CINCINNATI — One bad preseason game may not seem like a big deal.
But to then-rookie Ja’Marr Chase in 2021, it was his first NFL challenge.
Chase, the first-round No. 5 overall pick, didn’t have a catch, was targeted three times and had two drops in Cincinnati’s second preseason game at Washington.
“Yeah, Tee, TB (Tyler Boyd) and Troy (Walters), they always give me a little hard time with it, making me laugh,” Chase recalled. “So we throw the film on, look back sometimes we might watch the old defensive coordinator and see what they’re doing. It might be us playing. It might be that game. So just watching funny stuff like that.”
That was followed up by the drop on the wide receiver bubble screen out toward the Dolphins sideline on Joe Burrow’s first series back from his ACL injury of 2020.
It was Chase’s only target of the third preseason game. The soon-to-be star receiver had to overcome a case of the yips.
“Good players always bounce back, you know what I’m saying? And they’re always a saying, you’re going to get yours more than you get got. So it’s just about how you respond to it,” Chase said.
Outsiders love to try and get inside the minds of athletes after a bad performance. Fact of the matter is you really can’t because each player and coach handles failure differently, as Chase reminded us.
“I mean, hey, if that’s how you feel. I mean it’s all about the mind thing, you know what I’m saying? It’s how you want react to it. It is your mind. You know what I’m saying? It’s just giving yourself confidence again, that’s all.”
If you’re looking for a bounce-back this weekend, take a peek at No. 5 Tee Higgins early on. Burrow no doubt will try to get him involved after going without a catch in eight targets last week. Zac Taylor says it’s the job of the play caller, quarterback and receiver to get back on track.
“It’s all three of us making sure that happens, and we’ve got a lot of talented players and so this of course that’s always going to be the deal is trying to get them targets,” Taylor said. “But I think the beauty of how Joe operates is he finds finds the open receiver with the matchup or what the schemes given him defensively and he does a great job of not forcing balls. Certainly last week we got behind the eight ball big time and so there are some situations for calling plays and some tough looks later in the game and it can be frustrating for all of us but I think we’ve operated the right way.”
Taylor says his ears are always open to quarterbacks and receivers during games, in part because of the immense respect he has for the group he has.
“I’ve never been around a great receiver that doesn’t get frustrated with of course the game and want the ball I think that’s a that’s a signature of great receivers as they want the ball and I love that about our guys and they do a great job communicating with me the right way over the course of a game on things they see and adjustments they think they can make,” Taylor said. “Sometimes you’re you’re set on the scheme, the scheme of the structure of the initial defense and you’re not seeing all the nuances maybe of how they’re getting covered by some DBs and so I love their feedback. They do a great job with that and you take for granted sometimes just how high character they are.”
The curious part of this has always been when teams do what they’re supposed to do, there’s no mind-reading going on. Why is that? Because athletes facing adversity is always a more compelling story to tell. Chase is keenly aware of this dynamic in his own way.
“Yeah, I mean as athletes, as professional athletes, the game you lose, you got to go back, watch it, get over it, you know what I’m saying? Then go into the next week The games go by so fast and we used to go by so fast that the season’s so long that you can’t just dwell on one game,” said Chase, who led the Bengals with five catches on nine targets and 39 of the team’s measly 82 passing yards.
This is kind of thinking that makes Chase older and wiser than his years. A bad performance is just something to be shaken off. Joe Burrow takes the same tact, and did so in the midst of last Sunday’s 24-3 loss in Cleveland.
“Joe did a good job of making sure that I didn’t get myself too (caught up) in the last game, so he just made sure it’s the first game of the season, you know how it is for us,” Chase said. “It’s going to be a little tough for us, so it’s just make sure that we bounced back the right way.”
- Max effort:
Starting with Joe Burrow on Wednesday and continuing with Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd this week, everyone on offense has noted how efficient and effective the Bengals have been in practice this week. What constitutes a good practice?
“The ball staying off the ground, sharp in protection with the IDs, detailed in terms of the things we’re asking our team to do and not a lot of mental errors,” Taylor told me. “Wednesday is kind of the day where it’s more above the neck and you might see some more mental errors in the walkthroughs in the practice because it’s the first time they’ve heard the plan for the week Thursday you expect it to be tightened up. And I thought I thought Thursday we were tightened up.
“I thought this week was a really good week. Overall, you know, for the team, I thought we had three good days of practice feel really good walk off the field on Friday. We really sharp (Thursday), which is a bit of a longer day.”
The outcome is never assured but to an NFL head coach, the preparation is. And that’s what matters the most to Taylor 48 hours before a game.
“What they’re going to look like, that’s one thing about this team I have not wondered,” Taylor said. “They’ve always responded the right way. And you don’t take that for granted. You are ready for a week maybe where you’re not getting their best but that’s just kind of the type of leaders we have on this team. They don’t really allow for that.”