Had the Cincinnati Bengals taken Chase Young with the No. 1 pick in April, Joe Burrow would be Washington’s starting quarterback. Washington Coach Ron Rivera met with both extensively before the draft and said this week that, of all the prospects he has met over the years, those two reminded him the most of his first draft pick with the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton.
“I think he’s got confidence, tremendous confidence in his abilities,” Rivera said of Burrow. “It’s not in a boastful way, either. It’s just kind of matter-of-fact. You feel it.
“It’s amazing: He and Chase have a certain charisma about the both of them that they both have individually. The last time I went through that, we had the first pick when I was in Carolina. We sat down with Cam Newton. They both reminded me of Cam because they both have a certain charisma that you look for in players. Those two are the closest thing that I’ve seen to Cam Newton.”
Burrow and Young were teammates at Ohio State for one season (2017), when the quarterback was a redshirt sophomore and the defensive lineman was a freshman. They were both in the running for the 2019 Heisman Trophy (Burrow won in a landslide), and Sunday’s game between the top picks will be their first as opponents.
Both enter with added motivation. Young’s roughing penalty in the final seconds of last week’s loss at the Detroit Lions helped set up the game-winning field goal. Burrow is coming off a tough loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in which he completed only 21 of 40 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown.
In talking to Cincinnati media this week, Burrow described Young as “one of a kind” and said Washington’s defensive line has the potential to cause as many problems as the Steelers’; Pittsburgh leads the league with 36 sacks.
“He’s a rare talent that is going to just continue to get better every single game and every single year,” Burrow said. “… He’s really athletic. You just always have to have a game plan for those kind of guys. Give them presence, chip them, throw a lot of different things their way.”
Troy Apke will get a second chance to prove himself at free safety. With Deshazor Everett out with an ankle injury he suffered in Detroit, Apke will get the call. The former Penn State safety was named a starter after training camp but was replaced after five games by Everett, who defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said “gave us a little bit more juice.”
Despite Apke’s minimal playing time as a reserve — he played 27 defensive snaps in relief last weekend — Rivera said he has shown growth.
“Getting back on the field last week and seeing him go out and play, it’s been good for him, it really has,” Rivera said. “And he’s really taken advantage of the opportunity. He’s still a young guy who hasn’t played a lot of football but is playing some and doing a good job. You do see some growth, and obviously now is a chance to see if he’s going to grow some more.”
More important for Washington is that the latest shuffle doesn’t lead to more mistakes — the defense has allowed the most plays of 40-plus yards (11) and has missed the fourth-most tackles (81), per Sportradar.
Three Bengals position coaches will be absent for coronavirus-related reasons. Safeties coach Robert Livingston will miss his first game, while wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell and cornerbacks coach Steve Jackson will miss their second. Cincinnati will have younger coaches handle the receivers and safeties, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will work with the cornerbacks. Head coach Zac Taylor told reporters that the assistants’ absence from practice during the week was as concerning as it will be Sunday.
Injury report: Left tackle Cornelius Lucas, who did not practice this week after suffering an ankle injury last weekend, has been ruled out. When Lucas left the game in Detroit, Washington moved right tackle Morgan Moses to the left side and inserted David Sharpe on the right. That plan will remain in place. Defensive end Ryan Anderson (knee) and linebacker Jared Norris (hamstring) will also be sidelined, and kicker Dustin Hopkins (groin), wide receivers Dontrelle Inman (hamstring) and Isaiah Wright (illness), and long snapper Nick Sundberg (illness) are questionable.
The Bengals ruled out running back Joe Mixon (foot), a big break for a Washington defense that has allowed 271 yards in two games since its bye. Cincinnati also has five players listed as questionable, including starting defensive tackle Xavier Williams (back) and guard Alex Redmond (biceps), though Taylor told reporters he expects Redmond to start at right guard.
The other three, all reserves, are wide receiver Mike Thomas (hamstring), defensive lineman Margus Hunt (illness) and guard Fred Johnson (illness). Hunt and Johnson returned from the covid-19 reserve list Friday.
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