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Expectations for Joe Burrow in 2021
Heading into his second season under center, quarterback Joe Burrow is the focal point of the Bengals heading into the new season. There are a number of people who believe that this is when Burrow delivers on his top overall draft selection and becomes a star, while others are wary of the injury risk following last season’s major injury.
Regardless, here are a few reasonable expectations to have for Burrow as training camp gets underway.
Burrow eclipses 4,000 yards
For much of NFL history, a quarterback reaching the 4,000 yard-mark meant you were one of the premier passers in the game. However, in today’s NFL, we see that number hit by quarterbacks more often, evident by the 12 QBs who reached the mark last season. So it shouldn’t be wild to think that Burrow can get there as early as his second year in the league.
Burrow managed to toss 404 passes in ten games last season, which comes out to an average of over 40 passes per game. That also means he was on pace to throw the ball 640 times, which would have led the entire NFL.
If the Bengals felt comfortable allowing Burrow to make a play that often in his rookie year, we should see him continue to do so in year two. And considering Cincinnati used their first-round pick this year on a wide receiver (Ja’Marr Chase), they are not exactly going to be a ground-and-pound football team.
It’s not just compiling pass attempts that should get Burrow to 4,000 yards, though. His 65 percent completion percentage is right around where Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was at last year (who led the league in attempts), while his 7.5 yards per attempt were higher than 4,000 yard-throwers Ryan and fellow rookie Justin Herbert.
Health assuming, of course, Burrow will throw the ball a lot, complete a lot of passes, and hit the 4,000 passing yard-mark for the first of hopefully many times in his young career.
Burrow doubles his TD total
For all of the pass attempts in 2020, Burrow registered just 13 passing touchdowns. For reference, that’s just one more than 49ers QB Nick Mullens had with 77 fewer attempts and three less than Jaguars signal-caller Gardner Minsher had with 76 fewer attempts.
However, with seven additional games and a strong receiving core, reaching 26 touchdowns is certainly doable. Especially since 16 quarterbacks were able to reach 26, including many that averaged a worse completion percentage and fewer attempts per game than Burrow.
The biggest thing with Burrow doubling his TD output from last season will be how he fares under pressure. In two games against the Browns and one against the Titans, two clubs with subpar pass-rushes, Burrow racked up eight of his 13 TDs. However, he struggled against teams like the Ravens, Steelers, and Washington, throwing just two touchdowns total and taking 11 sacks.
Burrow has the accuracy and arm strength needed to deliver good throws to his receivers, all of whom are good enough to get open down the field as well. But it’s just a matter of time and space the second-year QB has to deliver those throws. Expect a nice bump in touchdown passes, with a rise to 30, a huge success for the Bengals.
Burrow makes the Pro Bowl
While the Pro Bowl is an honor to some and not as important to others, a season where Burrow is voted into the NFL’s all-star game would be huge. Fortunately, with a fully-healthy season, the former top pick can earn a trip to Las Vegas next February.
The league has many good, young quarterbacks, but it’s not as if Burrow isn’t on their level. And fans know it, as his Heisman season at LSU elevated him as one of the most-hyped quarterback prospects we’ve had in the last ten years.
The reason that hype matters is because, at the end of the day, fans will decide the Pro Bowl rosters. And now, along with that hype, imagine if Burrow comes back from a gruesome injury, throws for over 4,000 yards, and more than doubles his touchdowns, leading the improved Bengals to meaningful games in December?
A really solid season from Burrow will be rewarded by the fans, earning him a spot in perhaps his first of many Pro Bowls.
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