Are the Cincinnati Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow doomed to a life of 6-yard gains for the rest of eternity? One could certainly start to fall for that assumption after just one year of the Burrow era, as the Bengals failed miserably when it came to creating explosive passing plays in 2020.
But not so fast, my friend.
This offense’s inability to complete those desperately needed deep passes is probably a one-year anomaly. And with Burrow already showing his worth everywhere else on the field, the Bengals will enter the 2021 campaign as a sneaky good pick to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Before we dive into the deep-ball issues that plagued the 2020 version of the Bengals, it’s important to look at everything else Joe Burrow does. From the first game of his NFL career, the former LSU quarterback showed off his elite footwork and accuracy that not only gives him an edge over most quarterbacks his age but a step up over those who have more experience at the NFL level.
On passes thrown under 20 yards downfield, Burrow ranked highly among last year's quarterbacks in most of the most stable metrics from year to year.
|Passing grade from a clean pocket||5th|
|Passing grade on straight dropbacks||4th|
|Passing grade on first/second down||5th|
|Passing grade with no play action||7th|
|Passing grade on passes thrown at/beyond the first-down marker||17th|
|Percentage of negatively graded throws||2nd|
Here are his ranks for those same metrics among all rookie quarterbacks since 2006:
|Passing grade from a clean pocket||1st|
|Passing grade on straight dropbacks||3rd|
|Passing grade on first/second down||1st|
|Passing grade with no play action||2nd|
|Passing grade on passes thrown at/beyond the first-down marker||4th|
|Percentage of negatively graded throws||1st|
Those are incredible numbers that mostly come down to the fact that he doesn’t make a ton of “read” mistakes; he’s always finding the open player, and he’s throwing the ball accurately all the time, no matter what kind of route he sets his sights on.
Burrow's throws to the sideline are stunning. I think he missed on his first throw of the season against the Chargers and then was basically perfect the rest of the way. In fact, he was our highest graded thrower (90.2) in the regular season on out breaking routes
Full play: pic.twitter.com/R0cmH5zZpC
— seth galina (@pff_seth) April 7, 2021
A big reason why he’s so good throwing outside is that he always throws on time and always aligns his back foot to the target so he’s never off-balance. It’s easier to align your feet on in-breaking routes because the back foot doesn’t have to rotate as much.