The 2018 Cleveland Browns had a completely different offense in the latter half of the season than the beginning.
In eight weeks under former head coach Hue Jackson, the Browns passing attack averaged only 215 yards per game, while connecting on a modest 55 percent of throws.
After Freddie Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator following a 33-18 loss to Pittsburgh in week eight, the offense made a significant turn-around. Baker Mayfield averaged 285 yards through the air to go with a 68 percent completion percentage and 19 touchdowns in the last eight weeks of the season.
While Kitchens and Mayfield should get a lot of credit for revamping the offense, we should not ignore the impact the skill players had on the success. Two of them in particular, Rashard Higgins and Breshad Perriman, had very productive seasons for the Browns.
Higgins proved to be a valuable possession receiver as he hauled in 39 of 53 targets. He also finished the season with 572 yards receiving, which was good for fourth on the team, and was tied for second in touchdowns with four. The third-year wideout eclipsed the 60-yard mark five times in 2018, with his season high being 87 yards in week 17. Higgins’ numbers have steadily improved each of the last three seasons.
For Perriman, his numbers don’t jump off the page, but he quickly developed chemistry with Baker when he was on the field. He became the go-to deep ball threat late in the season, with catches of 66, 63, and 31 yards.
Perriman made his limited number of targets count, as he turned 16 catches into 340 yards and two touchdowns. The 2015 first round pick for Baltimore had a rough case of the drops early in his career, but a fresh start in Cleveland seemed to help him.
Both of these receivers will become free agents in March. According to Cleveland.com, John Dorsey has already had discussions with both wideouts on contract extensions, and both receivers would like to stay in Cleveland.
Higgins and Perriman are both young and talented, but that’s not the biggest selling point. The chemistry developed between these two and their franchise quarterback is something that should not go unnoticed. With Baker Mayfield under center, it is important to find players that gel well together. Higgins and Perriman both prove that they do.
It has been a long time coming since Browns players actually want to stay on the team. And while Higgins and Perriman can fall behind the shadows of players like Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb, their impact goes without question.
So, John Dorsey. Pull the trigger on these contracts. They are the type of players that the Browns will need to step up as No. 2 and No. 3 options in the passing attack.