What to watch out for in Jaguars-Bengales
8:20 am ET (NFL Network) | Paul-Brown Stadium
The final two No.1 picks in the NFL Draft will battle it out for quarterback Thursday night against Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cincinnati is tied with the Ravens and Browns atop a competitive AFC North, coming from a 24-10 Steelers breakdown for their most impressive performance to date. Jacksonville is looking for quite the rebuild it was meant to be with a lacking roster of star power, a first-time NFL coach and a rookie QB.
Here are four things to watch for Thursday night when the Bengals host the Jaguars:
- Chooses in abundance. For Lawrence, progressing to this point means showing a zero in the revenue column. In three games, he’s already thrown more interceptions (seven) than he did all last season at Clemson (five). The offense has been more or less on the rookie’s shoulders without much help around him, so it’s far too early to assess Lawrence’s potential. His gunslinger mentality needs more aggressive receiving targets to pay dividends; for now, he could help his cause by knowing better when to settle for checkdowns and throws. And offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s growing reliance on running back James Robinson may help, too.
- The terrier is back. It’s amazing what a little protection can do. Coming out of a reconstructed knee, Burrow looked uncomfortable in the preseason and took 10 sacks in Cincinnati’s first two games, five in each. His pass protection took a big step forward against Pittsburgh last week, allowing no rampage, and he responded with three touchdown passes in an efficient if not dynamic outing. The Jaguars’ pass rush has been dismal with just four sacks in three games. Unless Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen has a dominant night ahead, all signs point to a big night for Burrow.
- Jags debut Arnold, minus Henderson. We’ll learn more about how former first-round pick CJ Henderson really was in the Jaguars’ high school. Traded to Carolina this week for tight end Dan Arnold, Henderson had played about half of Jacksonville’s defensive snaps for the year (104), although he was inactive in week three. Cornerback Tre Herndon, who has yet to play this season due to a knee injury, is expected to make his debut in the season by filling Henderson’s shoes. At the expense of eliminating a young talent from a privileged position, the Jags are hopeful that Arnold can help Lawrence’s development by giving him a legitimate target in midfield. With Henderson in the top 10 picks just two draft picks ago, Herndon and Arnold will be playing under brighter lights.
- Chase takes off the top. Despite all the alarms over Bengals first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase, who dropped assists in the preseason, he has won the gold medal in the three weeks since the scorecard went. started to count. He’s recorded four touchdown catches in his first three career games, the youngest NFL player to do so, by NFL Research, and he takes over the defense to do so. Chase’s NextGen Stats road chart shows he was targeted on five deep balls and placed three in the end zone at distances of 50, 42 and 34 yards. The aforementioned Jaguar secondary will need to pay attention to the fast rookie departure routes.