The Joe Burrow era is officially underway in Cincinnati, but what’s the rush?
Andy Dalton was released Thursday morning by the Bengals, clearing the way for Burrow to become the starter. Dalton had one more year left on his contract. Having a guy with Dalton’s experience in the locker room could have greatly benefited Burrow.
Burrow isn’t an average rookie. He’s older than last year’s MVP, Lamar Jackson, because he spent five years in college. He was also the quarterback of an LSU offense that features NFL concepts, so he should come to the NFL prepared to play.
“He’s so smart,” The Athletic’s Brugler said on his scouting report. “He shows the ability to quickly identify the void or the vulnerable matchup and he doesn’t miss it when he finds it.”
As ready as Burrow seems, it’s difficult to dominate at quarterback in year one. Dak Prescott in 2016 is the last rookie quarterback to make a Pro Bowl. No No. 1 overall pick at quarterback has led a team to more than six wins since Andrew Luck in 2012.
Plus, Dalton isn’t a bad quarterback. Yes, he went 2-11 last season, but he was stuck with one of the worse offensive lines in the NFL, and the Bengals’ defense was 29th in yards allowed. He also was missing injured seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, A.J. Green. That is a situation difficult for any quarterback to overcome.
The best way to handle the situation would’ve been easing Burrow into the job around the midway point of the season. If Dalton struggled, Burrow would have seen his mistakes, learned from them, and been better prepared. Think of guys like Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield in recent years. Goff and Mahomes became Pro Bowlers in year two after watching mostly as rookies, and Mayfield took over after three games into his rookie season and went 6-7.
The AFC North features two top-five defenses from last season: the Ravens and the Steelers. The Browns also went defense with three of their top four draft picks.
Burrow is about to be thrown in the water with sharks, and we’re about to find out if he can swim.
Some eyebrows were raised when Andy Reid said that the Chiefs’ first-round pick, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, is better than Brian Westbrook at this stage of his career.
Westbrook didn’t take long to respond.
“I get this message on Friday morning that Andy Reid said that this kid that hasn’t played a down in the NFL is better than me already,” Westbrook said on Fox Sports’ First Thing First. “It took me years to perfect my game, and it took me years to get better at my craft. And this young kid that hasn’t played a down in the NFL is better than me already. It’s baffling.”
The comparison to Westbrook makes sense. Edwards-Helaire had 1,867 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns last season at LSU. The ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and lateral agility are two of their similar traits. But slow your roll, Reid ...
I’m willing to bet that he was caught in the moment. Sure, Edwards-Helaire is dynamic and he fits seamlessly into the Chiefs’ unstoppable offense, but Reid should know better than anyone what Westbrook was capable of.
While appearing on First Things First, Westbrook reminded Reid of his 2007 season by showcasing his Most Valuable Offensive Player from the organization. Westbrook led the NFL with 2,104 yards from scrimmage that season.