When superstars are paired together inorganically, like when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami or when the Los Angeles Lakers added Anthony Davis to James’ squad, we are generally able to recognize the individual talent involved. Meaning, we can say that all of James, Wade, and Davis are Hall of Fame worthy and each plays a critical role in the success of the others.
When superstars are paired together organically, however - like players being drafted to the same team or finding themselves playing for the same college - we sometimes struggle to recognize just how valuable each individual part is. Joe Burrow had a historic final year at LSU. A big part of his success was derived from thriving throwing the ball deep. The rookie then struggled on longer throws his first year in Cincinnati.
Joe Burrow was accurate on 7 of 40 deep passes (17.5%) last season.— QB Data Mine (@QBDataMine) March 7, 2021
The worst deep passer in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/0Qhf80NnKf
We could chalk up Burrow’s struggles throwing 20 or more yards downfield to the adjustment to the NFL or Cincinnati’s weak offensive line. But, in 2020, he was outstanding in the short and intermediate game, essentially the player we saw in college.
So what was the difference?
Joe Burrow’s passing grade on deep throws:— PFF (@PFF) April 21, 2021
Rookie season: 61.5 ❄️
Targeting Ja’Marr Chase in ‘19: 98.2
Burrow went from being lights out deep when playing with Chase to being statistically one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL without him.
While much attention has been given to Chase’s elite athletic profile and overall chemistry with his college QB, this area might be the biggest impact he will have on Burrow’s game. The two were nearly unstoppable deep, as Chase led the FBS in reception of 20+ yards with 24.
Those 24 long completions came on just 36 pass attempts, meaning Burrow completed 67% of his deep throws to Chase, far higher than his average last year (17.5%). And 14 of Chase’s 20 touchdown catches came on those long completions.
There’s something special about the timing and communication between these two. Combine those with Burrow’s exceptional ability to recognize coverage and Chase’s explosiveness and success in outfighting defensive backs deep, and it is quite clear that the two will be able to duplicate their success at the professional level.
You can watch our short discussion of this topic below: