Bengals in prime time: 5 storylines to watch in tonight’s game against Jaguars

Two No. 1 draft picks meet in Week 4

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

The Cincinnati Bengals take the stage in primetime Thursday when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars in a battle between the last two No. 1 draft picks.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow goes up against Jaguars rookie No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence in a Thursday Night Football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati (2-1) seeks to build on the momentum of Sunday’s AFC North win at Pittsburgh. Led by former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, Jacksonville is seeking its first win.

It’s also a special night for the Bengals organization as the Ring of Honor officially will be unveiled with a halftime ceremony to induct the inaugural class of Ken Anderson, the late Paul Brown, Anthony Munoz and the late Ken Riley.

Here are five storylines going into the game:

1. Ring of Honor ceremony

Anderson, Brown, Munoz and Riley will be inducted into the inaugural Ring of Honor class during a halftime ceremony featuring a video tribute, the official unveiling of the names on the stadium’s east façade and a special jacket presentation. The Bengals teamed up with Over-the-Rhine retailer and suit brand Pursuit to create a custom Ring of Honor jacket that will be given to each inductee or inductee’s family.

The celebration kicks off pregame with the “Ruler of the Jungle” ceremony that has become a new tradition this year. On Thursday, Anderson, Munoz and Ken Riley II will lead the stadium in the “Who Dey” chant right before kickoff.

Additionally, the Bengals will recognize the 40th anniversary of the 1981 team’s Super Bowl appearance Thursday. Nearly 40 members of that team will be present.

2. Burrow vs. Lawrence

The Bengals don’t view the game this way but a chance to see two No. 1 overall draft picks leading the offenses could make for some entertaining highlights.

Burrow looked more comfortable in and out of the pocket Sunday and has connected well on deep balls, something that was lacking from his game last year. Ja’Marr Chase became the first rookie receiver to catch touchdowns of 30 yards or more in each of his first three games and will continue to be a playmaker to watch.

Lawrence has struggled through his first few games, throwing seven interceptions, including a pick-6 on Sunday, but the Bengals are aware of his ability and know rookie adjustments sometimes take time. The former Clemson quarterback is capable of breaking out at any moment, players and coaches said.

“He’s a tremendous talent,” Bengals coach Taylor said. “You see some really great flash plays from him. He’s got all the arm talent in the world. He can get the ball out quick. He’s a really good athlete. I think he’s starting to see the field really well, as you expect any rookie to evolve over the first three games. He’s dangerous. He’s really dangerous. He can really hurt you in a lot of different ways, so we’ve got our work cut out for us on defense this week.”

3. Getting more out of Chase

Taylor recognizes how Chase is “going to stress the defense” for opponents and wants to do a better job of utilizing him in the offense. That will be even more important with Tee Higgins (shoulder) out again after also missing Sunday’s game, though Auden Tate and others will get more opportunities as well.

“We still haven’t really done a great job putting (Chase) in a position to catch some underneath stuff and get some of those explosives that are going to come,” Taylor said. “That’s on me. Part of it is we have so many weapons, you get to use them all a lot of different ways and that’s a lot of fun. He’s been so focused. The work he puts in behind the scenes. … He’s just taking advantage of the things that come his way, and just really proud of Ja’Marr early on in the season handling it that way.”

Chase’s chemistry with Burrow, dating back to their days together at LSU, is something that also helps, and the Bengals need to take advantage of that, Taylor said.

4. Defense recovering

The quick turnaround from Sunday to Thursday especially will impact the Jaguars with travel added in as well, but for a Bengals defense that was on the field for 87 plays Sunday at Pittsburgh, there’s a little more recovery needed.

Cincinnati will be without safety Jessie Bates (neck), the first time he will miss a game in his three-plus years, and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (groin) is doubtful after exiting the game Sunday with injury.

“It’s a huge mental deal, more than it is a physical deal this week,” defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “They’ve just got to get their bodies right. When they’re (at) home, they’re looking at the install, always staying a step ahead cause you just got to jam it down their throat literally this week with all that comes up on us so fast.”

Cornerback Trae Waynes (hamstring) is cleared to play after resuming practice late last week and is set for his Bengals debut, though Anarumo said his playing time will depend on how he’s feeling. Anarumo said Waynes has been “dying to play” and is ready to go.

Cincinnati also will be missing right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo for a second straight game, meaning Jackson Carman gets another start and could potentially win the job long-term if he does well enough.

5. Building moment, avoiding letdown

The Bengals are looking to build off their win at Pittsburgh, while avoiding a letdown against a Jaguars team that has lost 18 straight games. Taylor said he would like to have positive momentum coming out of this first stretch of four games and Sunday’s win should be a buoy for that.

Burrow played for Meyer at Ohio State to begin his career and is expecting a tough game from the Jaguars defense, which is playing better than the results show. The Jaguars will only be without defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris (ankle) and kicker Josh Lambo (personal reasons).

“Nobody likes losing but coach Meyer especially hates losing, so I’m sure he’s going to figure out any way he can to start getting wins,” Burrow said. “We’ve got to be ready for them to come in here and give it their best shot. They are a talented defense. They’ve got players. I know they are 0-3 but their defense has been playing really well the last couple weeks and I’m sure coach Meyer is going to have them ready to play.”


Jaguars at Bengals, 8:20 p.m., NFL, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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