In his first career start last Thursday night, Tee Higgins made some plays while leaving some others on the field. The Bengals’ youngest player is allowed to not be perfect the first time he plays 60 snaps in a game.
Higgins is, obviously, the least experienced receiver the team has on its roster, but he knows that the position group has to play better for quarterback and fellow rookie Joe Burrow. Higgins talked about that along with his general experiences to local reporters on Monday.
“I just feel like we’ve just got to go out there and make those catches, those tough, contested catches that we’re not making,” Higgins said. ”That’s something we just got to keep working on, and everybody sees the confidence that we have in throwing the ball with this team. And we just got to go out there as a receiver group and go make those plays.”
The Bengals’ passing game has been trying to break free over the top, but having just one completion on their 12 attempts 20+ yards down the field has made separation a bigger premium than it already was. It’s why most receptions made beyond five yards have been tightly contested by defenders.
Just look at Higgins’ first career catch. Higgins was surrounded by members of the Browns’ defense as Burrow put a perfect ball into Higgins’ hands as the receiver quickly tapped both feet in bounds near the sideline.
“I had a little in-breaking route, and Joe ended up scrambling, so I had to get out of there real quick,” Higgins said. “And I think it was two minutes, so I knew I had to get out of bounds, so I just started running for the sideline. He threw a great ball, and I just had to do the rest.
That play ended up going off-script, as Higgins’ route had him going towards the middle of the field, and he worked back to a scrambling Burrow running to his right. Creating big plays outside of structure is what the Bengals can do to mitigate protection issues caused by their offensive line.
“We really got to work on that a little bit more. Joe’s a guy that — he can move. So you’re going to get a lot of scramble drills in game situations so we just got to go out there and practice. And you really can’t really just work on it. This is something you’ve got to have instinct. You see Joe’s scrambling, you’ve got to make go make a play.”
Higgins did make that play, and considering his quick ascension into the starting lineup, his chance to make another will come very soon.