Chargers will be the first team to face Joe Burrow and they’re very familiar with him

The Bengals' Joe Burrow scrambles as he throws a pass.
The Bengals’ Joe Burrow scrambles as he throws a pass during practice in Cincinnati on Aug. 18.
(Aaron Doster / Associated Press)

The NFL is about to be introduced to Joe Burrow.

For the Chargers, the meeting Sunday will be more a case of getting reacquainted.

With the preseason canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burrow’s first appearance for Cincinnati will come against the Chargers in the teams’ season opener.

While the Chargers can’t know for certain how the Bengals’ offense will look behind the quarterbacking of Burrow, they do know exactly how the No. 1 NFL draft pick will look.

“We did a lot of work on him last year just like on all the quarterbacks,” general manager Tom Telesco said. “We saw a lot of him, as far as his skill set.”

Having the sixth pick in this year’s draft, the Chargers interviewed Burrow at the combine and had at least one video call with him.

Cincinnati, which held the top selection, was the obvious frontrunner to take Burrow. But, in doing their pre-draft work, the Chargers studied him just in case.

Chargers GM Tom Telesco believes teams will be adjusting their rosters a lot to start the season, and no one really knows what kind of team they have yet.

After the Bengals drafted Burrow and the Miami Dolphins took Tua Tagovailoa at No. 5, the Chargers went with Justin Herbert, making him the third quarterback selected.


“Joe’s a winner,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “People can say he only did it for one year [in college], but what he did in one year was unbelievable.”

Burrow began his career at Ohio State before transferring to Louisiana State for his final two seasons. He burst into prominence last year, throwing for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns as the Tigers won the national championship.

Barring any late developments, he’ll be the lone rookie to start at quarterback in Week 1. Both Tagovailoa and Herbert will open the season behind veterans.

“I don’t see him slowing down much in this league,” Lynn said of Burrow. “I think he’s just that type of quarterback. Our hands are going to be full dealing with Joe.”

The Bengals finished 2-14 last season but had a better December record by one victory than the Chargers did.

In replacing Andy Dalton, Burrow is expected to eventually lift a passing game that ranked 19th in yards and 28th in touchdowns a year ago.

Still, both teams will kick off Sunday facing more uncertainty than is typical.

“The opening game for everybody this year is very unique,” Telesco said. “As you put your advance scouting report together on these teams, there’s a lot of empty boxes and areas of the report where we just don’t know.”

Telesco pleased

The NFL officially reached Week 1 on schedule in a year clouded by a coronavirus that has disrupted almost every walk of life.

“I’m really pleased the way all 32 teams have handled this,” Telesco said. “I thought it could have been a lot worse. ... Everyone’s followed the protocols very well. As we stand here right now, I’m really confident for a full season.”

The Chargers are one of the teams that so far has not had to use the COVID-19/reserve list. Lynn and one member of the front office are the only publicly known positive cases within the organization.

The NFL did experience a one-day hiccup last month as the result of an issue at one of the testing laboratories. The Chargers weren’t impacted.

“I’ve been very pleased with the way the guys have handled the protocols,” Lynn said. “Their patience, their persistence ... We can’t get tired of these protocols. It’s just part of our lifestyle now. We have to embrace it.”

With no preseason, the one thing the Chargers haven’t done yet is travel to a game. That will change at the end of this week when they fly to Cincinnati.

Playing fantasy football this season requires making some contingency plans in case the NFL season takes an unexpected turn amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

New sensation

Depending on local guidelines, NFL stadiums will have few or no fans to start the season, with piped-in crowd noise expected to be the norm.

That means football players are about to experience something their counterparts in the other major sports have known for the past several weeks.

“You like it because now you feel like it’s you against the world,” Lynn said of walking into a hostile setting. “Now, I’m looking for a bunch of guys who are internally motivated that want to go out and execute and just play winning football.

“Fans don’t play the game. The Bengals do. So we’re just worried about the Bengals between the white lines.”

Injury updates

Lynn said wide receiver Mike Williams (shoulder) could be a game-time decision Sunday. Williams was injured in a scrimmage Aug. 23.

Center Mike Pouncey’s status for the opener remains in doubt because of an undisclosed injury that has prevented him from practicing. In Pouncey’s absence, the Chargers likely would move Dan Feeney to center and start Forrest Lamp at left guard.

Lynn indicated running back Justin Jackson (toe) will be ready to play against the Bengals.