Old Home Opener Pits Bengals’ Compelling Rookie Debuts Vs. Chargers

Old Home Opener Pits Bengals' Compelling Rookie Debuts Vs. Chargers


Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow’s NFL debut (which also happens to be the debut of Williams) Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium against the Chargers (4:05 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Local 12) has turned into an intimate, it’s-a-small-world-after-all gathering with no fans but plenty of familiar faces.

There is the Chargers walking guaranteed college loan at rush end in Bosa, Burrow’s old buddy from Ohio State who has ripped through his four seasons in the NFL with 40 career sacks and an extension that brought him $78 million just for getting handed a pen.

But he’s never had a shot at the other Joey.

“I was running with the twos and threes, so I didn’t ever go up against him, so this will be my first live reps against Joey Bosa,” Burrow reports of the Horseshoe days. “I’m looking forward to it. We’re pretty good friends, so I’m sure there will be some words exchanged on the field.

And there is highly-regarded Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, a coaching colleague of Burrow’s father at North Dakota State early in the century.

The one NFL game that Burrow has been to before Sunday came when he was a little kid barely able to remember and courtesy of Bradley. Bradley got his family tickets for a Seahawks game in Cleveland and now on this Sunday Bradley is oiling up his rocked-ribbed, no-frills defense that relies on fundamentals instead of flash.

Throw in one of the truly more compelling debuts in Bengals history and you’ve got back-to-back first-round picks appearing in their first games in the same opener. That’s because Williams’ rookie year was wiped out by shoulder surgery.

Try to find that in Bengals history where a rookie quarterback is making his NFL debut in his left tackle’s first game and you can’t do it. The last time it happened in the NFL, according to Elias, was five years ago in Tampa when Jameis Winston lined up behind Donovan Smith in their debuts.

“We play great competition every week. This team and this player is no exception to that,” says Williams, the other half of this very young but very mature tandem. “That’s exciting. It’s what you want in the NFL. It’s what we have been practicing for all camp. It’s what we are prepared for this week.”

Adding to the whole old home week flavor, Williams finds Bosa a bit similar to the Bengals own right end Sam Hubbard, another Bosa buddy from Ohio State.

¬†As Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham noted in Burrow’s Zoom with the media Wednesday, true to form last season Bradley had the Chargers at the bottom of the league’s blitz percentages.

Burrow isn’t buying it. Heisman Trophy, No. 1 overall be damned. He’s still a rookie making his first start on Opening Day.

“They’re going to do what they do, but I also anticipate some wrinkles that are going to try to make a rookie quarterback confused, so I’m anticipating some things he may not have shown last year and I’m just going to do my best to adapt to them,” Burrow says. “You always have to be ready for it. But their defense is their defense and they play it really, really well and they have the guys who can do it. I think coming into my rookie year I’m always going to anticipate a little more blitz than defensive coordinators might have shown in the past.”

Bradley doesn’t have to do much with Bosa at one end and Melvin Ingram III at the other with his $14 million guaranteed this year. Last year, while Bosa was racking up 11.5 sacks, Ingram added seven. Pro Football Focus.com had Bosa rated fourth on the pass rush among defensive ends and Ingram in the 20s. PFF charted Bosa for 50 hurries, good enough for the top ten, and Ingram for 39, good enough for the top 40.

“They are one in the same. They are two of the top 10 rushers in the league, and they just got paid to show it,” Burrow says. “It’s going to be a challenge for us, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

His friend is something else, he says.

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