Skip to main content

Bengals Notebook: Ja'Marr Chasing History; Awuzie Stakes His Claim As Bengals Top Cover Player 

Ja'Marr Chase is pointing to a 1,500-yard season.
Ja'Marr Chase is pointing to a 1,500-yard season.

A 17-game schedule and the fifth pick in the draft have the Bengals on pace to welcome their first 1,500-yard performer in history as wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase continues his relentless pursuit of NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Sunday's 159 yards against the Packers broke the Bengals' 27-year-old rookie record held by Darnay Scott and the 70-yard touchdown catch off the scramble drill marked the longest catch by a Bengals rookie since Damon Gibson's 76-yard touchdown catch from Neil O'Donnell in 1998.

And he's on pace for 1,550 yards, which would best Chad Johnson's club-record 1,440 yards in 2007. Even in a 16-game schedule he'd get the record with 1,459 on this 91-yard pace. Rudi Johnson holds the club rushing record with 1,458 in 2005.

Long time ago. But Chase is proving to be a transcendent type of player. At 6-0, 201 pounds, he doesn't fit the blueprint of the Bengals' litany of long, tall outside wide receivers. But, like slot receiver Tyler Boyd says, Chase is unique.

"He's kind of a rare breed to me. That's why we picked him up our first pick, fifth pick, so I can see the talent," Boyd said Monday. "There's not too many people on his level, so I think honestly, he's got his own game. He kind of can do it all. He lets the game come to him."

Boyd says Chase's athleticism makes him special.

"He can take the top off, he can run any intermediate routes," Boyd said. "The way he's running is so smooth, and then like the way he runs routes it looks like he's really not moving without pads, so he's ... got that extra gear."

Slot cornerback Mike Hilton, who practiced against the Steelers' JuJu Smith-Schuster for a few years, says Chase is built like him, but that's all. Like Boyd, Hilton agrees that Chase's athleticism separates him.

"In a sense he is built like JuJu, he is just more athletic," Hilton said. "Much more of a deeper threat but just moving the same he kind of has more of the same feel and build of JuJu, but he's more athletic."

And, like his LSU buddy Joe Burrow, Chase has an aura, too.

"We are not surprised," Hilton said. "What we've been seeing since training camp. He's a confident dude. Ever since his first touchdown his confidence has taken off.  You can just tell over these five games he's putting up great numbers for us and making a lot of plays for us and he's a guy we definitely are going to lean on."

TYLER TOO: As much of a threat as Chase is, the Packers doubled Boyd in the slot much of the day. He didn't get his first target and catch until less than four minutes left in the third quarter. Naturally, he converted a third-and-four on a five-yard catch, but finished with just four catches for a season-low 24 yards.

"It's not my first rodeo. I kind of expected that to happen a little earlier in the season, actually," Boyd said. "They were getting us up front, which allowed them to play low on us and squat and sit. And then the two safeties would come and shoot down to me, so things would happen faster."

Which is one of the reasons Chase had a chance to run four go balls, catching two of them.

Boyd and Burrow had a rare snafu on, of all plays, the first snap of overtime. Boyd settled in a zone on an option route when Burrow apparently expected him to keep going across the field and the linebacker kept running and picked it.

"It was bracketed with the nickel (cornerback) over the top of me and the linebacker wasn't exactly in the middle of the field but he was on the opposite hash," Boyd said. "(Burrow) couldn't see me that well and he's used to me running past guys' faces …

It's football, things like that happen. That was very rare to see that with me and him … we always connect, that's our bread and butter play. It's impossible to not complete that ball. The Packers played it really well. They made a good play."

CHIDO UNO: When it came to receivers on Sunday, no one was better than the Packers' Davante Adams with 206 yards. This is how good Adams is. Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was assigned to follow Adams and he was still graded the Bengals' top defender by Pro Football Focus.

Awuzie was immense with his first Bengals interception, another pass defensed and tackle for loss. And try to remember the last time a Bengals cornerback was deemed good enough to travel with the best receiver.

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo did it in Miami with Brent Grimes and others, but Awuzie seems to be his first guy here.

"It's how he plays, the confidence he plays with, he's a smart player. He's tough. Everything that you want in a corner he is," Anarumo said Monday. "Is he perfect? Nobody is. He went out there and he battled. He had to come out for a little bit because he got dinged up. He went back in there and gave his all. He's a good one."

Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham observed that six of Adams' 11 catches came against double teams. Hilton says the timing with Adams and quarterback Davante Adams is just plain hard to defend.

"We're going to give him single matchups, we were going to double team them. And they move him around. They find ways to get him the ball and try to get him open spots," Hilton said. "We knew they were going to have some successful plays. We just had to be in better spots to make them."

The prime example had the Bengals grumbling. They felt like they had stopped the Packers on third-and-one early in the fourth quarter even though they felt nose tackle D.J. Reader was held. Instead, Reader was called for tripping and on the next play Rodgers went up top and threw a perfect 57-yard loft job to Adams racing through a deep zone (called cover four), past both Awuzie and free safety Jessie Bates III.

"He gave a little hesitation and slowed his feet down on Jessie. He ran straight between," Hilton said. "That's the type of throw that Rodgers makes. Like I said, that's their connection. They have been doing for a long time. We just got to find ways to be in better position to make plays."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: It looks like cornerback Trae Waynes, who played just his second game for the Bengals in two years, may be out again for an extended period. Anarumo said he aggravated his hamstring injury on the last scrimmage snap of the game (Rodgers' winning 15-yard fling to Randall Cobb) and grabbed his leg even before the play was over. Anarumo doesn't know if he can play Sunday.

With backup running back Samaje Perine on the COVID list, look for Joe Mixon to get more work as his ankle heals, rookie Chris Evans to get his first NFL carry and Trayveon Williams to get promoted from the practice squad.