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LSU's Ja'Marr Chase Already Has History With Bengals

Ja'Marr Chase at the other end of a Joe Burrow pass.
Ja'Marr Chase at the other end of a Joe Burrow pass.

Wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase did Wednesday what Joe Burrow didn't have the chance to do last year when he did everything but swipe Superman's cape at the LSU pro day with a sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash, a vertical leap north of 40 inches and an 11-foot broad jump longer than sane.

And old friend Kevin Coyle says you haven't seen anything yet. Like the 6-foot-ish, 201-pound Chase picking up tires like they were leaves or dominating tugs of war like some kind of MMA fighter or winning NBA jump balls.

"The thing I think a lot of people will be shocked at is just how strong this guy is," says Coyle, who coached the Bengals secondary for 13 seasons before becoming LSU's defensive analyst.

"He'll block. He'll knock the crap out of a safety. He'll lock up a corner. He's not afraid to get his nose dirty. You could put him at running back to get the ball in his hands. Pound for pound he's one of the strongest players on the team. Clearly he's one of the top players coming out in the draft … There's nothing he can't do."

On Wednesday, the Bengals scouts got an eyeful of two of those players they figure to be perusing for the fifth pick in next month's first round of the NFL Draft. While Chase ripped it up in Baton Rouge, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts made good on the Generational Talent headlines when he put a 4.4 40 on the longest wing span of any prospect playing tight end or wide receiver in the last 20 years.

According to reports, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor saw Pitts work and no doubt a contingent is headed to Oregon to see massive left tackle Penei Sewell's pro day on Friday. The way it's going the Bengals are going to get a shot at the draft's first non-quarterback.

And Chase made a strong bid on Wednesday to be exactly that despite opting out last season. So intriguing for Bengaldom is that Chase hooked up with Burrow two years ago for a national championship combo that was purely fantasy football.

While playing pitch-and-catch with Burrow, Chase scored 20 touchdowns and averaged 21 yards per a ridiculous 84 catches. Coyle calls it "phenomenal chemistry." So naturally both have said this offseason that they wouldn't mind re-uniting. After Wednesday's workout in his media Zoom call, Chase called it "The Joe Thing," but he also warned the chemistry wouldn't be re-heated overnight.

"I would have an advantage if I was to play with him only because we played a couple of years," Chase said. "We would still have to get that groove back. Get a feel for it again. It's just not going to be there when throw again. We have to build that chemistry back up."

Chase has talked to the Bengals enough on Zoom calls that he says he can't remember how many times he's chatted with the team. He says he doesn't speak much with NFL players, although he has spoken occasionally to former LSU wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Jarvis Landry.

He says he hasn't watched much of the Bengals offense and besides knowing that Burrow plays for them, he also knows wide receiver Tee Higgins is a target. Beyond that he says some of the offense looks like what LSU has run in the past.

He opted out of the pandemic season that began last year when Burrow's pro day was scrubbed because, "I had a lot of things going on with my family. At the time I wanted to take care of that.

"I didn't want to play a few games and then opt out because that doesn't look right."

Coyle can easily fill in the rest.

During an estimable career with the Bengals, he broke into NFL coaching in 2001 when the top receivers were Rod and Jimmy Smith and a future Hall of Famer in Marvin Harrison while a rookie named Chad Johnson percolated. In the last game Coyle coached at Paul Brown Stadium in 2017, the Bengals held Lions rookie receiver Kenny Golladay to 28 yards before he watched Bengals slot receiver Tyler Boyd the next week knock the Ravens out of the playoffs in the last minute of the season.

 Along the way Coyle went against a combined 13 Pro Bowls every day in practice, whether it was Chad or A.J. Green.

He knows elite receivers and Coyle says Chase can be all of that.  

"He has a tenacious, competitive nature about him. He's got great hands. Not good hands. Great hands. He will just fight for the football. About as good as anybody I've seen," Coyle says. "He's special that way. The thing about him is he's strong for a guy his size and he's got good size, but he's not an overly big receiver. But in terms of strength, body position, he's got an unusual combination of skills."

Not only does Chase understand coverage and leverage, Coyle says, but that strength blows away his teammates in the competitive drills allows him to shrug off press coverage on game day.

He says the guy is not only a gamer, but he's a great practice player, too. Coyle watched him make sure Chase took as many reps as he could against Derek Stingley, Jr., one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. His field personality almost sounds like a cross between Chad's chattering boasts and Green's stately dominance.

"He's just that type of guy who always want to go against the best. He always wants to show what he can do," Coyle says. "He proves it to you every day. He'll talk some smack and compete, but at the end of the day he just does it. He shows you how good he is not by talking about it but just going out there every day and he gets it done."

But at LSU, when you think about Chase or you think about Burrow, you can't help but think about them together in 2019.

"Last season was incredible. He was literally unstoppable." Coyle says of Chase. "And it was every game no matter what teams tried to do. He just found a way to make plays."

Coyle has seen a lot of NFL passes.

"When the ball is in the air, he's something."