The nagging consternation in Cincinnati never dissipated throughout training camp or the preseason, as Bengals rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase struggled throughout and never turned the corner.
The rookie didn't shy away from the preseason struggles.
"I know I left a lot of stuff out there," Chase said, via Ben Baby of ESPN. "But that's all in time for me to get better, of course. I'm not afraid to get better. That's what I'm here for -- to work, to get better, make the team better, make the organization better."
The drops received the most attention. Chase caught just one of five targets during preseason action. Joe Burrow's only preseason pass slid right through the rookie's hands on a simple WR screen.
"If you look back at it, I jumped in the air when the ball got to me," Chase said. "That means my eyes weren't concentrated on the ball. I didn't keep still. So that makes my eye adjustment for the ball move around."
After a marvelous 2019 season at LSU -- when Chase dropped just 4.8 percent of his targets, which, according to ESPN Stats and Information, was just under the average for Power 5 WRs -- Chase opted out of the 2020 season. While some rookies who opted out haven't shown any signs of rust, Chase seems to have been hurt the most by the year away.
"I don't want to blame it on me sitting on my butt the whole year, but it probably has something to do with it, of course," he said of his opt-out, via The Athletic.
Despite the struggles, the Bengals staff has consistently backed Chase, suggesting they still expect the rookie to play a significant role in a WR corps that includes Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. It's easier to believe that Chase is going through rookie struggles after a year off than that he somehow just forgot how to catch a football.
"Everyone wants to see this and that, but I'm excited to show literally me, myself," Chase said. "I'm excited to do what I came here to do."