Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase can be this year’s Justin Jefferson

Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson are like two peas from the same pod (literally, two players from the same college), so this comparison isn’t as zany as, say Trey Lance and Patrick Mahomes.

Chase is coming off a brilliant season debut in which he and the Cincinnati Bengals defeated Jefferson and the Minnesota Vikings in an OT thriller. He hauled in 101 yards on five catches with one touchdown, putting any concerns of his ball-dropping tendencies to bed.

After the game, Chase and Jefferson swapped jerseys, posing for a picture to commemorate their shared Tigers’ roots.

So far, Jefferson is the far more accomplished of the two. The Minnesota wideout enjoyed a 2020 breakout rookie season when he recorded 1,400 yards on 88 catches and seven touchdowns, nearly winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

There’s no reason Ja’Marr Chase can’t repeat those numbers with the Bengals this year.

In LSU’s historic 2019 season, both Jefferson and Chase hauled in ridiculous yardage (they can thank Joe Burrow for that). We’re not going to get into the specifics, but let’s just say Chase beat Jefferson in almost every category — receptions, yards, touchdowns, and average yards per reception.

Both players were first-round picks, and we’re not going to be petty about this either, but Chase was selected ever-so-slightly higher (No. 5) than his LSU teammate (No. 22).

Cincinnati Bengals have something better than Justin Jefferson: Ja’Marr Chase

The only big difference is that Chase decided to forego his junior year to prepare for the 2021 draft. Other than that, both Jefferson’s and Chase’s pre-NFL stats are eerily similar.

Jefferson and Chase go together like Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee, so if one had a highly productive rookie season, why wouldn’t the other?

The trend, after all, favors Chase.

Jefferson may have exploded onto the scene with an in-form Kirk Cousins, but Chase can do him one better with a now healthy Joe Burrow. Chase will face competition for targets from Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, but he’s been training for the NFL for two years now, and you can see the difference.

True, Chase’s preseason didn’t go as well as many hoped, and his recent interview about NFL balls stirred up much unwanted controversy. He may also go through the natural “rookie pains” of adapting to a faster, stronger, and more ruthless league.

But with Burrow behind him and a talented wide receiver room to take off some pressure, Chase could enjoy his own breakout rookie year that eclipses Jefferson’s. Everything about their history suggests Chase has been the better player when they were in the same league.

Now, though their paths have diverged, Chase arguably has the better team environment to pull off his own record-shattering season and make history with Joe Burrow in 2021.

Their undeniable LSU connection could make Jefferson wish he went to Cincinnati instead of Minnesota, where the only headlines Jefferson will be making this season is whether another Covid-19 outbreak devastates his team.

Chase has always worn No. 1 on his jersey — he was No. 1 at LSU and he’s No. 1 on the Bengals. Jefferson, on the other hand, wore No. 2 at LSU.

We’ll just leave it at that.

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The headline should instead read: Ja’Marr Chase can be this year’s Justin Jefferson, but he can also be even better.