Feb 10, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  J.J. Watt (left) with his brothers Derek Watt and T.J. Watt (right) appears on the red carpet prior to the NFL Honors awards presentation at YouTube Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers’ T.J. Watt named NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year at NFL Honors in Los Angeles on Thursday following a dominating season in which he matched the NFL sack record.

Watt’s 22.5 sacks tied the record set by the New York Giants’ Michael Strahan in 2001.

The opening award of the NFL Honors ceremony was presented by Watt’s brother J.J. Watt of the Arizona Cardinals, who is a three-time defensive player of the year (2012, 2014, 2015).

“My teammates, coaches back home in Pittsburgh, this truly is not possible without you guys,” said T.J. Watt, a first-round pick by the Steelers in 2017 who has 72 career sacks. “There are so many guys that put in so much work that goes unnoticed — and that goes for the guys in the cafeteria to the guys who are taping ankles. This one is for all of you guys.”

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was honored with NFL Moment of the Year for his record-breaking 66-yard field goal at Detroit on Sept. 26 as time expired in a 19-17 victory.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Chase, the No. 5 overall selection in last year’s draft, had 81 receptions for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns for the AFC champions.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons was named unanimous NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording 13 sacks and 84 tackles. The No. 12 selection in last year’s draft out of Penn State had three forced fumbles in 16 games.

–Field Level Media

Feb 7, 2022; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) walks onto the field during the Super Bowl Opening Night Fan Rally at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Ja’Marr Chase’s quick rise paramount to Bengals’ success

It was a near-unanimous forecast that the Cincinnati Bengals should draft an offensive lineman with the fifth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

But when the selection was read, it was speedy receiver Ja’Marr Chase joining the Bengals, not a big behemoth to help protect quarterback Joe Burrow.

Chase rapidly validated the team made the right choice, but that doesn’t mean the topic isn’t spinning like a top during Super Bowl week.

“That’s not my job,” Chase said when asked to dissect the team’s decision. “They picked me and that’s who we got here so they must have made the right decision.”

Chase’s quick stardom is one of the reasons why the Bengals are AFC champions and set to play the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.

In his debut NFL campaign, Chase set a single-season franchise record with 1,455 receiving yards on 81 receptions and caught 13 touchdown passes. Chase twice topped 200 yards in a contest, including a franchise-best 266 against the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 2.

He has tacked on 20 catches for 279 yards and one score in three postseason victories.

The biggest factor in the stellar rookie campaign was Chase’s familiarity with Burrow, who played with Chase for two college seasons at LSU. The duo already had chemistry and didn’t need to develop it.

Second-year signal caller Burrow knew the Bengals were considering picking Chase but said he had nothing to do with it coming to fruition.

“I didn’t go in and say, ‘I’d love to have Ja’Marr,’” Burrow said. “The organization did a really good job of making me feel like I was at least kept in the loop about the process.”

Still, Burrow’s feedback didn’t hurt and the Bengals appear to have a go-to target for the long haul.

The 21-year-old Chase is displaying he will someday join the list of great Cincinnati wideouts — alongside guys like Isaac Curtis (1973-84), Cris Collinsworth (1981-88), Carl Pickens (1992-99), Chad Johnson (2001-10) and A.J. Green (2011-20).

It was Johnson, with 260 yards against the San Diego Chargers in 2006, who held the single-game yardage mark that Chase broke.

Collinsworth, who is calling the Super Bowl for NBC, stunned people on a conference call earlier this week by saying Chase is the top wideout in franchise history.

“Ja’Marr Chase, in my estimation, is already the best receiver that I’ve ever seen play with a Cincinnati Bengals uniform on, and I don’t say that lightly,” Collinsworth said. “Isaac Curtis is a dear friend of mine, and Chad Ochocinco (Johnson) was phenomenal during his run here.

“But the number of times I’ve seen Ja’Marr Chase catch the football, five or 10 yards down the field, and score a touchdown without anybody tackling him obviously, first of all, but usually nobody touching him, his catch-and-run skills have just been so much fun to watch this season.”

Those type of comparisons further the narrative that Chase has done amazing things for a rookie.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey has noticed and insists he wants to have the coverage duties in the Super Bowl.

“That’s what I’m asking for. That’s what I want,” Ramsey said. “Whoever you think their best man is, put me on him. Let me help the team win this game. That’s what it’s all about.”

Chase isn’t the least bit deterred by Ramsey’s wish.

“He trusts his speed a lot,” Chase said. “I don’t know how fast he runs in the 40 (yard dash) but we’re going to find out on game day.”

A top-notch team player, Burrow says you don’t have to worry about Chase throwing tantrums on the sideline and demanding the ball.

“If he sees something, he will come over and let me know,” Burrow said. “Ja’Marr is a guy if you tell him on the first rep, he does it (correctly) on the second rep. You don’t need to tell him about it over and over. He’s a great learner.”

What if the Bengals had drafted an offensive lineman and Chase ended up on a different team? Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said similar success would have happened for Chase.

“I think Ja’Marr, no matter what team drafted him, he would have had a ton of success this season,” Taylor said. “But I think him being able to hit the ground running and the chemistry standpoint and relationship with Joe has probably allowed him to maximize his opportunities in Year 1.

“You don’t go through the getting-to-know-you process. … He and Joe have already done that. They got that out of the way years ago at LSU. From Day 1, they were on the same page.”

–Field Level Media

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Ja'Marr Chase (LSU) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by Cincinnati Bengals as the number five overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals sign first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase, Joseph Ossai

The Cincinnati Bengals signed wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and defensive end Joseph Ossai to four-year contracts on Wednesday.

Chase’s contract comes with a fifth-year option given he was a first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2021 NFL Draft. Spotrac pegged the deal at $30.8 million with a signing bonus of nearly $19.8 million.

Ossai was selected in the third round by the Bengals, who have signed all 10 of their picks from the draft.

Chase, 21, spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons at LSU before opting out of the 2020 campaign amid concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Playing with Joe Burrow in 2019, Chase caught 84 passes and set what then were Southeastern Conference records for receiving touchdowns (20) and receiving yards (1,780) in a season. Chase also led the nation in the latter two categories.

A consensus first-team All-American, Chase won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver.

In Cincinnati, he will be reunited with Burrow, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2020.

Ossai registered five sacks, 16 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in nine games at Texas in 2020.

Ossai’s numbers over three seasons in Austin included 165 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, two interceptions and five forced fumbles.

–Field Level Media

Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) in action against the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: LSU WR Chase to skip season, enter draft

Preseason All-American wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase won’t play for LSU, opting out to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, according to multiple reports Sunday.

Chase is giving up his final two years of eligibility. He was a four-star recruit in the Class of 2018 from Archbishop Rummel in Metairie, La.

He had a stellar season in 2019, a reliable target for quarterback Joe Burrow en route to the Tigers’ national championship. Chase caught 84 passes and set the Southeastern Conference record for receiving touchdowns (20) and receiving yards (1,780) in a season. He also led the nation in the latter two categories.

A consensus first-team All-American, Chase won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver.

He was set to wear No. 7 for the Tigers this season, an honor reserved for the cream of the crop at LSU.

“Ja’Marr is a tremendous football player from the great state of Louisiana that represents our football program with great character and integrity,” coach Ed Orgeron said in March, when he announced the number switch. “(His parents) Jimmy and Toleah have done a great job of raising him and he has worked extremely hard on and off the field to develop as a player, while also becoming an outstanding leader for our team. He’s very deserving of having the opportunity to be the next LSU player to wear number 7. I know he will do a great job of representing that number and all of those who have worn the number 7 before him.”

Previous wearers of the jersey include Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Leonard Fournette, DJ Chark and, most recently, Grant Delpit.

–Field Level Media