Randy Moss Knows His Bengals Past And Present And Sees "Magic" In What Could Be NFL's Next Great QB-WR Combo  

Rookie Ja'Marr Chase is ahead of everybody but Randy Moss.
Rookie Ja'Marr Chase is ahead of everybody but Randy Moss.

First-ballot Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss knows all about the Bengals going back to watching "The Ickey Shuffle," when he was 11 years old growing up in West Virginia.

He can tick off the names like "Munoz," and "Collinsworth," and while he dominated the first decade of the 21st century, he thought overall No. 1 pick Carson Palmer's Heisman Trophy arm and his receiving corps of Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry were among the NFL's most explosive.

"They put on some great shows," Moss recalled Wednesday. "But they were overshadowed by damn Ray Lewis and them (in Baltimore). You got Troy Polamalu and (Ben) Roethlisberger winning Super Bowl championships (in Pittsburgh). The Bengals were good back then, but they were overshadowed by how good the guys in the division were. But guess what? They're in the top of the division."

He also knows about Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, the two guys steering the Bengals into the next chapter of AFC North orange-and-black drama.

"It's good to see the Bengals get another Heisman No. 1 pick," Moss said. "A Fred Biletnikoff winner … They've got a fan base thirsting for these guys, 'To get us over the hump.' … When Palmer and Ocho were playing they were overshadowed by just how good that Black and Blue Division really was. . Now it's just good to see them have some names and they're putting up numbers and being helped led by a rookie in Ja'Marr Chase. That's great to see."

On Wednesday, Moss, now an ESPN analyst, made his biggest impact at Paul Brown Stadium since his 102 yards led the Patriots to a 2007 victory over the Bengals. It worked out just right for the worldwide leader that the NFL's only two rookie receivers to break in with 500 yards and five touchdowns in their first six games sat down for an interview to be seen on Sunday morning's NFL Countdown show to set up Sunday's AFC North showdown (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Baltimore.

Chase is the Biletnikoff winner wrecking the league with 553 yards on a torrid 20.5 yards per catch with five touchdowns and is leading the league with five catches of 40-plus yards. Moss, who had 527 yards and six touchdowns when he debuted with the 1998 Vikings, two years before the birth of Chase, is duly impressed with not only Chase, but his Heisman quarterback Burrow.

And thrilled because he's been watching them since they were college teammates with his son, Bengals practice squad tight end Thaddeus Moss, as their LSU offense rolled to a historic 2019 national title.

"They want to go from that national championship team, as great as they were in history, to put their own stamp on the game. I think that's my son's approach. I think that's Ja'Marr's approach," Moss says. "The biggest thing Ja'Marr told me is it was just great being able to reach the NFL and that was a dream of his and now they're here and you have to be able to take advantage of it. They're showing up and making a lot of people proud."

The 6-0, 200-pound Chase is the physical opposite of the 6-4, 210-pound Moss. Moss brought the NBA to the NFL. Chase is a former running back that has barged into the ranks of the receiving elite with a breathtaking brew of speed and on-a-swivel awareness of the ball in the air.

"Look at how he plays the position," Moss says. "He wants to run after the catch. He's physical. He's not going to let one guy bring him down. That's a great skill set to have when you have all those intangibles being to make yourself complete. I think that's why he's having so much success, being able to understand the game from a running back, being able to make the transition to wide receiver and understanding how to play the position … And he's with a quarterback."

And this is what Moss thinks of the quarterback:

"I love Joe … I know that Joe was an early frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. When I was able to see him live, man, 'That's the Heisman Trophy.'"

Moss is the long and tall end of one of history's most devastating quarterback-receiver combos even though he played just 36 games with Tom Brady. They hooked up for 39 touchdowns and an undefeated regular season during the 10th, 12th and 13th years of Moss' career. He thinks Burrow and Chase can reach similar levels "if they stay focused and hungry."

"They're making it look easy," Moss says. "When you look at the chemistry of 1-2 punches of Montana-Rice, Myself-Brady, Manning-Marvin Harrison, that's the type of company those guys can be in. They had success early before they got to this level and if they really want to zone in and continue to have success and start honing in on their offseasons and their camps and their training camps, the sky's the limit for this offense and guys like that.

"They've already made history in college. It's not like Ja'Marr Chase is getting with Joe Burrow in his sixth or seventh or eighth year in the NFL or vice versa. Joe came in one year, Ja'Marr came in the next year. Keeping these guys together and keeping that magic happening … there are years to come in this combination. If they stay hungry and they just stayed focused, for those guys you're taking about five, 10 plus years together. That's magic."

At the moment Moss sees what the PBS faithful saw 10 days ago and calls Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams the league's top combo. But in a year or two, he sees Burrow-Chase in the argument because he saw their passion a few years ago winning it all for LSU.

"They have the skill set to do it and the way their offense is designed and the weapons they have around them and the faith Joe has in Ja'Marr, that could be a great combination for years to come."

Moss says they're making it look easy. Which is funny because that's what they said about Moss back in the day. But Moss knows it wasn't and he sees some of his rookie year in what Chase is doing.

"A guy like Ja'Marr Chase (is) able to go in there as a rookie and make it look smooth and make it look easy," Moss says. "A lot of people were just talking about a lot of things that I was able to do as a rookie like I'd been there before. That's kind of some of the same things I've seen in Ja'Marr. He knows how to play this game. He knows the position."

Moss grew up a Bears fan because of Sir Walter Payton. But there's a familiar Carson-Ocho-Houshmandzadeh buzz around his neighboring Bengals in the week of a game for first place against Ray Lewis' Ravens.

"It's great to see the Bengals competing in the division, ready to compete to win the division," Moss says. "And at the same time the guys that are out there playing, I know those guys. It's rewarding to see."

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