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Craftsman Ja'Marr Chase Working On Creativity In Go Route Through Bengals Records

WR Ja'Marr Chase laughs during training at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Tuesday, May 30 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
WR Ja'Marr Chase laughs during training at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Tuesday, May 30 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is talking records and routes as the Bengals' Spring Tweaking comes to an end this week and he wants to break something off first.

"I want to be remembered here for breaking all the receiving records. They've got a lot of records," says Chase of the Bengals book. "But I'd rather win."

Still, he is eyeing the very round number of 20 touchdowns in a season. But after two Pro Bowl selections, this has been a spring of seasoning. There is no 11-on-11. Only 7-on-7 and one-on-one. Plenty of time and space to man up and figure out how to get better.

Ja'Marr is Chasing Chad Johnson's Bengals-record 10,783 yards with a Chad-like analysis that is as cutting as their master route running.

"I'm trying to be creative on routes because you already have the timing. That's what I'm trying to do now. Be a lot more creative in my routes," Chase says. "Now that I know the timing and how long I need to take.

"That's what being creative is about. Not just being one-dimensional on a piece-of-paper route. You don't want that."

Bengals wide receivers coach Troy Walters, who backed up Hall-of-Famers Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson during his career, says Chase is headed on that elite route because he's trying to get better. Such as the most creative receiver he's seen, the Colts' Harrison.

"How he could manipulate DBs, corners, get them to turn by running the routes a little differently with different technique and burst," Walters says. "He has what it takes to be one of the elite runners in the game and the fact he understands he can get better is a testament to how good he is and how good he wants to be."

This is what Chase and Walters are talking about. Take a 15-yard in route.

Chase can run one straight ("a stem") and use speed to cut straight into it. Another time, he could run vertically for eight or nine yards and then burst outside so it looks like a go route before breaking it in. Or another time he may appear to be running a post to the corner before breaking it in.

"Just making sure each route's stem looks different. To be creative at the top of the route, where you're giving the defender most of his looks," Walters says. "We've watched routes, we've watched techniques based off what the defenders are giving us. Just like you have to have multiple moves in your releases, you have to have the same thing in your routes."

Timing with the quarterback is at the forefront of all things. "You can't take all day with that creativity," Walters says.

Since quarterback Joe Burrow is in his fourth season in Zac Taylor's system and Chase is in his third (never mind the almost voodoo telepathy the pair developed on the Bayou in college), it all stems from the timing they no longer have to worry about.

That has allowed Burrow to also do some spring cleaning as he tinkers with different arm angles.

"I know that I can take a three-step drop and take a hitch and throw it on time where I want to," Burrow says, "but I think this is the time of year where you can kind of experiment a little bit and find out what you can get away with and what you can't and what you can do and what you can't. And so that's kind of what I'm doing right now working that."

But since they've already got the timing down, Chase and Burrow and the vet receivers can pretty much do their own things. For instance, Chase has really no idea what Burrow is working on.

"I'm at the point in life, bro, I've got to look in the air for the ball. Not at the quarterback, so that's a hard one," says Chase when asked about adapting to arm angles. "I can't really see that. I don't really know about that until I watch the film."

Which is fair, because Burrow isn't chronicling which routes Chase is firing a fastball or throwing a changeup. He just wants him in that spot by the time the ball gets there.

"We'll talk about it every now and then. He does his thing and sometimes he'll break it out," Burrow says. "As long as we're on the same page, he's always where he's supposed to be at the time he's supposed to be there. I always tell him, as long as that's happening, I don't really care what you're doing other than that.

"There's just little things here and there that, when you've been in the system for four years now, you can talk with some guys about that are very unique, minute details that maybe you haven't been able to talk about in years past."

If there's anything Chase has learned in his two seasons running NFL routes, it is two things.

One, he's not going to get double-teamed every play: "Unless it's the Chiefs in the playoffs and T.B (Tyler Boyd) is down." Two, all the creativity means nothing when doubled.

"You can't beat a double team by running a route differently," Chase says. "The only way to beat a double team is with speed. Speed is the only way. Being quick and decisive with speed."

That's how he has attacked the record book. No Bengal has caught more yards (2,501), more touchdowns (22) and more balls (168) in his first 29 games. That's ahead of A.J Green's 2,265 yards on 150 catches and Isaac Curtis' 20 touchdowns.

And he already has the club record for yards in a season (1,455) and yards in a game (266). But he would like to become the first Bengal to catch 1,500 yards and he thinks he can get to Chad's 10,783 before Johnson did.

"I think," Chase says, "I can get in the 8, 9,000 range in the next couple of years."

And there's one number that caught his attention as the digits were discussed. Carl Pickens' 17 touchdowns in 1995.

"Damn near a touchdown every game," says Chase, who caught 20 in 15 unbeaten games at LSU that magical year. "I'd like to get 20. I did it in college."

Pickens did it with a club-record ten straight games with a touchdown just as quarterback Jeff Blake emerged at the end of '94 and early '95.

"That's another one," says Chase, devising another route...