Rashard Higgins kept his focus and remained patient after barely seeing the field for the Browns' first four games in 2020.
Higgins, in his fifth year with the team, was simply thrilled to see the Browns out to a winning start. That's why he kept bringing it on the practice field and bided his time as injuries took a toll on Cleveland's receiving corps.
That time came Week 5, when Higgins caught his first touchdown of the season in Cleveland's win over the Colts. He added three more scores, matching his career-best, and took over as an every-game starter following Odell Beckham Jr.'s season-ending injury Week 7 against the Bengals.
"I just had patience. I had patience, and I kept doing the things that got me into the NFL. I keep working hard and keep catching the ball," Higgins said. "One of my strengths is catching the ball. I might not be the fastest and I might not be the best route runner, but at the end of the day, I try to catch the ball and I try to catch everything that comes to me because I know that if I could do anything at the end of the day, just the catch the ball when it comes."
Higgins caught it 37 times during the regular season and seven more during the postseason. Nathan Zegura and Andrew Gribble picked out their favorites among the 44.
Gribble: Week 7 at Bengals - 30-yard catch on game-winning drive
Higgins said it himself. He catches the ball — no matter how much separation he has from the defensive back guarding and no matter the stakes. That's what Baker Mayfield entrusted him to do when he went long to Higgins with 40 seconds to play and the Browns trailing by a field goal against the Bengals. Mayfield briefly hesitated while Higgins ran his route and lofted up a beautiful pass to Higgins down the right sideline. Higgins turned his head around and reached his arms up just as the ball dropped into his grasp. He hung on tightly as he spun to the ground and secured the 30-yard reception. Two plays later, the Browns scored the game-winning touchdown and escaped Cincinnati with a pivotal victory.
Zegura: Week 13 at Titans – 17-yard TD catch
Higgins was one of the most efficient receivers in the NFL this season, averaging a ridiculous 12.2 yards per target, which ranked in he top five in the NFL this season. He was also one of only 25 receivers in the league to average more than 2.0 yards per route run this year, another mark of incredible efficiency. Why was Hollywood so darn effective in 2020? I think the answer can be found in a few key words: work, desire and chemistry. Chemistry is something that can not be forced, nor can it be faked, but when it is real, as the chemistry between Baker Mayfield and Higgins is, it can be magical. The chemistry between a quarterback and wide receiver was once refered to as, "ESP, man" by Dennis Hopper in a famous Nike ad. They see the field through the same eyes and know exactly where to be and when to be there, whether in a route or by delivering the football. Mayfield and Higgins have that undeniable chemistry dating back to their work together in 2018 training camp. Higgins also has incredible off-the-field chemistry with his quarterback and his teammates.
He is a beloved member of the Cleveland Browns, and my favorite play of his from 2020 pretty much sums up all of these various qualities. At first glance, Higgins' 17-yard touchdown reception against the Titans is simply a receiver dominating a defensive back with an elite release to create separation on a fade route while his quarterback drops a dime over the burnt defensive back— something they have done so many times together against air while working on their timing. That glance would be correct, but it's what came next that made the play truly special. Higgins is famous for his "walk the red carpet" touchdown celebration, and this one was the best of all time. You can see the love of his teammates as they all assume their positions as the paparazzi taking photos of the star. It is a joyous moment, and then something extraordinary happens. Mayfield sprints down the field, performs a perfect pop-up slide and spins in to the frame as the final photographer at the end of the red carpet. It is simply perfection from play, to celebration and then to the ultimate sign of love and chemistry between a quarterback and his receiver.