Last week, I was surprised to see that most analysts were picking the Texans to defeat the Browns. Everybody seemed to think that Deshaun Watson and his fleet of high-flying receivers would eviscerate the porous Browns defense, despite the fact that it was another too-windy-to-pass day in Cleveland. But when the dust settled, the Browns emerged triumphant.
And you might be surprised to learn that the top receiver in the game wasn’t Houston’s Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, or Randall Cobb. It wasn’t even Browns’ Pro-Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry. It was none other than Rashard Higgins with his 3 catches for 48 yards.
During the Browns’ 64-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, Higgins accounted for 35 of those yards. First, with a 21-yard catch, and then by drawing a 14-yard pass-interference call. These were big plays in such a low-scoring game.
Again, it was no-passing weather, but I’m discussing the passing game because I think it is important that Higgins played in a game with several superb receivers, and came out with the best stats. Now that he is finally getting some snaps, everybody is remembering just how good of a player he is.
But there is still a notion going around that without Odell Beckham, Jr., the Browns need a speedster deep-threat to keep DBs from coming in to help stop the Browns’ ground game. I guess adherents of this notion don’t think a Pro-Bowl receiver like Jarvis Landry is sufficient, and want to acquire a faster receiver. But the Browns don’t lack speedsters. Both Taywan Taylor and KhaDarel Hodge are faster than OBJ.
Furthermore, after the Houston game, Joe Thomas suggested that “Higgy” could be the deep-threat that the Browns need to stretch defenses vertically. Higgy isn’t an elite speedster, but defenses should definitely fear him. They may not have picked-up on it yet, but the Baker-Higgins duo is lightening in a bottle.
Joe Thomas went on to downplay the need for a speedster by pointing out that the Browns’ awesome ground-game is like a magnet sucking in the DBs. In other words, it’s not the lack of a passing threat that is bringing safeties into the box, but rather the necessity of having more bodies to catch Chubb, or add to the pile that Kareem drags around with him wherever he goes.
I think it’s safe to say that Joe Thomas is a bonafide football expert, and if he thinks Higgy can be the downfield threat, then there is a good chance that Higgy can do exactly that.
The fastest player on the Browns isn’t a wide-out, or even an offensive player. It’s cornerback Denzel Ward. See the list below. Higgins is not fast, but he’s not slow either. He’s neck-and-neck with Kareem Hunt and David Njoku, so he is in good company.
Just for fun, I included a couple of linemen in the list. Turns out, Myles Garret is faster than several Browns pass-catchers, faster than Kareem Hunt, and nipping at Nick Chubb’s heels. Amazing.
If you are not able to run in a straight line, don’t be surprised if Sheldon Richardson in-pursuit catches you from behind.
Baker Mayfield is as fast as his fullback, Andy Janovich.
40-yard-dash times for some Cleveland Browns players:
4.32 – Denzel Ward (CB)
4.33 – Taywan Taylor (WR)
4.39 – KhaDarel Hodge (WR)
4.43 – Odell Beckham, Jr (WR)
4.48 – Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR)
4.51 – Jarvis Landry (WR)
4.53 – Nick Chubb (RB)
4.57 – Myles Garrett (DE)
4.62 – Kareem Hunt (RB)
4.64 – Rashard Higgins (WR)
4.64 – David Njoku (TE)
4.71 – Stephen Carlson (TE)
4.72 – Austin Hooper (TE)
4.73 – Harrison Bryant (TE)
4.81 – Andy Janovich (FB)
4.81 – Baker Mayfield (QB)
4.86 – Sheldon Richardson (DT)
Note: on his first day back, Nick Chubb immediately resumed injecting Browns fans with heroin via his dazzling running abilities. Did you know that even after missing 4 games, Chubb is still the NFL leader in runs of 20 yards or longer with 7 such outbursts? Kyler Murray is in second place with 6. If he weren’t injured, Chubb would probably have double Murray’s total.
Note: Joe Thomas made his remarks on the “Cleveland Browns Daily” podcast on November 16, 2020. Skip forward 37 minutes.
Note: It doesn’t look like there is any organized program to speed-test players after the combine. I’m sure that players are clocked during training camp, but those numbers don’t seem to get published. And sprinting is like anything else, if you practice, you get better, and players certainly do train for the combine. So, while the times listed above may have been accurate at one point in time, they may not be quite so accurate now.