Cleveland Browns wide receiver Anthony Schwartz had a rookie season in 2021 that did not go as planned on multiple fronts.
Schwartz missed time in training camp as he dealt with a hamstring injury. Missing practice time is never good for a rookie, but it wasn’t necessarily a worst-case scenario as the plan was to let Schwartz, who has the speed to play in the NFL but was lacking in the finer points of playing the position, slowly work his way into the lineup given that the Browns were “deep” at wide receiver with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
That plan changed quickly when Beckham - despite posting several workout videos that had some fans quivering with anticipation - was not ready to go for the first two weeks of the season while recovering from a torn ACL.
Schwartz subsequently saw playing time right away and things went well enough in Week 1 as he had three receptions for 69 yards and one rushing attempt for 17 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The season started to go off the rails in Week 2, however, when Schwartz stopped short on a pass pattern, which led to Houston Texans safety Justin Reid picking off the pass, which in turn led to quarterback Baker Mayfield suffering a torn labrum in his left shoulder while tackling Reid.
Schwartz would go on to miss three games later in the season with a concussion, and all told he only had seven receptions for 66 yards and five more rushes for 22 yards in the final 13 games he played last season.
Fast forward a year and Schwartz is in somewhat of a similar situation.
Beckham, Landry and Higgins are all gone, but in their place are newly-acquired veterans Amari Cooper and Jakeem Grant Sr., and rookie David Bell. Peoples-Jones is also still on the roster and looking to bounce back from his own disappointing season.
There is little chance that Cooper will quit on the team mid-season, and hopefully, Bell does not experience a repeat of Landry’s injury-filled 2021 season, meaning that there may still be limited opportunities for Schwartz to see the field this fall.
Schwartz is not dealing with injuries this year, however, so the opportunity to accelerate his learning curve throughout the offseason is a plus, he said this past week during a media appearance at OTAs (quotes via a team-provided transcript):
“Just happy to have a healthy offseason and to be able to connect with the team, connect with all the new quarterbacks and to be able to compete. I feel like I am in a much better place than I was at the end of last year. It has been a lot better this year and it has been a blessing to be out here and being able to play with the guys that I am playing with.
“Whether it’s taking care of my body, working on my route running, working on catching the ball, just trying to catch every day, because as a receiver, you have to catch the ball. That is the main thing that I have been working on. Coming here, just being able to put it all together and it also helps me knowing the playbook now, to where I could just go out there and not worry about, ‘Oh, am I going to mess this up? Am I going to mess that up?’ Just go out there and beat the guy in front of me.”
While his opportunities may still be limited this season barring an injury to one of the other wide receivers, Schwartz is clearly ready to put his rookie season behind him and show the Browns, and the NFL, what a difference a fast wide receiver can have on an offense.