The Bengals, like last year, left Washington once again without a win. And yet again, the final score of the game was the last thing fans are concerned about. Throughout his first mini-camp and training camp, Ja’Marr Chase struggled with dropping passes that have been easily catchable.
In his NFL debut, Chase was given one target which he caught for a 16 yard first down. In this case, it was a designed screen pass to the 5th overall pick. Against Washington, though, he had three REAL targets. All of which were on 3rd down and two of the targets were easily gaining the Bengals a first down. The first target? A 7 yard slant on 3rd & 16 where Chase just tried to make a play with the ball without actually having the ball. There was almost no chance of a first down. Not great by Chase, but acceptable. The next drop came on a 3rd & 8 play over the middle where Ja’Marr clearly heard footsteps from Washington’s Landon Collins, who could’ve made a big hit on the play. This was the worst and most eye-opening drop of the night for me. His final drop of the night came on 3rd & 5 inside the red zone. On a quick in-route, Chase gets slightly tugged on his left shoulder and never truly gets his balance back before the pass bounces right off of his hands leading to another 4th down.
Social media was all over Ja’Marr Chase immediately. In just a few minutes I saw everything from how Chase is “John Ross 2.0” to “Cincinnati should’ve taken Sewell.”
Are any of these people aware of the slow start Penei Sewell is off to? Doubtful. By the way, my opinion of Sewell has been and still is very high. But both Sewell and Chase were away from the real live game of football for over a year. Plus, Ja’Marr’s hands have never been a problem of his. In fact, they’ve been one of his coveted strengths.
One logical theory actually arose about Chase from Bengals fans on Twitter – he’s not yet used to getting hit again. In his one target so far that was not dropped, a defender was nowhere near him. But in each of his three drops, he had a defender just a second away from hitting him had he caught the ball. To me, that’s a clear sign of rust. By no means am I saying this issue should be downplayed. The person downplaying it the least? The suspect himself – Ja’Marr Chase! He’s consistently staying after practice using a Jugs machine, he brought up and confronted the issue when talking to the media and the drops clearly got to him on Friday night as he slowly walked to the bench to sit by himself. This isn’t a “John Ross” issue where Chase seems uncoachable and lacks effort.
Ja’Marr Chase will be the first one to accept that he has things to work on. He’s got a supporting cast of guys like Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and C.J. Uzomah among many others. Not to mention that guy who wears #9. Only reps and time will resolve the early struggles of Ja’Marr Chase’s young career.