After selecting Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, it appeared as if the Cincinnati Bengals had found their quarterback of the future.
He was coming off of a season in which he threw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns, leading LSU to a National Championship.
LSU carried Joe Burrow off the field 🌟 pic.twitter.com/prbFfDyH8H
— ESPN (@espn) November 10, 2019
But his first season with the Bengals didn’t go as planned.
He started the first 10 games for Cincinnati, but was forced to miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL.
When healthy, Burrow completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Despite appearing in just those 10 games, Burrow was sacked 32 times, tied for ninth-highest in the NFL.
Burrow is back healthy now and while he isn’t expected to play in the preseason, he is expected to be the Bengals’ Week 1 starter.
The former LSU Tiger still oozes talent and on talent alone is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league.
However, after his time in Cincinnati got off to a rough start, it could be foreshadowing for what’s to come.
Training Camp Struggles
Reports of Burrow out of Bengals training camp have not been pretty.
According to Jay Marrison and Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic, Burrow has struggled with both interceptions and inconsistency:
“Throws that felt like layups last year are dropping harmlessly away from receivers or easily broken up by multiple defenders.”
Burrow has said the errors have been a “mental thing” as he works his way back from his ACL injury:
“It’s frustrating right now, more so just not feeling like myself,” he said. “I know I’ve put the work in to make my knee feel good, make my body ready for the season. It’s just now trusting my abilities, trusting my work, trusting everything.”
Of course, this is still just training camp and Burrow has plenty of time to return to form.
The Bengals clearly felt he had Pro Bowl potential after selecting him first overall.
But while he is coming off of a gruesome injury, these struggles shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Burrow is still a young quarterback playing in the NFL.
He needs to return to form and prove exactly why Cincinnati used the top pick on him.
But Burrow’s team didn’t do him any favors in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Sewell Vs. Chase
The Bengals had the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
They selected wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
Chase, who played with Burrow at LSU, was the consensus top available wide receiver and was a true play-maker at the college level.
In his two seasons with the Tigers, Chase caught 107 passes for 2,093 yards and 23 touchdowns.
There’s no doubting what Chase brings to the field.
He will likely be Cincinnati’s number one passing option.
Yes Chase gives Cincinnati one of the best receiving cores in the league, but he was a luxury pick rather than a pick of need for the Bengals.
This rings true especially when offensive tackle Penei Sewell went one pick later to the Detroit Lions.
Sewell was a stud during his time at Oregon, as the winner of both the Outland and Morris Trophy as well as a unanimous All-American in 2019.
He was ranked as the top offensive tackle on many draft pundit’s big boards, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper.
Sewell would’ve fit a huge need for the Bengals; he seemed like the perfect pick.
While Chase will undoubtedly make Cincinnati’s offense more explosive, he isn’t going to keep Burrow healthy and upright in the pocket.
While they passed on offensive line in the first round, Cincinnati did select Jackson Carman in the second round with pick No. 46.
It’s important to note they traded down in the second round before drafting Carman.
Carman played 40 games at the University of Clemson, starting 27 of them.
While he played offensive tackle at Clemson, he is expected to kick in at guard with the Bengals.
So far, the returns haven’t been pretty.
He barely played in the team’s Week 1 preseason game and was listed as a third-stringer on the team’s first depth chart.
Bengals off. coordinator Brian Callahan pretty candid about rookie OL Jackson Carman. Said the second-round pick needs to improve on his consistency.
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 16, 2021
Currently, fourth-round 2021 NFL Draft pick D’Ante Smith is listed above Carman.
That should be a moderate upgrade on last year’s unit.
But for Burrow to succeed, he needs a strong offensive line in front of him.
Especially now coming off of an ACL tear, the Bengals can’t afford to have their star quarterback take too many hits.
They need Carman to step up, become a focal point on the offensive line, and prove why they used a second-round pick on him.
After passing on Sewell in the first, Cincinnati cannot afford for Carman to fail.
If so, Burrow will have less and less time in the pocket as his time to succeed as the Bengals’ quarterback dwindles away as well.