It may be too early to measure Ja'Marr Chase for a Paul Brown Ring of Honor jacket. But maybe he should start scouting for a place on his mantle for the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Chase always has goals and after just four games that one looks to be within a grasp after he didn't drop anything in September.
"I have that goal. That's one of my goals I have. Of course that's one of my goals," Chase said during Monday's Zoom with the Bengals back at work after an off weekend. "I want to be as great as I can be, as best as I can be, make others around me be good, too. I'm just trying to work on my craft and others around me to be great. I want to succeed."
Chase leads all rookie receivers with 297 yards and 17.5 yards per catch. No other rookie receiver has more than one touchdown and Chase has four. Running backs Kenneth Gainwell of Philadelphia and Najee Harris of Pittsburgh are the closest with two TDs each.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones also has two touchdowns and he's probably going to be Chase's biggest threat. He got a lot of air play Sunday night during his duel with Tom Brady and since he played well, he'll get plenty more. But he's also 26th in NFL passing and has thrown as many touchdowns as interceptions with four.
But Chase doesn't see it as a chase.
"I'm just trying to be myself. I'm not in competition with anybody," Chase said. "If anything, I feel people are in competition with me."
Chase is right about that. They're chasing Chase now.
He would follow in the footsteps of two of the best receivers in Bengals history. Eddie Brown (1985) and Carl Pickens (1992) were the AP's top offensive rookies. If he stays on this pace (74 yards a game), he doesn't need the extra 17th game to break A.J. Green's club rookie record of 1,057 yards in 2011. He'll already have 1,188 yards heading into the finale. He's also on pace to break Isaac Curtis' club rookie record of nine TDs.
Chase has had meaningful catches in all three wins. Against the Jaguars his 44-yard bolt on a go route down the left sideline on the first series of the second half jump-started the 24-point spree. It was just another example of the potent chemistry stirring with Chase and college mate Joe Burrow. Chase thought Burrow was going to throw it to his back shoulder, but he adjusted in time to extend out in front and catch it in stride.
"We needed some momentum coming out of halftime, needed to make some big plays," Chase said, alluding to heads coach Zac Taylor's halftime advice. "And coming out at halftime, first play we called, wasn't all gos. It was one of our normal plays that was called. I ended up having a conversion because I was pressed and just getting my head around at 10 (yards) and let Joe throw to me from where the DB is. I was expecting back shoulder until I saw the ball go over the top and then I had to change speeds and react to the ball."
Chase thought it would have been a different game if his 13-yard third-down conversion that put the ball on the Jags 12 on their first drive stood. But it was wiped out when the refs said he pushed off. And he agreed on further review.
"I didn't think it was until I (saw) the view," Chase said. "Ref told me what I did. I overextended both of my hands, so yeah, it was one. I just know now to make it less obvious."
Chase by the way is all about Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) against the Packers at Paul Brown Stadium.
"They've got Aaron Rodgers on their team. Lord knows I respect that man," Chase said. "I … watched him come back in 36 seconds. Just the high praise of him and just sitting on the sideline watching him play, we're going to need to score, put up more points than he does because of who he is."
Should be quite a show, right. Seamless Joe vs. A-Rod?
"I'm hoping Joe Burrow comes out with the victory and Aaron Rodgers doesn't," is all Chase allowed.
PLAYOFF READER: Meet the first piece of the Bengals massive overhaul. Since one of the league's premier nose tackles, D.J. Reader, agreed to a four-year, $53 million deal on the first day of 2020 free agency, he's watched the pieces follow him into the Paul via free agency and the draft and as the defense that was ranked 29th at the end of the 2019 season is ranked seventh heading into Monday night's game, he was asked if he thinks they're a playoff contender.
"I think we're legit, but we have to go out there and prove that every day. We have to go out there every single practice every day and prove that," Reader said. "All those things sound good. But we still have to take it one week at a time and prove it … We've got to go out there this week, right now, get it done. Tomorrow is an off day. Get back here Wednesday. Get started. See what's going on and get going and get ready for a contest on Sunday to prove that we are contenders."
Reader sensed that it was going the right way when the Bengals showed up for voluntary practices back in May.
"I thought with the signings we had and training camp. We came into OTAs and I felt during that time everybody had a better understanding of what we had going on," Reader said. "I think last year with the COVID year and being on Zoom and not being able to really do certain things you have a lot of new guys coming in it's hard to make people comfortable.
"(This year) everybody is on clear communication from coaches on down. It made things a lot simpler. We found out what we were good at, what we majored in, what we could do and what we couldn't do. We did a good job of figuring those things out early because everybody is feeling a lot more comfortable in what we have going. What our job is, what our assignment is so we can play fast."
QB READER: Reader says the Packers are the best offensive team they've played and that Rodgers is "arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game." Reader can read quarterbacks. Burrow was actually one of the main reasons Reader became a Bengal a good six weeks before they drafted him last year. Apparently Denver was also interested.
"My agent was like, your options are, who are you going to be on, Joe Burrow or Drew Lock?" Reader recalled. "I was like, I really think I'm going to go with Joe Burrow, Joey B. I like what they've got going on, I'm excited. That's really what it came down "
All Reader has to do is look at himself on third down to know he made the right call.
"We know how good Joe is. This training camp was intense. A lot of emotion, a lot of junk talking. A lot of things going on and he was being aggressive," Reader said. "We know what Joe is made of. It's exciting for us to watch the world see what Joe is made of. You're not over there on third down waiting to grab your helmet. You're sitting there waiting on him to make a play. That's exciting as a defensive player knowing that you have somebody with the ball in their hands that can do something like that."
INJURY UPDATE: Taylor classified running back Joe Mixon (ankle) as day-to-day and said he's got a shot to practice later in the week and to play on Sunday. He lumped Mixon in with the rest of the injured players on the roster and he says all "are trending in the right direction."
Already he pronounced Jessie Bates III (neck) ready to go after he missed the first game of his career Thursday night. Same with cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (groin). Which means in week five they'll have their starting cornerback tandem on the field for the first time with Trae Waynes and Awuzie. Just in the nick of time as Rodgers tries to win at The Paul for the first time. He's won in Cleveland and Baltimore but not in Cincinnati or Pittsburgh.
Taylor also sounded optimistic that safety Ricardo Allen is back this week. He also classified right guard Xavier Su'a-Filo as day-to-day, but indicated rookie Jackson Carman starts for the third straight game as Su'a-Filo needs time to work back from a knee injury.