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Pregame Notebook: New Bengals Starters; Burrow-Fangio Man Up?; Chase Eyes A.J. Record

Ja'Marr Chase in Sunday's pregame.
Ja'Marr Chase in Sunday's pregame.

DENVER -All signs point to wide receiver Trent Taylor making his first punt returns as a Bengal in Sunday's game against the Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.

Head coach Zac Taylor's inactive list included wide receiver Trenton Irwin, one of the three guys that has been back there this season. With Taylor activated from the practice squad on Saturday, he could also return kicks. But he only had two career kick returns in his three seasons with the 49ers and not one since 2018. Taylor has 49 career punt returns, but 30 of them came in 2017.

Zac Taylor had already pretty much announced the inactives on Friday. Backup right tackle Isaiah Prince and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III were out with illness. Also inactive were running back Trayveon Williams and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin.

That set the stage for right tackle Fred Johnson making his first start of the season and cornerback Trae Waynes making his third as a Bengal and first since Oct. 10.

Presented by On Location, the Bengals have arrived to Empower Field at Mile High Stadium for the Week 15 contest.

MAN OR ZONE: There was a lot of man talk about the Broncos defense coming into this game. They like to play man-to-man on third down and go pretty much zone early in the count, but the Bengals haven't been seeing much man lately because quarterback Joe Burrow has been ripping it. (See Ravens, Baltimore).

But with Broncos head coach Vic Fangio one of the NFL's defensive gurus who has an elite secondary at his disposal, the Bengals are quite interested how he'll play it.

"We haven't seen it in a couple of weeks. So, we think Denver might be playing a little bit of man," Burrow said during the week. "They have really good secondary players that they probably feel really good about as well. So, going forward, you know, we've seen something new from every team that we played. So we're going to come in and be ready for all the stuff that is shown on tape and ready to adapt just like we had last couple of weeks."

Fangio also has a rep for disguising heavily against young quarterbacks. But does Burrow apply? Yes, it's just his 24th NFL start, but he's also the only AFC quarterback with a passer rating in three digits.

He's also looking for his first win in December and last week against San Francisco, while sifting the 49ers for a 125 rating, he was also quite mindful of the line he's walking. Making a badly needed play versus a crushing turnover and he didn't add to his NFL-leading 14 interceptions.

"I think at the beginning of the game, every game is different and every game requires something different of the quarterback," Burrow said. "At the beginning of the game, you've got to do a good job of taking care of the ball, seeing how the defense is playing you and then whatever the game asks of you going forward in the game, you've got to go out and make plays sometimes and sometimes you've got to keep taking care of the ball and your entire team is playing great and you just have to take care of the ball and not lose the game for everybody.

"And then some games you got to go out and win it. That was a game like that on Sunday, and like I said before, as a quarterback you've got to be adaptable to whatever the game asks."

EYE ON THE BALL: Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who already has the Bengals rookie record with ten touchdowns and is 23 yards shy of A.J. Green's rookie record, took Sunday's first bus from the hotel and was the on field early with wide receivers coach Troy Walters catching tennis balls. Walters started out tossing balls about 10 yards away, with Chase's back turned before he turned and caught it. Then Walters had Chase split out and run routes into the end zone while he gunned 20-yarders at him.