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Bengals rookie Ja'Marr Chase went from preseason 'bust' to keeping elite company with Randy Moss

·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·4-min read
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One of the most maddening things about NFL punditry, from media and fans alike, is the rush to write a player off. Too many show too little patience, especially with young players who are usually making the adjustment from being one of the two or three most talented guys on the field at all times to taking the field with the absolute best.

And it's not just the adjustment to the pro game or a new playbook that comes into play; there's a litany of off-field things a rookie finds himself navigating, usually for the first time.

Some guys move through it all seamlessly, but they should be the exception, not the expectation.

And yet, if you head to Google, you can find August headlines saying Ja'Marr Chase, the Cincinnati Bengals rookie wide receiver, was looking like a bust and someone to be avoided in fantasy drafts.

A bust, before he'd ever played a regular season game. 

It's not that Chase didn't have a rough preseason ā€” he did. He had just one catch and four drops, including on a screen pass. 

Five games in, Chase is showing the folly in rushing to write a player off.

Against the Green Bay Packers, a game that the Bengals lost in overtime after both kickers suddenly became incapable of hitting a field goal, Chase had six catches for 159 yards.

That included a phenomenal grab in the third quarter that should silence any remaining doubters of his concentration or body control after his preseason drops:

A 70-yard touchdown at the end of the first half:

And a 21-yard toe-drag catch on third down in overtime to keep Cincinnati's hope of a win alive:

For the season, Chase has 23 catches for 456 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 19.8 yards per catch.

He's just the third rookie in the last 30 years to post five touchdowns in the first five games of his NFL career, joining Randy Moss and Calvin Ridley, who each had six. And only he and Moss have recorded 400-plus yards and five touchdowns in their first five games at just 21 years old.

When you're on a short list with Randy Moss, you're doing a lot right.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after the game that the overtime sideline pass to Chase was a go route, and like pretty much all of the other go routes the Bengals called on Sunday, the rookie came down with the ball.

"Ja'Marr made a great play," Taylor said. "We called a lot of go routes today and Ja'Marr made the play, maybe on all of 'em. He's a tough receiver to cover one-on-one, and Joe [Burrow] did a good job taking the opportunities that they gave him there."

Asked if there was something the Packers did defensively that Burrow and Chase had such success with it, Chase raised his eyebrows and his hands off the armrests of the chair he was relaxing in, as if to signal that he was just fine with how things went down.

"Sā€”t, I mean, we had a bunch of opportunities to take advantage of the go ball. I think I had four downfield today," Chase said. "We had a lot of opportunities to hit gos, we just tried to mix it up on what we wanted to do ā€” stops, gos, ins, outs, we were just mixing it up."

"We're thinking that every game," he continued. "We're thinking we're doing that every game, doesn't matter who the defender is."

The overtime route, with Cincinnati only needing two yards, may have been a surprise to some, but not Chase, whose confidence was clear (though who could blame him?).

"I'm expecting go every moment. That's one of the reasons why they got me: I'm a deep threat," he said. "When they said going deep, that's something I get happy for. That's my job."

It certainly seems like Chase's preseason struggles are long behind him. Kind of like the Packers' defense on that 70-yard score.

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