There’s nothing quite like having a clear consensus first-overall pick franchise quarterback…and then not being able to work with him all Spring to make sure he has a chance to be ready for the season. While all 32 teams face the same problems with the players that they just drafted—they can’t work with them in person for the indefinite future—it’s an even bigger obstacle when your most prominent player is within that group.
That is what the Cincinnati Bengals are facing this offseason amid the Covid-19 pandemic with first-overall pick Joe Burrow, who had been assumed to be the number-one pick since before LSU even won the college championship game. Really, pretty much since the Bengals clinched the number one pick.
Of course, at that time, they had no way of knowing that the country would be facing the existential threat of a microscopic virus forcing so much of us to hunker down in our homes and, if we’re fortunate enough (I’m lucky to count myself among them), work from there as well.
How does a new franchise quarterback ‘work from home’ in the sense of getting reps? That is a task the Bengals have been weighing how to tackle for several weeks already, having known all along that Burrow would be their pick, as Zac Taylor explained.
“We’re going to have to find a way to manufacture a lot of the physical reps that we could potentially be missing out on all spring”, he said. “If you’re taking a guy that you don’t trust has the work ethic, and the consistency in his daily approach to do that on his own, then you’re going to have problems”.
“We’ve seen this coming for a couple weeks now what this offseason may look like and feel very comfortable that we can handle things virtually on our end”, he added; “teach him what it should look like, show him on film what it should look like, and then have the trust factor that he’s going to find a way to be creative and manufacture in his backyard, in a field next to his house”.
This would be the perfect time for teams to break out all of that virtual training technology that’s been in the works, where players can use a virtual reality headset to simulate playing with and against other people when there are no other humans available—outside of perhaps your parents, and you don’t want your dad tackling your mom.
Add to the fact that Cincinnati is also still breaking in their left tackle, who’s never played a snap due to injury, and the reality that Burrow has never thrown to anybody on the roster before. It’s fine for him to get these virtual reps, but that doesn’t do anything for A.J. Green’s timing with him.
Every team will be negatively affected by this lack of on-field participation. Now it’s just about how much of the negative consequences they can mitigate, and that will vary by position and other circumstances.