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If you didn’t know Joe Burrow is only in his second year in the NFL, most would assume he’s played at least five years by the way he operates on the field. Burrow’s ability to diagnosis what a defense is trying to do to his offense is his best trait as a quarterback.
What Burrow possesses is unique and his quick rise in the league is a byproduct of the work he puts in to get himself prepared for upcoming games.
No matter the circumstance, Burrow never seems rattled. He’s as poised as they come for only being 25 years old. Cincinnati’s franchise quarterback says his innate ability to make decisions with no hesitation is a direct result of his preparation.
“If you don’t prepare the way you need to, you’re going to be surprised when they throw something new at you,” Burrow said. “But a lot of times defenses have shown what they have throughout the year. And a lot of times it’s just changeup, but if you’ve seen it once on tape, once you see it in the game you can get to some stuff you’ve got confidence in to beat that certain coverage.”
Some quarterbacks prepare by taking copious notes. Some are film junkies. Some are visual learners.
How Joe Burrow prepares for games
Burrow is a visual learner who relies on his work in practice and his film study to ensure he’s ready. He doesn’t park himself in front of a screen and set a timer. Burrow chooses to be efficient with his time and doesn’t try to accomplish more than he needs at one time.
“I always think about it as however long it takes for me to feel comfortable with whatever I was watching that day," Burrow said. "Whether it's red zone or third-and-medium, third-and-short, however long it takes me to feel comfortable about where I'm going to put my eyes and in my decision making. Every situation has different coverages and all that so as long as it takes me to sit down and feel comfortable with all those different looks that I'm going to see is how long it takes. It could take 20 minutes, could take 30 minutes, could take an hour and a half. Whatever it takes to make me feel comfortable is what I do.”
Head coach Zac Taylor, when asked if he's ever coached a player as confident as Burrow, quickly pointed to Burrow’s preparation as the reason he can be confident.
Some young players fall into a trap of not understanding how to be a professional. When the Bengals selected Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, they never worried about their new franchise quarterback knowing what it takes to win at the highest level.
“He puts in the work to put himself in a great position and consequently that's leading the team to great things as well,” Taylor said.
How Joe Burrow studies film
Burrow breaks up his film study into segments, it allows him to singularly focus and stay in tune with what he’s going to see at practice the next day. The NFL practice week is a three-day schedule that doesn’t change.
“Earlier in the week, I just buzz through games, kind of get a feel for how they call their defense in certain situations,” Burrow said. “And then, as it goes later in the week, tomorrow's third down day, so I'll watch third down tonight and then Fridays are our red zone day, so I'll watch red zone the night before. And then buzz a couple more games right before Saturday night, right before the game.”
Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo gave Burrow the ultimate compliment comparing him to Tom Brady ahead of the Week 17 matchup.
“This may sound crazy, but I see a young Tom Brady,” Spagnuolo said. “This guy does everything. He does not look like a second-year quarterback that missed a lot of his first year, totally impressed with him.”
Cincinnati’s next opponent, the Tennessee Titans, will certainly have a plan in place to try and disrupt Burrow at the line of scrimmage. With one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, Burrow’s ability to audible and make changes based off what he sees could be the difference between the Bengals moving on to the AFC Championship or their season ending.
And it’s hard to bet against Burrow at this point based off what he’s showed this season.
"The key to performing in (these) kinds of situations is treating it like every other week,” Burrow said. “You know, if you go out in warmups and are super intense and wear yourself out you're not gonna be able to sustain that into the fourth quarter of these high intensity games. At least that's the way I think about it.”
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Cincinnati Bengals schedule
Week 1: Bengals 27, Minnesota Vikings 24
Week 2: Chicago Bears 20, Bengals 17
Week 3: Bengals 24, Steelers 10
Week 4: Bengals 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 21
Week 5: Green Bay Packers 25, Bengals 22
Week 6: Bengals 34, Detroit Lions 11
Week 7: Bengals 41, Baltimore Ravens 17
Week 8: New York Jets 34, Bengals 31
Week 9: Cleveland Browns 41, Bengals 16
Week 11: Bengals 32, Raiders 13
Week 12: Bengals 41, Steelers 10
Week 13: Los Angeles Chargers 41, Bengals 22
Week 14: San Francisco 49ers 26, Bengals 23
Week 15: Bengals 15, Denver Broncos 10
Week 16: Bengals 41, Ravens 21
Week 17: Bengals 34, Kansas City Chiefs 31
Week 18: Browns 21, Bengals 16
Wild-card round: Bengals 26, Raiders 19
Divisional round: Bengals at Tennessee Titans, 4:30 p.m., Jan.22
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals preparation vs. Titans