Quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase were an electric duo at LSU during the 2019 season. It was such a standout showing that it got Burrow drafted with the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and Chase was able to sit out of college ball last year and still get selected fifth overall, just the second non-quarterback taken behind tight end Kyle Pitts.
Of course they weren’t alone down south blowing things up two years ago. There’s a reason, though, that both of them were top five selections. And there’s a reason that both of them ended up reuniting as members of the Cincinnati Bengals over the course of the past two draft classes. They want to see more. And they insist there’s more to come.
“It feels good. We have to get back on schedule, work hard and make some plays,” Chase said after the draft about being paired with Burrow again. He was also asked if they could take that to another level. “Definitely. There’s always room to grow. It’s another chance for me and Joe to grow. I can learn more about the game, and Joe taught me some stuff when I was at LSU. This will be easy.”
Chase recorded 84 receptions during the 2019 season for 1,780 yards, averaging 21.2 yards per reception, with 20 touchdown catches. He put up absolutely cartoonish and unrealistic numbers, numbers which he could hardly imagine duplicating. But he said that the decision to opt out last year was much more nuanced than it may have appeared from the outside.
“It was tough. The decision looked easy from the outside,” he said. “But from the inside, everything was going crazy. It was a long process, waiting that whole time, waiting on my family and friends to make sure they were still supporting me. I just had a blessed moment to actually opt out and make it this far.”
He has lofty goals for his rookie season, as well. He wants to catch at least 10 touchdown passes — more than any Steelers rookie has ever done — and at least 1,500 yards. Is that unrealistic, though, as he goes back to work with Burrow?
Frankly, Chase has more experience working with Burrow, albeit not in the same offense, than any other wide receiver on the Bengals’ roster does. After all, injury cut short his rookie season last year. Guys like Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd had only partial-season experience.
Of course, taking a year off could be a struggle to come back from in and of itself. Going for 1,500 yards for a rookie — or for any player — is a lofty goal, but you might as well aim high, I suppose. Even if you miss, you’ll be motivated to get there all the same. That should take you as high as you can realistically go.