Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow is taking the expression “take one for the team” to a new level.
In fact, so far this season, Burrow has taken at least 25 for the team, and there is no sign of that letting up any time soon.
Through the first two games, Burrow has been sacked nine times and has been hit another 16 times. Throw in his quarterback sneak in the opening-day victory against Minnesota, and that all adds up to a lot of abuse. But, according to Cincinnati’s second-year signal caller, it’s just the way things are supposed to be.
“It’s football, you’re going to take hits,” Burrow said in his weekly press conference. “That’s part of the game. That’s part of being a quarterback. I’m going to keep hanging in there and taking those hits and trying to complete the ball. It is what it is.”
Burrow is just 10 months removed from a terrible ACL/MCL injury that put an end to a promising rookie season. Burrow was on pace for Bengal records for completions, attempts and yardage when he went down behind a porous offensive line.
Cincinnati supposedly went out and made improvements to that offensive line in the offseason. The Bengals picked up right tackle Riley Reiff from Minnesota and re-signed veteran guards Xavier Su’a-Filo and Quinton Spain. Left tackle Jonah Williams is healthy, while veteran center Trey Hopkins is coming off an ACL injury he suffered in the Week 17 season finale.
When Burrow was carted off during the 10th game of the season against Washington last year, he was being sacked an average of 3.2 times per game, and hit another 5.3 times per game. This season’s averages so far, 4.5 sacks and 8 hits game, are certainly not the type of improvements that anyone had envisioned.
Always the good soldier, Burrow is not one to lay the blame on any one in particular. Instead, there is plenty to go around.
“We’ve just got to be better all around,” he said. “I can be better, backs can be better, O-line can be better, receivers can be better, coaches can be better. We can all be better.”
And they will all need to be a whole lot better if Burrow is going to survive the season, and if Cincinnati hopes to make any strides in the victory column. And that improvement will need to start Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Under head coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals are 1-15-1 on the road, including last week’s disappointing loss in Chicago.
The only way Cincinnati is going to turn that statistic around is if it can find a way to keep its franchise quarterback upright. And that should serve as a rallying cry, not just for the offensive line, but for the other five offensive players, as well.
In spite of everything, though, Burrow remains willing to take one—or 13—for the team, just as he did last week against the Bears.
“I was happy with my ability to hang in there and take a hit and complete the ball still,” Burrow said. “I made some throws with guys in my face on Sunday while I was getting hit. I was happy with that part of my game.”
Unfortunately, if that part of his game keeps going at the pace it has so far, Burrow is unlikely to make it through another season. And the Bengals are unlikely to climb out of the hole they have dug for themselves over the past couple of seasons.
Something has to change. Let’s hope it starts on Sunday.