During his days in Death Valley, former LSU standout receiver Ja’Marr Chase caught nearly every ball thrown his way.
The fifth-overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Chase led the NCAA in both receiving yards and tochdowns in 2019 before opting out of the season as a junior in 2020.
But as training camp and preseason got underway, reports began to circulate out of Cincinnati that the rookie receiver was struggling with drops, though his coach, Zac Taylor, was perhaps less worried than the general public.
The problem, Chase said, hasn’t been that the ball is being thrown his way or with who’s throwing it (former LSU teammate Joe Burrow), but rather with the ball itself.
“The ball is different because it is bigger,” Chase said on Bengals.com. “It doesn’t have the white stripes on the side so you can’t see the ball coming from the tip point so you actually have to look for the strings on the ball at the top, which is hard to see because whole ball is brown and you have the six strings that are white. But for the most part, just have to get used to it and find out what I am comfortable with catching.”
Beyond the ball adjustment, there was potentially another reason why Chase felt his drops have increased.
“My drops come from me not looking the ball in. By looking the ball in, I’m talking about high-pointing it and watching it and as soon as it hit you looking away,” he said. “Me running before the catch. Me doing stuff like that and dropping it. I did that a couple times.”
Regardless of the exact reason behind Chase’s early season drops, they seem to be behind him.
But even if they aren’t, or if they crop up during the season, Chase doesn’t have any illusions about his job and what he needs to do as one of the Bengals’ top targets this year.
“I don’t want to blame it on me sitting on my butt the whole year, but it probably had something to do with it, of course,” Chase said. “There’s a bigger ball adjustment, so I don’t want to make excuses but I’ve just got to be a pro and make the catch.”
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