The Cincinnati Bengals invested heavily in their passing game when they drafted Joe Burrow first overall last year. they went back to the well to add a premium wide receiver for Burrow a year later, in fact, drafting his start playmaker in college, selecting Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Chase did not play a lot in his first preseason game, making only one catch. He got more expansive playing time this past week…and he did not make the most of it. He dropped three passes during the game, which accounted for all of his targets, going without a single catch, which is, of course, what no Bengals fan wants to see.
Third-year head coach Zac Taylor wouldn’t offer much beyond to say that it was a “frustrating” performance from the man they invested so heavily in—one who has not played in a football game since 2019.
“We just got to continue to work on it every single day”, he said of completing the basics of throw-and-catch ball. “It’s key that our receivers do a great job focusing, catching the ball. He’s getting better every day at a lot of the other details that maybe go unnoticed. We’ll just keep looking for improvement there”.
To his credit, Chase has practiced much better in the wake of that game, and the Bengals were putting the focus on him. Paul Dehner of The Athletic writes that Burrow targeted him heavily early in practice, coming down with a touchdown in the process, and another disputed one.
“The great thing about Ja’Marr is he’s super, super coachable”, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. “He listens to everything that (wide receivers coach) Troy (Walters) tries to get him to do offensively, where he fits”.
“The biggest jump that you make is the technique has to be on point. You don’t get to beat people just because you are better than they are in the NFL. The technique has to be good, and he’s learning to use his hands, learning how to release versus press”.
Anything that you do in a stadium is going to be amplified in comparison to all other aspects of the game, especially what you do away from the cameras on the practice field. His first real opportunity to redeem himself won’t be until the Bengals get back into a stadium.
Along with last year’s second-round pick, Tee Higgins, and veteran Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati believes it has surrounded Burrow with great talent at the wide receiver position, which will accelerate his development—provided that their offensive line can actually keep him upright as he returns from a torn ACL.