The Cleveland Browns will be without wide receiver Rashard Higgins - the club’s second-leading receiver in yards - for a few weeks as he deals with a sprained MCL.
The Browns could turn to an aging and declining Dez Bryant, who made a visit with the Browns while the Hard Knocks cameras were conveniently in town, or Rishard Matthews, who worked out for the club on Monday after being recently released by the Tennessee Titans.
But Cleveland seems confident with what they have on the current roster, as head coach Hue Jackson said on Wednesday via clevelandbrowns.com:
“We believe in them. We drafted them. We put them on this team, and they have been with us through OTAs, training camp, preseason and into the season. They know our system and what is expected. That has a lot to do with it. If you are going to put somebody on the team, it needs to be a substantial upgrade than what you have because that person is probably going to have to spend some time learning what to do and how to do it so there is a huge curve there. Why not trust in the guys that you have here and let’s really put our resources into those guys and do everything we can to be the best they can be?”
The loss of Higgins will stink, but only for a few weeks. (If his injury had required surgery the Browns would likely have brought in a wide receiver.) But his absence opens up opportunities for not only players like rookies Damion Ratley and Derrick Willies - who had a nice 39-yard catch-and-run in Sunday’s overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens - but also for tight end David Njoku and, at least in theory, running back Duke Johnson.
Njoku continues to flash his athleticism and has caught a combined 11 passes in the past two games. Johnson hasn’t had very many opportunities this year, although he did lead running backs in offensive snaps against the Ravens, but he proved his ability last season when he set a franchise record for receptions by a running back, so putting the ball in his hands is never a bad thing.
It may be hard to believe since it is the Browns, but the team may actually be in a position to absorb a short-term loss at wide receiver.
Which, if true, is just the latest sign that things are turning around for the franchise.