David Njoku was just 20 years old when the Cleveland Browns drafted him, though he played the 2017 season at the age of 21. The point remains that he is a very young player with a lot of growing to do. And the Browns believe they are seeing that growth taking place this offseason as the talented tight end enters his second year in the NFL.
As a rookie, Njoku’s work was limited a bit. While he played all 16 games, he only ‘started’ five, but he still managed to catch 32 passes for 386 yards and a very robust 12.1 yards per reception, four of which ended up in the end zone for touchdowns.
The New Jersey native and former Hurricane will take on a much bigger role in the offense this season as Cleveland’s primary tight end and a prime target in the passing game alongside wide receivers Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, and Corey Coleman, as well as running back Duke Johnson, who just received a contract extension.
His position coach talked about seeing improvement in him so far this offseason, specifically emphasizing his ability to use his size and athleticism to his advantage to secure passes at the highest possible catch point.
Still, he cautioned that Njoku still has a lot of room to grow. “He needs to continue to improve his footwork, for example, so that he’s not out of position, that he doesn’t end up on his heels when he should be on the balls of his feet or crosses the feet when he shouldn’t cross his feet”, he said.
“Running routes at exactly the right depth, all of those are things that require repetition and attention to that detail and for someone who’s left college so early, they don’t have that base built”, he continued.
His head coach, Hue Jackson, also pointed out that he felt Njoku started to hit that dreaded rookie wall as the season wore on, especially as he was asked to take on more blocking assignments than he had been used to seeing in college.
But most of those issues are behind him now, and he has a year of experience under his belt, as well as an entire new room of quarterbacks to work with. He could be in for a breakout season this year, and the Pittsburgh Steelers had better be prepared to defend him, which perhaps might be a role for the rookie Terrell Edmunds.