Training camp is finally right around the corner.
In two weeks, the Browns will be back in Cleveland and begin preparations for 2022. We're preparing for their return with a comprehensive breakdown of each position on the roster, moving next to a position that will be led by a six-year veteran whom the Browns believe is poised for his biggest year yet.
The Tight Ends
What we know: The Browns are prepared to give Njoku perhaps the biggest offensive role he's had in his six-year career. The 2017 first-round pick was given a four-year extension in June and is set to become the featured tight end for a revamped pass game, which means he could be in store for his highest target load yet — his previous high was 88 targets in 2018. He's also still just 26 years old. Behind him, the Browns could also add to the workload of Bryant, who's caught 45 passes for 471 yards and six touchdowns since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2020. The position also includes one of the more interesting players on the roster in Santos-Silva, who played basketball at Texas Tech before deciding in the spring to pursue a football career.
What we don't know: How tight end usage will be affected by changes to the offense — mainly the departure of Austin Hooper and arrival of QB Deshaun Watson. The Browns led the league in 13-personnel (1 RB, 3 TEs) the last two years under head coach Kevin Stefanski in large part because they had three talented tight ends in Hooper, Njoku and Bryant and a playbook that heavily utilized tight ends in both the run and pass game. Now, the Browns might tweak their playbook to maximize Watson's unique Pro Bowl-level skills, and that could mean using less three-tight end packages.
The X-Factor: Njoku. His contract extension was one of the biggest moves of the Browns' offseason and served as a reward for what Njoku has done, as well as a challenge to be even better. He's caught 55 passes for 688 yards and six touchdowns the last two seasons, and he could top all of those numbers in 2022 alone if he fulfills the role the Browns will likely have for him. Remember his 71-yard touchdown against the Chargers last season? The Browns are counting on Njoku to create more of those big plays this year.
The biggest number: 61. That's how many targets went to Hooper last season, which was second on the team. The number provides some context for how much bigger the receiving workload could be for Njoku, who was targeted 53 times.
Says it all: "With Dave, (we) certainly want to feature him. I think his skillset, as we all know, great size, great length in terms of catching the football and being able to go up and pluck contested catches. I would speak to his development as a blocker. That is something that I'm proud of David for — his evolution of a blocker. I think there is an evolution that will continue for David the player. With us last year, as you know, with (former Browns and Titans TE) Austin Hooper, David and (TE) Harrison (Bryant), we played a lot of 13 [personnel]. Now with Hoop gone and we will see if there is a third tight end who emerges, but certainly, you would expect some of that share to be divvied up among all of the guys, including David. That all remains to be seen, but David certainly is deserving of that contract. He earned it. He did everything we asked him to do." - Kevin Stefanski
How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 3
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