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By: Nick Manchester
Burrow won’t play Saturday vs. the Buccaneers. Should he play at all?
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has said repeatedly that he wants to take care of Joe Burrow this offseason. After having major surgery on his knee, the franchise quarterback is trying to get back to where he was last season.
Burrow, however, wants to be more aggressive than Taylor probably feels comfortable with.
The Bengals are beginning the preseason this week, and Brandon Allen is starting under center.
“I can confidently say that Brandon Allen will get more reps than our starting quarterback in the preseason,” Taylor said in a press conference on Sunday.
How many snaps will Burrow get in the preseason? Will it be zero, or will it be a whole number?
More importantly, should Burrow play in the preseason? Let’s survey the situation altogether.
Should Joe Burrow play in the preseason?
It seems like there are two differing opinions within the organization. Taylor wants to err on the side of safety, and would probably prefer that Burrow didn’t play. Burrow, however, wants to take a few hits in the preseason so he can feel more prepared for the real games.
To be fair, Burrow doesn’t want to play every snap of the preseason. But it’s easy to see he wants to play more than Taylor wants him to.
Taylor has said that he needs to protect Burrow from himself.
“There’s often times I ask him, ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’” said Taylor. “And he says, ‘Yes.’ So then it’s on us to know he’s usually going to say yes to a lot of things. So we’ll do our best to pull him back when we feel it’s necessary just like anybody coming off an ACL.”
Is someone going to compromise, or is there a happy medium? It’s nothing a good old fashioned pros and cons list can’t help us figure out.
Pro: Chemistry with the offense
Mainly, the offensive line might benefit from getting some game reps with Burrow.
A concern coming out of camp was the number of false starts from the offense. There’s a lot of moving pieces to consider, including a couple of rookies and a veteran changing teams after four years.
Perhaps Taylor is waiting until he has figured out the starting offensive line before he takes the risk of putting Burrow out there.
The rest of the offense could use some reps with the starting quarterback as well. Ja’Marr Chase hasn’t gotten off to the hottest of starts, so more reps with Burrow will help him turn the corner more easily.
In fact, most of the struggles in camp have been due to installs instead of simulated gameplay. Maybe some game reps against real competition will help things click.
Pro: Burrow has been fully cleared
If Burrow is fully cleared, then there’s no reason to worry about his knee getting re-injured on its own.
This is of course not the main concern, but it is something to consider. Burrow isn’t being held back at practice aside from the occasional rest day. If the regular season were to start this week, odds are he’d be out there.
Any injury Burrow could potentially suffer would be a brand new injury. The odds of him getting injured on any given play are the same as they were last year.
Pro: Burrow thinks it will help
To curb the struggles from camp, Burrow wants to get hit a few times. He says that this will help him feel like the season has started, and he can lock in mentally.
Undoubtedly, Taylor defecated a brick when he heard this. But he might consider conceding the point if Burrow still needs that jumpstart. Better to get that out of the way early than on September 12th.
Con: Still working on protection
The Bengals are still trying to figure out the right combination for the offensive line. There’s reason to risk putting Burrow behind an offensive line that isn’t the best.
Offensive line coach Frank Pollack will have three games to determine which guards are going to start in September. Until he’s confident about a decision, Allen and the other quarterbacks might as well take the inevitable hits.
Con: It may not be common practice anymore
Taylor said in Sunday’s press conference that many teams around the league are resting their starters, major knee surgery or not. In the next ten or so years, it might be the norm to see quarterbacks waiting until the regular season to suit up.
Con: Burrow did fine without a preseason last year
If Burrow didn’t play in the preseason last year, the argument can be made that he never need to play in the preseason ever again.
After joining the franchise in the pandemic-restricted offseason, getting limited training camp and no preseason, he started for the Bengals in Week 1 of the 2020 season. If he can play the way he did in 2020, of all years, without a preseason, then he arguably never needs to play a single preseason game in his entire career.
It seems like the compromise would be to let him start in Week 2, but only play a limited number of snaps.
It might be enough to let Burrow play as little as one series. If he can get a couple first downs, maybe even a trip to the red zone, then that should be enough.
But there are arguments to be made for why he should play more, or why he should hold a clipboard the entire preseason.
So, what say you all?