David Njoku learned an important lesson from a rookie year of ups and downs.
"This is the NFL and people are trying to rip your head off," he said, laughing. "That's what I realized — that you have to be exact with your details when it comes to the game and study that much more with what you have to do each play."
The Browns second-year tight end has applied that approach to the first week of training camp, including a recent session in which he struggled with dropped passes. Njoku, the 29th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, shrugged it off as an off day. After all, he said, that's what practice is for.
"That's why we're here at training camp, to get better every single day," he said. "I feel I'm getting better along with the other tight ends, I feel like they are also getting better. It's great progress, we're working really hard."
Rough afternoon at the office or not, Njoku is poised for a big year following a 2017 season in which he finished first on the team in touchdown catches (four), third in receiving yards (386) and third in receptions (32). Though he struggled to demonstrate that ability every single week, there's little doubt the former Miami star flashed big-time talent that should become more consistent in time.
Njoku sees improvement across the board entering Year 2. "I would say everything. Blocking, route-running, catching, everything," he said. "Just a year of getting coached by NFL coaches, it's a lot more specific details that you have to do. In college you can just run around and be an athlete, but in the NFL there is pressure so it's different."
By all accounts something of a physical freak — Njoku was a national high jump champion in high school and is the size of an NBA power forward — Njoku should play a featured role in a new-and-improved offense that added veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor and three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry to the mix.
That means Njoku will have a proven signal-caller throwing him passes and another weapon in the pass game to help free him up underneath coverages. Coupled with his growth and development over the offseason, Cleveland's coaches envision a breakout season.
"I expect to see a huge jump," head coach Hue Jackson said in June. "He's very athletic. He can catch and run. He's going to be one of our playmakers."
In the meantime, Njoku says he'll take each day — both the good ones and the bad — one at a time.
"We're in training camp. We're here to work and get better every single day. Those tough ones happen, you just have to focus on the next play," he said. "Things happen and you just have to make the next play."