David Njoku’s work day didn’t end when he left the stadium Sunday following the Browns’ 13-10 win over the Steelers.
Njoku, who led the Browns with 15 targets but only caught seven of them for 56 yards, expressed frustration with himself after the game, calling the performance “unacceptable” and exclaiming that he would be “going right home to use the JUGS machine.”
He let his head coach know he followed through on that plan, too.
“I can confirm he hit the JUGS machine because he FaceTimed me from his house on the JUGS machine,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday. “Yeah, we have a ton of confidence in Dave. We’re going to continue to throw him the ball. He comes through for us.”
Njoku still made a few key plays for the Browns in the victory over their AFC North rival, and none of them were more important than his 11-yard pickup on the Browns’ game-winning drive that moved them to the Steelers’ 26 — officially inside the kicking range of Dustin Hopkins, who drilled a 34-yard field goal as time expired to seal the win.
But before that, Njoku failed to snag a few other passes from rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was making his second career start and relied on Njoku almost twice as much as the Browns’ second-most target leader, wide receiver Amari Cooper (8).
The 15 targets are the most Njoku has had in his seven-year career and suggest he could be an even bigger piece of an offense that will navigate the rest of the season without quarterback Deshaun Watson. He had already been on pace to set career-highs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
Despite the drops Sunday, Njoku kept seeing passes from Thompson-Robinson all game, and Thompson-Robinson said those looks won’t go away.
“I couldn’t have no choice but to have faith in those guys today,” he said. “Dave’s going to make a bunch of plays this year, same with Elijah (Moore) and all those guys. So I have no choice but to get the ball out of my hands and get it in their hands because they’re special playmakers.”
Perhaps a postgame JUGS session will help Njoku capitalize on even more of those opportunities as he continues to close in on a career-best season.