Bengals two-time 1,000-yard wide receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins plan to be re-united Monday night (8:15-Cincinnati's Channel 9, ESPN) at Jacksonville for the first since the Bengals won a Sunday night game last month against the Bills.
Bengaldom has been turned upside down in that 28-day stretch since with a three-game losing streak and the season-ending injury to Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow. Chase and Higgins won't divulge their season goals, but each says they can still reach them.
Chase: "How many games left? Six? I can still reach some."
Higgins, who had his first full practice Friday since injuring his hamstring in practice a few days after the Buffalo win: "Every single goal I have is still on the table. Just have to go out there and play well."
With five catches and 86 yards Monday, Chase becomes
the fourth player in NFL history with at least 80 catches for 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons with old LSU chum Justin Jefferson, Michael Thomas, and Odell Beckham Jr.
Chase is also 86 yards from joining A.J. Green as the only Bengal to start his career with three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Chase says that's important to him and the franchise, but he clearly has a bigger number in mind.
He's currently averaging 85.4 yards per game in his career, the third highest of all-time behind Jefferson and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Calvin Johnson. If he does that the rest of the way, he'll finish with 1,426 yards, 30 shy of breaking his Bengals' single- season record of 1,455, the NFL rookie record he set in 2021.
With four games lost to injury, Higgins has a long climb to 1,000 yards with 328. But Chase is delighted he's back.
"That's why I had the energy," Chase said after Friday's practice. "Instead of bringing the whole defense to me, bring the defense to him. Anytime I can get on the field with him I'm happy. With the three receivers on the field (with Tyler Boyd), that's all good. He looked like Tee. Moving fast. He's good."
In Higgins' absence, Chase has moved past him on the Bengals' all-time lists with 243 catches for 3,415 yards. Higgins has 242 catches for 3,356 yards.
Both are zeroing in on teammate Joe Mixon's 264 career catches, tied with Bengals tight end great Dan Ross at 17th on the receptions list. Next on the receiving yardage list is tight end Tony McGee's 3,795 yards, 13th on the list.
PRACTICE PLAN: Chase isn't sure why ("Maybe somebody just didn't feel like it"), but he says there's more energy this week than last and agrees with quarterback Jake Browning that he appears more comfortable and things are going smoother than before his first start last week against Pittsburgh.
"I expect the offense to put up numbers. It may not be the same, but I expect us to put up numbers," Chase said. "(Monday) is about having hope and still having a shot at the playoffs."
Higgins had been looking at the Burrow loss from the sidelines until this week.
"Guys are not getting too down," Higgins said. "The losses are hurting, but guys are still coming in with smiles on their faces because they know we still have opportunity. If we practice hard and come into the game with confidence and execute, I feel we'll be all right. We know we've got the guys in this locker room to go out there and win."
INJURY UPDATE: Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt was listed on the injury report with an updated designation. On Thursday he was listed as limited with the quad injury that kept him out of the game last Sunday, but head coach Zac Taylor had been encouraged about his status. On Friday, CTB was still limited with a quad/ankle issue.
The rest was good news. Left end Sam Hubbard (ankle) went full and so did bookend Trey Hendrickson returning from a rest day, as did cornerback Chidobe Awuzie returning from an illness. Defensive tackle B.J. Hill went limited again to rest.
NATIONAL TITLE REDUX: It's also a reunion of the 2020 national championship game when Burrow and Chase beat Higgins and Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence in LSU's 42-25 win over Clemson. Burrow, Chase, and Higgins had the final say in Lawrence's rookie season of 2021 when the Bengals beat the Jags in a Thursday night game at Paycor Stadium.
But Higgins sees it as a chance to compete against one of his best friends, Clemson teammate and Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. They're so close they talk almost every day and they haven't stopped this week.
"Never shut it down. We're best friends. You're going to talk trash with your boys. That's just the way it is," Higgins said. "Nothing but love. I'm proud of what he and Trevor are doing. I'm looking forward to the competition Monday."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: These Clemson guys are all over the place. Like Bengals first-round edger Myles Murphy coming off his best game. According to Pro Football Focus, he had three pressures on nine rushes that included his second sack of the season.
"I never got near Trevor at Clemson," Murphy said. "If you touched him, they threw you out of practice."
Obviously, Murphy would like to change that Monday night, but he still thinks Lawrence is "a great guy." …
Bengals safety Dax Hill expects to see plenty of Jags tight end Evan Engram and not because Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth went for a career-high 120 yards last Sunday in a month 49ers tight end George Kittle went for 149 and the Texans' Dalton Schultz went for 71 yards with a total of seven catches among the three of at least 20 yards.
Engram is the third most targeted tight end in the league behind T.J. Hockenson and Travis Kelce and has the third most catches (62) and sixth most yards (524). The 6-0, 190-pound Hill says the 6-3, 240-pound Engram is built more like a receiver than a conventional tight end.
"But a very good tight end. He can move," Hill says. "Freiermuth got open early in some zones, but I think we made some pretty good adjustments as the game went. I'm expecting them to throw at the tight end because that's what they do. They've got a good passing game that has a lot of weapons." …
Backup quarterback AJ McCarron, who went 2-2 to finish off the 2015 Bengals playoff run, says he only approaches Browning with advice when asked.
"During the game I tell him things I've seen," McCarron said. "You've got to let him play. I don't know how much he wants to be fed. I just stay back and make little comments here and there." …
The Bengals worked in the IEL Indoor Facility Thursday and are in there again Friday ...