3 Bengals receivers looking to go ‘1K’ this season with multiple threats

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) catches a pass as Houston Texans inside linebacker Zach Cunningham reaches to tackle him during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) catches a pass as Houston Texans inside linebacker Zach Cunningham reaches to tackle him during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Credit: Eric Christian Smith

Credit: Eric Christian Smith

Tee Higgins doesn’t doubt the Cincinnati Bengals could have three 1,000-yard receivers this year. He and Tyler Boyd were close in 2020, and the addition of first-round draft pick Ja’Marr Chase gives them another viable threat as quarterback Joe Burrow returns from December knee surgery hoping to take a big step in Year 2.

“I mean, why not?” Higgins said when asked if the trio can all get that statistical milestone. “We’re all elite players. All three of us are elite. I feel like all of us can go out there and get that 1K.”

Fans have equally high expectations for the wide receiver group this year after the Bengals have rebuilt the offense around Burrow and the addition of Higgins in the second round of the 2020 draft and Chase at No. 5 overall in April.

During a drizzly “Come Together Saturday,” the Bengals gave their supporters a taste of what they are looking forward to seeing this fall in the passing game. A crowd witnessed a scaled-down practice at Paul Brown Stadium on the fourth day of training camp as the team capped the longest stretch players will have between off days.

As the team entered the field one by one for warmups, Chase was the first to receive cheers loud enough to hear throughout the stadium. He especially had the fans’ attention after the hype that surrounded Cincinnati’s fifth pick this offseason and the decision to draft an elite wide receiver instead of an offensive lineman. Saturday was their first chance to see him in action live.

So far, Chase has been as advertised even with a few rookie mistakes here and there.

“Just watching him, he’s definitely a freakish athlete,” Boyd said. “He does things so smoothly, kind of similar to myself, but he’s a little wide, a little bigger, a little quicker. Once he gets more comfortable, I think his game is going to be so elite, just like he was in college. But at this moment this time right now, he’s got to work on figuring out the plays, figuring out what you’ve got to do.”

Boyd thought the Bengals should have had three players with 1,000 yards receiving last year. He finished with 841 yards in 15 games, Higgins had 908, and now-departed receiver A.J. Green, a player they hoped would bounce back to his seven-time Pro Bowl ability, finished with 523.

Of course, no one knew Burrow would only play 10 games, but for his second season, the Bengals gave him another weapon he is familiar with from his days at LSU with Chase.

“I think with us three all out there on the field, it’s going to put so much stress on the defense because they don’t know what’s coming at them,” Boyd said. “They can’t double us. They can’t game plan one guy. They can’t double two players. They still got a third player. So it’s going to be kind of dangerous for defenses to cover us.”

Boyd was disappointed not to get to 1,000 yards last year after two straight seasons with that mark. He, Higgins and Green all were targeted almost equally, between 104 and 110 times so it wasn’t a matter of others taking away opportunity.

Higgins tied the franchise rookie receptions mark (67) but exited early in the finale with a hamstring injury to prevent him from breaking it or reaching 1,000 yards. Now, he has “1K” posted on his mirror as a personal goal, along with things like making the Pro Bowl and the playoffs. That last one is the main one.

Asked if Chase makes it easier or tougher for him to get 1,000 yards, Higgins said it could be both, but they all make each other better.

“I feel like it’ll be easier,” Higgins said. “Guys won’t be looking to double me as much. Or Tyler. Having him on the other side of me, it gives me more confidence that I can go out there and challenge each other to go out there and get that 1K no matter what.”

Chase said the receivers don’t need to talk about 1,000 yards. They already knew that was the goal the first time they got together.

“It’s already in the air, I would say,” Chase said. “That’s our mindset. That’s where we want to be. Without even telling each other that’s what we want, we know what we want already.”

Boyd just wants to help make the Bengals successful, something he thinks will help the individual players garner more national attention and recognition. He’s flown under the radar on the national level to this point, but offensive coordinator Brian Callahan thinks he could be the best slot receiver in the league.

Having Chase and Higgins on the outside could open more chances for Boyd to shine.

“Tyler, I think, is really almost in that conversation as the best inside receiver in football, and I think it’s only going to continue to grow,” Callahan said. “Ideally having Tee and Ja’Marr outside puts a lot less pressure on Tyler. He should rarely be doubled inside, and if he is, we got other guys that are singled up. That’s kinda the idea when you got three good receivers like that.”