Joe Burrow 2021 outlook: Flashes from Bengals QB’s rookie yr and what he should do to take the following step

In a approach, the harm Joe Burrow suffered throughout the tenth recreation of his rookie season within the NFL appeared inevitable. As a result of being a rookie acclimating to the velocity of the professional recreation together with a decently shoddy offensive line, Burrow took a wide range of huge hits in Yr 1. 

In these first two and a half months, Burrow completely confirmed flashes of what locked him into that No. 1 total decide spot just some months prior, however he did not set the NFL on fireplace. 

With the destiny of the Bengals firmly in Burrow’s arms, let’s discover all the pieces about his setting in Cincinnati and pinpoint what he must do to take the following step as a quarterback. 

How Burrow has improved since he was a prospect

These optimistic developments in a quarterback’s recreation are noteworthy as a result of they point out the distinct chance of future progress.

This is what I wrote about Burrow earlier than the draft, straight from my scouting pocket book: 

Good peak, average athleticism for the place. Repeatedly stands stoically within the pocket. Arm power is stable. Not an enormous arm however not a legal responsibility in any respect. Decently fast supply. Accuracy is elite. When he throws the ball on a line, it nearly at all times goes the place needs it to. When there’s some air underneath it, the accuracy is noticeably not pretty much as good however nonetheless very stable. That is anticipated although. Unafraid to work center of the sphere, and throws with good timing on sideline comebacks. OL and WRs are excellent, which helps his statistical output. Past nice pocket persistence, he can drift away from strain. Though his actions are emphatic, he retains his head up. Will get by means of his reads shortly and can pull the set off to his second or third learn in a rush. On some events, he morphs right into a runner too early.

Burrow performed very equally to how he carried out at Missouri from a mode perspective. As a result of the previous LSU star was my QB1 within the 2020 class, it could’ve been troublesome for him to make a transparent stride ahead in simply 10-plus video games in his debut season.

Supporting solid

The pass-catching group in Cincinnati is on the rise, and even in 2020, Burrow’s crew of receivers have been stable albeit principally unspectacular. 

Tee Higgins, a receiver I had a first-round grade on, completed third amongst rookies behind Justin Jefferson and Chase Claypool in yards per route run with a decent determine of 1.83. In 9 full video games with Burrow throwing him passes, that determine for the previous Clemson star was 2.00. 

And Tyler Boyd is Tyler Boyd. One of many steadiest, most efficient pure slots in soccer. Whereas he did not eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the third consecutive yr in 2020, he posted the very best catch charge of his profession (71.4%) and that is was with backup choices at quarterbacks for a lot of the second half of the season. Boyd had only one drop all yr in 15 video games. 

Lastly and most lately, elite receiver prospect Ja’Marr Chase, the person who gathered almost 1,800 yards and caught 20 landing passes from Burrow in 2019 at LSU, was picked at No. 5 total. He’s someplace on the A.J. BrownChris Godwin spectrum of good-sized, ultra-physical YAC monsters who additionally occur to dominate in contested-catch conditions. 

Burrow was pressured 32% of the time, which pushes again on the narrative he was pressured too steadily, as a result of a 32% strain charge was precisely league common. Now, ought to a staff count on its rookie, even one as proficient as Burrow, to excel when being pressured basically each third drop again? No. However Burrow wasn’t exorbitantly pressured. 

And naturally the Bengals notice how worthwhile Burrow is, in order that they bulked up the offensive line this offseason. 

Riley Reiff was signed in free company to play proper deal with. Whereas he is not the reliable exterior blocker he was in his prime, he is nonetheless serviceable. Within the second spherical, Trevor Lawrence’s blindside protector Jackson Carman was picked, and can play inside. He is a naturally highly effective people-mover with good motion expertise and steadiness for his measurement. In Spherical 4, the twitched-up masher D’Ante Smith was picked from East Carolina. He was underweight throughout his school profession however has tentacles for arms and with extra weight, the aggressive blocker could be a high-caliber, versatile participant within the trenches. 

