Joe Burrow leads the NFL in a stat the Bengals would rather he not: sacks taken.
The Cincinnati rookie QB has been sacked 14 times through three games, most in the NFL. He's on pace to be sacked 75 times. With 141 attempts, second-most in the league, Burrow's 9 percent sack rate is third-most of any QB who has started all three weeks -- behind the perennially brutalized Deshaun Watson and run-heavy Lamar Jackson.
In Sunday's tie with Philadelphia, Burrow was sacked eight times and hit 18 times.
"You don't want your quarterback to get hit as much as he has," Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said, via ESPN's Ben Baby. "Some of those are on protection, just pure pass protection. Some of those are on him and the style of his play. The play is never over for him. He does everything he can to keep it alive."
Coach Zac Taylor placed blame for four of the eight sacks on the offensive line.
Part of Burrow taking hits is a process in learning the league. Several times in three weeks, he's tried to avoid pressures as he did at LSU. Unfortunately, NFL players aren't so easily juked, and he's been crushed.
The flipside to harping on Burrow throwing the ball away is it takes away some of his improvisation skills that can lead to big plays -- like the one Sunday on the sideline for a massive gain to Tee Higgins. Striking a balance between improv and throwing it away is key.
"That makes Joe the player that he is," Taylor said. "He's not afraid to take those hits and put himself in those positions because it means explosive plays. There is a balance of being smart and putting yourself in that position."
Some QBs like Watson welcome pressure as a means of seeking out big plays. Others like Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes retreat and still find big gains, but also know when to abandon a play -- Mahomes has a league-low 1.6 sack rate, while Rodgers is second at 1.6. It certainly helps that Rodgers and Mahomes play behind two of the best lines in the NFL.
The Bengals' porous offensive line doesn't help Burrow. Per Pro Football Focus, Cincinnati's O-line has allowed a league-high 53 pressures through three games. If they keep that pace, the Bengals would allow 283 pressures over 16 games. The Miami Dolphins led the NFL last year, with 236 pressures allowed.
Unfortunately for Burrow, there isn't some magical pill his blockers can take to improve. The group is largely who it's going to be, with few lifelines available.
The rookie knows he'll have to get the ball out quicker to avoid some of the unnecessary hits.
"Just get the ball out of my hands," Burrow said. "Make plays with my feet."