Joe Burrow, despite the practice restrictions caused by COVID-19, will be the Bengals' starting quarterback when Cincinnati kicks off the 2020 season. Bengals coach Zac Taylor confirmed that Burrow, a day after signing his record-setting rookie contract, will be under center when the Bengals host the Chargers on Sept. 13.
"He will walk in and take the first snaps at quarterback and he's prepared for that," Taylor said, via Marisa Contipelli of the team's official website. "We have high expectations for Joe ... he'll put himself in a position to be successful, I trust that."
Instead of getting physical reps with his teammates and coaches, Burrow's weekly virtual offseason routine included four two-hour Zoom meetings with his coaching staff. And while the situation is far from ideal, the Bengals are pleased with what they've seen from Burrow since drafting him with the first overall pick.
"Everything I would have hoped to have seen in this weird format, I saw," quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher recently said of Burrow, via Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic. "There's that big void there of taking it to the field and doing it, but we have evidence of him doing it at arguably the highest level a college quarterback has ever done it six months ago. It is college football and the jump, but it's been what I expected and he's pleasantly verified what I thought I was going to see."
Burrow, along with Pitcher and Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, used these Zoom meetings to go over the intricacies of the Bengals' offense. While they weren't able to get any physical reps done, the Zoom meetings allotted the Bengals coaching staff more time to discuss the nuances of the offensive system with Burrow. They also reviewed some of his LSU game film while discussing what parts of the Tigers' offense could be implemented into Cincinnati's offense in 2020.
"We looked at (LSU film) with him and he was able to share his thoughts about what he really liked and wanted to continue doing," Pitcher said. "He and Brian would talk about it, say, 'We very easily can incorporate these because we already do something similar. Maybe these are new but worthwhile. These couple can go on the back burner.' It was a natural process that takes place."
While they may not have a slew of household names, the Bengals have surrounded Burrow with a solid group of playmakers. Along with veteran receiver A.J. Green, Burrow will have the luxury of throwing to fellow rookie Tee Higgins, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound target who caught 25 touchdowns during his final two seasons at Clemson. The Bengals' receiving corps also includes Tyler Boyd, a fifth-year veteran who has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards each of the past two seasons. The Bengals are hoping that John Ross, the ninth overall pick in the 2017 pick, can return to form after having his promising 2019 season end with an injury midway through the season. The Bengals also have running back Joe Mixon, a 1,000-yard rusher each of the past two seasons.
Taylor, who went 2-14 during his first season as the Bengals' coach, is confident that Green, who signed his franchise tag earlier this month, will also be ready to go when the Bengals kick off the season. A seven-time Pro Bowler, Green missed the entire 2019 season due to injury.
"Everything we define as what a Bengal is, A.J. is," Taylor said.