The Bengals could have a dominant offense this season with Joe Burrow on track for the start of the season after suffering a torn ACL in November.
He has been ripping the ball through the air in OTAs, which has sent a clear message to his teammates and the rest of the NFL that he plans on making a jump in year two.
"He looks better every single day I see him," Zac Taylor said. “There's a little more movement there. Certainly, the distance stuff is something that is not off limits for him right now. I know he's just trying to get re-acquainted with some of these receivers and get some extra throws in, and that's been good to see."
Burrow has plenty of weapons to throw to with Tyler Boyd, Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins as his starting receivers.
After just one season in the NFL, Higgins has earned the respect of his teammates. The 22-year-old had 67 receptions for 908 yards and six touchdowns last season. Much like Burrow, he's poised to take another step in 2021.
"Looking at Tee now. I'm like 'Dude, you are a monster right now. You fit the mold of what you should be, and you're going out and doing what you need to do,'" tight end C.J. Uzomah said earlier this week.
Despite putting up impressive numbers as a rookie, Higgins didn't waste any time this offseason.
Higgins didn’t have anything close to a shabby rookie season, putting nearly 1,000 receiving yards (908) next to his name to go along with 67 catches and 6 touchdowns.
“Tee had almost a thousand yards in his first year, that’s tough to do as a rookie”, Rube Oliver, owner of EliteU and Higgins’ trainer told AllBengals. “To do it with no preseason and no level of opportunity, because the learning curve from college to pro is so different. The level of success that he’s had I’m really excited for this young man."
Higgins has spent most of the offseason in Arizona working with Oliver and the rest of the training staff at EliteU. He didn't need to change much, but explosiveness has been a big focus for the second-year wide receiver.
“He can gain weight really, really fast and we didn’t want to do that because he was good at the weight he was," Oliver said. “Being able to generate more force, and be more explosive at the weight he was already comfortable at being at that was on our part, probably the most intricate part.”
Higgins has trained six days a week in Arizona preparing for year two. He worked out with other NFL players including former Clemson teammate and current Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
Higgins was determined to impress his teammates and coaches during OTAs. He put in a ton of work to not only get in better shape, but prepare his body for a 17-game season.
“The Bengals got one heck of an athlete mentally and physically," Oliver said. “This is one of those kids that thrives on pressure. If it’s 3rd-and-14, give this kid the ball."
Higgins works his tail off to improve like the best of them, but he’s also got a big personality to go along with the work ethic which can be helpful when the team’s spirits need lifting during rough patches.
“I can’t imagine what that guy is like in the locker room. He’s dancing all the time," Oliver joked. “That’s him, that’s Tee. He’s 100% at work, but then he’s going to dance a little bit—well, a lot of bit, but he’s 100% effort, 100% of the time, I can tell you that.”
Is Higgins as good of a dancer as he is an NFL wide receiver?
“He’s pretty good! He’s taught a lot of people a lot of things, he’s really good," Oliver said. “He’s better than me, but that’s not saying much. We’ve got a couple of coaches who can do back flips and I’m like, ‘man, stay in your lane.’ He can dance and he’s like, ‘I can do back flips’ and I’m like, ‘Tee, that’s the last thing I need to do is explain why Tee Higgins got hurt.'"
Most young players take a big step forward from year one to year two. The speed of the game should slow down. It also means higher expectations.
Higgins should have a complete understanding of the playbook. He knows what life is like in the NFL and has the drive to continue improving.
After months of work, it's fair to expect a more powerful Higgins. He's also improved as a route runner and don't be shocked if his end zone celebrations take a step forward this season.
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