One of the biggest surprises of the 2021 NFL season is the Cincinnati Bengals. Somehow, someway, the Bengals are 5-2 and now tied for the AFC North lead after a massive victory over Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
Led by young star quarterback Joe Burrow, Cincinnati has done a complete 360 from 2020, and the former LSU star looks refreshed after a devastating ACL injury put an end to his rookie season.
But, one massive decision by the Bengals’ front office has paid off in a massive way for Burrow and given the gunslinger exactly what he wanted in the form of a college teammate.
The Bengals hit a home run with the Ja’Marr Chase draft choice
Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, talks circulated about who the Bengals were going to select. As the day approached, it became clear that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance were going with the first three picks. Kyle Pitts to the Atlanta Falcons was essentially a lock as well.
That left the Bengals deciding between stud offensive linemen Penei Sewell and talented wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
Well, Cincinnati took Chase and got slammed for it. At the time, protecting Burrow appeared to be the priority, and rightfully so. In his rookie season, he got beat up repeatedly as the offensive line issues reared their ugly heads.
But none of that mattered, and Cincinnati nabbed Chase — reuniting the two LSU stars from the Tigers National Championship squad.
This pick was a massive success and could be one of the best QB/WR duos in the NFL for a long, long time.
A bold choice has turned out to be exactly what this Bengals team needed
Sure, Sewell is a once-in-a-generation offensive line prospect. But, Chase is also a one-of-a-kind wide receiver. The problematic part of the selection was the lack of protection for Burrow and the fact that Chase sat out the 2020 college season.
No more than seven months later, the selection of Chase is looking like the best thing possible for the Bengals. It’s early, but the chemistry is right where they left off in Baton Rouge. The Bengals young wideout has a ridiculous 754 yards and six touchdowns on 35 grabs. He is second in the NFL in receiving yards behind Los Angeles Rams sensation Cooper Kupp, and Chase is right in front of reigning leader Davante Adams.
Keep in mind, all of this after doubts swirled around him during a drop-filled preseason.
On Sunday against the Ravens, Chase exploded with eight catches for an eye-popping 201 yards and an 82-yard score as he torched the Baltimore defense.
So far, so good for the Burrow-Chase relationship, and it doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. At this rate, Chase is well on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year and could break Justin Jefferson’s 1400-yard mark from the 2020 season.
Joe Burrow is enjoying everything about this reunion
Yes, at the time Sewell seemed like the pick. To be fair, the Detroit Lions rookie fits in just fine in the NFL, albeit on a patchy offense.
But there is no denying that the selection of Chase is everything the Bengals needed. They rank 7th in points per game, 13th in yards per, and 11th in passing yards per game.
Burrow has thrown for 1956 yards with 17 touchdowns, and more than a third of those yards are thanks to his former college teammate. The offensive line still needs some work, but Chase is too good to justify passing on him.
Sewell will go on to have a stellar NFL career, but the Cincinnati offense with Burrow and Chase is the talk of the NFL, even more after a 41-17 thrashing of the Ravens on Sunday — in Baltimore, of all places.
The Bengals are legitimate contenders, and the Sewell vs. Chase arguments can be put to bed.
Stats Courtesy of Pro Football Reference