Ja’Marr Chase said he wasn’t surprised the Bengals had chances to win their opener, despite Joe Burrow throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble, but he couldn’t believe they lost the game in that fashion -- because of such a lopsided turnover battle.
He has no doubt Burrow will bounce back in Week 2, and turnovers will be a focus for both sides of the ball – the offense needs to do better eliminating them and the defense wants to get back to producing turnovers after not collecting any last week.
Dallas’ defense led the league in interceptions last year with 26, including individual leader Trevon Diggs’ 11 picks. Burrow said the Cowboys run some Cover-2 like Pittsburgh did last week, but Diggs is a premier cornerback and particularly good at jumping routes.
“They have really good players who understand when they can take chances and aren’t afraid to get up and be aggressive in man coverage and understand their coverage structure really well,” Burrow said.
2. Collins, O-line have something to prove
Right tackle La’el Collins said he doesn’t feel any different about this game than he would any other, though it might be a chance to show his former Cowboys they shouldn’t have let him go. Collins spent the first six seasons of his career in Dallas, but he was released in March to save cap space.
“I’ve been carrying a chip on my shoulder since day one,” Collins said, later noting he remains grateful to Dallas owner Jerry Jones for changing his family’s life for generations. “For me, it’s all about going out and being me. Not trying to be nobody else and be something I’m not. Not trying to rise to an occasion or nothing like that. It’s just more so, going out and doing what I’m coaching to do and going out and playing as a unit, as five. That’s what it’s all about.”
The Bengals offensive line as a whole has something to prove this week after Burrow took seven sacks in the opener, perhaps unfairly reflecting on their performance at times. Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said the offense knows what needs to be fixed, and the Bengals are capable of cleaning up those things.
3. Facing a backup quarterback
The Bengals aren’t expecting the Cowboys’ offense to change much with Cooper Rush starting at quarterback now that Dak Prescott is out because of thumb surgery.
Rush came in cold in the fourth quarter of the opener against Tampa Bay when Prescott was injured, and the Central Michigan product completed 7 of 13 passes for 64 yards. This is his fifth season as a backup in Dallas, which signed him as an undrafted college free agent in 2017. He went to the New York Giants in 2020 and was on their practice squad before returning to the Cowboys in 2021.
Rush has one career start, a win in 2021 against Minnesota when he led the Cowboys on a go-ahead touchdown drive in the final two minutes. He’s played in 11 total games, completing 60.3 percent of his passes for 488 yards and three touchdowns – 422 of those yards and all three touchdowns were in his lone start.
The Cowboys also have three-time Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott, but lost a key piece of their NFC East champion roster with wide receiver Amari Cooper going to the Browns.
4. The Micah Parsons effect
Asked what stands out most about Dallas’ defense, Burrow didn’t hesitate to answer: Micah Parsons. The Cowboys’ first-round pick last year (12th overall) had 13 sacks and three forced fumbles as a rookie starting 16 games.
The Bengals will have to be aware of him at all times.
“He’s really strong at every position he lines up at,” Taylor said. “Whether it’s stack linebacker, right D end, left D end, over the center, plugging him as a backer. They’ve got different personnel groupings focused around him. He’s really dynamic. He’s similar to a lot of really good ones we’ve been around. Vonn Miller is the closest skill set I remember. He effects every play he’s a part of. He can get after the quarterback. All of our guys got to be ready to protect against him because he’ll go against all five players at some point up front. He can really run down some runs, he’s good in coverage, they got him in man coverage, he’s a really versatile player. He’s only in his second year but it’s impressive. It’s obvious why he was the defensive rookie of the year. He’s that good.”
5. Player availability
Bengals long snapper Clark Harris was placed on injured reserve Monday with a torn biceps that is expected to keep him out for “months,” according to Taylor. Cal Adomitis, the top long snapper in college football last year, replaces him after getting signed off the practice squad.
Wide receiver Tee Higgins is listed as questionable, but Taylor indicated he had been progressing well through concussion protocols early in the week. He was limited in practice Wednesday and missed Thursday because of a personal matter, but was back to full participation by Friday. Defensive tackle Josh Tupou (shin) and tight end Devin Asiasi (quad) also are questionable, though Tupou also was a full participant Friday.
Aside from Prescott being out, the Cowboys will be missing defensive end Tarell Basham (thigh), wide receiver Michael Gallup (knee), safety Jayron Kearse (knee) and guard Connor McGovern (ankle).
Bengals at Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7