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Early in the preseason, after Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a calf injury in training camp, his top wideout and LSU BFF, Ja'Marr Chase, declared that he thought Burrow should sit out until Week 5 if he wasn't 100%.

"I told him that with all honesty I don't want him there," Chase said on NFL Network on Aug. 4. "Same thing with me last year. I sat out an extra game just to let my hip all the way heal up, and you don't want to cause no other problems later on in the season, and I told him as long as you're there after Week 5 and on, we're good brother."

Two weeks into the 2023 season, Chase appears to be on to something. The Bengals are 0-2, and without the ability to put as much of his lower body into this throws, Burrow can't connect on his patented deep ball. The NFL's highest-paid player on an annual basis -- Burrow signed a five-year, $275 million contract extension on Sept. 9 -- is 0-for-12 on throws of 15 or more air yards this season. He is 0-for-8 to receiver Tee Higgins, 0-for-3 to Chase and 0-for-1 to tight end Irv Smith Jr. This is unprecedented for Burrow, as he only had one game without a completion of 15 or more air yards in his first 42 career starts. Now, he has done so in consecutive games. Across the last two seasons, Burrow led the NFL with 27 passing touchdowns of 15 or more air yards.

Joe Burrow passing on throws of 15+ air yards (last 3 seasons)


Comp Pct

51% (2nd)

0% (0-12, last in NFL)


27-9* (1st)

0-1 (T-last in NFL)

Passer Rating117.1 (1st)4.9 (30th)

* Most passing touchdowns on throws of 15+ air yards from 2021-22

"Got to get some go routes in there, just get some downfield shots," Chase said Monday, via Fox 19 in Cincinnati. "That way, we can come back to anything else underneath."

The Bengals WR1 declined to directly blame Burrow's calf injury for the lack of deep-ball synergy when asked if that was the reason for the struggles.

"I don't know," Chase said. "I mean, we really haven't taken that many shots downfield. You look at the past two games, you don't really see that many shots downfield. Have to take more shots downfield. I mean, that's why we have deep-threat guys. Take a chance."

Joe Burrow
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If Cincy did decide to allow Burrow to rest up -- unlikely given its 0-2 start -- but if it did, what would its potential options look like? In terms of options on the roster, the Bengals have two possibilities: Jake Browning -- who threw his only career NFL pass incomplete in the Bengals' 24-3 Week 1 loss at the Cleveland Browns -- or practice squad quarterback Will Grier

The 28-year-old Grier, a former West Virginia standout, is eligible for both a promotion to the active roster or at least three one-week call-ups from the scout team. A 2019 third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, Grier spent all of 2021 inactive on the Dallas Cowboys roster, and he also did not play a game for the 2020 Panthers. He did spend a few games as Cooper Rush's backup in 2022 when he filled in for an injured Dak Prescott, but he didn't receive game action. He does have two career NFL starts from the end of his rookie season in Carolina. He completed 53% of his passes while throwing four picks and no touchdowns. Grier's last start came in the Cowboys' preseason finale against the Las Vegas Raiders where he played the best game of his professional career: he threw for 305 passing yards and two touchdowns on 29 of 35 passing in addition to rushing for 53 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy called it "the best preseason quarterback performance he's seen since probably 1999."

Should the Bengals look for external options, some short-term solutions could be the former second overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft Carson Wentz (unsigned), 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan (unsigned), Bengals all-time passing touchdowns leader Andy Dalton (currently on Panthers, would need to be acquired via trade), Browns 2022 fill-in quarterback Jacoby Brissett (currently on Commanders, would need to be acquired via trade) or 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton (unsigned).