NFL rookies this season are facing a challenge like never before. Not only were they deprived of a proper offseason, with no Spring practices, they won’t even have the benefit of the warm-up exhibition games known as the preseason. Basically, all the work that rookies will have before they take the field is a few weeks of smacking each other around with their own teammates.
It’s an unenviable situation for the likes of Joe Burrow, the first-overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the quarterback out of LSU whom the Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to be the face of their franchise for the next couple of decades or so.
Cincinnati had posted four consecutive losing seasons, including the dismal 2-14 record that earned them the right to draft first overall back in April. The vast majority of that time came with Andy Dalton under center, who started almost every game between 2011 when he was drafted in the second round and 2019, outside of injuries, and a brief three-game stretch last season during which he was benched. But now he’s the backup for the Cowboys, so he won’t be challenging Burrow.
To hear Bengals head coach Zac Taylor tell it, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because the rookie is well on track to be their starter once the regular season begins, even if he hasn’t taken a proper hit—or at least I assume he hasn’t—at the NFL level.
“He’s got full grasp of our offense”, he reportedly said. “You want your quarterback to be the hardest worker on the team and an extension of the coaching staff. He fits both those descriptions for us right now. He really breathes life into this offense, into this team”.
“He’s very confident; he’s not arrogant”, he added. “I think the team believes in this guy right now, but again he’s earned that in the way that he’s gone about his work, the way he operates in the meetings, the way he communicates with his teammates on both sides of the ball. He’s filling into that leadership role as well as any young player can do right now”.
It’s nice to operate well in a meeting, but then again, a lot of backup quarterbacks are able to do that as well. Now, perhaps Burrow’s raw talent isn’t in doubt, but nothing is ever guaranteed at this level until a guy actually goes out there and proves it. It’s not like there’s a shortage of first-round bust quarterbacks.