Higgins won’t necessarily be totaling up his yards as he makes plays Sunday against Baltimore, but the milestone and record won’t be completely out of mind. With 92 more yards, he can join Collinsworth and A.J. Green as the only two rookies in team history to top the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Collinsworth had 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie.
“When my number is called, hopefully I go out there and make the play on the ball and get to that 1,000 yards,” he said. “That’d be a great goal. That’s a goal I had, so I mean, it’d be a great accomplishment, just to be able to be a rookie and get 1,000 yards.”
Bengals coach Zac Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan both said Higgins never seemed like a rookie, though.
From the moment Higgins arrived for training camp, he seemed well-prepared from his days with 2019 national runner-up Clemson, and his development happened quickly as he became the No. 2 target behind Tyler Boyd, who missed Sunday’s game because of a concussion and sits at 840 yards receiving.
“Being around him (Higgins), it doesn’t feel like you’re around a rookie,” Taylor said. “He feels like he has -- matured is not the right word. He’s had the right focus since day one and just really been fun to watch him, the confidence that he has as he gets through the season. He’s made plays against everybody in this league. Just he’s got an extremely bright future. His approach is tremendous. Where we got him when we got him in the second round is unbelievable now that you look back on it, but we’re lucky to have him.”
The Bengals thought Higgins would go in the first round, but when the last pick was made, they knew they were getting a steal with the first pick of the second round, taking Higgins.
“We thought he was going to be a really good player for somebody,” Callahan said, recalling his surprise that Higgins didn’t go off the board in the first round. “We didn’t necessarily know it was going to be us, but we get fortunate enough to have him be a part of our team and he has been everything that we thought he would be as an NFL receiver, because he’s got size, he’s got catch radius, he’s got speed and he’s got route-running ability and his development has happened quick.
“He really came into the NFL as prepared as far as playing the position, he kind of knew what it takes -- he played at a competitive, high level in college. So, he’s only gotten better every time as he’s learned to fine-tune his craft too. These corners he played against are good, and he’s run some really good routes against some really good corners, and that’s really an encouraging thing for a young player. He’s had success against good corners. He’s got some things he’s got to continue to get better at. He’s got to get stronger. But he’s going to be a force in this league to be reckoned with.”
Higgins said he’s “just trying to go out there and gain respect” and he’s felt that from the opposing defensive backs who have patted him on the back after some of the big catches he’s made.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about his performances is the fact he’s stepped up with three different quarterbacks throwing to him this season. He had two 100-yard performances with Joe Burrow, and he was the team’s most targeted receiver in the Dec. 21 win over Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football when Ryan Finley led a run-oriented attack. On Sunday, he was a big part of Brandon Allen’s career day.
“I feel like at the end of the day, I’m a pro receiver and if the ball is coming my way, it’s my job to catch it,” Higgins said. “And that’s how I go about it, no matter who’s throwing me the ball. It’s my job to catch the ball and that’s what I’m gonna do at the end of the day.”
Ravens at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7