Cincinnati Bengals fans spent the offseason debating whether the team should select Ja’Marr Chase or Penei Sewell with their 1st Round pick.
Five weeks into the season, that debate can be put to rest.
Yes, the Bengals still have a lot of work to do on their offensive line, but Chase is special. In fact, this weekend’s game, which was viewed by many as a matchup between a Hall of Famer and a rising star at the quarterback position, ended up being a battle between their top receivers.
Chase’s six receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown was impressive, but was overshadowed by his counterpart Davante Adams who had 206 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions.
Adams’ talent is well known, so let’s take a look at how the young up-and-coming receiver performed in this weekend’s game.
The Bengals needed to add speed at the wide receiver position and Chase brought that, but it’s not just about running vertical routes (don’t worry, we’ll get to that), it’s also about turning short passes into bigger gains.
Here, Chase runs a short hitch route, releasing to the inside. Joe Burrow puts the ball to his outside, which gives Chase the opportunity to turn away from the defender and turn the short pass into a big gain.
He did not have enough room to turn this slant into a big gain, but his speed helped him get in front of the safety, who was breaking from the deep zone. This allowed him to gain four more yards and nearly pick up the first down.
It’s the safeties job to fill on the slant. Chase’s speed made the safety’s angle wrong. That’s how you judge speed. When the defense takes the right angles, but still can’t make the play, you are looking at true speed.
No we get to the deep ball, but like many things in football, it is much more complex than that.
Outside vertical routes, or fade routes, adjust to the defense. It’s important that the quarterback and the receiver be on the same page. Chase’s experience with Burrow is a big reason why he has had so much success so early in his career. They see defenses the same way.
Here, the defender is playing on top of Chase, so Burrow puts the ball behind him. Chase turns inside right on cue and makes an excellent catch.
This is a very similar play, but notice the subtle difference. The cornerback is playing over the top, but unlike the previous play, he is still inside of Chase. Chase still turns to the inside, but this time Burrow puts the ball high and to the outside, where Chase makes an incredible catch in bounds.
On this play, Chase torches the cornerback off the line of scrimmage. This is it! This is the opportunity they have been waiting for, where Burrow can hit Chase in stride for a long touchdown! Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.
Burrow can’t step into his throw because of the blitz, and as a result he doesn’t have much power on the throw. Chase has to slow down to try to make the catch, which allows the cornerback to catch up and make a play on the ball.
70 yard TD, but Chase ran well over 100 pic.twitter.com/n7hWEm8PWk— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) October 12, 2021
Of course a fade route, or any other route for that matter can also turn into the scramble drill.
In this clip, Chase runs the deep route, and it looks like Burrow is looking to hit him on another back shoulder throw. However, a Packers’ pass rush shows up in front of Burrow, which gives Burrow pause. Burrow works back to his right, and Chase takes off all the way across the field. The cornerback pursues him and makes a valiant but doomed effort to undercut the throw. Burrow and Chase connect for a 70-yard score.
This is the type of Burrow magic we expected when they drafted him.
Chase was an amazing pick, because he is exactly what they needed to unlock Burrow’s full potential. He is a front-runner for Rookie of the Year and could be a special player in this league for years to come. He was the perfect pick for this team.