Of all the things missing from the Cincinnati Bengals offense, wide receiver Tee Higgins is the most puzzling.
Getting him going is a top priority coming out of the bye, starting Sunday in San Francisco.
How Can the Bengals Get Tee Higgins More Involved?
Part of the reason for Higgins’ slow start has been the fractured rib he suffered Oct. 1, causing him to miss the second half against Tennessee and the Week 5 game at Arizona.
“I think it’s unfair to look at his body of work the last couple of weeks especially,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “He’s been way less than full speed. Appreciate him going out there. Even when he’s not full speed, it still takes attention from the defense away and allows other guys to be productive as well.”
In Weeks 1-3, when Higgins was fully healthy, he had 10 catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 28 targets.
Here is how that compares to his first three games in his first three seasons.
- 2022: 13 catches, 191 yards, one touchdown, 19 targets
- 2021: 15 catches, 150 yards, two touchdowns, 22 targets
- 2020: 12 catches, 152 yards, two touchdowns, 22 targets
Higgins said his rib is feeling better while his body overall is fresher after the bye. He knows it won’t be long before he can have a major impact on a game, as he did in Week 2 against Baltimore with eight catches for 89 yards and two scores, accounting for the bulk of his totals thus far.
Tee Higgins has no desire to test his pain tolerance with the fractured rib, but he knows he’s going to have to anyway. pic.twitter.com/14D8M5P0Pe
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) October 26, 2023
“I’m looking forward to it,” Higgins said. “I just have to go out there and be me and play my game and help my team get a win.
“Anybody that know me, I’m really patient,” he added. “I’m gonna let it come to me. So it’s just a matter of time. I’m gonna continue to go out there and do what I do best, go out there and make key blocks, key catches, and things like that.”
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No one knows better than quarterback Joe Burrow about how playing through an injury can affect a player’s production. Burrow has looked better the last couple of weeks as his calf gets back closer to 100 percent, and he said he appreciates what Higgins is fighting through, and the numbers are going to climb because he’s going to keep feeding him.
“He’s awesome. He’s been locked in,” Burrow said. “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 keep getting him the ball.”
Since Ja’Marr Chase arrived in 2021, he and Higgins have played 31 games together. There have been only seven in which both players have had at least 60 receiving yards. The Bengals’ record in those games? 6-1, with the lone loss coming against the 49ers in 2021 when Higgins had 114 and Chase 77.
The Bengals have yet to have a game where Higgins, Chase, and Boyd all play key roles.
“I would love for that to happen, but we have zero control over that,” Chase said. “I might get doubled, Tee might get doubled, TB might get doubled. At the end of the day, somebody gotta make a play. That’s the whole thing about having three of us.”
Not counting the Arizona game and the second half at Tennessee, the Bengals have had 47 drives that didn’t end in a kneel-down.
There have been two where Chase, Higgins, and Boyd each caught a pass. Both of them ended in touchdowns. The first was in the third quarter against Baltimore when the Bengals cut the deficit to 20-17, and the second was the opening drive in the Seattle game.
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 15, 2023
“When we played the Seahawks, obviously the win was big, but that first drive, man, we was moving the ball and seen that we’ve got it in us. We definitely know we’ve got it, and we’ve just got to do it.”
Through five games, Higgins has 14 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 36 targets.
The catches and yards are career-lows.
- 2022: 20 catches, 315 yards, two touchdowns, 28 targets.
- 2021: 25 catches, 256 yards, two touchdowns, 43 targets.
- 2020: 16 catches, 214 yards, two touchdowns, 30 targets.
Higgins insisted he isn’t feeling any lingering issues with not being able to get a contract extension before the season started, nor is there any issue with his numbers.
Taylor said he hasn’t seen a hint of frustration, either.
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“Tee’s had a great attitude every single day he’s been in the building, and that’s remained unchanged for the years he’s been here,” Tayor said. “That’s what you appreciate about him and our whole receiving corps because there’s a lot of talented guys in there.”
“There’s one football you get to pass around,” Taylor continued. “We’ve obviously had our struggles at times as an offense this year. And so, with that, some statistics will be down overall for everybody. But his attention to detail, his passion every single day he walks in the door has remained unchanged.”
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