Joe Burrow hasn't quite looked like the record-breaking rookie of 2020 from the start of Bengals training camp. Understandable enough as the second-year quarterback returns from an ACL tear.
Perhaps more disturbing, however, is that the Bengals' pass protection, which struggled last year and put the 2020 No. 1 overall pick in plenty of peril, hasn't handled the Bengals' rush especially well in early practices, either.
Camp reports of Burrow looking uncomfortable, however, are premature to coach Zac Taylor.
"I think it's the whole unit right now. We're just getting a feel for each other. You know, you'd like to be throwing touchdowns on every play right now, but we've got some progress to be made," Taylor told reporters Wednesday. "But there's no cause for panic for any reason for that. We've still got 39 days before our first game. We've got a lot of practices left to be had. I'm excited because we know we can continue to get better and be more detailed, and that's gonna come."
Burrow, when healthy, provided an injection of excitement for Bengals fans last year, despite the club's last-place divisional finish (4-11-1). He broke NFL rookie passing records, including becoming the first to pass for three consecutive 300-yard games, against the Jaguars, Eagles and Browns. Taylor, in turn, let it fly with the pass offense as Burrow averaged 40.4 pass attempts over 10 starts before he was hurt.
So far in camp, however, Burrow is still searching for rhythm.
"There's different tracks guys are on right now," Taylor said. "I'm encouraged from what I see from Joe and when I meet with Joe, and again we're going to complete more balls as we go forward, we all know that."
Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd chimed in on Burrow's status after practice on Wednesday.
"I think he looks good," Boyd said. "Just by watching him move around and his pocket presence seems great. He's a little iffy on his knee but it's kind of hard to tell. In my opinion, he's ready to go. I just also think he (doesn't) want to do too much. We're not going out there trying to destroy a defense, you know.
"It's a whole unit thing, so we gotta make sure all 11 guys are tied into that play knowing their exact job. Then just figuring out the progression and the reads. I think he's on the right track."
Burrow's return from injury, and the protection that awaits him, will be on display in the club's preseason opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, featuring one of the league's elite defenses, on Aug. 14.