Top 5 pick Ja'Marr Chase finishes preseason with 4 drops on 5 targets

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·2-min read

Ja'Marr Chase, the No. 5 overall pick and consensus top wide receiver of the 2021 NFL draft, finished his first preseason on Sunday. It was not a good preseason.

Across three games, the Cincinnati Bengals rookie posted one reception and 16 receiving yards on five targets. With four drops.

His final drop came in the Bengals' third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, in which he inexplicably bobbled a screen pass from Joe Burrow. It was Chase's only target for the game, and Burrow's only pass attempt the entire preseason.

The drop was preceded by a brutal display last week against the Washington Football Team, in which he dropped all three targets that came his way. Those drops came on a shallow slant with multiple yards of space around him; a deeper post route with a hard hit clearly coming (more forgivable); and a flat route after struggling to separate from a defensive back who had been jamming him.

Chase's only catch all preseason came on another screen, in which he gained 16 yards with his legs.

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Should the Bengals be worried about Ja'Marr Chase's drops?

The Bengals selected Chase fifth overall earlier this year, reuniting him with his college quarterback at LSU in Burrow. Chase won the Biletnikoff Award as college football's top receiver in 2019, the year LSU won the College Football Playoff, with 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns on 84 receptions.

After opting out of last season to focus on the draft, Chase stood out as the top pass-catcher available thanks to his athleticism and body of work. Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm even praised his hands, noting that he posted only five drops on 121 targets in 2019.

Chase has now nearly matched that total in five preseason targets. If this is an issue with him, it's a new one.

Obviously, we're dealing with a limited body of work and, again, it's preseason and a player who hasn't played a serious football game since Jan. 2020. Teams are always trying to disguise their tactical intentions with their starters, if they play them at all. Chase could make this all look silly in Week 1.

But four drops, three of them highly catchable, are still an unquestionably bad sign.

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