The Cincinnati Bengals‘ offense left much to be desired in Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Five giveaways and seven sacks will almost certainly lead to a loss, which is ultimately the reason why the Bengals are sitting at 0-1.
But that doesn’t mean there are no positives to discuss. And Ja’Marr Chase is definitely one of those positives.
The superstar wide receiver led the Bengals with 10 catches and 129 yards with one touchdown.
The stat line itself isn’t particularly new to Bengals fans but where he lined up is.
During the season opener, Chase lined up 22 times in the slot. That’s a career-high for the second-year receiver.
Ja’Marr Chase saw 22 slot snaps in Week 1.
That is a career high, topping the 19 slot snaps against KC in the AFC Championship
— Taylor (@_TaylorCornell) September 12, 2022
This is a trend that’s likely to continue shifting for the Bengals. Last year, Chase lined up wide in 82% of Cincinnati’s passing snaps per PFF.
As a rookie, he didn’t have over 12 passing snaps from the slot in a single game. He only exceeded 10 such snaps twice all season long.
That has already changed in Week 1 and will likely be a theme throughout the entire 2022 season.
After all, the Bengals are expected to face way more two-high coverages that aim to take away the deep threat and way fewer blitzes as well.
That’s how defenses responded over the second half of the season in 2021 after Joe Burrow and company started dominating the passing game.
Facing these two defensive trends poses a clear-cut question for the Bengals.
How can they keep feeding Chase the football? Game 1 offered a glimpse at the response.
Playing him in the slot and allowing him to be targeted in quicker throws and allowing him to make some damage after the catch.
In 2021, Chase had an average depth of target of 13.6 yards.
On Sunday, Chase was targeted at an average of 9.1 yards downfield. Only four times did he have a lower mark than that as a rookie.
This isn’t anything negative, make no mistake about it.
It’s about the Bengals adjusting to what defenses will present them every week.
Although the sample size is quite a small one game into the season, expect this trend to continue in Cincinnati.
Getting Ja’Marr Chase in the slot and in shorter routes will be key to a successful season.