Even when he’s not at his best, Higgins can play a role, and the Bengals (3-3) will take whatever they can get from him Sunday when they play the San Francisco 49ers (5-2) on the road. The expectation is he is feeling healthier following the bye and can play a bigger role.
“Appreciate him going out there,” Taylor said. “Even when he’s not full speed it still takes attention from the defense away and allows other guys to be productive as well. Just having him out there these last couple of weeks has been—the last game in particular was very helpful. He looks better. He looks like he’s feeling better. He’d have to answer on exactly how he feels, but it seems like things are in a good place there.”
Higgins cracked a rib in the Week 4 loss at Tennessee and did not play the second half, then was sidelined for the next game at Arizona. A fractured rib isn’t an overly concerning injury because its one that heals on its own. It’s all about pain management and the first couple weeks can be rough.
The fourth-year wide receiver returned in Week 6 against Seattle and had just two catches for 20 yards on four targets and played limited snaps, as the Bengals continued to try to protect him a bit. The bye last week was good for him to rest and heal up more, and Higgins said he is feeling more comfortable.
“Definitely healing up,” Higgins said. “I feel good. Obviously still gotta keep working, keep getting treatment on it and get healthy.”
Higgins has just 14 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns this season, but two of those games his snaps were limited by the rib injury, and the entire offense fell flat in the opener when he had no catches on eight targets.
Quarterback Joe Burrow struggled with accuracy on his passes in that one, and Higgins bounced back with his best game of the season in Week 2, catching two touchdown passes and finishing with 89 yards on 12 receptions. Burrow is trying to get the offense back on track as a whole as his season got off to a slow start amid calf issues.
Just like Burrow has progressed as he’s gotten healthy, he expects Higgins to do the same.
“He’s awesome,” Burrow said. “He’s been locked in. Obviously, guys get injured. He’s fighting through it for us. That’s a big part of what we do here, a lot of tough guys that play hard. So, he’s going to continue to get healthier. He’s going to continue to play at a high level. We’re going to get keep getting him the ball.”
Higgins doesn’t believe it will just take him performing at a higher level for the offense to look like it has in the past because it takes “every guy on offense (doing) their job to the best of their ability” for that to show.
However, Higgins said he can play his part, and a big performance Sunday would mean a lot to him from a personal standpoint.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Higgins said. “Obviously, I’ve just got to go out there and just be me and play my game and you know, help my team get a win.”
“If anybody knows me, I’m really patient,” he added. “I’m gonna let it come to me, like you said, and so it’s just a matter of time. I’m going to continue to go out there and do what I do best, just try to go out there, make key blocks, make a few catches, and things like that.”
Asked if one big game would be enough to flip the switch for the offense, Higgins said at this point in the season, even with 11 games left, there is no room for error. San Francisco has struggled in pass coverage at times this season, and as the Bengals are looking for more explosive plays.
“We just got to come out swinging and just do what we do best, just like we have the past two years and just go out there and just play Bengals football,” Higgins said. “… I feel like we just gotta be ourselves. It’s not necessarily having to prove to anybody because I mean, people know what to do. We’ve just been struggling a little bit, but we definitely look forward to getting back on track, getting going the second half of the season.”
Bengals at 49ers, 4:25 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7