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Next level Rams: Barrett, Higgins scratching NFL potential

A pair of former Colorado State standouts Shaquil Barrett and Rashard Higgins have each garnered national attention through two weeks of the NFL season. 

Shaquil Barrett signs autographs for Broncos fans at at Dove Valley.
Shaquil Barrett signs autographs for Broncos fans at at Dove Valley. (Collegian file photo)

After displaying flashes of success in his first two years with the Broncos, Barrett came into the season listed behind Shane Ray as the Denver Broncos’ edge pass rusher opposite of Von Miller. Ray’s wrist injury in training camp opened the door for the former Ram and Barrett certainly has taken advantage, playing a crucial role in both of the Broncos victories. 

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Pro Football Focus, a leading statistical analysis company in the NFL, ranked Barrett No. 2 in pass rush productivity from outside linebackers this season. Miller is the only player ranked higher.

In short, the statistic reveals which players generate the most pressure relative to the number of opportunities they are given to do so. As opposed to just registering sacks, the stat also takes into consideration quarterback hurries and hits. Essentially the stat explains how disruptive the player is in all pass-rushing situations.

In the team’s latest game against the Dallas Cowboys, Barrett excelled against one of the best offensive lineman in the league, Tyron Smith. The two-time All-Pro tackle could not contain Barrett, who finished the week with the second most total quarterback pressures of anyone in the entire league. Additionally, Barrett recorded seven total tackles to tie for the team lead in the game.

Barrett’s dominant showing against the Cowboys came on the heels of a Week 1 performance in which PFF labeled the linebacker “nearly unblockable” against the Los Angeles Chargers. With Ray sidelined for the foreseeable future, Barrett has an opportunity to solidify himself as the team’s starter for the remainder of the season. 

Meanwhile, wide receiver Rashard Higgins had somewhat of a coming out party for the Cleveland Browns over the weekend. The second-year pro hauled in seven receptions for 95 yards on 11 total targets against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday. 

Former CSU wide receiver Rashard Higgins, left, was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. (Abbie Parr/Collegian)
Former CSU wide receiver Rashard Higgins, left, was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. (Abbie Parr/Collegian)

Higgins was one of many former Rams to be cut from NFL rosters on Labor Day weekend. Just days after cutting the 2016 fifth-round pick, the Browns signed Higgins to their practice squad where he remained until last Saturday. Prior to their game Sunday, the team promoted Higgins to the active roster, a place he appears likely to remain following his success against the Ravens. 

To put his performance into perspective, Higgins recorded six receptions for 77 yards on 12 targets during the entire 2016 season for the Browns. He outperformed every other receiver on the Browns’ roster Sunday, leading the team in targets, catches and receiving yards, while pacing all wide receivers with 54 snaps played.

What’s more, the Browns’ No.1 receiver Corey Coleman broke his hand during the game and is estimated to miss up to eight weeks. Should Higgins continue to develop a rapport with quarterback DeShone Kizer, the former CSU standout may develop into a weekly contributor in the league.

Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.

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