During an unusual offseason spent behind computer screens instead of on football fields, rookies have been forced to impress coaching staffs in other ways than with physical attributes.
No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow has done that in spades, according to coach Zac Taylor, who told Albert Breer of SI.com that the quarterback's preparation for meetings and mental acumen has been excellent.
"He's been great," Taylor said. "As advertised is the best way to put it. You can tell he spends a lot of time on his own being prepared with questions and he's doing a great job taking ownership, which is important for a quarterback to do, and he's doing everything he can to own this offense. Been really impressed with him, but not surprised."
With team facilities closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Burrow missed out on rookie camp and OTAs to get reps in with his teammates. Like all clubs, Cincy has gone digital to get things done.
To get reps in between his rookie QB and offensive line, Taylor has made Burrow go through the calls with his teammates in a virtual huddle and used videos of defenses to force the QB to make the proper checks at the (virtual) line.
"We made the quarterbacks stand up," Taylor said. "So Joe's probably in his parents' basement, standing up, yelling, while his mom's upstairs making lunch. It was good. They took ownership of it. And I told them, we're not trying to act like we're in church here, we need to replicate these reps we're missing on the field, so speak up and be loud and let everybody hear you. And our guys did a good job of that."
Burrow's play last season at LSU made him the no-brainer No. 1 pick for the Bengals. Since then, we've heard nothing but glowing reports from the Cincinnati coaching staff. How well Burrow transitions from making calls on Zoom meetings to reacting in real time on the field in much different conditions against NFL defenses will tell the story of how quickly the young QB can help turn around a franchise marred in mediocrity.