The Browns will be without David Njoku when the Ravens come to town.
The Browns are going to be without David Njoku on Sunday when the Ravens arrive. Njoku, the Browns leading receiver for 2021, has had a modest year. While the passing game has been hampered at times due to Baker Mayfield’s injuries, Njoku hasn’t helped himself by dropping some real easy passes. Still, Njoku has been a valuable target this year, considering the lack of talent in the passing game.
With Njoku out due to COVID protocols, and Harrison Bryant out due to a concussion, that means the only tight end the Browns have is Austin Hooper; who’s been wildly unprotective. Their fourth tight end, Stephen Carlson, has been out all year and won’t be eligible to return until next season. The Browns’ “fifth” tight end, Johnny Stanton, is in COVID protocols as well and there’s no word on when he’ll be up for returning.
That leaves the Browns with one other tight end they can use, practice squad player Miller Forristall. So, the Browns, who are a “tight end team” have no tight ends.
The Browns need to get creative for Sunday
The Browns have one good wide receiver and he’s no longer an elite target and that’s Jarvis Landry. David Njoku helped spread the defense with matchup issues but outside of him and Landry, Mayfield doesn’t have a reliable receiver to throw to.
Instead of trying to replace Njoku, the team should just run six offensive linemen all game. Place Blake Hance or Michael Dunn on the line (depending on who starts) and just get weird. Always have six linemen. No matter what packages you run. There’s no rule against it, he just has to declare himself an eligible receiver and make sure he’s either on or off the line depending on the packages.
If you can’t replace the production a guy like Njoku provides then don’t. Go the opposite way. Find a way to maximize the position with what you have. You can do that by having more offensive linemen out there and helping block for the running game and Mayfield.
The running game had a lot of issues trying to get going against the Ravens in November, so load up the backfield with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and Andy Janovich, while putting six linemen and just run.
We’ll likely not see anything like that. Instead, Hunt will lineup in the slot in more empty-back sets, because that seems to be Kevin Stefanski’s defacto move.
It sure’s going to be interesting come Sunday.