Browns rookie WR Rashard Higgins sees snaps rise in the slot

When it comes to patience, Rashard Higgins has passed the test.

The fifth-round pick out of Colorado State had big expectations for his rookie season in Cleveland. The opportunities, though, just haven't been plentiful enough to hit the kind of benchmarks he had as one of college football's most productive wide receivers in 2014 and 2015.

As the Browns enter their final, four-game stretch of the season, Higgins has six receptions for 77 yards. A big chunk of that total came last week against the Giants in a game that gave Higgins the biggest opportunity yet.

Splitting time with Andrew Hawkins in the No. 3 receiver role in Cleveland's offense, Higgins played 20 snaps and finished with two catches for 34 yards. It's impossible to predict what exactly is in store for Higgins over the next four games, but it's clear he's positioned himself for more playing time.

"He deserves to play more but the opportunities haven't been there for him to do it when you're also developing Corey Coleman, Terrelle Pryor and Andrew Hawkins is the only veteran that we have in there to have some leadership and direction and some grounding as we play in those games," senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach Al Saunders said. "His extended playing time will continue as these last four weeks go on."

At Colorado State, Higgins was the No. 1 target by a long shot. As a sophomore, he racked up a whopping 96 catches for 1,750 yards on his way to earning a finalist nod for the Biletnikoff Award.

The competition in the NFL, of course, is a completely different animal, and that starts within the roster of a player's team. Higgins was the fourth of four wide receivers drafted by the Browns, and all four landed spots on the 53-man roster. Tack on the emergence of Pryor as one of the league's top receivers and the reliability of a veteran such as Hawkins, and it's understandable why snaps have been hard to come by.

Higgins has shown he's equipped to handle the highs and lows, Saunders said.

"We got two rookie starters backed up by two rookie backups and then another rookie. There's only one ball to go around and a minimal number of plays," Saunders said. "He's probably one of the most mature of all the receivers we have. He stays focused and he keeps working. He understands his time will come.

"He's always been right on task. He's a good football player and he understands the game. He was a tremendously successful college player. It was just a matter of more play opportunities, more offensive snaps, more variety of personnel groups, which we did last week.

"He's going to have a really solid NFL career because he does what all good receivers do, he catches the football. I think we're going to see a guy that everybody is going to be really delighted to have in a Cleveland Brown football uniform."

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