If there was an award for “Most Improved Receiving Core,” the New Orleans Saints would likely be favorites heading into the 2022 season.
Not only will all-star wideout Michael Thomas return to the field, but rookie Chris Olave was also drafted out of Ohio State. Not even three weeks later, General Manager Mickey Loomis landed veteran receiver, and Louisiana-native, Jarvis Landry for a one-year contract.
With the additions of Olave and Landry and the rebirth of Thomas, it’s easy to overlook the deep end of the receiving core, which includes two-season veteran Marquez Callaway.
Callaway was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Saints in 2020 out of Tennessee. Last season, Callaway doubled his receptions (46) and his yards (698). He also hauled in six touchdowns. After Thomas’ injury and Tre’Quan Smith’s absence, Callaway became one of the top targets for Jameis Winston and Trevor Siemian.
Callaway’s performance in 2021 solidified his spot on the roster for 2022, but with all of the impressive receiver additions, can Callaway have a notable impact this season?
Let’s take a look at Callaway’s positives from 2021 and how they could contribute to him catching a fair share of targets this upcoming season.
Callaway proved that he has an innate ability to make clutch catches under pressure - a contested catch artist, if you will. This ability contributed to three of his touchdown grabs last season.
He measures in at 6’2”, just an inch taller than the average height of an NFL wide receiver, but Callaway’s aggressive hands and 79-inch wingspan give him an edge that not many NFL wideouts possess.
Though contested catches might be Callaway’s specialty, his 2021 highlights show that he is also capable of breaking free for Winston bombs. Short, medium or long range, Callaway appears to have the ability to pull in passes from a multitude of route options.
As for his weaknesses, Callaway appears to have one glaring issue: creating separation. This will need to be an area of focus for the 24-year-old this season, along with avoiding dropped passes.
Though creating separation was an issue last season for Callaway, keep in mind that he was the WR1. This means that he was often going head-to-head with each opponent’s best cornerback last season.
This year, as the likely WR4, Callaway won’t be guarded by the best of the best again.
All things considered, Callaway most definitely has the potential to play a huge role in the 2022 receiving core. Most notably, his contested catch ability could be a very useful option for Pete Carmichael in the red zone.
Also, Callaway returns to the offense as one of the longest tenured receivers on the roster, and Winston’s top target before his injury in week eight. This experience could likely give him an edge over some of the new wide receivers early in the season in terms of targets.
Though the 2022 wide receiver room presents a challenge for Callaway, he most certainly has a role in the offense, especially in red zone situations as a proven contested catch artist. This year will be the final season on his three-year contract with the Saints.