Cincinnati Bengals rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase, 'not afraid to get better,' works on dropped passes

CINCINNATI -- Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase didn't shy away from one of the team's biggest preseason storylines.

Throughout the offseason, training camp and in the preseason games, this year's fifth overall draft pick has struggled with repeated drops. In his first news conference since the issue became more pronounced, Chase said the missed catches stemmed from a lack of focus and concentration. He admitted that he didn't get as much out of his first NFL preseason as he hoped.

"I know I left a lot of stuff out there," Chase said. "But that's all in time for me to get better, of course. I'm not afraid to get better. That's what I'm here for -- to work, to get better, make the team better, make the organization better." In his 2019 season at LSU, Chase dropped 4.8% of his targets, according to ESPN Stats & Information, which was just under the average for Power Five wide receivers. That year, he led that group in receiving yards and touchdowns and was given the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the best receiver in college football.

However, the transition hasn't been as smooth for Chase since arriving in Cincinnati. He failed to catch four of his five targets in the preseason, including quarterback Joe Burrow's only pass since coming off knee surgery.

"If you look back at it, I jumped in the air when the ball got to me," Chase said. "That means my eyes weren't concentrated on the ball. I didn't keep still. So that makes my eye adjustment for the ball move around."

On Monday, Bengals coach Zac Taylor didn't seem too bothered with Chase's preseason as Cincinnati prepares for the team's season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. The third-year coach said he his confidence in Chase.

"I see the way that he prepares in the building, during practice, so I don't have those concerns," Taylor said. "We'll just move forward and I expect big things from him."

The former LSU standout said not playing in 2020 after he opted out of the season could factor into his early issues. Chase also referenced adjusting to catching the bigger ball the NFL uses that also has different markings.

He has spent a lot of time in the offseason to work on his issues. He said he catches 40 tennis balls a day to work on his hand-eye coordination and has done drills with the Jugs football machine. Despite his struggles, Chase wasn't lacking in confidence.

Chase appeared to relish the idea of going up against Vikings defensive back Patrick Peterson, one of the best defensive backs LSU has produced. Peterson, 31, is a three-time All-Pro selection and is an eight-time Pro Bowl player.

"I could put Patrick Peterson on my highlight tape," Chase said. "He might be mad I'm saying it, but hey, you know what I'm saying, it's part of the game. I'd love to make a play on him." Ahead of his official NFL debut, Chase said he was relaxed for the most part and is eager to show why the Bengals drafted him.

"Everyone wants to see this and that, but I'm excited to show literally me, myself," Chase said. "I'm excited to do what I came here to do."

Waynes out against former team: Bengals starting cornerback Trae Waynes will not play in the Week 1 game against the Vikings, Taylor said on Monday.

Eli Apple will get the start after Waynes suffered a hamstring injury in one of the final days of training camp. Since the Bengals didn't place Waynes on injured reserve, Taylor said, the team is hopeful he can play on Week 2 or Week 3.

Waynes hasn't played for the Bengals since he signed a three-year deal worth $42 million last offseason. Waynes tore a pectoral muscle and missed the entire 2020 season.