The Cincinnati Bengals will try to get over the proverbial hump against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon.
The Bengals (0-2-1) are still winless on the season, but lost their first two games by a combined eight points. Last week, Cincinnati settled for a 23-23 tie at Philadelphia.
“We just need a win, period,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “It doesn’t matter who it’s against. It’s an ongoing process, it doesn’t click overnight. We continue to look for improvement with our guys.”
Jacksonville (1-2) also is beginning to feel desperate for that winning feeling. A surprise winner in the season opener, the Jaguars then lost on a late field goal at Tennessee before a humbling 31-13 loss to visiting Miami on Sept. 24.
It’s not hard to find the Jaguars’ most pressing issue. Jacksonville has yet to score on an opening drive this season, and its defense has allowed a touchdown on the opening drive in each of the first three games. Better starts will lead to better end results, quarterback Gardner Minshew said.
“That’s a goal of ours — to jump out early and let the defense go hunt,” Minshew said.
Rookies will play a role for both offenses on Sunday.
Running back James Robinson put up 129 scrimmage yards (83 receiving, 46 rushing) and two rushing touchdowns for the Jaguars last week. Robinson’s 339 scrimmage yards in his first three career games are the most for an undrafted player in the common draft era of the NFL.
For Cincinnati, No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow has certainly looked like a franchise quarterback in his first three starts. Burrow is completing 64.5 percent of his throws, has 821 yards passing and two 300-yard games. He has thrown five touchdowns against one interception.
Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone, who has helped Minshew develop quickly at the NFL level, said Burrow is the real deal. He’s seen similar attributes in Minshew, who is completing 73.8 percent of his throws for 787 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.
“Doesn’t play like a rookie quarterback,” Marrone said.
“He can run, he can move, he has a quick release, he can throw the ball, he can hit all the different spots. He’s got a hell of a lot of talent around him and he’s a very talented player. He’s tough as hell. You can see that on film.”
The Bengals hope to see fewer hits on their QB in the near future. Burrow has been sacked a league-high 14 times in just three games, and taken at least twice that number in additional hits. Philadelphia ramped up the pressure last week by sacking Burrow eight times.
It’s a recipe the Jaguars may not be able to follow, however. Jacksonville is next to last in the NFL with just three sacks in three games. Over the last two games, Marrone’s defense has defended just two passes and has no interceptions.
“But really, the guys who are creating it are on the back end at times,” Marrone said. “If their quarterback’s going to their first read and that first read’s open, unless you just completely whiff it’s going to be very difficult to get guys down.
“We’re working on this group effort to try to get a little bit more pressure on the quarterback.”
The Bengals’ ground game has been largely ineffective, and the defense has had issues getting stops — particularly late in halves and games. But Burrow is pressing to get Cincinnati a win, and that means he’s not going to change how he plays. He doesn’t sound worried about the hits taken in the process.
“I’m going to get hit. I’m going to try to extend the play as much as I can. That’s just something I understand is going to happen,” Burrow said. “Guys (on the offensive line) are going to lose (sometimes), guys are going to get beat. That’s the nature of the league,” Burrow said. “It’s my job to limit mistakes and make plays.
“I don’t get paid to take sacks. I get paid to make plays, so that’s my job.”
The Bengals’ job on defense would be easier with the return of defensive tackle Geno Atkins (shoulder), but he remained a limited participant at practice on Wednesday.
“I’m hopeful, as always,” Taylor said.
Starting left guard Michael Jordan (knee) was limited on Wednesday, and cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander (ribs/hamstring) and Darius Phillips (knee) were non-participating and limited, respectively.
For the Jaguars, Pro Bowl receiver D.J. Chark Jr. (chest/back) was limited at practice on Wednesday. Linebacker Quincy Williams (core muscle) was also limited as he was scheduled to return from the injured reserve list.
Out on Wednesday were two starting offensive linemen: center Brandon Liner (knee) and right guard A.J. Cann (illness).
–Field Level Media