There is sometimes a bad habit of fans and the media to give all the credit to the quarterback of a team when things are going great. We have talked at length about how great this Bengals team and Joe Burrow were last season. We have also talked about how they can be even better moving forward.
Now it is time to show off how great of a young tandem Cincinnati has at wide receiver. Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase have been recognized for their amazing ability to make tough catches.
Who consistently made the most difficult catches in 2021 according to @NextGenStats? ⬇️— NFL (@NFL) June 14, 2022
This stat tracks catch rate over expected, which is how often a receiver is able to make a catch in a situation they likely shouldn’t. How is that tracked? Things like how close the nearest defender is, the depth of the pass and speed they (or the ball) is going. In other words, who isn’t just catching quick open slants or curl routes against a single defender?
Bengals fans will know from watching the offense last season that Higgins and Chase were great in this category, so it isn’t surprising to see Higgins land at the top of this list. It is hard to count how many times he made the catch at the highest point over at least one (if not more) defenders. If he was running a seem or go route and it was single coverage, Burrow knew it was time to give Higgins a chance.
Chase’s numbers are still enough to land him among the top 10 in this category, but one thing that hurt him was being one of the receivers who have at lest 100 targets on this list. Chase was already one of the best deep receivers and one of the best at getting yards after the catch, so adding this on top of it all really shows how special Chase’s rookie season was. The amount of times he made spectacular plays either running down passes that looked over thrown or jumped up to make tough catches was astounding. It was very impressive for a player many were labeling a bust after a preseason.
Now some fans of other teams will attempt to use this as another reason to diminish what Burrow did last season. The complicated thing of stats like this is quarterbacks need their wide receivers as much as they need their quarterback. It is clear that Burrow wasn’t afraid of giving his guys opportunities in tough situations knowing how good they are. This offense was incredibly aggressive last season, and it was a combination of all three of these young players pulling their weight.