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David Njoku

Is Week 3 Start Of A David Njoku Breakout?

  • Justin Melo
  • September 23, 2022
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The Cleveland Browns claimed a crucial divisional victory over their rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football. It catapults the Browns to 2-1 and into first place in the AFC North (momentarily, at least). Browns starting tight end David Njoku was a standout performer. Njoku recorded a game-high (and career-high) nine receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. Thursday’s performance may signal the start of Njoku’s breakout campaign.

Njoku flashed gorgeous extension ability on his second-quarter go-ahead score as Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett delivered an absolute laser towards the back of the end zone.

Njoku’s 10 targets marked the first time since 2018 he’s seen double-digit targets in a single game.

Through three contests, Njoku ranks second among all Browns pass catchers in receptions (13), targets (16), receiving yards (128), and touchdowns (1). Njoku trails just Amari Cooper in all four categories. It indicates Njoku is easily Cleveland’s second go-to receiver behind Cooper. Njoku has efficiently converted more than 80% of his targets into receptions. For comparative purposes, Donovan Peoples-Jones, who starts opposite Cooper at receiver, has caught just seven of 15 targets (46.7%). Njoku should remain well ahead of Peoples-Jones in the pecking order given their current forms.

It’s a three-game sample size, but Njoku appears primed for a career-best season when extrapolating his current production throughout the course of a 17-game season. At his current pace, Njoku is on schedule to record 73 receptions for 726 receiving yards and 5.61 touchdowns. It would surpass Njoku’s previous highs, which were recorded in 2018 (56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns). Njoku is also on pace for a career-high 91 targets. The volume points toward Njoku achieving such feats.

It’s also worth acknowledging Njoku is experiencing such a fruitful start to his campaign despite playing alongside a backup quarterback in Brissett. Cleveland’s passing offense will receive a jolt when Deshaun Watson returns from suspension. Kevin Stefanski’s run-heavy offense will likely throw the football with more volume with Watson under center. Fielding a more effective passing attack was Cleveland’s main motivator behind aggressively pursuing Watson via a blockbuster trade. Watson’s impending return leaves room for Njoku to improve considerably as the season progresses.

Many felt the Browns overpaid for Njoku’s continued services this offseason. Browns general manager Andrew Berry awarded Njoku with a four-year contract extension worth $56.75 million. The former 29th overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, Njoku received $28 million guaranteed at signing and the deal averages approximately $14.187 million per season. It made Njoku one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league. Njoku is currently quieting his critics while proving he’s worth every penny.

Cleveland’s offense was effective against the Steelers on Thursday. It was easily their most impressive showing as we continue to approach the quarter-mark of the 2022 campaign. Brissett was in top form as he peppered David Njoku and Cooper with targets. Cleveland’s offense will also experience its fair share of struggles until Watson returns, but Njoku should remain heavily involved and productive throughout the ebbs and flows.

Written By

Justin Melo