Much was made about the Cincinnati Bengals decision to draft Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell this past spring. “Protect Joe Burrow!” “Generational talent!” As it turns out, Chase has played at a level that has him at the top of the Offensive Rookie of the Year odds. He’s come back down to Earth in recent weeks. However, there is reason to believe that the Chase rookie season explosion is to continue in Week 13.
Ja’Marr Chase’s Fantastic Rookie Year to Continue Against the Chargers
Heading into this pivotal matchup of playoff hopefuls, the Los Angeles Chargers defense has given up the fourth-fewest yards through the air. Impressive, considering the quarterbacks they’ve stifled are Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr, Lamar Jackson, and Kirk Cousins.
The chargers must stop Joe Mixon
Joe Mixon is having a career year thanks, in part, to a rejuvenated offensive line and a quarterback who can carve up defenses. The Chargers have an elite pass defense, but they also possess a sorry excuse of run defense. To this point, they’ve given up the most yards to the opposition: nearly a whopping 1,600 yards! Only on three occasions has this defense held opponents to under 125 yards. The most recent of these was in a shootout where the Chargers squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That porous defense will have its hands full against Mixon who is seemingly hitting his stride as a runner of late. He’s scored at least once in five straight games and has scored twice in three straight games. His offensive line is continually improving. Jonah Williams and Quinton Spain have been the two best and the Bengals will likely try to run behind them early and often. It just so happens that Chargers elite pass rusher Joey Bosa lines up on the opposite side of the line, so taking him out of the game will be crucial for success.
Everyone knows how good Mixon is and how bad the Chargers defense is. There will be overcompensation by defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill, so the Bengals will get to see its star receivers in favorable matchups.
Ja’Marr Chase vs single coverage
The Chargers are going to focus on stopping Mixon and will trust its secondary to continue to play at a high level. However, as other defenses have found, line up on Chase in single coverage at your own risk. To date, Chase has accumulated 906 yards and eight touchdowns off of only 50 receptions.
Of those 906 yards and eight touchdowns, Chase has an NFL-most 698 yards and seven touchdowns. The next closest receiver has 607 yards, so it’s not particularly close.
Most REC yards vs single coverage ????
Those LSU WRs are built different ???? pic.twitter.com/6L2jVQy2o9
— PFF (@PFF) December 1, 2021
Coming out of the draft, Chase’s strengths included his ability to hand fight and create separate off the ball as well as blistering speed to go with his naturally smooth, explosive playstyle. The issue with the 2021 draft regarding Chase was that he sat out the 2020 season,
The Chargers have an impressive secondary but Chase has proven his own against the top corners in the game. Time and time again, he torched top corners like Patrick Peterson (five catches, 101 yards, one touchdown), the rookie phenom Eric Stokes (six, 159, one), and Marlon Humphrey (eight, 201, one). With the recent success that Tee Higgins has found, the Chargers duo of Samuel and Campbell will have its hands full.
Campbell has yet to allow a touchdown in coverage and allows only 37.7 yards per game. Quite impressive considering he’s been trusted to cover the likes of Tyreek Hill, Mark Andrews, and Chase Claypool. Samuel, on the other hand, has allowed three touchdowns but only 32 yards per game. He has found success shutting down CeeDee Lamb and Adam Theilen.
Thus far, the Chase rookie experience has been primarily from the outside. Only 17% of Chase’s snaps have been in the slot. With Tyler Boyd as a reliable option and Higgins playing better than he ever has, why change anything?
Chase has been able to win matchups against corners who make their living on shutting down premier receivers. The Bengals could shuffle things up. Line Chase up inside and get a favorable matchup against a safety or even a linebacker. Chase’s ability to find space and make defenders miss after the catch (15 missed tackles, most in the NFL among receivers) is already elite. A great example of this was during the win against the Baltimore Ravens. Chase caught a pass on the far hash, broke a tackle, and sped his way all the way across and up the field to run out of bounds to stop the clock for a last-second field goal.
The defense focusing on Mixon and leaving its corners on islands, Chase is going to remind the NFL why he was wide receiver one and re-cement his name for Rookie of the Year.
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