CLEVELAND — The Browns are content until the next game against the Oakland Raiders for Baker Mayfield to be the rookie of the hour.
There will come a time when other rookies will have to come through for the Browns to celebrate a good year.
Rookie fourth-round pick Antonio Callaway will have to do more than catch four passes for 20 yards from among 10 balls thrown his way Thursday night.
For the purposes of Thursday’s 21-17 win over the New York Jets, the starting wide reciever's dropped pass actually added to the fun. With the Browns trailing 17-14 with nine minutes left, Mayfield started a Browns series immediately after a Jets field goal by dropping a sideline bomb right in Callaway’s hands.
“That was a perfectly thrown ball,” Callaway said. “I tried to get my feet down when the ball touched my hands. I looked down to see where the line was and I took my eyes off the ball.
“I’ll learn from it. I’ll get on the Jugs.”
The Jugs machine spits out footballs. The rookie No. 1 overall pick was firing them all over the yard, ignoring Callaway’s drop, driving the Browns 75 yards to the game-winning touchdown.
“Baker was comfortable,” Callaway said. “I knew he was ready. He’s always fired up. He gave us a spark.”
Undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison made his third start at left tackle. Joe Thomas’ prediction that Harrison will be a good long-term answer is beginning to make sense.
“I’m getting settled in,” Harrison said after the Browns improved to 1-1-1. “My teammates are helping me get comfortable. It’s more playing and less thinking.”
Veteran Joel Bitonio, who plays left guard alongside Harrison, said the game was such a blur that he didn’t even realize Tyrod Taylor was hurt, and didn’t know Mayfield was in at quarterback until he arrived in the huddle.
It was something like that for left tackle Harrison.
“Baker came in and handled himself well,” Harrison said. “The coaches preach that next-man-up mentality, so you’re prepared to deal with things like that.
“I’ve been watching Baker since he was in college. I’ve been with him here for a while now. I pretty much know what he’s going to bring.”
The two rookie draft picks drafted high in the second round aren’t bringing much, yet. No. 33 overall pick Austin Corbett is dressing as an emergency replacement on the offensive line. With Carlos Hyde (23 carries, 98 yards, two touchdowns) emerging as a workhorse, No. 35 overall pick Nick Chubb has just seven carries through three games, including two against the Jets.
On defense, rookie cornerback Denzel Ward is looking like a No. 4 overall pick. He hit the Jets with four tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss. He was a reason Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had a miserable 38.2 rating.
On special teams, rookie Greg Joseph was in his first NFL game. After kicking foibles cost the Browns dearly at New Orleans, Joseph getting the Browns on the board with a 45-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half was a big lift.
“The fans were cheering after every kick I made in warm ups,” Joseph said. “It felt surreal.
“I was shocked at how bad the guys in this locker room wanted it. It inspired me to give them everything I’ve got.”