The Cincinnati Bengals used their first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on some help at wide receiver, as they selected former LSU wideout Ja'Marr Chase. He's expected to be one of the most impactful rookies this season considering his great size and established rapport with his former college teammate Joe Burrow, but he's not the only Bengals wide receiver who could be set for a huge year.
Opposite Chase is expected to be Tee Higgins, who Cincinnati selected in the second round last year. Even in a loaded receivers class, Higgins found a way to stand out in his first season. He caught 67 passes for 908 yards and six touchdowns, which placed him in the top three in each category among all rookie wideouts. Higgins apparently used his first real offseason to work on his body, and it's something that Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan has noticed.
"He came back strong. He looks great physically. He put a lot of work in the offseason between the time we ended the season to the time we came back to change his body," Callahan said about Higgins, via the Bengals official website. "He's more explosive. I went back and watched some stuff the other day and looked at his routes on air right now and he's markedly more explosive. It's not necessarily that he's gotten faster or that he's a different type of player, he's just now understanding how to bring those skills into practice every single day and the consistency that it requires to improve the speed you have to play with all the time.
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"When you're a young player you kind of find your way through. I think he's found that. Now he knows what it takes to get to the next level of his game. He put all the work in to do it. I'm very, very excited about where he is at and where he is headed. He's going to be a problem for defenses."
Callahan is not the only one who sees something different in Higgins, as Burrow has said the same. He has also noticed that Higgins has gotten faster on those deep routes.
"He looks like a different guy out there," Burrow said. "We were throwing the deep balls and the first couple I under threw him a little bit and I was like, 'Gee Tee, where did that come from?' I didn't really expect that from him. He's getting out of there this year. We have some horses on offense that I'm really excited about. Tee's going to have a big year."
The Bengals are going to be an intriguing team to watch in 2021. While they went just 4-11-1 in the first year of the new Burrow era, Cincinnati used free agency to bolster its defense and then fill in pieces on offense. With Chase and Higgins on the outside, Joe Mixon back healthy in the backfield and Burrow under center, this team is ready to prove that the franchise is on the right track.