The Cincinnati Bengals have high hopes for No. 5 overall pick Ja'Marr Chase. The wide receiver out of LSU was one of college football's most dominant playmakers in 2019, and has an already-established rapport with quarterback Joe Burrow. He's had a slow start to his NFL career, however, due to drops.
Chase dropped the last four passes thrown to him in the preseason -- the last one being a simple bubble screen. Drops have been an issue in practice as well, and Chase has attributed it to a lack of focus and not looking the ball in. He also recently brought up that the NFL ball is not the same one he caught in college.
"The ball is different because it is bigger," Chase said, via the Bengals' official website. "It doesn't have the white stripes on the side so you can't see the ball coming from the tip point so you actually have to look for the strings on the ball at the top, which is hard to see because whole ball is brown and you have the six strings that are white. But for the most part, just have to get used to it and find out what I am comfortable with catching."
As you can tell from the two pictures below, one of the biggest differences between the footballs used at the collegiate level vs. the NFL are indeed the white stripes.
Chase may be overthinking his catch process, but having to change how you track the ball in the air is something that can take a few reps. At the end of the day, Chase admitted that he just needs to be a pro and make the catch. The ball being different is not the main reason he has struggled up to this point.
Chase possesses the talent needed to be a special player in this league. He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns a couple of years ago with Burrow as his quarterback. We'll see if those preseason and practice reps helped him in his transition with the new ball, but his issues with drops will be a storyline to watch as we move into the regular season.
Will Joe Burrow come back healthy this season? Can Ja'Marr Chase live up to the hype? Download the CBS Sports app to see the latest news from our team of football experts, player projections, and more. If you already have the app, set the Bengals as your favorite team to get up-to-the-minute headlines.