By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Ready for history, this 2019 unit continues their fabled journey together into the NFL, storming through all-comers and proving to be franchise cornerstones at their respective destinations:
Joe Burrow is the first great Bengals quarterback since Carson Palmer and he's 100x better than the USC Trojan hero already;
Patrick Queen is the heir to Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs but he's far more evolved and fine-tuned for the modern game; Clyde Edwards-Helaire is already a superstar, an incendiary, uncontrollable, unstoppable talent of merciless dimension / dominion...
Now we're seeing Tigers from all years rising up, making sure they aren't shown up by the 2019 rookies...and though are list is dominated by rookies, there are some notable LSU NFL veterans who've risen to the challenge of an NFLSU dynasty...
Look around you, doesn't matter the jersey or town, all you can see is purple and gold.
JOE BURROW (CINCY)
300 Yards passing
4/11 on 3rd Down
Sacked 15x (8 in 1 game)
Continuing his medieval endeavors, Joe Burrow became the first rookie quarterback ever to throw for 300+ yards in 3 successive games, hitting RB Joe Mixon out of the backfield ad nauseum vs Jacksonville (90 yards, 7 catches 1 TD), as well as refusing to allow his 2019 LSU teammate K'Lavon Chaisson a sack, pressure or quarterback hit during the game (he finished with 1 assisted tackle)....it seemed Jacksonville's defensive coaching staff made sure K'Lavon had little impact either...
Joe has proven his doubters wrong once again, many saying "well 2019 is an anamoly, he's just on a great team, he won't do anything in the NFL...ESPECIALLY NOT WITH THE BENGALS!!!"
Well...the kid already has 1,121 yards passing and 6 TDs while being routinely pummeled, chased or harassed worse than Michael Vick at a dog show during the first 3 games of his NFL career...although his offensive line seemed to figure Jacksonville's meager pass rush out and make the right adjustments in time for Week 4, keeping the pocket clean as Burrow only went down once on Sunday.
Joe sliced and diced Jacksonville:
While being interfered, Bengals WR A.J Green caught a breathtaking 3rd down back-shoulder toss from Burrow, proving their on/off/unlucky connection is steadily building week to week.
Jeaux was dialed in, completing passes to RB Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd (his favorite target) and TE Sample (another favorite):
Every time Joe ran play-action, you knew he'd complete the pass, taking a snap under center, faking the handoff before he turned and wielded a powerful "no bullshit" hot sauce screen pass to Sample, the tight end bursting for 25 yards on the brilliant play design from Brian Callahan.
Then, Joe took a snap in the gun, scanned left, waited for Tee Higgins to make it over the linebackers and sniper'd a bullet through the blue sky straight to Higgins, the Clemson WR bursting through the middle all the way to the Jacksonville six yard line.
While John Sample stood between four defenders and Joe took a low shot from the pressure in his face, Burrow torched another dart through traffic, right into Sample's hands and grabbing another 1st down with Joe's pedal to the metal decision-making.
Just as Joe combined continuously with Clyde Edwards-Helaire throughout 2019 to devastating effect, Burrow and running back Joe Mixon were intertwined on Sunday (his aforementioned 90 yards receiving to go alongside Mixon's 151 rushing yards), the Bengals RB torching Jacksonville as if Martha Stewart taught the Jaguars how to tackle.
Completing a pass to 9 different receivers, 4 multiple pass-catchers, 6 with a reception of 14+ yards, Joe proving dynamite on 2nd and 10 (& 3rd down) as well as grabbing his first NFL victory after a weird, disappointing tie vs Philly (23-23)....Joe pulled off the first step in his mission statement to Cincy:
His defense didn't make it easy; despite Joe and the Bengals outscoring Jacksonville 17-0 in the 4th, the entire second half was full of back and forth sloppiness as fellow LSU Legend D.J Chark's 2 TDs kept Jacksonville's hopes alive.
But the way Joe finished off the game was riveting television, spinning away from Jacksonville pass-rusher Dakota Allen with minutes left on the clock! Turning out of Allen's grasp and to his weaker left, Joe mercilessly tucked the ball and found his way for the game-killing 1st down....
This was quarterback play so inherently sexy, #9 made Joe Namath toss out the Viagra for the next three days...Burrow leading the Bengals to 505 yards of total offense (300 yards passing, 205 on the ground), 7.1 yards per play, 28 first downs, 1/1 on 4th down tries, only 1 sack allowed by the improved Bengals O-line and only 1 bonehead turnover (Burrow's interception).
...Next up will be Burrow's biggest test in the NFL thus far: a battle vs LSU's 2019 juggernaut Patrick Queen, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in an AFC North bloodbath.
PATRICK QUEEN (BALTIMORE)
12 Tackles (9 Solo)
Speaking of the Ravens and their 2019 LSU linebacking overlord, Patrick Queen flew all over the field vs Washington, producing 12 tackles and 3 TFL altogether...but the shocking regularity with which he brought runners in space to the ground BY HIMSELF was what made us all perk up and pay attention.
This isn't anything new...Queen's been doing this since he began playing regularly for LSU, however seeing an NFL rookie MIC linebacker constantly making the right reads, choosing the perfect gaps to fly through and 99.9% of the time making a stupendous play (thanks to his telepathic pre-snap diagnosis) is something altogether singular and foreboding for the rest of the AFC North.
Pat sheds blockers like mosquitos hurling towards a turbine, he stuffed leaping running back Peyton Barber at the goal-line with one hand, he tracked and ran down the few big Washington plays and prevented massive yards after catch gains....
Elsewhere, Queen made 2 goal-line stops as a solo artist and 1 assisted goal-line tackle (including the one-handed Barber stuffage), showing his true game-affecting, play-making, Defensive Rookie of The Year-winning (he's going to win the award damnit) brilliance:
He is a human missile crisis...a Freight Train of NFL reign and it's a thrill to watch #48 fly around the field.
Talking about his reunion next week vs Joe Burrow, Pat Queen said: "Me and Joe had a crazy relationship, things got out that things got heated sometimes between us, that's just the competitors within us, but we both are still really close friends."
Expect some trash talk, some huge hits from Pat and some great throws by Joe, but at the end of the game, those two are hugging and making a date for cigars and bourbon.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON (MINNESOTA)
4 catches (from 5 targets)
-Two 3rd Down Conversions
-All 4 Catches Set up Vikings' TDs
We said in our last NFLSU piece, "if Kirk Cousins would trust Jefferson with the football, the Vikings would start winning". Even though he's still failing to understand Jefferson deserves at least 8-9 targets a game, Cousins finally delivered the 2019 LSU record-breaker with a decent set of targets, 5 total (the other was an un-catchable 3rd down overthrow from Kirk), and Jefferson made the most of his few opportunities.
Taking the little he was given and turning those meager catches into massive production, Jefferson is proving to be integral for the Vikings' success.
Yes, Thielen would end as the leading Vikings receiver, however Jefferson was the most influential for a Vikings win, freeing up his teammate countless times and setting up the offense with a short field from his great plays:
First, Jefferson helped Minnesota start strong, stretching a double team on 1st down and bending them to his will, finding himself wide open at the Texans' 30 yard line as Cousins threw a perfect pass over the top of the aimless DBs, Jefferson snagged the ball and raced for another 5 or 6 yards, bursting into the red zone.
From there, Dalvin Cook rushed inside for the touchdown, punching in Justin's big contribution.
Again, up 10-3 Cousins rocked back in play-action on 1st down and tossed long for Jefferson, #18 gripping the pass atop his statuesque form, pulling tough to bring down as his catch took the Vikings inside Texans' territory yet again.
On 4th & 1 on the same drive, Jefferson made a small, subtle block out on the left which gave Cousins just enough time to reach out and rush for the 1st down, keeping the drive alive.
Later on still carrying a lead after another Cook TD run, Jefferson's long route-running attracted a CB and safety over the top, freeing Adam Thielen for a wide open catch, #19 racing across the entire length of the field before he was finally taken down, once again inside the Texans' 40 yard line.
Justin's most important catch had to be on 3rd and 10, the Vikings holding a 1 point 17-16 lead.
Sensing pressure collapsing around him, Cousins stepped forward and scanned for Jefferson. The former Michigan State quarterback found JJETS and lead the 2019 LSU rookie using a lofted ball, Jefferson snagging the 50/50 pass with zero issues, taking a big shot and keeping hold of the ball.
Another big Jefferson catch taking Minnesota inside the 40. Only plays later, Adam Thielen would snag the touchdown which would allow Cousins and co to take control of proceedings.
On the next Vikings' possession, Justin pulled off his best catch of the day:
3rd and 6, 12:46 left, 24-16....just like 3rd and 17, who do you geaux to when you wanna finish the game off?
You give Justin Jefferson the ball.
Jefferson started off on a streak route before he faded his momentum and turned to the outside (Cousins perfectly timing his pass before Justin started the move), Justin catching the back shoulder fade with scandalous perfection...setting up Cook's 2nd touchdown to seal the game.
We've said it all along: if Cousins simply leads Justin with accuracy, giving him space and time to make the catch, Jefferson and Thielen could fast grow into the best WR tandem in the NFC.
Next, Jefferson will face off against former Tigers Damien Lewis and Jamal Adams when the Vikings face off vs Seattle.
TYRANN MATHIEU (KC)
4 Solo Tackles
1 INT TD Ret
22 Tackles (14 Solo)
1 DEF TD
The Honeybadger's second career NFL touchdown came on Monday night while forcing his 24th career turnover, juggling a bobbled pass into his chest and racing down the sidelines, putting the Patriots to sleep without their #1 Quarterback Cam Newton.
What really made the play special?
The ball bounced out of the hands of Julian Edelman and popped up in the air behind a trailing Mathieu, and although his complete bodily momentum was flying towards Edelman, you knew LSU's Ball Hawk Supremo would slow his roll, place his hands out and take the ball out of the air.
With nobody in front of him, the Honeybadger scored in one of the sickest plays of his Kansas City career, somehow being in exactly the right place at the right time continually.
Tyrann exudes confidence, a professional edge and trusted leadership all throughout the Kansas City defense, letting his teammates know "Thanks to our offense, we simply need to focus on keeping everything in front of us and make some plays..."
As the king of a group of LSU players on the Chiefs (Darrel Williams, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Spencer Ware, Morris Claiborne) Mathieu is eager to establish a dynasty in Kansas City, and Andy Reid's squad are already laying an impressive foundation....topped off by their expert 1st Round drafting of multi-dimensional weapon Clyde Edwards-Helaire, yet another former Tiger.
Mathieu is on the perfect team to guarantee himself a place in Canton...Tyrann already has the Super Bowl ring, he's only 2 INTs away from 20 career picks, adding 63 pass breakups, 493 total tackles (430 solo....a tremendous rate), 9 sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles, 2 Fumble Recoveries and 2 defensive touchdowns, we project Mathieu will be wearing a gold jacket in a decade or so....and I plan on being in that audience on that night to watch him put it on.
#5: A THREE WAY TIE
3 Catches (3 targets)
304 Rushing Yards
4.3 Yards Per Rush
192 Receiving Yards
9.2 Yards Per Catch
What Clyde has already accomplished over 4 games was all the Chiefs' franchise needed to see:
Knowing they made the right choice and being excited for the long future ahead with Edwards-Helaire as a Chief, you could already see the priceless value they've assigned to Clyde in the amount of reps he's assigned and the manner of their timing....Andy Reid doesn't want anything happening to such a wonderful person & incendiary talent.
They've given him the ball plenty, sticking to the run game and starting to find Clyde in the air, he's proven he's more than adept at both.
Spinning defenders out of their socks (including 2019 Tigers teammate Patrick Queen), stealing their souls (and lunch money before teasingly giving it back) like a chameleon as he runs through, around, under or over the opposition.
Against the Baltimore Ravens and 2019 LSU LB Patrick Queen, Clyde was rampant, efficient and impossible to tackle, converting 6 first downs, catching two 3rd down conversion receptions, burning Patrick Queen and making a 1st down grab over his former teammate's head on a wheel route, his moves making four different defenders clutch at the air and last but not least....when he spun through Patrick Queen's attempted tackle, leaving his former LSU teammate and Defensive Rookie of The Year candidate in the dust, everyone sat up.
Clyde followed the excalibur performance vs Baltimore with an elusive display against New England, catching multiple first down receptions inside the first quarter itself, squeezing through would-be tacklers for 11 and 13 yards. Following the catches, Mahomes handed the ball off to the rookie, Edwards-Helaire bursting through the A gap with a furious head of steam, violently pounding through and escaping Patriots tacklers for yet another first down.
Belichick did well against the LSU Legend, taking away his wide open routes in the flat, the Patriots' depleted defense doing their best to eliminate the screen game through effort alone...they didn't stop or shut down Clyde (91 total yards from 19 rushes or receptions), though they limited his big play abilities when they held Clyde to his lowest "game long gain" of the season: 13 yards (he'd previously grabbed game-long gains of 27, 17 and 16;
Even as multiple defenders (notably Patriots LB Chase Winovich, a new Belichick favorite) shadowed his every move out of the backfield, either the DE or the OLB following Clyde, he resumed his Bayou bowling ball antics, leaving opponents on their knees and defensive coordinators scratching the hair from their balding scalps.
Clyde was extremely effective at 4.8 yards per rush/reception, rushing for a duo of first downs and catching a pair of chain-movers, attacking the line of scrimmage and making 3 individual players miss again (spinning out of a missed Jonathan Jones tackle for a 1st down) and proving he has what it takes to be crowned Offensive Rookie of the Year...that is unless Joe Burrow or Justin Jefferson beat him to the punch first...
These guys will compete for those awards and others against each other for years to come...get ready.
D.J CHARK (Jaguars)
11.9 yards per catch
15 receptions (16 targets)
13.6 Yards Per Reception
Reeling in two jaw-dropping touchdown grabs vs the Bengals, Chark has been on fire throughout 2020 thus far:
Not only did last year's Pro Bowler only miss 1 pass from 16 total Gardner Minshew targets, he's grabbed 3 TDs already, including 2 vs Joe Burrow's Bengals this past Sunday, putting on a red zone clinic as he snatched a crazy touchdown through double coverage, absorbing a monstrous hit and somehow maintaining possession...that's what D.J Chark does...he makes quarterbacks look daaaaamn good.
Watch out for his Pro Bowl ascendancy yet again this season as he's already started strong...regardless of the failures of Jacksonville as a team, Chark has a suitable quarterback in Gardner Minshew and one who should stand as the Jaguars' quarterback of the future, throwing to Chark as he enters the prime of his career.
ODELL BECKHAM JR
5 catches (8 targets)
73 Rushing Yards
36.5 Yards Per Rush
16 Catches (30 Targets)
14.8 Yards Per Catch
73 Rushing Yards
1 Rushing TD
OBJ was spectacular vs Dallas, burning the Cowboys for two long touchdowns BUT the most rarified, spectacular moment (from an LSU fan's point of view) had to be the touchdown Odell Beckham Jr caught early in the game from his 2011-2013 LSU teammate WR Jarvis Landry.
Baker Mayfield quick tosses the ball to Nick Chubb who then hands it off to Landry on an end around, and suddenly the left handed Jarvis Landry is tossing over Cowboys' safety Darian Thompson's falling body and straight into the hands of OBJ.
What a brilliant moment for Tiger fans, especially this Tiger fan who was obsessed with Jarvis Landry and OBJ as our "Ja'Marr and Justin" of 2013, a time when QB Zach Mettenberger was throwing darts amid a high powered offense...
This play was something to behold. Not only are these two close close friends on the same team once again in the pros, that play is all about brotherhood...burning Dallas like that???
You know that made Mama proud.
Next, they fake it to Chubb up the gut as OBJ comes ghosting in on an end around himself this time, Mayfield flipping Beckham Jr the ball casually...watching on as Odell seized control of Dallas's deteriorating defense, ripping them to shreds as if they were Joe Exotic on a witness stand.
On another play, OBJ put on a receiving show, ripping in a disgusting catch as Cowboys' DB Jordan Julius Lewis drilled him, holding on tight with cavalier precision, catching first downs easier than Covid at the White House.
Anyone daring to call him soft were taught a scrupulous lesson as OBJ caught a touchdown through traffic in the Cowboys end zone, lighting up JerryWorld more than a Jerry Jones Vs Dan Snyder Death Match halftime show ever could.
Again, Mayfield hung in and made repeated throws for first downs to Beckham, every OBJ catch equaled a first down and every OBJ rush reached eternity...
But the best play by any LSU player of Sunday occurred when OBJ came across the backfield for another end around...although this time the Cowboys sniffed the play out.
Unaware as his back turned to the defensive line, Mayfield flipped the ball too shallow, sending OBJ's path straight towards an incoming Aldon Smith who'd broken through. Instead, OBJ slithered past the former Raider using a dip of his right shoulder, giving Smith nothing to grab as the LSU Legend rolled out of the backfield to his right, searching for any sort of opening.
As blockers folded a lane down the right channel, pinning defenders against the sideline, Beckham Jr cut inside, broke a few weak hand tackles using his agile physicality, and his sheer speed took him the extra distance....a phantasamagoria of rushing brilliance, a miasma of ludicrous footballing havoc...a piece of stratospheric, virtuosic magic conjured by OBJ.
The play was a savage piece of revolutionary football intoxication unlike any we'd seen from OBJ at the NFL level before...we knew he could make those one handed circus catches, we knew what we could accomplish as a versatile receiver, but his usage in the end arounds (Landry too) has made Mayfield's Browns a far more formidable outfit in a tough AFC North.