Chargers vs. Bengals matchup: Tyrod Taylor brings different element
Breaking down how the Chargers (5-11 last season) and Cincinnati Bengals (2-14 last season) match up heading into Sunday’s game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati:
When Chargers have the ball
For the first time in 5,116 days, this franchise will have a new starting quarterback, with Tyrod Taylor replacing Philip Rivers, who held the job since the opening of the 2006 season. Since then, 194 players league-wide started at least one NFL game at quarterback, according to the Chargers. The difference in how the team’s offense will look now should be just as stark as those statistics. Taylor is considerably more mobile than Rivers, offering an additional running threat. The Chargers will attempt to use Taylor’s ability to force defenses to truly play 11-on-11. Cincinnati had the NFL’s worst rushing defense a year ago, but the Bengals have made sweeping changes on both sides of the ball after finishing 2-14. They’re young but also athletic at linebacker. The Chargers figure to feature plenty of play-action and speed option-type looks. They will start Austin Ekeler at running back but expect Justin Jackson and rookie Josh Kelley also to play. Keenan Allen just signed an $80.1-million extension and is looking for a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. But with Rivers in Indianapolis, the Chargers certainly won’t be throwing as much as has been the franchise’s recent custom.
With a new quarterback, no preseason and the uncertainty associated with COVID-19, the Chargers hope to solve mysteries in their opener at Cincinnati.
When Bengals have the ball
Two words: Joe Burrow. He was the No.1 overall pick in April, just a few months after setting fire to collegiate secondaries. During his final season at Louisiana State, Burrow had a touchdown to interception ratio of 60 to 6, which sounds like a video-game stat only because it should be. The Bengals are expecting explosive things after nine seasons of Andy Dalton produced five straight wild-card playoff losses followed by four years of missing the postseason. Burrow’s arrival coincides with A.J. Green’s return. Green is a seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver but hasn’t played since Dec. 2, 2018. He missed last season after having ankle surgery. The Bengals also feature wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who had 90 catches for 1,046 yards in 2019. Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley called Boyd “Keenan Allen type-ish.” The Chargers had the NFL’s No. 5 defense against the pass last year and added veteran cornerback Chris Harris Jr. in the offseason. One thing to consider is that Cincinnati will be starting a rookie at left tackle. Jonah Williams was a first-round pick in 2019 but missed his first season because of a left shoulder injury. The presence of rookies at quarterback and left tackle certainly has the attention of Chargers defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
When they kick
With no preseason games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael Badgley hasn’t booted a ball for even semi-real since December. He was 19 for 19 on extra points and 13 for 16 on field-goal attempts in 2019. Randy Bullock has been the Bengals’ kicker since midway through the 2016 season. His 86% (69 for 80) accuracy on field-goal attempts is No. 2 in franchise history.
Jeff Miller’s pick
This game coming down to a late kick wouldn’t be surprising. The Chargers played 11 one-score games last season, going 2-9, and the Bengals played eight, going 0-8.
CHARGERS 23, BENGALS 21
Go beyond the scoreboard
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