The Cincinnati Bengals have been waiting all year to see Joe Burrow get out on the field and into a formal practice session. They will finally get the chance to see that later this week, when the first real practices (though not yet with pads) begin in training camps around the league.
Burrow was the first-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after completing one of the great college football seasons in history as he led LSU to an undefeated season and tossed 60 touchdowns with well over 5000 passing yards. Even the manufactured pre-draft drama of trying to cast uncertainty over the first-overall pick failed to fool anybody in thinking the Bengals drafting him wasn’t inevitable.
But for as good a prospect as they viewed him, there’s always a difference between scouting somebody, and working with him in the classroom, and then in finally getting him on the field and watching him throw first-hand within drills. And it’s now nearly time for that.
Now, they have seen Burrow throwing since training camp opened, of course. All the players have been working out in some capacity, even if it hasn’t been formal practices overseen by the on-field coaching staff. What they have been able to witness so far has been promising.
Alex Erickson, one of the wide receivers that he’ll be throwing to this year, first took notice of the fact that he has a good command of the huddle. Considering that he didn’t even get to break in during rookie minicamp, immediately commanding a huddle full of veteran players is a good sign. “You think that’s a little thing on the outside, but it gives you juice breaking out of the huddle”, he said.
Another thing that impressed one of his teammates was, again, nothing that had to do with athletic ability and skill. Tight end C.J. Uzomah noted, for example, during one of the team’s early walkthroughs, that Burrow was already making calls that you would expect of a more veteran player. “Dang, this is the third day and you’re making that check right now?”, he said.
These are important if seemingly minor indications of the kind of quarterback that Burrow is going to be when he takes his first professional snap, because that will be the Bengals’ first snap of the season. From that time that they drafted him, that was always the plan, having released Andy Dalton after nine years of starting.
Cincinnati has since bolstered its depth at quarterback with the signing of Brandon Allen, and Ryan Finley is in his second year of the Bengals’ system after starting a couple of games last year—including one against the Pittsburgh Steelers—but this is all on Burrow, and, they hope, that will be the case for the next 20 years.