One reason the Browns have been disastrous in the red zone

Pete Smith

Baker Mayfield was one of the league's best quarterbacks in the red zone last year, which is one of the reasons the Cleveland Browns were so competitive down the stretch. This year, Mayfield is one of the league's worst and it has lost them multiple games this season. One of the differences between 2018 and 2019 has been the presence of David Njoku.

Njoku, currently on injured reserve with a broken wrist, specifically the scaphoid, is hoping to come back after being designated for return as early as week 10. He was a focal point of the Browns red zone offense last year and they are feeling the absence now. Njoku gave the Browns so many options because of his size, athleticism and raw jumping ability. Mayfield went to Njoku lined out wide on multiple goal line fades and he's simply too big for opponents trying to cover him and is tremendous going up and getting passes.

Without him, the Browns have been somewhat discombobulated in the red zone. They haven't had much success getting the ball to Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry down there. Instead, the Browns have been going to Demetrius Harris a disturbing amount. Mayfield loves throwing to tight ends, especially down in the red zone, which dates back to his time at Oklahoma. And he should. Throwing to big bodies down in the red zone tends to be a good idea. Harris simply isn't very good at it.

There have been times he's gone to a player like Harris when there were better options elsewhere. And there's no question that Mayfield needs to do a better job getting the ball to the right player in that area of the field, but he clearly wishes he had Njoku.

Just in terms of how they can line Njoku up can create schematic advantages, it makes life easier down near the goal line. Out wide, he can be a fade option or just force the defense to take a defender or two out of the box, opening up a running lane for Nick Chubb. Playaction when opponents sell out to stop Chubb and finding Njoku in a favorable spot for the easy touchdown. Those two being the primary two options can make it easy to get the ball to a third one.

None of this excuses the Browns or Mayfield's struggles in the red zone. Those failures, specifically turnovers in that area of the field have lost the Browns games and that simply can't happen. It has to improve. Having said that, it does show the value Njoku has for this team and how much better they are when he's on the field.

Comments (3)
No. 1-3
Johnny Football
Johnny Football

Also receivers should catch the ball when it is thrown to them

xo4 p8ch
xo4 p8ch

How about RUN THE F'N BALL! 1st and goal should be at least 3 runs and then possibly a play action. With Chubb I know it sounds a little predictable but at this point with as little as we have done it, nobody would expect it.

Footballfan55
Footballfan55

No denying that Njoku has been missed a lot but like you said Baker is also just too predictable in the redzone and stares down who he is going to throw to. Defenses have been reading Baker like a book this season. He needs to get better at faking defenses out with his eyes.


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