Top two picks, former teammates face off in Bengals-Washington tilt

Ron Rivera said he was ready to take quarterback Joe Burrow at No. 2 in the draft if the Cincinnati Bengals passed on him because that probably would mean defensive end Chase Young was first off the board.

Cincinnati and Washington both got a player they wanted -- Burrow went to the Bengals, Young went next to Rivera and the Washington Football Team. Now, the top two picks – once teammates at Ohio State -- will be facing each other as Cincinnati travels to play Washington on Sunday.

Burrow is having a record year throwing the ball, and Young is making it difficult on quarterbacks with his pass rush.

“We think Joe is the full package,” Rivera said in a conference call with local media Wednesday. “We really do. We think Chase is the full package. Depending on what Cincinnati did, that’s what we were going to do -- the opposite. We didn’t think we would lose out either way. We really didn’t. We think both players are going to be great players and have great careers and we’re fired up that we have Chase.”

Burrow spent one year with Young at Ohio State before transferring to LSU in May 2018 after Dwayne Haskins – Washington’s backup to Alex Smith – won the starting job over him that spring. The two reconnected in New York as two of the four finalists for the Heisman Trophy, which Burrow ended up winning.

This next reunion won’t be as friendly with Young coming at Burrow full speed. Young has 3.5 sacks and nine quarterback pressures in eight games.

“One of a kind -- he’s a rare talent that is going to continue to get better every single game and every year,” Burrow said of Young. “He’s really athletic. You just always have to have a game plan for those kind of guys. You don’t give them presents, chip them, send a lot of different things their way.”

Left guard Michael Jordan, another Ohio State product, credits Young’s quickness and hands as his greatest attributes, but noted Young isn’t the only concern. He and Burrow both compared Washington’s defensive line to the one the Bengals faced at Pittsburgh with Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt.

Washington ranks first in pass defense, allowing just 194.7 yards passing per game, and a lot of that has to do with the pressure it gets on opposing quarterbacks. WFT has posted 28 sacks this season, which ranks fifth most in the league. Defensive end Montez Sweat leads with five sacks, and Ryan Kerrigan has 4.5.

“They have really stout guys in the middle who are strong who bull rush and outside have these quick guys, Montez Sweat and Chase Young and that compares to T.J. Watt and Dupree,” Burrow said. “They have similar guys up front.”

Cincinnati has allowed Burrow to be sacked 32 times – second most in the league – while shifting players around on the offensive line.

The unit could be improved this week with starters potentially returning from injury or illness. Left tackle Jonah Williams was back to full participation in practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering a stinger in Week 7, and right tackle Bobby Hart was back to work in individual drills after injuring his knee that same game Williams was hurt. Fred Johnson has been on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, which forced Quinton Spain to kick out to right tackle last week but Spain likely will be back to guard this week. Rookie Hakeem Adeniji has started at left tackle the last two games.

Right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo also is practicing a second week since being cleared from his ankle injury.

“There are a lot of things to weigh that we weigh internally as we grade these guys and decide what the chemistry looks like, but it’s a good problem to have,” coach Zac Taylor said of decisions he might have to make up front. “Guys that have gotten their opportunities have made the most of it. It’s a problem if it’s the other way around. If you throw guys in there and they’re not playing well, they make your decision a lot easier. So these guys who have all gotten opportunities are making the decision hard and the guys who were injured in the last 2-3 weeks were starting to play. Their potential was starting to work their way up.”

The running game could be important with Washington’s pass defense being so strong, but Joe Mixon is yet to return to practice with his foot injury still leaving him “day-to-day.” The Bengals have gotten some good runs out of Giovani Bernard and Samaje Perine in recent weeks, and Trayveon Williams recorded his first carries at the end of the game Sunday.

SUNDAY’S GAME

Bengals at Washington, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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