CLEVELAND -- “Young” is probably the best way to describe the Cleveland Browns’ receiving corps as they go in search of their first victory of the regular season in their game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday.
Of the Browns’ six wide receivers currently on the 53-man roster, four are rookies. And outside of veteran Andrew Hawkins, the other five receivers, Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton, Ricardo Louis and quarterback-turned-pass-catcher Terrelle Pryor, have combined for just 15 receptions in the NFL.
“We are just learning from the vet,” Higgins said. “Hawk always has good insight to what we could do better, how we should do things. Not only him but Coach (Al) Saunders, as well. We are young. We have a lot of growing to do, and that is what we look forward to.”
Payton added, “I can’t speak from their perspective, but from mine, it is just we are hungry. We are a group who came in, and we know what we wanted. We all came from programs that we had great success. It seems to me that right now, we are all on the same page. With that, that is a good starting point. You are all on the same page, you are hungry, and then, you mix talent and hard work together. I don’t think the age is going to matter at that point. I think it is just about making plays.”
Although the Browns’ receiving corps does not have much NFL experience, they bring a wealth of production from the collegiate level.
The Browns selected Higgins, a former Colorado State standout, with 172nd in the 2016 NFL Draft.
In three years with Colorado State, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Higgins turned 239 receptions into 3,649 yards and 31 touchdowns for the Rams. As a sophomore, Higgins had a career-best 96 catches, which he turned into 1,750 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Last season, Higgins caught 75 passes for 1,062 yards and eight touchdowns.
“It is a dream come true,” Higgins said. “I know I have been working all my life for this. Just being young, you never knew you had to make a 53-man roster. You just knew going to the NFL was a dream. It is a blessing to be on this 53.”
In four years with the UCLA Bruins, the 6-foot-1, 212-pound Payton improved his statistics every season, and finished his career with 201 receptions for 2,702 yards and 14 touchdowns. Despite those successes, Payton watched 153 players selected ahead of him.
In 2014, Payton caught 67 passes for 954 yards and a career-best seven touchdowns. Then, during his senior season last fall, Payton turned 78 receptions into 1,106 yards and five touchdowns.
In addition to setting career bests for catches and yards in 2015, Payton equaled his most productive average of 14.2 yards per reception.
“That is what work is for, hard work,” Payton said. “I dedicate myself to just keep working. I stay in the moment. I stay here right now. I try not to think about the future. You obviously plan for the future, but you work for today. Every day, I come out here and work. I get better every day. Doing that, you expect to play well.”
Despite questions of his catching ability and talk of a possible conversion to defensive back in the NFL, in his four years with the Auburn Tigers, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Louis caught 98 passes for 1,338 yards and eight touchdowns.
“I put my best foot forward every chance I get,” Louis said. “I work hard. I showed them flashes of making plays going against some of the best and being able to compete at a high level. I’m ready to roll.”