Higgins missed five games with a sprained MCL he suffered in the team’s opener against the Titans, but since being back, he’s been targeted just three times.
This is coming off a year where he had 39 catches for 572 yards and 4 touchdowns — all career highs — and building a strong rapport with quarterback Baker Mayfield as a security blanket of sorts.
The Browns staff has addressed Higgins’ lack of role in the offense various times this season, but offensive coordinator Todd Monken gave the strongest statement to date on what he wants to see out of the fourth-year wide receiver while speaking to the media on Thursday.
“First off, it is tough for Rashard just the way the year started and in terms of I thought had a really good preseason and camp, then had a real good start to the year and then he got hurt. I would not say it was a setback, but it certainly does not help when you are not practicing and you are not out there,” Monken said.
“Obviously, last year, they also did not have Odell. That is part of it as well. You had some other guys that were more role players. All of a sudden a player’s role changes and he is trying to find a niche, and we are, too. It is a little more complicated than that, but obviously, he is a guy that Baker has real comfort in. We do have to get him more involved. We do. You are right. Have him a bigger factor in what we do. It is only so much you can do. Like I said before, one ball, but it has been frustrating I am sure for him and for us.”
Rashard Higgins Is Not the Only Struggling Browns Receiver
The Browns haven’t to involved Higgins in a significant way this season, but the passing game in general has been anemic. Mayfield is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (12) and is last in completion percentage (58.7%).
Odell Beckham, who the team traded for in a blockbuster in the offseason, has 39 catches for 575 yards through eight games and has averaged just over 8 targets per game in his first season with the Browns. He has just one touchdown and has not been able to help the team’s red zone struggles.
While Monken didn’t go as far as Mayfield — who said the Browns should “force feed” OBJ — he admitted that the team has to do a better job at giving their playmakers a chance.
“It is not like we are purposely looking one way or we are looking away from somebody,” Monken said. “Obviously, when you have that few of targets to somebody like that then you got to take a look at it and say, ‘How do we get our playmakers the ball?’ That is at every part of the field. That is really not just there, but obviously with our struggles there, we have looked at that and we will continue to look at it as we move forward.”
Freddie Kitchens Calling Plays not an Issue for Todd Monken
There have also been some major question around the Browns’ play calling, which has been head-scratching at times. Most notably has been running back Nick Chubb being on the headline for key short-distance downs and a general lack of consistency.
Head coach Freddie Kitchens currently calls the plays, which Monken said has not been a problem.
“It is really a non-issue. Like I always say, when you an assistant coach and you take on a job that that was discussed before I came. The bottom line is I came knowing those parameters, Monken said. “In the end, like any assistant, you do exactly what the head coach asks you to do, and this is what we asked me to do on a daily, weekly basis. That is what I do. At this point, that has not even been discussed. It has been discussed more outwardly than it has been inwardly, if that even makes sense.”
Cleveland will have a chance to get on track at home this week against the Bills. The Browns are installed as an early 3-point favorite against the Bills with a low total of 40.
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by – heavy.com