Will David Njoku, Amari Cooper headline elite Browns passing game?

Will tight end David Njoku and wide receiver Amari Cooper lead a high-octane Cleveland Browns passing attack in 2022?

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is bullish on both players, alluding to Njoku’s improvement as a blocker.

“His game has evolved, and I’m really proud of him and the work that he’s put in,” Stefanski said, via Cleveland.com. “Watching his blocking develop over the course of time that I’ve been here, he’s really bought in. He’s obviously big enough and strong enough to do a lot of those jobs. That’s what I’m probably most proud of him for, but also recognizing there’s a ton of room to grow. And I think that’s the beauty of David and a lot of our players here is they have that growth mindset where they want to get better.”

Cleveland re-signed Njoku on a four-year, $56.75 million deal this offseason. The tight end finished the 2021 season with 36 receptions, 475 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. 

Cleveland’s wide receiver room has been shaken up in recent seasons. The Browns released Odell Beckham Jr. during the 2021 regular season and released Jarvis Landry this offseason. The Browns acquired Cooper from the Cowboys and selected Purdue wide receiver David Bell with the No. 99 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Cooper’s size and the savvy nature of his football ability stand out to Stefanski.

“I mean, I think the first thing you notice with Amari is just his size,” Stefanski said. “I think his forward lean at that size really gets the defensive backs’ attention. And then with double moves, with a single move, a double move, you really have to be definitive with what you do on that first move, and then I think he has a savviness to realize how much to spend on a first move before you get into that second move. You’ll see a lot of young players run a double move and they’ll rush it. They’ll be really greedy with that first move, and they don’t sell it. I think with Amari, with the amount of reps he’s had over his career, he has that savviness, that wherewithal to sell the first move first.”

Cooper spent the last three and a half seasons with the Cowboys (Dallas acquired him from the then-Oakland Raiders midway through 2018). He finished last season with 68 receptions, 865 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns.

The Browns went 8-9 in 2021, good for third in the AFC North. Their offense was fourth in the NFL in rushing (145.4 rushing yards per game), tied for 13th in fewest turnovers (22), ranked 17th in third down conversion percentage (39.2%), ranked 18th in total offense (340.6 total yards per game), finished 20th in scoring offense (20.5 PPG) and slotted 27th in passing offense (195.3 passing yards per game). 

The Browns are awaiting a verdict on when quarterback Deshaun Watson, who they acquired from the Houston Texans this offseason, will play in 2022. The 26-year-old is facing a likely suspension due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Cleveland recently traded quarterback Baker Mayfield, who it selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, to the Carolina Panthers. Cleveland later signed Josh Rosen.

If Watson is suspended, Cleveland’s quarterback room includes Rosen, Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs. Stefanski is entering his third season as head coach. Cleveland is 19-14 in the regular season and 1-1 in the postseason under Stefanski.

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