The Cincinnati Bengals could have devoted their offseason to resolving their issues along the offensive line. Given the options at fifth overall, however, they decided that the long-term best course of action was to bring in a wide receiver—not just any wide receiver, but specifically Ja’Marr Chase, the guy with whom their quarterback, Joe Burrow, had so much success in 2019.
Burrow declared for the draft the following year and started 10 games for Cincinnati in 2020 after the Bengals drafted him first overall, before suffering a knee injury. Chase opted not to play, and declared for the draft this year, with the Bengals bringing him in with the fifth pick over Penei Sewell, one of the highest-rated tackle prospects in years.
They are banking on 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams and free agent Riley Reiff being able to hold down the fort at the bookend spots along the offensive line, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a potentially legendary quarterback-wide receiver paring that carries on from the college level to the pros.
And while he’s spent most of the offseason rehabbing his knee injury, Burrow has been in practice, and has even worked in 7-on-7 drills. He told reporters last month that they’ve been very successful in those exercises with no rush, saying he thinks only one ball has hit the ground, via Jay Morrison of The Athletic. And that connection with his old teammate still very much there.
It’s “right back to where it was”, he said, adding that he’s really excited about where Chase is, even after not playing for a year. “He’s a really smart player that understands what we’re trying to do in the offense. I’m not going to have to tell him what to do every single play. He knows exactly what’s expected of him. We’ve got a lot of great guys on offense. We’ve just got to execute on the field”.
Burrow, Chase, and LSU went 14-0 in 2019. Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in what was his only prominent college season. That alone was enough to convince evaluators that he was the best wide receiver in this class.
He joins Tyler Boyd and last year’s 33rd overall pick, Tee Higgins, as Burrow’s new receiving corps, along with a returning C.J. Uzomah, the seventh-year tight end who missed most of last season due to an Achilles injury.
As for himself, Burrow is, of course, still rehabbing the knee, and admitted that it’s “still got a ways to go”, but he expects to be fully ready for the start of the season, as long as they don’t experience any setbacks between now and then.