Ja’Marr Chase probably didn’t envision the months leading up to his first NFL game going the way it has. The Cincinnati Bengals first-rounder has struggled mightily in training camp and the preseason.
The LSU product dropped a series of passes, reeling in just one reception in three preseason games. As the Bengals prepare for the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1, Chase speaks out about his issue and what it will take to fix it.
Ja’Marr Chase has not played in a game since the 2019 season
The last time we saw Ja’Marr Chase in an organized football game was on Jan. 13, 2020. The top-ranked LSU Tigers dismantled the Clemson Tigers in the college football National Championship game.
Chase exploded, notching nine receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He was phenomenal, just as he was for the entire 2019 season. The Harvey, Louisiana native recorded 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore. He led the nation in receiving touchdowns.
Chase earned consensus All-American honors and took home the Fred Biletnikoff Award, given to college’s football’s top wide receiver. The Tigers’ star wideout decided to opt-out of the 2020 college football season and prepare for the draft.
He was the consensus No. 1 receiver in the country after his sophomore season, but missing his junior season narrowed the gap between Chase and players like Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Cincinnati took him No. 5 overall, so his draft stock was ultimately not hindered much.
However, one year away from live game action has proven to be more of an issue than was initially suspected.
The Bengals receiver is trying to shake off the rust
Although it was just the preseason, it’s difficult to ignore Ja’Marr Chase’s struggles catching the ball. As a player who’s been a star since high school, the spotlight has only grown brighter for the 21-year-old.
Heading into Week 1, many questions surround the first-rounder and how he will fare in the regular season. Some of the concerns are warranted, despite the small sample size. The lack of meaningful reps due the opt-out appears to have played a factor in his preparation for the NFL.
Chase spoke to the media to address the issues. “I don’t want to blame it on me sitting on my butt the whole year, but it probably has something to do with it, of course,” he told The Athletic.
The first-year receiver went into detail about the preseason drops and how he could fix the problem. “Lack of focus,” Chase said. “I have to look the ball all the way in. Lack of concentration. Just watching the ball into my hands, there was a lack of, and it showed.”
The former LSU star’s willingness to acknowledge the issue is the first step. High draft capital was used to select Chase, and Bengals fans don’t want to hear excuses. He appears to have given his brutally honest review of his performance.
“I don’t want to make any excuses, he said.” “I’ve just got to be a pro and make the catch.” Chase will have plenty of opportunities to redeem himself in an offense that will air the ball out quite a bit.
Chase should have a featured role in the Bengals offense
There’s plenty of intrigue surrounding the Bengals offense heading into 2021. It marks the return of quarterback Joe Burrow, whose rookie season was cut short by a torn ACL and MCL. Head coach Zac Taylor has to be hoping for clearer skies for Burrow’s sophomore campaign. The front made a few changes on the offensive line, bringing in Quinton Spain and Riley Reiff.
If the front line can do a better job of protecting the former No. 1 overall pick, the Bengals offense has some serious potential brewing. Joe Mixon is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, but injuries and lackluster offensive line play have severely limited his production.
The receiving corps looks really good on paper. Tyler Boyd has been a model of consistency over the past three seasons. He recorded 1,000-yard efforts in two of three seasons and has scored 16 touchdowns from 2018 to 2020.
Tee Higgins is entering his second season in Cincinnati. The Clemson product flashed his skills as a rookie, catching 67 passes for 908 yards and six touchdowns. He projects as a deep ball and red-zone threat for this Bengals offense.
Adding Ja’Marr Chase to the mix makes this offense even more dangerous. At LSU, he garnered praise for his smooth and fluid route-running abilities. He possesses excellent burst, which allows him to get separation from defenders. He also exhibited great concentration, which he’s obviously lacked through training camp and the preseason.
Assessing the talent alone, it’s safe to assume Ja’Marr Chase will be fine. The drops are concerning, but he should thrive playing with his college quarterback again.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference