David Njoku On Feeding Off Competitiveness And Improving Route Running

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals

CINCINNATI, OHIO - DECEMBER 11: David Njoku #85 of the Cleveland Browns against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on December 11, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio.Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

David, it feels like this has been a pretty competitive camp. Jim’s (Schwartz) group likes to talk a little bit. Have you noticed that? 

“Yeah, I mean, I feel like this year is probably the most competitive camp thus far. That’s really good for us. It shows you who you are during moments of stress or being uncomfortable, you know, how you perform so it’s good.”

How much do you feed off of that back and forth. When the defense starts to get chippy, you get to be chippy back. How much do you feed off that? 

“I guess my personality, I feed off that a lot. I’d rather that than quiet.”

Do you see other guys kind of responding to it too, throughout practice? 

“Of course, it goes back and forth. But that’s the beauty of competition. If the defense makes a play, they’re going to be all ra-ra. And then we watch that, we see the hype over there and we want to take it to them. So it’s good competition.”

How much talking do they do out there? You’re such a big target, such a physical target and they’re able to break up a pass on you or whatever. Just how much chirping do they get? 

“A lot. But that’s welcome, especially during these dog days of camp. You want to make it fun, so that makes it a lot of fun.”

Dave, we’ve talked to a few of the defensive coaches who’ve talked about versatility in the cornerback room and linebacker room. That’s something that affects you, right? Those are the guys that cover you. Have you noticed some of that versatility and sort of what this defense can throw? 

“Absolutely., I mean, I don’t want to give things away, but I’m very impressed with the versatility we have on defense.”

The way Elijah Moore has really been incorporated into this offense and a variety of places, they’re lining him up. What type of effect does he have on you as far as opening things up for you? 

“That’s a good question. I feel like we’re still learning that Elijah is exceptional. He plays very passionately. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. I just love seeing him compete. I think you guys saw the one-on-one yesterday to end it. You know what I mean? You live for moments like that. So I’m so hyped to see him progress, see him compete and have a lot of fun.”

Coaches talk about every player can get a little better every day, every year. For you as a vet, is there an area of your game you want to see shine a little more this year? 

“Everything, man, I’m far from perfect. I feel like I can get better in all aspects, so I just work every day to excel in every aspect.”

We mentioned the top tight ends in the league or media mentions, they always mention (Travis) Kelce, Mark Andrews. With the full year with Deshaun Watson, do you think that you can solidify yourself as being in that top three? 

“I guess time will tell. We’ll see”

What is it about Elijah Moore that maybe opens things up for you? We know we talk about him opening up the offense, but for you specifically, what can he do for you? 

“I think it really depends on how we perform. The first preseason game that we’re all playing in, that really shows. We can practice all day, but when the bullets are really flying, then you really know how things go.”

Excited to show Browns fans at Cleveland Brown Stadium what you guys are able to do?


When you talk about always evolving, always learning, always trying to expand the toolbox here, what are maybe one or two things that you came into this camp intent on elevating and how do you feel about the progress you have made with those areas and those goals that you met? 

“I think route running was something that I really wanted to better myself with. This game is a game of interest, so just being slightly open to me is not going to cut it anymore. I want to really take the next step and work on it all.”

Deshaun (Watson) has shown that he has the ability to just put it right on a dime to a spot. And he has that expectation, the trust that whether it’s you, Amari (Cooper), Elijah (Moore), whoever, you guys are going to be there. I guess not so much a challenge, but just the attention to detail that puts on you as a player to know that you got to be where he’s going to put it. And also, the confidence that you know that the ball is going to be where it’s supposed to be?

“I think that just falls on chemistry, something that we’ve been working on a lot, especially this offseason was chemistry. So just knowing what each of us is thinking at that exact second, at that exact instinct, helps a lot. It goes a long way.”

The trips to Puerto Rico and Miami where you guys did kind of work on chemistry, I guess, what were you guys able to do? Obviously, the bonding and hanging out and stuff like that. But from a football standpoint, what is it that you were really able to accomplish with him on those two trips? When you talk about that chemistry factor. 

“I mean, definitely the work. I feel like we have a better understanding of how each of us thinks when it comes to tight ends (and) quarterbacks, tight ends (and) receivers, receivers (and) quarterbacks. We know what each other – what we’re thinking together. I think that helps a lot.”

David, your rookie year, (was with) Joe Thomas, so you didn’t get a ton of time with him. But how cool was it to see him go into the Hall (of Fame)?

“It was awesome, man. Just seeing him walk down that strip during the Hall of Fame game. We met eye to eye, quick little – that’s my guy. So, I’m so proud of him. Happy for him, happy for his family.”

What did you learn from him? 

“Grit, grit. As you guys know, he hasn’t missed a snap in all those numbers, and this game is a very physical sport. So, him pushing through whatever injury he had, whatever he was feeling to push through and tally up all those plays consistently, that was not an easy task. So, give him all the kudos in the world because he really deserved it.”

What has helped you maybe push through some of those moments where maybe things are weighing on you and not going your way? What has gotten you through some of those tough times? 

“I say leaning on your teammates. And this goes for all players – when things are hitting the fan, when you feel like things are going too fast, you got to lean on your teammates because these are your group, brothers in essence, you’re going to war with them week in, week out. So, I’m sure they’re more than welcome to help you through any hard times or whatever.”

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