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Ja’Marr Chase May Not Be Top Option in Passing Game

The rookie will likely be eased into the role of WR1.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After an early issue with drops, Ja’Marr Chase has found his footing in recent practices. The fifth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft struggled with drops as recently as last Sunday, but has been back to his old self this week.

Still, the debates about his performance are largely irrelevant. He is in perfect position to take his time and adjust to the NFL appropriately.

We might have to go back to the addition of Randy Moss to a wide receiver corps that already featured Cris Carter and Jake Reed to find a similar situation. When Moss was drafted out of Marshall with the 21st overall pick, he was initially the WR3, which, back then, meant you weren’t considered a starter. This was because Carter, a future Hall of Famer, was coming off five straight 1,000 seasons, and Reed was coming off four.

While Tyler Boyd (average of 972 yards per season the last three years) and Tee Higgins (908 yards last year) don’t quite have the resumes of those two, they are both very capable of putting up 1,000 yards in any given season. That means that Chase can, like Moss, be looked to for the occasional big play for now; while Moss had a spectacular rookie season—69 receptions, 1,313 receiving yards, 17 touchdowns—he had seven games of six or fewer targets, which is a testament to the offensive talent of that 1998 Minnesota Vikings squad.

Bengals team reporter Marisa Contipelli discussed the plethora of options at wide receiver in Cincinnati during a recent interview:

You’re expecting a lot out of Ja’Marr Chase, but I think some of the pressure can almost be taken off of him because you have Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. Not to mention Joe Mixon, who is going to be used in the passing game pretty heavily too. So you have plenty of other options. It’s not like we’re a team where Ja’Marr Chase is the only option at wide receiver. We have a slew of talent, not to mention Auden Tate, who literally catches anything thrown at him.

And that lack of pressure is a great thing. It likely helped Moss adjust to the league so quickly. And Higgins recently sympathized with Chase, sharing that he, too, struggled with catching the ball early in camp his rookie year and had to learn to relax.

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