There was a brief period of time last month in which people were actually concerned with Cincinnati Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. The fifth-overall pick dropped a few passes, and suddenly had people wondering if he wasn’t a one-year wonder.
But despite taking the 2020 season off, the rookie is looking like the guy who was catching deep balls from quarterback Joe Burrow at LSU two years ago—because he is, only he’s catching bombs from Joe Burrow in Cincinnati now. He actually became the first player in NFL history to record a 30-plus-yard touchdown reception in each of the first three games of his career.
Through three games, Chase has caught 11 passes on 16 targets for 220 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 20 yards per reception. Only wide receiver Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams has more receiving touchdowns on the season so far. Teams are not going to be able to treat him like a rookie much longer. They’re going to have to start double covering him, he thinks, as he told Pro Football Talk.
“I would probably say I’ve seen it the past two games a little bit”, he said. “I knew the Steelers threw it at me maybe a couple times today. I’m not really sure how many times I’ve seen it. I’ve had a bunch of times in college but so far in the NFL I’ve only seen it twice”.
Against the Steelers, Chase caught four of five passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns. He beat second-year cornerback James Pierre for a 34-yard touchdown late in the first half in a deflating moment for the Steelers from which they did not recover. He caught a second touchdown working against Joe Haden in the red zone.
Asked if he expected to see teams start to double team him more from this point out, Chase said, “If I keep playing like this I will”.
The rookie leads the Bengals in receiving yards and touchdowns and is second in receptions. Tyler Boyd has 14 receptions for 141 yards and one touchdown, which came against the Steelers. Second-year Tee Higgins has 10 receptions for 118 yards with two touchdowns.
So far, the Bengals have been able to control the passing game for the most part this year. Burrow has only attempted 75 passes on the season, despite playing an overtime game, but he has completed 53 of them for 640 yards, with seven touchdowns. He does have four interceptions, including one against the Steelers, and he had three the week before on their only loss of the season.