Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals
This was an interesting game between two franchises in different stages of rebuilds. While both teams just drafted their future quarterbacks, the Cincinnati Bengals need to do a lot of work on their offensive and defensive lines. The Los Angeles Chargers meanwhile are closer than people realize but some key injuries have hurt their short-term chances.
Joe Burrow: 23/36, 193 yards, 1 INT | 8 carries, 46 yards, 1 TD
Joe Burrow had a decent first game, all things considered. His running touchdown was a good QB-run scheme with Trey Hopkins executing a perfect block to allow Burrow to scamper in with a 23-yard run. This was the longest run for a #1 pick quarterback since Michael Vick in 2001. He showed in College he isn’t afraid to run and it’s an underrated part of his game. He ran often in this one, attempting eight rushes which lead the NFL for QBs going into Sunday night. It seemed like he wasn’t gonna have a chance to show-off his arm early-on. In the first half, the Bengals only had 83 total yards. That’s not something you expect when your offense is supposed to be the bright spot. Thankfully in the 3rd quarter, I noticed he started airing it out more, throwing a long pass that John Ross JUST missed and the next play going to AJ Green deep. Honestly, I would have said he had a mediocre game until the fourth quarter. He stepped up and was able to drive downfield down 13-16 with under two minutes left. He was able to find open-man after open-man to keep the drive alive and looked like a steady veteran instead of a young quarterback in his first NFL game. While the drive would end poorly (sorry Bengals fans), I was super impressed.
Joe Mixon: 19 carries, 69 yards, 1 fumble | 1 reception, 2 yards
Giovani Bernard: 1 carry, 7 yards | 4 receptions, 21 yards
Well, at least that’s a nice yardage line for Joe Mixon. After Joe Burrow started the game with a pass to Mixon, he wouldn’t catch another one for the rest of the game. Part of the appeal to Mixon was the fact he had the potential to catch 40+ passes as he did in 2018. He also fumbled for the first time since Week 17 of 2017, an insanely long-time. The fumble was from trying to do too much and tried spinning out of a tackle from Denzel Perryman. Mixon essentially launched the ball forward after losing grip and turning it over. It was messy but not the end of the world for him, as this shouldn’t be an issue going forward. He would have all of the rushing attempts of the running backs, limiting Giovani Bernard strictly to pass-catching duty, which again really dings Mixon’s value overall. Bernard was used more than I thought in the passing game, getting five targets. On the final drive, he rushed up the middle for a gain of seven yards and while it wasn’t a ton, he grinded for those seven yards. I can see why the Bengals like him so much.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
A.J. Green: 5 receptions, 51 yards
Tyler Boyd: 4 receptions, 33 yards
John Ross: 2 receptions, 17 yards
Drew Sample: 1 reception, 7 yards
C.J. Uzomah: 4 receptions, 45 yards
Joe Burrow targeted A.J.Green early and often. Green showed he’s finally healthy and still has it, using his hands and strength to make good, contested catches. While it wasn’t prime Green, it was encouraging to see him out there and competing. The final “pushing the defender” penalty was a real bummer, as he had a pretty good game that could have been great. Tyler Boyd was invisible for the first half of this game and it wasn’t until 6:25 left in the third quarter that he finally got a catch. After that, he seemed to be a target of Joe Burrow as he helped push the final drive that almost won them the game. The ball was spread around quite a bit this game, as five players would end up with five-plus targets. John Ross was one of those five, but unfortunately, he could only come up with two catches. I really noticed his speed on one deep-throw from Joe Burrow (mentioned above) and his stat line would be completely different if he makes that catch. He’s got all the potential but needs to show better hands to take advantage of it.
I didn’t notice Drew Sample other than blocking, which he’s pretty elite at. He was getting some hype this off-season but for now, leave him on waivers. C.J. Uzomah on the other hand was used in short-yardage plays quite effectively, gaining 34 yards in the final quarter. He’ll help Burrow acclimate to the NFL and should continue being a top target for the rookie QB.
Los Angeles Chargers
Tyrod Taylor: 16/30, 208 yards | 6 carries, 7 yards
Tyrod Taylor looked different than he has in the past. While he had been more conservative in previous years, I noticed he seemed more willing to air it out this game. I wouldn’t say he was amazing by any stretch but definitely showed flashes of being a capable quarterback until Justin Herbert is ready. That’s just it though, only flashes. He was alright overall. He went to Mike Williams downfield more than I expected but unfortunately showed his accuracy still is an issue. One drive I really liked was on third-down, he had to scramble out of the pocket. He stiff-armed Sam Hubbard and was able to find Jalen Guyton open for the first-down. He wasn’t afraid to run but wasn’t very successful in doing so.
Austin Ekeler: 19 carries, 84 yards | 1 reception, 3 yards
Justin Jackson: 2 carries, 4 yards
Josh Kelley: 12 carries, 60 yards, 1 TD
Austin Ekeler, where have your catches gone? Tyrod Taylor only targeted Ekeler once all game, which is going to severely limit his fantasy value in PPR. He still looked really good as a rusher, darting to the left multiple times for 5+ yards. If he keeps getting the ball as often as a rusher, he’ll be okay. Justin Jackson seemed to be the second guy in the backfield but left the game with a quad injury (the same one bugging him recently). Because of that, in came Joshua Kelley. Kelley looked really, really good. He got a red-zone chance in the 4th and took advantage, cutting by two defenders into the end-zone (and had help from a Keenan Allen block). He also broke off a long run of 26 yards. He’s going to be a top waiver-wire add (if he wasn’t already rostered) but if Jackson’s injury isn’t too bad, he might have to wait a bit longer. He was barely getting any snaps until Jackson came off the field (just 8% snaps in the first-half).
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
Keenan Allen: 4 receptions, 37 yards
Mike Williams: 4 receptions, 69 yards
Jalen Guyton: 1 reception, 16 yards
Hunter Henry: 5 receptions, 73 yards
Keenan Allen had a so-so game. I really didn’t notice him all that much and honestly, his biggest play I did notice was the block mentioned above. He only caught four of his eight targets but some of it was Tyrod Taylor just missing him. I expect better but he was someone I was avoiding altogether during draft season. Mike Williams was questionable up until 8:00 AM this morning and boy did he look healthy. I noticed Taylor threw to him downfield quite a bit and Williams looked pretty good. If he keeps seeing the air-yards he did this week (which he more than likely will, lining up outside) he could be a sneaky good option. Jalen Guyton was the guy across from Williams and while he didn’t get as much work, he still caught the one target he received. I noticed his speed tonight and while he’s not an option currently, he’s got interesting dynasty appeal.
Hunter Henry was someone I wanted a lot of during draft season and games like this are why. Health has been his biggest issue and he showed that he’s been eating his vegetables. I noticed he broke off two runs after the catch with one of them going for 13 yards after he caught it, showcasing the speed that makes him a valuable asset. He’s going to get a ton of work as long as Taylor is the QB (Taylor LOVED Charles Clay in BUF) and is someone I love in PPR leagues.
Overall, that was a pretty so-so game until the end of the 4th quarter with Joe Burrow taking over. That single-handedly made me become a Bengals fan, and now I feel the pain many fans do every week. Maybe I’m just a Joe Burrow fan.
-Jamie Sayer (@JamieSayerPL on Twitter)