‘One of a kind’: Teammates believe Burrow on track for rookie of the year honors

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Credit: Michael Conroy

Credit: Michael Conroy

Halfway through the season, teammates of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow have no doubt he will win the rookie of the year award.

He’s off to one of the best individual starts in NFL history for a rookie quarterback, ranks third among passers this season with 2,272 yards and is on pace to break Andrew Luck’s rookie passing record of 4,374 yards.

“I’m not just saying that (he’s the top rookie) because he’s on our team, but he shows it each and every week,” wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. “He never lets the team down. … He comes every day to work and he proves himself. As long as he continues to ball and perform why shouldn’t he be the No. 1 candidate.”

Burrow believes he’s just getting started, though.

The No. 1 overall draft pick came into the league without a normal offseason and no preseason games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he threw for 300 yards in three of his first four games and threw for a season-best 406 yards two weeks ago against the Browns. Burrow points to turnovers as his biggest area for improvement as he’s thrown five interceptions and lost three of eight fumbles he put on the ground.

“I thought I’d play well,” Burrow said. “There’s obviously still a lot of room to improve. I’m just scratching the surface on where I can be and where I can go. So, that’s the most exciting thing for me.”

Burrow said he started to feel like he was settling in during the final drive of the opener against the L.A. Chargers. He carried the Bengals down the field and almost got the game-winning touchdown to A.J. Green but Green was called for offensive pass interference and then Randy Bullock missed a field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

Despite the disappointing outcome, Burrow needed that late-game success to instill some confidence moving forward.

“I was struggling all game and then we put together a drive at the end and felt like we deserved to win that game (with) the way that we played on the last drive,” Burrow said. “But that really calmed my nerves and let me know that I could play at this level.”

Now he’s making plays some incredible plays. Even some that don’t go for first downs have been impressive -- like a third-down scramble Sunday when he evaded at least four tackles and almost reached the sticks.

Boyd never doubted Burrow after seeing his approach in meetings and on the practice fields. His chemistry with the new quarterback has developed quickly, as Boyd also is third in the league in receiving yards with 584 yards and three touchdowns on 54 catches.

The fifth-year receiver called Burrow “one of a kind.”

“The thing I want to say is confidence,” Boyd said when asked what makes him special. “Each week it seems like he gets better and better. Each and every week, you know, even the games where he feels that he doesn’t play good he still plays a hell of a game. I think it’s just that comfort zone with Joe, starting to play games in the National Football League and knowing that he’s good enough to perform at a high level, which he’s been doing. Each game that goes on, we don’t know what’s going to happen with him and what to expect. You know we mess around, the perfect game is one of these games, you never know. I believe in him, everybody else do, and he continue to ball and continue to start winning more games.”

Defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who spent time with the Packers, compares Burrow to Aaron Rodgers.

“He does a lot of things that remind me of Aaron in terms of his poise and how he conducts himself,” Daniels said. “The way he commands the offense, he’s definitely not a rookie. When you go against him in practice, you’re going against a rookie. He’s a rookie strictly because of the amount of time he’s been in the NFL. But his mentality, his swagger if you want to say that, I use the word poise, just the way he goes about and conducts business, he’s a true leader. The guy, he’s doing some great things already. No doubt in my mind he’ll be the rookie of the year. And he’s going to have a very, very great career, and I’m just glad to be a part of the beginning phases of it.”

For Burrow, the bye week comes at a great time. Coming off a win, he can rest his mind a bit and body and focus on recovery. He said his body feels like it’s taken eight weeks of pounding – he’s been sacked 28 times – and because players aren’t allowed to travel during the break because of COVID-19 testing continuing, Burrow plans to relax.

“I’m just gonna sit in the hot tub, watch some movies, relax and get the body right,” he said. “I don’t plan on doing a lot of work this week. It’s a long season. We’ve been working hard. I think it’s a much-needed break. We had a good practice today. We’ll watch some film today. But I’m going to get away from it for a couple of days now.”

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