Boyd believes first-round pick’s versatility a boon to Bengals offense

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) makes a catch during an NFL football rookie minicamp in Cincinnati, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) makes a catch during an NFL football rookie minicamp in Cincinnati, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Tyler Boyd has been saying “the sky is the limit” for the Cincinnati Bengals offense for the past couple of years. The sixth-year wide receiver points out one big difference in 2021: The addition of Ja’Marr Chase.

Chase, the No. 5 overall draft pick out of LSU, replaces phased-out veteran A.J. Green and could prove to be an upgrade at least from what Green provided in his final seasons as a Bengal.

“Every year I feel like it’s going to be ‘that year for us,’” Boyd said Tuesday after the team’s fourth practice of Organized Team Activities. “With the addition of Chase after the departure of A.J. you know should be pretty much in the same (expectations) as we was a year ago. He adds a little bit more in his game because he can do a lot more, like come into the slot. Not saying A.J. couldn’t do that, but they’re two different players. But I feel like maybe he’s more into this offense per se.”

Chase fills the ‘X’ role Green previously played, but can line up almost anywhere, and of course, he has experience with quarterback Joe Burrow when they won a national championship together at LSU in 2019.

Boyd sees Chase’s versatility as a big benefit for the offense.

“This offense we can kinda play around with that,” Boyd said. “We can have the Z backside. We can have the Y tight end backside. Everybody can be all over the place and that’s why I said kinda the difference between him and A.J. It’s not a big difference, but I feel he’s more of a versatile player. He can do jet sweeps, he can line up in the backfield, he can do things like that to utilize his abilities to line up in different positions. Not saying A.J. wasn’t doing that, but I think we got a lot more balance and can just call anything now. We don’t gotta worry about guys being in certain spots.”

Part of that is Chase – he’s a little thicker than some wide receivers but still quick and athletic – and some of it is just the evolution of wide receivers and what is expected of them now versus when Green came into the league in 2011 as the No. 4 overall pick.

Offenses have evolved as well, and Boyd said the Bengals will have more plays at their disposal this year.

“We’re taught about concepts and each player at each position can line up at any of those positions based on the formation,” Boyd said. “(It’s) making it a lot easier for us and the quarterback to just go out there and call plays and not have to let certain players know they’re X on this play or Z on this play. It makes guys more comfortable knowing that they can just line up and they’re in position the whole time and they can just line up and just go.”

Boyd said OTAs are important for young guys like Chase especially to get acclimated and for the offense to develop some chemistry.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the main thing they are working on with Chase are just the nuances of the offense.

“(Wide receivers coaches) Troy (Walters) and Brad (Kragthorpe) both spent a lot of time with him in individual and right as the practices get kicked off just going over some of the details,” Taylor said. “Some of it he’s getting lined up for the first time. Ja’Marr has been impressive. He picks it up really quickly. I know there is probably some new terms that are crossover from some old terms he’s had, and like any young receiver it takes some getting adjusted to, but he gets lined up quick, he knows what to do, he has great hands and he’s everything we hoped he could be through the first couple of practices. Really excited to see when we can actually strap on the pads in training camp and see what looks like then.”

Players are wearing shorts and helmets in OTAs, but they don’t need pads to see some of the improvement in Burrow heading into his second season, even while he’s still getting to 100 percent strength in his surgically repaired left knee.

Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah both noted how hard Burrow is throwing his passes, showing an increase in arm strength since last year.

“I was catching with my gloves off and I was like, ‘Whoa, I need to put my gloves back on,’ and Thad (Moss) was like, ‘Yeah, he’s humming the ball right now.’ ‘This isn’t me just not catching a ball at full go for seven weeks?’ He said, ‘No, no, no, he’s ripping it.’ I don’t know if he is changing up his throwing motion or his mechanics or things like that, but he definitely has some zip to it. Even today on some of the routes, it’s like, yep, this thing is coming. Tight coverage will not matter right now because it’s getting on you quick. I like it.”

Uzomah acknowledged that last year just “wasn’t good enough,” but he brings the same “sky is the limit” type belief in the Bengals offense.

“I think every area we’ve improved,” Uzomah said. “I think receiving corps. I mean, good luck. Again, pads haven’t been on, but just watching these guys, I’m just like, ‘Wow.’ Looking at Tee (Higgins) now. I’m like ‘Dude, you are a monster right now. You fit the mold of what you should be, and you’re going out and doing what you need to do.’ The offensive line, Riley (Reiff) is a man. He’s commanding the offensive line room really, really well. Joe’s gonna Joe. Both Joes are gonna Joe. And the tight end room, we’re older now and we’ve added a few more guys we feel will be valuable to the offense. So I think as a whole, we’ve gotten better.”

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