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Ja’Marr Chase brings flexibility to Bengals’ new-look receiving corps

Chase is making a quality first impression during OTAs.

NFL: Cincinnati Benglas OTA Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ offense must become more dynamic this upcoming season. Lucky for them, Ja’Marr Chase can provide that just by himself.

As the heir replacement to A.J. Green, the rookie Chase will have ample opportunity to elevate Cincinnati’s passing game. He’ll be listed on the depth chart as the starting X receiver, but pigeonholing him at that spot isn’t necessary.

Head coach Zac Taylor told reporters after Tuesday’s OTA session that Chase’s flexibility as a receiver will allow the other receivers to move around at different spots.

“What I really like about Ja’Marr is he has the size and the speed to play outside and the physicality. He also has the quickness and the body control to play inside as well,” Taylor said. “So it gives you a lot of flexibility to move all three of those starting receivers around, and then you work in the other guys we have behind them. That might be Ja’Marr in the slot on one play and [Tyler Boyd] outside. Where another play big bodies like Auden Tate and Tee Higgins inside on a concept to maximize their height and range. It’s a lot of fun to work with and gives us a lot of flexibility.”

In his two years with Joe Burrow at LSU, Chase ran nearly 85% of his routes from an outside position (per Pro Football Focus). The X spot—directly on the line of scrimmage—was where he did the majority of his damage, but as a sophomore in 2019, Chase got more experience working from the slot as well.

This matches what Green’s career in Cincinnati. He slowly became an effective option in the slot after playing the vast majority of his snaps on the boundary early in his career. In Taylor’s offense, Green was occasionally lined up inside, but it sounds like Chase will be used more liberally around the formation. And like Taylor said, this will impact how they can use their other receivers.

Players should be used to their strengths more times than not, but throwing different looks at defenses and maintaining effectiveness is a recipe for stable production, no matter the opposition. Chase, Boyd, and Higgins all being interchangeable opens the door to create mismatches and schematic advantages.

The end product can be the offense Taylor has dreamt of for the last two years.