We’re rolling into the Thanksgiving weekend with four of your questions.
To create some mismatches, is it possible for David Njoku to line up as a wide receiver and play big Darren Fells as tight end on some passing plays? -- Marcus W., Northfork, West Virginia
The Browns have done this on occasion throughout the season. Njoku has played the vast majority of his snaps at the traditional tight end spot but close to 100 have come at either the slot (68) or outside wide receiver (31). Njoku and Fells have been on the field together for 164 snaps. Njoku has had an up and down season, sure, but he’s already close to matching all of his totals from last year … and he still has six games to go. In a league where tight ends are seemingly being used less and less as pass-catchers, Njoku ranks eighth in receptions and 13th in yards among tight ends.
As Baker Mayfield showed in last week’s win over Atlanta, he’s not afraid to distribute the ball to whomever is open. Njoku caught an 18-yard bullet from Mayfield, one of his best passes of the game, for his only reception of the game. Orson Charles added another from the tight end position on a day that saw nine different players catch passes. That’s the kind of offensive performance Cleveland is striving to replicate; not one that force feeds it to a specific player or position.
Earlier this year I submitted a question regarding the strength of schedule. Is there any way to tell how it looks going into next season? -- Tim L., Vine Grove, Kentucky
The Browns’ 2019 schedule lines them up with cross-divisional matchups with the AFC East and NFC West. They’ll host whichever team finishes in the same spot as them in the AFC South and travel to whichever team finishes in the same spot as them in the AFC West. As of today, that means the Browns would host the Jaguars and travel to the Raiders. From the AFC East, Cleveland will host Buffalo and Miami and travel to New England and New York. From the NFC West, the Browns will host the Seahawks and Rams and travel to San Francisco and Arizona.
The Browns have found a strength in the running game with Nick Chubb, veteran offensive line and refreshing play calling of Freddie Kitchens. Will they play to their strength against the AFC North? -- Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia
In just two games, Kitchens has shown an ability to adapt his game plan to the specific matchup he and the Browns are facing. For this upcoming Sunday, Cleveland is facing a Cincinnati defense that is 31st in passing yards allowed per game and 32nd in rushing yards. Baltimore, which the Browns face in the season finale, is on the opposite end of the spectrum as a top-five unit against the run and pass. The Texans are top-10 in both while the Panthers are much better against the run than the pass while the Broncos are the reverse of that. The elements are another factor to consider for all but the team’s game in Houston. It promises to be cold and potentially windy and snowy in all five of their games against Cincinnati, Baltimore, Denver and Carolina. That leans more toward a ground-and-pound approach, which the Browns have utilized in both of their games since Kitchens took over as offensive coordinator.
Seeing how the upcoming draft is top-heavy on defense, is there an interior lineman worth a pick between 8 and 14? I would love to see Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry but don't see them going that high with him. -- Mark R., Star Valley, Arizona
There are a handful of players that fit this bill, some of whom could go well before the eighth pick and some who could be available after No. 14. The surging name at the moment is Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, who has enjoyed a breakout campaign as a key member of the Crimson Tide’s vaunted defense. Williams is an interesting prospect because he wasn’t a full-time starter until this season. Some other names to consider are Ed Oliver (Houston), Derrick Brown (Auburn), Jeffrey Simmons (Mississippi State), Raekwon Davis (Alabama), Dre’Mont Jones (Ohio State) and Dexter Lawrence (Clemson). Needless to say, it’s a good year to be in the market for an interior defensive lineman.
As for Harry, he’s having a heck of a season (69 catches, 1,033 yards, nine TDs) and checks all of the boxes from a measurables standpoint (6-4, 213). WalterFootball.com considers him to be the sixth-best wide receiver in this year’s class and a projected second- or third-round pick behind A.J. Brown (Ole Miss), Parris Campbell (Ohio State), Deebo Samuel (South Carolina) and Collin Johnson (Texas).