The Cincinnati Bengals may be 0-2-1, but Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has been nothing but impressed with the Bengals rookie quarterback, Joe Burrow.
The NFL No. 1 overall pick—and former Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion—has completed 64.5% of his passes through three games for 821 yards (ninth in the league) and five touchdowns to one interception.
But it’s not even his stats that Marrone has noticed. It’s Burrow’s willingness to take a beating for his team.
“He's tough as hell. I mean, you see that on film,” Marrone told local reporters on Wednesday.
There’s an assumption that rookie quarterbacks are more easily flustered. Not yet adjusted to the speed of the NFL, a defenses pass rush should have an easier time flushing rookie passers from the pocket and causing them to make hurried mistakes. But as the Jaguars (1-2) prepare to face Burrow and the Bengals on Sunday, Marrone doesn’t want to look at Burrow simply as a “rookie quarterback.”
You must be good to play in this league, Marrone points out, so every quarterback is good in his own right. That’s especially true for Burrow says the coach.
“I don't want to get myself into a bind of saying veteran quarterback and rookie quarterback because I'm going against a first-year quarterback in Joe Burrow who doesn't play like a rookie quarterback. He can run, he can move, he’s got a quick release. He can, you know, throw the ball and hit all the different spots. He’s got a hell of a lot of talent around him and he's a very talented player.
“That's why so I think whenever you play, you know these quarterbacks when their first reads are open, you know, it's always going to be tough to generate a pass rush.”
The Jags' pass rush has been infamously absent through three games. Thus far, the front seven has accumulated 14 quarterback hurries and only three sacks. For comparison, 10 individual players in the league already have an equal or greater number of sacks.
However, Burrow—even with his elusiveness—is playing behind an offensive line that has given up 14 sacks already. That’s an average of a league-leading 4.7 per game.
What Burrow has done in spite of his line is what Marrone has been most impressed with; the toughness he mentioned, and how he’s seemingly transitioned to the league with ease. Even with the Bengals record and abysmal line, Marrone isn’t letting the Jaguars take Burrow lightly.
"We understand who the player was, you know when he was in college. I think that the transition that he's made, despite an offseason, I can't tell you how much credit I give him because it's unbelievable," Marrone said.
"You know sometimes you see people play in this game and you, by nature they're rookies but they don't play like rookies…I look at Joe Burrow as a guy that's not playing like that, you know, he's not a guy that gets rattled. He’s not a guy that may get confused. He’s definitive on exactly what he's doing and his footwork.
“Plus he has the ability to extend plays and run so I would say what he's done is a credit to him and that staff because without an offseason, to be able to be as comfortable as he is and as tough as he is in the pocket is, you know, I tip my hat off to him. I mean he's done a great job."