Ja’Marr Chase’s Rookie of the Year campaign heads to Vegas

Source: Jeff Dean/AP

Week 11 of the 2021 season brings the 5-4 Bengals and their rookie superstar WR Ja’Marr Chase to the Death Star. Chase was the 5th overall pick and the first WR taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. As the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year at season’s end, Chase’s campaign continues this week against the Raiders.

His Season Thus Far

The offseason brought a lot of criticism for Chase as his first preseason games contained many, many drops. Analysts were unsure if Chase was ready for the NFL as he opted out of the 2020 college football season.

“The ball is different because it is bigger… just have to get used to it and find out what I am comfortable with catching,” Chase told reporters when asked about the drops. By Week 1, it was clear Chase had it figured out.

Since then, Chase has been nearly unstoppable against opposing defenses. Through nine games, Chase has 70 targets for 44 receptions and 835 yards per Pro Football Reference. He has averaged a monstrous 19 yards per reception and 7.3 yards after the catch. Chase is tied for fifth in the league in receiving touchdowns with 7.

Ja’Marr Chase is second among rookies in both targets and catches behind Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle. Chase is first in touchdowns among rookies and first in receiving yards by 200.

Among all players, Chase currently ranks fifth in the NFL in receiving yards, third in yards per catch, and fourth in receiving yards per game.

How are the Raiders planning for Chase?

The Raiders defense has been one of the most improved defensive units in the league this season, but defensive coordinator Gus Bradley knows that he has a tough challenge in Week 11.

“It’s an extremely talented receiving corps now across the board,” Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said to the media on Thursday. “I know our scout came in and felt like it might be the best receiving corps that we face, and it shows that way on tape.”

Bradley emphasized that his defense has focused on renewing concentration and ensuring that his defenders know “every rep is a tackling rep” heading into another AFC matchup.

The Raiders will have to rely on their secondary matchups against the Bengals receivers to ensure that the likes of Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd don’t get away from them. The Raiders have allowed 220 completions on 333 attempts through nine games this season, mostly thanks to their explosive secondary. They have allowed an average of 6.6 yards per reception, well under Chase’s 19-yard reception average.

To come out on top this week, CBs Casey Hayward Jr., Nate Hobbs, and Brandon Facyson are sure to have their work cut out for them. The Raiders have allowed opponents to convert on less than 50% of third downs this season, and that must continue this week to get the Bengals high-powered offense off the field.

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