BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Tight end David Njoku didn’t make excuses for a blown protection that resulted in fellow rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer getting blasted late in the third quarter of Sunday’s 38-24 loss in Detroit.
Njoku shouldered the blame for allowing Lions cornerback Quadre Diggs to rush unabated towards Kizer and drill him right in the ribs with 6 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the game tied at 24.
“That’s one of my close friends and teammate, and I got him hit,” Njoku said. “So I’ve got to make up for it next week.”
Njoku said he got duped by a linebacker that caused him to take his eyes off of Diggs leading to the hit that sent Kizer to the X-ray room and left him with bruised ribs.
“It pisses me off, man. I ain’t going to lie to you,” Njoku said. “Seeing him on the ground like that got me mad, and you can’t really fight in the NFL, so I’ve just got to take it out in how I play. That’s all.”
Njoku said that he texted Kizer on the bus ride back from Detroit to check on him and apologize for the mistake.
Kizer didn’t blame Njoku for the blown assignment Monday. Quite the opposite.
“The kid is a baller,” Kizer said. “There is not much telling him. He is going to make the proper adjustments. He is going to continue to develop the same way I am and that chemistry is going to stay the same. We are going to be able to become hopefully a powerful connection.”
That powerful connection is still a work in progress.
Njoku caught just 1 of 6 targets from Kizer Sunday against the Lions that netted just 3 yards. Njoku, whose 6-4, 247 pound frame is a quarterback’s dream target in the red zone, was unable to get a second foot down on a fade thrown to the back pylon in the endzone that preceded Kizer’s fateful audible into a quarterback sneak with 15 seconds left that caused time to expire.
“We just have to make those plays,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “We have to continue to throw them. We have to continue to do it. We feel like we have a huge target in David. I think he can make those plays. We can make the throws. We just haven’t done it consistently enough.”
Kizer and Njoku have become close since being drafted in April by the Browns.
“Ever since we got here, we have kind of bonded together,” Kizer said. “I think that is going to continue to grow as long as we are still here playing together. I know that next week, he is going to come out with a vengeance and he is going to come back out ready to make the plays that we were not able to make.”
Njoku, selected 29th overall out of Miami and Kizer, picked 52nd overall from Notre Dame, playfully sparred with each other throughout last week in the locker room over the outcome of Saturday’s game in south Florida. They watched the game together in Detroit and following the Hurricanes’ rout of the Irish Njoku will reap the rewards of their friendly wager.
“Yeah, we’re very close, but DeShone, he’s a tough MF,” Njoku said. “He’s playing with a broken rib. I see the bruise. It’s a big [mark]. He’s going to be a great one, I believe. We obviously started slow this season, and there’s no excuse for that as well. So we’ve just got to pick up the pieces and just keep working.”
Although Njoku said Kizer suffered a broken rib, the team reaffirmed that X-rays were negative, which allowed Kizer to return with 4:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“You never want to see your quarterback get hit like that in any situation,” Njoku said.
Unfortunately for the Browns, the momentum generated by a pair of third quarter touchdown drives led by Kizer went up in smoke when he had to depart for further examination.
Up until that hit, Kizer was in the midst of his best performance of the season completing 15 of 24 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and a 99.0 rating. He also ran 7 times for 57 yards and a TD. Despite throwing a late interception, Kizer finished the afternoon throwing for 232 yards with a TD on 21 of 37 passing.
“He’s not afraid to put his body on the line to make a play,” Njoku said. “You can’t ask for much more from a quarterback. He wants to win. I want to win, he wants to win and we’re going to start winning.”