To solve their offensive woes, the Bengals must help Burrow by moving the bag. The easiest way to do that is through game action, but this is something that the Bengalis don’t use much of. Burrow has used play-action on just 13.7 percent of his dropbacks this season, the fifth lowest in the NFL, according to Next Gen Stats. Last year, his play action percentage was 18.7 percent, the fourth lowest in the entire league.
It’s ironic, considering he was plucked from Kyle Shanahan-Sean McVay’s coaching tree, but Taylor’s attack is based on dropback pass scenarios, using three wide receiver sets to spread the field. Taylor is constantly looking to push the ball vertically with a trio of talented wideouts (Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd).
Burrow was one of the more effective downfield pitchers in the NFL last season, ranking in the top two in the league in completion percentage, passing yards per attempt and passer rating on downfield passes. This year, however, Burrow is in the bottom two in each of those categories. Chase, meanwhile, has not once deeply targeted any of the 102 routes he has walked this season, having placed third in receiving yards in 2021 on passes from more than 20 air yards. As Burrow also faces higher sack and pressure rates in 2022 than last season, it appears he won’t be able to stay clean long enough to develop.
The O-line’s performance limits the schedule in a way that leaves Burrow a sitting duck when confronted by elite defenses like the ones in Dallas and Pittsburgh. Burrow was pressured from 21.4 percent from his Week 2 pullback against the Micah Parsons-led Cowboys and 36.7 percent in Week 1 against the Steelers. And anyone who would argue that Burrow is holding the ball too long should consider that his average pitch time (2.58 seconds) is the seventh fastest in the league this season.
The Bengals have only been competitive this season because guys like Chase are elite. The sophomore wideout can beat any defender one-on-one, but most of his highs on the reels are contested when in reality he should be wide-opened like Cooper Kupp. The percentage of goals Chase is considered open this season (36.0) is easily the lowest of the top 10 players in receiving yards, per NGS; seven of those players were open to 40 percent of their goals or more.
Based on the numbers, it looks like Taylor could do things to make the offense’s life easier. Until Taylor adopts some more QB-friendly tactics, I fear Burrow will continue to struggle behind an offensive line, still learning to team up and protect him.