Ja’Marr Chase continues to astound us every single week.
The rookie wide receiver just went out and torched a Kansas City Chiefs secondary that hadn’t allowed a 300 yard passer for three months to the tune of 266 yards and three touchdowns. It was the most yards by a receiver all year. And Chase already had the third and fifth biggest receiving games.
You can also go beyond the simple stats of the Chiefs game and look to his huge presence converting four third downs, including the second longest third down conversion of the year, which came at the most critical point in the game. John Sheeran shared some of the impressive analytics numbers in a recent article.
So how does Chase’s year compare with the rookie year of former Minnesota Vikings wideout Randy Moss? Perhaps now is a good time to compare, as the Bengals have now played sixteen games, the length of a season before this year.
Moss, 1998-99: 69 receptions on 124 targets, 10.6 yards per target, 55.6% catch rate, 1,313 yards, 19.0 yards per reception, 17 touchdowns
Chase, 2021-22: 79 receptions on 124 targets, 11.5 yards per target, 63.7% catch rate, 1,429 yards, 18.1 yards per reception, 13 touchdowns
Of course, it is a bit difficult to compare the two. Moss began his career as a non-starter, as he was flanked by future Hall of Famer Cris Carter and another established receiver in Jake Reed. Thus, Moss only started 11 games. Also, there is the explosion of offense that has taken place since the Vikings’ record setting year.
But Carter himself has a pretty interesting argument about why what Chase is doing is more impressive. On Good Morning Football, Carter said the following:
“We had three Pro Bowl offensive linemen. We had a Pro Bowl running back in Robert Smith. We had myself opposite of Randy Moss. Some days, Moss didn’t have to do that. And it’s not saying that... nothing wrong with that. But what Chase is doing in Cincinnati, I’ve never seen it before.”
Cris Carter just said Ja’Marr Chase is the greatest rookie wide receiver in the history of the sport: pic.twitter.com/Ze34eR0Anp— Jeff Wagner (@bengalbannerboy) January 5, 2022
So how accurate is his statement? Well, the Bengals do have Tee Higgins, who went off for 194 yards just a week before Chase’s 266 against the Chiefs. And Joe Mixon is a Pro Bowl running back this year. They also have Tyler Boyd, one of the best slot receivers in the game. But most importantly, Joe Burrow is far more impactful of a quarterback than Randall Cunningham was, even in that MVP-caliber 1998 season.
Where Carter’s argument really makes sense is in comparing the offensive lines. The Vikings were powered by a strong group upfront, one of the very best in the league. The Bengals, meanwhile, have worked around their limitations on the line. Burrow has taken 51 sacks, the most in the NFL. Just imagine the damage he and Chase could do with more time to throw.
The other factor to consider is how Moss and Chase took their offenses to different levels. So let’s compare their teams before and after their arrival.
The Vikings in 1997-98: 354 points scored, 5,354 total yards, 3,313 yards passing, 26 receiving touchdowns, 5.8 net yards per pass attempt, fifth in offensive DVOA (8.5%).
The Vikings in 1998-98: 556 points scored, 6,264 total yards, 4,328 passing yards, 41 receiving touchdowns, 7.8 net yards per pass attempt, second in offensive DVOA (26.4%).
The Bengals in 2020-21: 311 points, 5,116 total yards, 3,448 pass yards, 19 receiving touchdowns, 5.5 net yards per pass attempt, 30th in offensive DVOA (-23.7%).
The Bengals in 2021-22: 444 points, 5,963 total yards, 4,300 passing yards, 35 receiving touchdowns, 7.5 net yards per pass attempt, 18th in offensive DVOA (2.0%).
The biggest takeaways are that the Bengals did not take quite the jump that the Vikings did in terms of traditional stats. However, they took a much, much bigger step in DVOA, or, Football Outsiders’ stat that measures defensive-adjusted value over average, which looks at each situation and compares it to the league baseline.
The fact that we are even debating Chase’s season with what was previously unanimously considered the greatest season by a wide receiver ever says a lot. Among the things it says are the fact that Chase is clearly the best rookie in the league, something that Carter agreed with in the video above.
Now Chase gets to add to his total in the Bengals’ regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns. We preview that game below:
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