Gerald McCoy and Brian Baldinger presented their matchups to watch in the trenches this season on NFL Network Monday, and had an AFC North showdown at the top of their list, as the duo is looking forward to watching Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt and new Cincinnati Bengals right tackle La’el Collins do battle in 2022.
“The matchup I want to see is the Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt versus La’el Collins,” McCoy said. “La’el Collins in his introductory press conference, he said ‘I texted Joe Burrow and said your new body guard is here.’ Listen, Joe got beat up last year. That’s a bold statement. And what better person to test it against than this guy, the Defensive Player of the Year.”
While the Bengals certainly believe in Collins’ ability to keep Joe Burrow upright, Baldinger predicts what will get the best of at least the Week 1 showdown.
“I got this man right here,” Baldinger said pointing to Watt. “You think I tied the record last year? I’m going for the record this year. That’s how T.J.’s thinking.”
Still just 28 years old, Collins signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Bengals this offseason following six seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Cincinnati needed to invest in their offensive line following their improbable Super Bowl run last season, as Burrow was sacked a league-high 51 times.
As for Watt, he is looking to build on a record-setting 2021 campaign that saw him rack up 22.5 sacks in just 15 games. Watt has 7.5 career sacks against Cincinnati, but did not have any in 2021. He missed one game against the Bengals and was held without a sack in the other as the Steelers went 0-2 against Cincinnati.