EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — When the Browns drafted David Njoku, they envisioned the big, tall and ultra-athletic tight end to be a mismatch nightmare for years to come.
He flashed that sky-high potential with a pair of big-time touchdown catches in Thursday’s 20-10 preseason win over the Giants. While Njoku, the 29th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, remains a work in progress entering his second season, it was a promising display following a rookie campaign of highs and lows.
“As you guys know, I have never wavered on my excitement about him,” coach Hue Jackson said. “I just think it’s hard work. He has to put his head down and work, that’s what he has done.”
Njoku, a New Jersey native who had family in attendance, first hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor to cap a short drive with the first-team offense. “David did a great job of getting his eyes around at the right time and making the play and finishing it,” Taylor said.
A few series later, he caught a 10-yard strike from rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield on a broken play near the goal line. “He just did a great job winning,” Mayfield said. “You know, the coverage he was in, he’s got to beat his man across and make it all the way out and so [I was] going through my read and he won, so I put it up there for him and he’s a big dude, so I put it up only where he could get it and he made a great play.”
Njoku’s performance comes after a couple of bumpy practices in which he struggled with drops. On this night, however, he was as sure-handed as ever and admittedly focused on the smallest of details.
“That was one thing we focused on in practice was to finish after the catch, coach Jackson definitely emphasized that multiple times,” he said. “So that was one thing in my head after the catch.”
Jackson said he sees growth out of Njoku as Cleveland’s new-look offense continues to build chemistry. He’s expected to make a jump in Year 2 with Taylor, Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry and a host of gifted running backs.
“I think you see the improvement of that, he spends a lot of time after practice improving that skill,” Jackson said. “I think if he continues to do that along with the rest of our guys, by the time we get to the regular season we will be ready to go.”
While Thursday night was filled with promise, Njoku isn’t ready to rest now — neither Jackson nor offensive coordinator Todd Haley will let him.
“Todd said he wasn't impressed,” Njoku said with a wide smile.
“So I’ve got some more work to do.”