Rookie Breakdown: A Look Back at Joe Burrow's First NFL Season

Burrow impressed in 10 games
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Joe Burrow had a mountain of expectations to live up to heading into his rookie season after winning the Heisman Trophy and leading LSU to an undefeated season in 2019.

The No. 1 overall pick began his career in Cincinnati against the Los Angeles Chargers. He threw for 193 yards and an interception. He also had a rushing touchdown. The Bengals lost the game and Burrow’s stat line looks underwhelming, but he flashed his potential in his first start. He gave everyone a glimpse of what was next, which led to much bigger stats in his next three NFL games.

Burrow and the Bengals played the Browns four days later on Thursday Night Football. The rookie threw 61 passes, finishing with 316 yards and three touchdowns. The Bengals lost to a tough Browns team 35-30. Burrow's performance gave fans even more confidence that Cincinnati had found their guy.

After a 312 yard, two touchdown performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3 that resulted in a tie, the Bengals were able to secure their first win of the season against Jacksonville. Burrow threw for 300 yards and one touchdown in his first career win.

After the Jaguars game, Burrow had a rough couple of weeks, losing to Baltimore then Indianapolis and failing to throw a touchdown in those games. Although he appeared to be in a slump, Burrow’s pocket awareness and field vision helped Cincinnati build a 21-point lead on the Colts. 

It’s expected that a rookie will make mistakes, but not many young players look as technically sound as Burrow, even when he’s not at his best.

At the time, he was still the favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and had a solid bounce back game in Week 7, throwing for 406 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Cleveland. 

In Week 8, Burrow had a great performance in his second career win against a good Tennessee Titans team. The Bengals equaled their 2019 win total in just eight games and Burrow was a big reason why.

After a solid performance in a tough loss against the Steelers, the Bengals traveled to Washington. The Bengals had a 9-7 lead early in the third quarter and the ball on their own 9-yard line. On 3rd-and-2, Burrow dropped back to pass and was hit in the left knee as he threw the ball. He suffered a torn ACL, MCL and other damage to his left knee. 

After his first ten career games, Burrow had 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions. While everyone would have liked to see him stay healthy and finish out the season, he showed enough potential for the organization to move forward knowing they have a future star at quarterback.

After watching his performance in 2020, it’s hard to argue that he’s the franchise guy for the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Can he make a full recovery? If you’ve been following his progress this offseason, the answer appears to be yes. He is ahead of schedule and expects to be on the field for the start of the 2021 season.

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