The Cleveland Browns have displayed a wealth of talent at the wide receiver position during training camp and preseason. Although Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are the most revered, another up-and-coming receiver could be on his way to sharing the limelight.
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Rashard Higgins leads the team in receiving during the preseason with nine receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown.
The fourth-year player is coming into his own since being selected by Cleveland in the fifth round (172nd overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft.
The road to the playing field wasn’t easy after being released by the team in 2017, then re-signed and placed on the practice squad before getting promoted to the 53-man roster. The emotional roller-coaster had its effects.
“I’ve come a long way,” Higgins said. “A lot of people may not have believed in me, but I’m still here. When I was cut by the team early on, I never stopped believing in myself and used it as motivation to keep me going.
“It was a bad feeling to have knowing that someone didn’t want you. That’s the reason why I push myself every day because I never want that to happen again. It’s always in the back of my head.”
Cleveland’s receiving corps reminds some of Cincinnati’s once-dynamic trio of Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry, a young rising star whose life was tragically cut short.
Higgins could assume some route duties – inside post and deep go – that Henry provided the Bengals. Like Henry did with Carson Palmer, the receiver has earned the trust of his quarterback, Baker Mayfield, with his precise route running, hands and ability to get open.
“Baker trusts me to be in position when he’s throwing the ball,” Higgins said. “We work on little things like that every day in practice, so come game time it’s routine. Our defense does a great job giving us different looks so there’s nothing we haven’t seen come game day.”
Higgins knows his quarterback is depending on him to make plays in clutch situations and understands that his game must continue to evolve.
“Having guys like Jarvis (Landry) around has helped me tremendously,” he said. “He came in making plays in practice and not acting like he was the man around here. He never changed and I see that in myself.
“His presence has brought out the best in me. The one-hand catches in practice and all the other things he does make you want to bring your best. He instilled confidence in me and really doesn’t know how much he helped improve my game. I’m going to continue to work hard and get to his level.”
Higgins said he relishes being the underdog and has set the bar high for himself this season. His goal is to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns.