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Behind Enemy Lines: Breaking down Bengals vs. Chargers

The 2020 season has finally arrived.

NFL: DEC 09 Bengals at Chargers Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bengals and Chargers are getting ready to start the 2020 season. It has been a long awaited opening, and we have all heard plenty about the expectations for Cincinnati, but what about the team they will be lining up against? We caught up with Michael Peterson of Bolts from the Blue to get his perspective on this Week 1 matchup.

Patrick Judis: The Chargers moved on from two household names in quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon. What is this offense going to look like without them?

Michael Peterson: Without Rivers, and every quarterback on the roster being considered mobile, everyone should fully-expect the offense to be quite different from years past. With Tyrod Taylor at the helm, the quarterback is also now a threat in the run game which has never, ever been a thing for the Chargers. It’s also a safe assumption that the offense will be more run-oriented like it was in Buffalo during the last time Anthony Lynn and Taylor got the chance to work together. During the 2015 and 2016 seasons, the Bills were the No. 1 rushing teams in the league with Taylor and LeSean McCoy leading the way. Without Gordon, expect both Justin Jackson and rookie Joshua Kelley to jockey for position in terms of who gets the most carries after Austin Ekeler.

PJ: Los Angeles unfortunately made national news when they had to place safety Derwin James on injured reserve. How does this loss impact the defense in 2020, and who are some players who will have to step up?

MP: The loss of Derwin James affects the defense in that now more players will have to play varying roles instead of having one player who could do so many things. James is equally capable of erasing tight ends, influencing slot receivers, playing single high, and making tackles in the box. Expect a combination of Rayshawn Jenkins, Desmond King, and Nasir Adderley to all pitch in for “Derwin duties.”

PJ: Linebacker Kenneth Murray was one player many Bengals fans had their eyes on during the draft. What is his expected role going into Week 1, and what has your impression of him been?

MP: As of now, we aren’t 100 percent sure who is starting at middle linebacker, but it will either be Murray or last year’s starter Denzel Perryman. My money is on Murray. In his latest Zoom call with the media, Lynn said, “When the lights come on, Kenneth Murray will be ready to play football.” To me, that sounds like they’re banking on him playing his fair share of snaps in week one, regardless if he’s the starter or not. We haven’t gotten to see a ton of Murray in practices throughout camp, but from what the coaches have been saying,he’s extremely explosive and possesses athleticism they haven’t had at the position in some time.

PJ: The ultimate story line would’ve been Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert starting their careers facing each other in their first games. We won’t get that with Tyrod Taylor slated as the starter, but how confident are you in Herbert moving forward as the presumed franchise quarterback?

MP: I’ll tell you what, I feel much better now than I did following his selection. After going through training camp and seeing what his teammates were all saying about, it’s tough not to get your expectations up a bit. Guys like Chris Harris Jr. and wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan were extremely vocal in their praise for the rookie. He’s on as good of a path as you could ask for so that, in itself, gives me confidence in his progression in to the team’s quarterback of the future.

PJ: What is your prediction for Week 1?

MP: I think the Chargers defense helps them survive a close one against the Bengals 20-17. Austin Ekeler has a big day and helps the Chargers march down the field to kick the game-winning field goal.

Thanks again to Michael Peterson of Bolts from the Blue for taking the time out to answer our questions. Make sure you you check out more of his work ahead of the Bengals game against the Chargers this Sunday.