One lackluster week of training camp seems to have everyone wondering if it’s time to press the panic button on Joe Burrow.
You certainly can’t blame Bengals fans and media for being a bit nervous. There has been a lot of heartbreak that has followed high expectations in the Queen City. These are the same fans who watched the ‘savior’ collapse in a heap after Washington’s Jonathan Allen fell into his knee the wrong way. The same fans who went from following the blossoming of their bright young star to trying to figure out what the hell happened. Why are Ryan Finley and Brandon Allen are starting the rest of the season?
All offseason, fans watched Joe Burrow make incredible progress in rehab. Miraculously, doctors fully cleared him for training camp. Many of the same fans already went through most of this when Carson Palmer suffered the same fate fifteen years ago. Some were even around to watch Greg Cook’s promising start ruined by a devastating injury 51 years ago.
And then they watched the offense struggle in camp. Tyler Boyd noted that Burrow looks ‘iffy’ on his knee. Paul Dehner Jr. went viral simply reporting on the offense’s struggles. Suddenly the sky is falling in Cincinnati and people are bringing back the Chase vs. Sewell war amid accusations that the Bengals have ruined their franchise quarterback, as so many knew would happen.
Have we forgotten who Joe Burrow is? This is the same guy who has done nothing but overcome adversity his entire career. Before his career even began, he was buried on the depth chart at Ohio State. But, he transferred to LSU and convinced the world he was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. Being drafted to the Bengals was supposed to spell doom for his career. But, he performed like a Rookie of the Year candidate until his unfortunate injury late in the season.
It is also worth remembering the whole reason training camp exists is to install the offense and work out the kinks that are inevitably going to pop up. “I would say right now it’s a mental thing, getting back to playing football against top level competition,” Burrow told the Cincinnati media on Saturday. “Getting back to being able to feel the people around me as opposed to seeing people around me. I’ve always had a great feel for the pocket. It’s just going to some more reps to get that back.”
If any player has earned the benefit of the doubt on this matter, I think it’s Burrow. Working through adversity is simply what he is best at. Through all the setbacks he has experienced in his career, he has always comes out on the other side better than ever.
In fact, we saw that classic tenacity, drive, and focus pay off at Saturday’s practice. It’s only one day, but he finally found a rhythm with Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, finishing the day with nine completions on ten passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. That’s the Joe Burrow we’re used to seeing. We’re likely to see much more of it as he gets back into his groove and the rest of the offense develops chemistry with him.
In fairness, we can’t dismiss a whole week of struggles with one good showing at the end of the week. I cannot and will not condemn anyone for being concerned after witnessing the “savior” look mortal. Then again, perhaps we shouldn’t put those expectations on him in the first place. But, regardless of why, those expectations are there. In addition, the whole offense is built around the assumption that he can play at an elite level. Therefore, whether fair or not, those expectations do exist and it makes perfect sense why fans would be nervous when he looks vulnerable.
For the same reasons, we can’t forget everything we’ve ever seen from Joe Burrow to this point. He didn’t look like a future Hall of Famer in his first 11-on-11 action since going down with an injury that would ruin the careers of most quarterbacks. The concern is absolutely valid. But, he made it back for training camp by attacking his rehab with the same intensity he attacks everything. That mentality doesn’t appear to have changed. That’s all the proof I should need for why he deserves the benefit of the doubt.