints should no doubt go and draft a receiver or bring a veteran in on the outside. The name of the game in this day’s NFL is playmakers and Callaway to this point is not one on a consistent basis. But what if you ask him to be a Number 3 receiver on this team? I think those expectations are far more reasonable of him. Yeah 2021 may have been disappointing, but 2022 may end up being a sequel that was better than the original.
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