At this level, Cincinnati’s line is creeping towards above-average standing. The receiver group is younger and dynamic with numerous expertise. 


Offensive-scheme continuity is important for a younger quarterback, excellent news for Burrow with head coach Zac Taylor nonetheless calling the performs. As a Sean McVay disciple, we all know Taylor needs to run “11 Personnel,” which is a three-receiver set as steadily as potential. And now with Chase, Higgins, and Boyd, he has a formidable wideout grouping.

Additionally, the Bengals tied for sixth in first-down go charge in neutral-score conditions final season, a really encouraging signal wanting ahead to the 2021 marketing campaign.

Bettering his weaknesses

Within the 10-plus video games during which we noticed him as a rookie, Burrow proved to be an excessive instance of exactly what I wrote in my scouting pocket book. He showcased dazzling play from 0 to 19 yards down the sphere but was principally ineffective on these deeper, 20-plus yard tosses. A few of it was skill-position expertise associated. Most of it was on Burrow’s accuracy. 

In response to Professional Soccer Focus, Burrow threw an on-target go on 21% of his deep targets in 2020. The league common was 42%. However he wasn’t timid about letting it rip deep. Burrow averaged 8.7 Supposed Air Yards as a rookie per Subsequent Gen Stats, which tied for the Eleventh-highest charge amongst qualifying sign callers. And 13% of his throws have been made 20-plus yards down area, which was proper at league common.

To maximise the explosiveness of Cincinnati’s offense, Burrow merely must get extra correct deep. With Chase within the combine, it doubtless will. In 2019, Chase and Burrow attached on 24 of 36 targets past 19 yards downfield with 14 touchdowns! And the star wideout registered 16 wins on contested-catch balls. 

Fortuitously for Burrow, even when he cannot dial-in his downfield ball placement, Chase’s YAC wizardry will assist flip quick, correct tosses into huge beneficial properties for Cincinnati’s protection.

Strengthening his strengths

As is the case with each quarterback in as we speak’s NFL, nearly all of Burrow’s tosses got here between 0 and 19 yards down the sphere — 72% to be precise. And he was two share factors larger than league common in each yardage splits. It isn’t unreasonable to imagine Burrow can play with even higher ball placement on these important throws throughout his second season. 

In that yardage vary, Burrow threw 11 touchdowns to only three picks, a great however not unbelievable ratio. 

The previous first total decide was excellent getting the soccer out of his arms in a rush, as 68% of his passes got here in 2.5 seconds or much less after the snap, which in contrast favorably to the NFL common of 58%. And his established reference to Chase ought to assist Burrow get it out faster extra steadily, thereby artificially boosting the play of the offensive line. 

Season outlook 

It is unlucky we did not get a full rookie season from Burrow, however the truth it was reduce quick would not do a lot of something to his long-term viability as an NFL starter. Throughout his debut professional season, we noticed a lot of what made him the consensus high prospect within the 2020 draft class, and sensible decision-making together with pinpoint accuracy on the as much as 20 yards down the sphere is extra steady over time than a yr with excellent deep-ball precision. 

I am unable to overstate how important I imagine a robust supporting solid is for a younger quarterback — particularly in as we speak’s NFL with offenses extra WR-dependent than ever — and whereas the Bengals did not add huge names in free company to their offensive line, they did and admirable job total making life round Burrow extra comfy. Think about the optics in the event that they handed on Chase for Penei Sewell at No. 5 total. They made the proper alternative there. Being in the identical system with the identical coach is large too. 

Altogether, Burrow mustn’t take almost as many hits as he did per recreation in 2020, and that, coupled together with his immense arm expertise, fast launch, ample scrambling capability, and the younger pass-catching trio he has in Cincinnati, I am anticipating final yr’s No. 1 total decide to take a noticeable step ahead because the Bengals change into rather more related in his second season. I am anticipating him to be broadly thought-about a high half of the league quarterback who’ll be considered, by some, as a fringe high 10 passer.


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