Cincinnati went with the latter and it’s been a slam dunk through seven games this season. The 5th overall pick became receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who lit up the Baltimore defense on Sunday in the Bengals’ 41-17 victory. Chase finished with eight receptions for 201 yards, highlighted by the hitch route that he took 82 yards to the house in the third quarter. The 201 yards are the most by a rookie receiver in a single game since the Buccaneers’ Mike Evans went for 209 in 2014.
Chase now has 754 yards on the season, the most from a rookie receiver through seven games. The 21-year-old wideout is on pace to shatter a multitude of rookie records, putting him on pace to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Outside of his personal achievements, Chase has totally changed the dynamic of the Bengals offense, putting the rebuild ahead of schedule. Once bottom dwellers in the NFL, Cincinnati (5-2) is now in first place in the AFC North and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
A combined score of 65-27 in wins over the Ravens and Steelers on the road has been unexpected based on prior matchups. The Bengals dropped both games on the road last season to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, by a combined score of 63-13. But those were the old Bengals, not the new ones that are knocking on the door of the NFL’s elite.
It feels like eons ago when Chase couldn’t catch a pass in the preseason, prompting many to question what his NFL future would look like. Chase has put those concerns to rest and might be a top-five receiver in the league already. He’s been that special. And he’s made everyone forget that the Bengals passed up on Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell in the draft, a move that was criticized league wide.