Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase says preseason drops were due to 'hard to see' NFL football

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Rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase hasn't had the smoothest of preseasons for the Cincinnati Bengals. He has been plagued by drop issues, missing the past four passes that were thrown to him in preseason games.

With the regular season just days away, that's caused concern. Chase was the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft and is expected to be one of quarterback Joe Burrow's main targets. If he can't hold onto the football, there's going to be a problem. 

Chase has an explanation for his struggles. He's been having trouble adjusting to NFL footballs, which are larger and have a different look than NCAA footballs. 

"The ball is different because it is bigger," Chase said via Bengals.com. "It doesn't have the white stripes on the side so you can't see the ball coming from the tip point so you actually have to look for the strings on the ball at the top, which is hard to see because whole ball is brown and you have the six strings that are white. But for the most part, just have to get used to it and find out what I am comfortable with catching."

There's also the issue with his actual recent playing experience. Chase opted out of his final NCAA season with LSU in 2020, meaning it has been more than 600 days since he caught a pass in a real game. Regardless of how long it has been since he's played or how hard the NFL ball is to catch, Chase is fully aware that it's entirely on him to make the necessary adjustments.

"I don't want to blame it on me sitting on my butt the whole year, but it probably had something to do with it, of course," Chase said. "There's a bigger ball adjustment, so I don't want to make excuses but I've just got to be a pro and make the catch."

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JUNE 15: Ja'Marr Chase #1 of the Cincinnati Bengals participates in a drill during Mandatory Minicamp on June 15, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase is having trouble adjusting to the NFL football. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

How is Chase working to fix this?

Chase told media that he has been working hard on getting used to the look and feel of the NFL football and improving his hand-eye coordination. 

Via Bengals.com:

It's not like the guy isn't putting in the reps. Because he stays after practice to catch footballs from the Jugs machine, it may be a tossup on if he's caught more footballs than tennis balls during the preseason. And he says it is 5,000 tennis balls. A coach stands behind him in the weight room, throws the tennis ball off the wall and Chase reacts.

"I do at least 40 a day," said Chase, who was putting in some 500-tennis-ball days after the three drops in Washington. "The tennis balls are for eye concentration, hand-eye coordination."

And there's one thing that can be fixed only by playing in a real NFL game: consistent playing time. Chase also believes that the inconsistent, herky-jerky nature of the preseason didn't allow him to get into a rhythm. 

"I didn't really get into a good rhythm with myself and actually play football," Chase said. "I just had a few times to go out there and learn the fundamentals of the offense. That's how I felt when I was out there playing. I feel like once I get into this game and actually play a longer time I'll do more of myself."

Chase will get his first chance to find that "good rhythm" when the Bengals take on the Minnesota Vikings at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, a game Cincinnati is a 3-point underdog, according to BetMGM oddsmakers

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