Cincy has a true leader in Burrow, too bad the Bengals aren’t treating him like one

Yes, he is their number one.
Yes, he is their number one.
Image: Getty Images

Joe Burrow makes me want to run through a brick wall head first, and I’m not even a Bengals fan.

Advertisement

Nowadays when I turn on the TV, I feel like all I ever see is LeBron James rolling on the floor after getting boxed out by Chris Paul, or Zach Plesac having to sit out after taking his shirt off “too aggressively.” That’s what makes it so refreshing to see a young buck like Joe Burrow going out of his way to encourage his team even though he hasn’t fully recovered from his ACL and MCL tears from last November.

The 2020 draft’s No. 1 overall selection, Joe Burrow, participated yesterday in the Cincinnati Bengals’ first day of OTAs. As you would expect, Burrow was not forced to do anything too intense during his first on-field action since his injury — limited to making only “shorter throws.” Afterwards, Burrow offered more encouraging words, saying that he expects to be “ready to go” for Week 1 of the upcoming season, and that his knee is currently at about “85 percent.”

That all sounds good and well, but if your franchise quarterback is even a little bit hurt, shouldn’t he be avoiding any activity that could worsen his status? Well, not according to that exact franchise quarterback. Burrow decided he needed to be at the Bengals’ first day of OTAs because it was important to be there for his teammates.

I love it... like, a lot. Should Burrow put himself in danger to motivate his team? You could argue against that, but as long as the Bengals do their part to ensure the 24-year-old won’t reaggravate his injured knee (like making sure nobody comes within 10 feet of him), then everything should be fine.

Burrow’s actions had me thinking: “Wow, Cincinnati has a bona fide leader in the palm of their hands. So, why don’t they treat him like one?”

For most of Burrow’s first year wearing black and orange, the Bengals seemed to use their star quarterback as a social commodity more than anything else, using photoshoots, hype videos, and TikToks of Burrow to draw the attention of NFL fans, rather than making an investment in Burrow’s health and success. The Bengals selection of Ja’Marr Chase in this year’s draft further proves this point. Rather than doubling down on their number one overall pick, the Bengals instead opted to go for the flashy, fun wide receiver. Why? Because, “Oh man. How cool will it be to see two former teammates who tore it up in college on the same team in the NFL?”

Advertisement

That’s being dumb. Offensive lines have long proven to be more valuable assets to an NFL team. Why do you think the top-7 teams in the league when it comes to adjusted sack rate all made the playoffs in 2020? In terms of wide receivers, only two teams had three or more 800-yard receivers in 2020: the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. I doubt you’d call either of those teams Super Bowl contenders. In fact, those two teams are better known for not being able to protect their star quarterbacks. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Of the 14 playoff teams in 2020, six teams had only two receivers with 800-yard receiving seasons. Four teams had one such receiver, and three teams didn’t have any. Opting to select Chase at No. 5 rather than Penei Sewell not only tells Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd that they aren’t enough — despite having fantastic seasons in 2020 — but it also tells Joe Burrow that he isn’t enough to provide a decent aerial attack.

Advertisement

Before anybody tells me that Cincinnati’s second-round selection — Clemson OT Jackson Carman — will be just fine protecting Joe Burrow, I urge them to look at the Pro Bowl numbers for wide receivers and offensive tackles selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. of the 42 first-round offensive tackles between 2011 and 2020, 10 have been named to at least one Pro Bowl (that’s 23.8 percent). Meanwhile, of the 37 wide receivers taken in that same timespan, only seven have gone on to become Pro Bowlers (18.9 percent, the lowest rate of any positional group). It’s much easier to evaluate offensive-line talent in the first round than wide receivers, so to pass on a “can’t-bust” selection like Sewell, especially in favor of Chase, is just that much more disappointing. Burrow deserves better.