He’s hard to miss, and not just because Tyler Higbee is 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds. It’s also because of how quickly he moves, how explosive he accelerates
Higbee is a rookie tight with the Los Angeles Rams who runs like a wide receiver, which he used to be. The former Western Kentucky star has strong but soft hands that seem to pull in everything thrown this way.
And more and more as the Rams work their way through training camp, quarterbacks are throwing his way. Higbee is already getting playing time with the starters, and making consistent use of the opportunity. Whether it’s starting quarterback Case Keenum or rookie star Jared Goff, the ball is coming to Higbee, and Higbee is consistently making the catches.
He’s almost demanding attention.
“He did it once he walked off the bus at the airport,” Rams Coach Jeff Fisher said Friday. “He just went out and made plays.
“The impressive thing about Tyler is that he was still coming off a rehab for his knee at (offseason workouts) and we backed him down. He got into great shape this summer. He’s doing the things we expect him to do. A big target, big frame, makes catches. A good red zone target for us.”
Higbee was taken in the fourth round. Last season at Western Kentucky, he caught 38 passes for 563 yards and eight touchdowns, despite missing most of six games because of the knee injury that required offseason surgery.
His talent had many pegging him as a second-round pick, but then he was arrested April 10 after a fight outside a bar in Bowling Green on suspicion of second-degree assault, evading police and public intoxication. His next court hearing is scheduled in September.
The Rams vetted Higbee and took the gamble. On the field, he is looking like he could have a big payoff.
“Tyler has the potential to play very, very early for us and be a big time part of our offense,” Fisher said.
After the first week of camp, Higbee looks exceedingly comfortable and not at all like some wide-eyed rookie.
“It’s football,” Higbee said. “I’m comfortable on the football field. I enjoy playing. I love the game.” The Rams had the NFL’s worst passing game last season. They first tried to address that need by taking Goff with the first pick at quarterback. They had to trade away the rest of their early selections to move up in the draft and did not get another pick until taking Higbee in the fourth round.
They later took two wide receivers and another tight end. Rookie tight ends, however, do not typically earn early playing time.
“The hardest adjustment from their standpoint is blocking,” Fisher said. “Most of them line up against the defensive end in the run game. And that’s not an easy thing to do. You don’t just come into the National Football League and dominate the line of scrimmage. It takes time, it takes strength, it takes technique.”
Higbee said Western Kentucky was more prone to the pass, but he appears a willing student of the blocking game.
“Just trying to get better every day,” he said. “Some of the things as far as technique-wise are new to me, but as far as everything else I’m just trying to listen to veteran guys and my coaches and try get better.”
Higbee caught a touchdown pass from both Keenan and Goff at the end of Friday’s practice, once going high to pull down the reception, once pulling it away from a defender.