The Cincinnati Bengals went into its matchup with the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday owning the least amount of yards averaged per game in the entire NFL. It is shocking to see this group, which has been to the AFC Championship Game the past two seasons, struggle to get going with Joe Burrow at the helm.
Burrow’s private quarterback coach, Jordan Palmer, has not been sweating too much compared to Bengals fans. Of course, this is not what he expected either from the man who just received the richest contract in NFL history.
However, Palmer has watched the tape of every game and has seen what he believed was an offense on the verge of breaking out of its slump.
“Cincinnati is just a ticking time bomb on offense,” Palmer told Fox News Digital two days before the Bengals took on the Cardinals.
Palmer was right.
Burrow and the Bengals finally saw the explosive plays they are known for on the gridiron in a 34-20 win to get to 2-3 on the season. Burrow finished the game with 317 passing yards with three touchdowns and one interception, while his top target, Ja’Marr Chase, had all three of the touchdown catches with 192 yards on 15 catches.
As a team, the Bengals produced 380 yards, which is much more than its 236 per game entering Sunday.
So why were the Bengals able to break out in this fashion? Palmer made a comparison to what the Chicago Bears have been able to do on the offense the past two games.
“What I think happened in that game for Justin Fields is he hit a couple of the ones – he’s just been a little off,” Palmer explained. “Whether he moved off them in his progression too quick, then ‘Oh, they came open’ when you look at them on tape. Or he just overthrew him, or just a little behind him. … Did Justin Fields get way better two weeks ago in practice? No. They’ve just been this close and they flipped it so now they have two games in a row where they’re rolling.
“I think the Bengals – I would not compare them to the Bears. This is a team that has been playing at a high level for three years in a row now. They’re just barely missing this, and barely missing that, and are super close. What that means is any one of these weeks now we could go 435 yards and four touchdowns. It’s still Ja’Marr Chase, it’s still Joe Burrow, it’s still Tee Higgins, it’s still the same guys. It is still an offensive line that’s struggling to protect, which it’s been for years, too. And it’s still a defense that creates turnovers, gets off the field on third downs, and gets big sacks.”
It was not the exact stat line Palmer predicted, but he was close. The defense also had a big day, which included three turnovers with a pick-six among them.
As for Burrow’s individual performances before his breakout game here, Palmer would not divulge what he has been seeing on tape that they have been discussing, invoking his client-coach privilege.
However, he did note that health has not been on Burrow’s side early on, and his calf strain was hurting a key part of his game.
“He’s one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL when it comes to creating time and space,” said Palmer. “I’m not saying he jukes dude, and hurdles them, and rips off 70-yard runs. Creating time and space in the pocket, at LSU and his first three years in the NFL, he’s been one of the better guys. Part of it is athleticism, part of it is mechanics, part of it is instinctual of spatial awareness and feel. Keeping two hands on the ball and solid fundamentals from day one. That’s been a major part of his game since he came on the scene his senior year.
“As he gets healthier and can do that more, we’re going to see his play continue to elevate every week.”
Burrow has created some of these big plays “buying time in the pocket,” as Palmer added. He was seen doing that on Sunday, with a prime example being Chase’s first touchdown of the game. The pocket started to collapse a bit, but Burrow dropped back, moved to his right and reset himself, virtually creating another pocket to extend the time of the play and allow his favorite target to get open.
Once Chase got free of coverage, Burrow was able to deliver a strike.
Prior to this game, Burrow has been releasing the ball very quick and not allowing his offense to develop their routes downfield – a feature of Cincinnati’s offense that makes them so lethal. Palmer mentioned the offensive line struggling in recent years, and Burrow’s injury leaving him less mobile forces the Bengals to try to get the ball out quick to avoid sacks.
“The more he’s able to move around, the more opportunities he’ll have to make big plays on the field,” Palmer said.
However, even if the Bengals did not come away with the victory on Sunday, Palmer was confident Burrow and his offense would continue to keep their heads held high, knowing the time for them to shine was coming soon.
“The one thing I can guarantee you is that nothing’s going to change about their preparation, their focus and their confidence level,” Palmer said. “Joe Burrow is not the type of guy who goes, ‘Well, we’re 2-6, next year will be better.’ They’re going to fight every single week.”