Do you remember in the off-season when Ja’Marr Chase couldn’t catch a cold? The social media overreactions were out in full force, questioning whether the Bengals had made the right decision in drafting the former LSU standout 5th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Admittedly Chase didn’t help himself when he commented that he was struggling before the NFL ball was bigger and he didn’t have the white lines on the side to help him track the ball. Some took that as an excuse and a bad sign.
Fast forward to this week's matchup and all of that discussion has been put to bed. He’s arguably the second-best receiver in football at the moment, trailing only Cooper Kupp in terms of receiving yards and tied for the 3rd most receiving touchdowns in the league.
He’s on pace to break the single-season record for most receiving yards by a rookie wide receiver, a record that is currently held by Bill Groman of the Houston Oilers who had 1,473 yards through the 1960 season (14 games). If you want to look at the record for a 16 game season, that’s help by Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings who put up 1,400 yards last season.
So, what makes Ja’Marr Chase so good and how will the Jets try and defend the red-hot rookie?
If I were to say that Chase has 687 yards against single coverage, which is 306 yards more than any other wide receiver, the obvious answer would be to double cover him. Make Joe Burrow beat you with Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and C. J. Uzomah, the Bill Belichick model.
I think that’s absolutely what the Jets will need to do to have any hope of stopping Chase, while I have every bit of faith in the ability and quality of Bryce Hall, leaving him to deal with Chase one-on-one is a recipe for disaster as the statistics above show.
The issue with Chase is that he can beat you in so many different ways, and bracketing him isn’t guaranteed to work, so a true double may be enforced.
On pure go-routes this season, Chase is tied for the league lead with 5 catches. He has 9 catches of 20 yards or more with four touchdowns for good measure. In fact, he has 8 catches of 30 or more yards so far this season, that’s more than 17 NFL teams have with their entire receiving corps (Jets are one of them)
He can hurt you in the intermediate routes catching over 70% of his targets between 10-19 yards. Or, he can hurt you on the short stuff, having 13 receptions on throws between 0-9 yards with 142 yards after the catch on those specific routes.
Brian Callahan (son of our former assistant head coach Bill Callahan) who is the offensive coordinator over in Cincinnati (along with Zac Taylor) employs a variation of the west-coast offense and borrows from the 2019 LSU playbook to get the best out of former Tigers Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, and there is an obvious chemistry and comfort level between them, which is evident with Burrow having a 135.4 NFL passer rating when throwing to Chase.
No receiver in the NFL has more catches against man coverage than Chase (18), but the problem is that he’s an intelligent route-runner and knows where to sit down in zone coverage to give himself the best chance to catch the football, and once the ball is in his hands, he’s as dangerous as any receiver in the league.
So in conclusion, how do you slow Ja’Marr Chase down? I have no idea. Considering Chase has had at least 75 yards or a TD in every single game this year, I don’t think any NFL defensive coordinator knows either, so if you have the answer then please let me know in the comments below, and while you’re at, maybe sent a copy to One Jets Drive, FOA Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich.