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Cleveland Browns

Cooper, Njoku look surpringly good against Jets

Amari Cooper hasn’t practiced at all, raising the degree of difficulty in deciding whether to start him on Thursday night against the Jets. The Browns are calling him questionable. If Cooper is active and looks reasonably healthy, I will use him.

Cooper has a heel injury, and those have been popular around the league recently. Keenan Allen has missed his last two games with a heel injury, and Hollywood Brown has been bothered by a heel injury for the last month, sitting out entirely on Sunday at Soldier Field.

I can’t speak to what condition Cooper is. But he looked fine on Sunday, putting up the best numbers of his career.

They’re playing New York on Thursday night, and at first blush that might scare some away. The Jets, after all, rank No. 2 against the pass. They’ve got Sauce Gardner at cornerback, and some envision him becoming another Darrelle Revis, blanketing opposing receivers.

But I notice that plenty of other receivers have had good games against this defense. I would say, in fact, that most of the very good receivers who’ve played against the Jets have performed just fine.

Below see the eight elite receivers who’ve played against New York: Stefon Diggs (twice), CeeDee Lamb, A.J. Brown, Keenan Allen, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. (Hill missed one of the New York games; in that one, I upgraded Waddle into the elite class).

Of those eight receivers, only one failed to put up serviceable numbers. Diggs caught 4 passes for 27 yards in one of his games. All of the other receivers caught at least 7 passes, and five of them went over 100 yards.

Those eight receivers against the Jets averaged 8.1 catches for 101 yards. The touchdown numbers haven’t been as good (just 3 TDs for those eight players).

Cooper has played well enough that I consider him to be on par with those guys. He should be very good on Thursday night (if his body is right).

ELITE RECEIVERS AGAINST JETS
PlayerTgtNoYdsAvgTD
Stephon Diggs, Buff.131010210.21
CeeDee Lamb, Dall.131114313.00
A.J. Brown, Phi.9713118.70
Keenan Allen98779.60
Davante Adams, L.V.1388610.80
Stephon Diggs, Buff.84276.80
Tyreek Hill, Mia.12910211.31
Jaylen Waddle, Mia.9814217.81
Amari Cooper, Cle.?????

Deciding which receivers are elite, of course, is a subjective exercise. Some might reasonably include Courtland Sutton (1 for 13) and DeVonta Smith (5 for 44), who were not big producers in their games against the Jets.

While I’ve got the numbers in front of me, I will also speak in favor of David Njoku. He’s similarly been hot recently, with 4 TDs in his last three games. I also wouldn’t sit him down against this defense.

New York ranks 2nd against the pass, but tight ends have tended to perform well against this defense. The Jets, in fact, have allowed 8 TDs to tight ends – 2nd-most in the league. (They oddly have allowed twice as many touchdowns to tight ends as wide receivers.)

In fairness, it should be pointed out that half of those touchdowns have been thrown to secondary tight ends (rather than the team’s main player at the position). So when re-working the percentages this week, some of the increase among Cleveland’s tight ends needs to go not to Njoku but to Harrison Bryant (who caught 3 TDs earlier in the year).

But I like Njoku. I believe he’ll be the tight end I select in the Blackout competition.

Below see the most productive tight end against the Jets in each of their games, and also any other tight ends who scored touchdowns. The guys tagged with black dots aren’t starting tight ends but complementary players.

TIGHT ENDS AGAINST THE JETS
PlayerTgtNoYdsAvgTD
Dalton Kincaid, Buff.44266.50
Jake Ferguson, Dall.43113.71
• Luke Schoonmaker, Dall.1111.01
Hunter Henry, N.E.52178.50
• Pharoah Brown, N.E.227135.51
Travis Kelce, K.C.966010.00
• Noah Gray, K.C.113434.01
Adam Trautman, Den.54266.51
Dallas Goedert, Phi.85428.40
Darren Waller, NYG2144.00
Gerald Everett, LAC22189.00
Michael Mayer, L.V.53196.31
Dalton Kincaid, Buff.76467.70
Durham Smythe, Mia.311010.00
Kyle Pitts, Atl.845112.80
• MyCole Pruitt, Atl.112020.01
Brevin Jordan, Hou.333511.70
Durham Smythe, Mia.44328.00
Logan Thomas, Was.65367.21
David Njoku, Cle.?????

—Ian Allan

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