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NFL Draft

Ignore Box Score, Joe Burrow Didn’t Disappoint In Debut

  • The Draft Network
  • September 14, 2020
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We knew it would be an adjustment for Joe Burrow going from perhaps the most talented college football team of all-time to a lowly Cincinnati Bengals organization. Sure, with the likes of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon all helping surround him, some promising pieces were definitely in place. However, after failing to address significant concerns across the offensive line throughout free agency and the draft, major weaknesses still existed before this Sunday’s opening week matchup.

To no surprise, those holes were exposed in major ways throughout game No. 1, specifically when it came to pass protection and play-calling.

Sacked three times and receiving double-digit pressures, Burrow ran for his life for the majority of the game, often scrambling outside of the pocket and desperately looking for running lanes early on in dropbacks. Right tackle Bobby Hart was a particular atrocity on the right side, nearly forcing Burrow into early retirement on several occasions.

Yes, the Bengals were able to recognize this weakness and adapt on a few plays, most notably a QB draw that Burrow scored a touchdown on, but Cincinnati did far from enough in this capacity. Calling bland running plays on 1st-and-10 (and 2nd-and-long) all game long, the Bengals made no effort to disguise their passing situations—most of which were 3rd-and-long attempts—that Los Angeles fed off of and used to their advantage on numerous occasions. This was compounded by the team’s timidness in the deep aerial attack, as head coach Zac Taylor seemingly refused to let Burrow sling it, giving him a basic approach that involved nine throws at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Despite these coaching restraints and pass protection hurdles, Burrow was still able to find a way to nearly lead the team to victory on his final drive, a telling sign for a player with so much stacked against him. It didn’t matter that he barely had 100 yards passing (at the time). It didn’t matter that he threw a horrible interception. Burrow stood up and delivered a masterfully poised comeback drive, putting the team in contention to win before a pass interference call and a missed field goal derailed his artful performance.

Ultimately, it wasn’t always pretty, but Burrow showed why he’s No. 1 overall material in Sunday’s scrappy fight against Los Angeles. The team around him may have let him down, but Burrow did anything but disappoint in his professional debut.

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