The Cleveland Browns are expected to have an explosive in 2019, and that could help tight end David Njoku show off his full potential.
Even though he was not able to have the season expected of him, he still had a successful 2018 campaign, finishing in the top-10 in receptions, yards, and touchdowns among tight ends. Njoku played every game last season, catching 56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
His play also improved once Freddie Kitchens took over as the play-caller, catching 25 receptions for 342 yards and two touchdowns. He also did a much better job catching the football, as he only had one drop during the second half of the season compared to his seven drops during the first half of the season.
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Although he was expected to have a breakout season last year, Njoku may be in the best position for a breakout year in 2019. The Browns’ passing offense is expected to be one of the most explosive in the NFL, and that should result in several of the Browns receivers having career years.
With Todd Monken implementing his ‘Air Raid’ passing concepts into the Browns’ offense, they are expected to take a major leap forward from last season. Monken led the No. 1 passing offense in 2018 despite having below average quarterback play with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Baker Mayfield leading the offense, Monken should be able to match the success he had with the Bucs last season in Cleveland.
Monken having his receivers play more vertically will create a major advantage for Njoku in the middle of the field. Njoku has the athleticism of a wide receiver, which will create mismatches for the linebackers and safeties who will cover him. With these types of match-ups, Njoku will be a major threat running the seams and should be able to pick apart the middle of defenses.
And with the Browns having a major vertical threat in Odell Beckham Jr. lining up all over the field, defenses are going to be forced to have extra attention where Beckham is lined up. With the extra help typically being a safety playing over-top of Beckham, it will create more space and one-on-one match-ups in the middle of the field for Njoku.
Njoku will also have a big advantage in the red zone, as he has already shown during the first two years of his career. Because of his excellent leaping ability, Njoku can make plays over most defenders in the red zone. Whenever the Browns were in the red zone, they would typically always take a shot at a Njoku fade and jump ball.
But because it was known Njoku is heavily targeted in the red zone, defenses would shade some help Njoku’s way to make it more difficult to complete the fade. However, it will be much harder to do that in 2019 with the amount of weapons the Browns have.
Beckham has a similar leaping ability to Njoku, so he will also see his fair share of fades. But he also has the ability to make plays on anything thrown his way, no matter the difficulty, which helps his ability to make plays in the red zone. He also excels running slants due to his quickness out of breaks, so he can make plays at each level in the red zone.
Add in the fact that Antonio Callaway and Jarvis Landry showed a knack for making catches in tight windows in the red zone, the Browns have plenty of weapons who require attention in the red zone. Defenses are not going to be able to double all of these players, so receivers like Njoku should be able to take advantage of the extra one-on-one opportunities. Cleveland also has Nick Chubb, who would run all over defenses expecting the pass in the red zone.
No matter the situation, Njoku is in an excellent position for a breakout year in 2019 because of the weapons the Browns offense boasts. He may not see as many targets as he did last season, but Njoku should be able to make bigger plays whenever the ball is thrown his way in 2019.