LAKE FOREST – No rookie made a bigger splash in Week 1 than Cincinnati Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
His 50-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter of an overtime win over Minnesota was among the highlight plays of the week in the NFL. The No. 5 overall draft pick showed why he was so highly thought of coming out of LSU.
It wasn’t just that play, either. Chase totaled five catches for 101 yards.
He will now square off against a Bears secondary that gave up big play after big play in Week 1. For the Bears, communication is going to be key. While the Bengals offensive line appears to be a mess again, their receivers are more than capable. Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins make a fine trio for second-year QB Joe Burrow.
“We all saw what Chase did at his time at LSU and even his game one,” Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson said Friday. “So just being able to limit him. Tee Higgins is a big target, so you definitely have to be aggressive with him, just try to get the ball out at the high points. And then Boyd is a veteran. He’s been doing it for some time.”
Chase and Burrow teamed up to win a national title at LSU in 2019. Chase was one of the most dynamic collegiate players that season, catching 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.
He chose to opt out of his junior season at LSU in 2020 and declared for the draft.
“He’s setting himself up to be a marquee receiver in this league,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “And he’s earned that right. He’s earned the right through college, and he’s proving it. Obviously, he had an explosive game.”
Bears head coach Matt Nagy called Chase “super talented.” His defense will have to know where he is at all times.
Bears cornerback Kindle Vildor played against Chase and Higgins in college. Vildor’s Georgia Southern traveled to Higgins’ Clemson in 2018, and visited LSU in 2019. Georgia Southern lost both games. A lot has changed for all of them in the years since, but Vildor definitely remembers their talent. He said both receivers have “bright futures.”
Vildor feels it’s promising that most of the Bears’ issues on defense in Week 1 were mental errors. Those are fixable.
“It wasn’t like, you know what I mean, ‘Oh, this person was just better,’ or stuff like that,” Vildor said. “It was just little, small fundamental things that we just didn’t make sure we took care of. So we pretty much buckled in on that this whole week to get ready for Sunday.”