Entering the 2019 season, David Njoku was expected to be a large part of the Cleveland Browns offensive game plan.
Week 1, against the Tennessee Titans, he ran 30 routes, Baker Mayfield targeted him 6 times (once in the red zone), and Njoku caught 4 passes for 37 receiving yards and a touchdown.
In Week 2, after running only 4 routes and getting targeted 1 time, Njoku broke his wrist.
He has been rehabbing ever since.
Njoku spoke at the annual Feed The Need Event yesterday:
After Njoku’s injury, the Browns ignored their tight ends in the receiving game for the most part.
Currently, Demetrius Harris leads the Browns’ tight ends in targets with 17.
Ricky Seals-Jones is close behind with 15 targets.
No tight end on the Browns’ team has an air yards market share higher than 10 percent.
Rather than operate out of the 12 personnel, Freddie Kitchens decided to stick with three or more wide receivers in the 11 personnel for a majority of the team’s total offensive snaps.
Both Harris and Seals-Jones were effective when targeted, but lack the physical prowess of Njoku.
This week, Njoku is hoping to return to the Browns’ offense just in time for a great matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
#Browns David Njoku catching passes Wednesday in individual drills pic.twitter.com/yrjzpUnTMV
— Fred Greetham (@FredGreetham) November 27, 2019
The Steelers are currently allowing 5 receptions, 47 receiving yards, and half a touchdown on a weekly basis to opposing tight ends.
Njoku’s athleticism makes him a dangerous pass catcher. He ranks in the top 80th percentile for catch radius, speed score, burst score, agility score, and in the 40-yard dash. With Jarvis Landry in the slot and Odell Beckham Jr. lined up out wide, the Steelers would have a difficult time defending Njoku.
Kareem Hunt offers Mayfield a solid checkdown option out of the backfield in Njoku’s absence, but Njoku could quickly become Mayfield’s favorite target when pressured.
Njoku’s larger frame offers a larger target for Mayfield.
Moving forward, the Browns need to be near perfect if they want to clinch a Wild Card spot in the playoffs.
If their offense is better, it keeps their defense off the field, and after multiple injuries and suspensions, that is a massive benefit.
The Browns are struggling to find healthy players, and having Njoku rejoin the team would give Cleveland a little more hope that their dream team can salvage their season after a horrendous start.
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