Bengals’ receivers are very green as a group
Andre Caldwell slid the key into the lock for room 113, a
dormitory suite known for a previous resident.
Chad Ochocinco used to sleep there, along with the rest of the
Cincinnati Bengals’ veteran receivers. Every year, Ochocinco would
pull up his car and unload video games and a big-screen
Caldwell was nearly giddy as he turned the key and pushed open
the green door.
”I’m moving into the Big Dog room,” he said, to no one in
Yes, the bed was up for grabs. There’s no T.Ocho Show
The Bengals’ reality-show stars are gone, leaving a much
different reality behind. Without Terrell Owens and Ochocinco
grabbing the airwaves and the passes, the Bengals are left with one
of the league’s least-experienced groups of receivers.
A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and Jordan Shipley
have 20 career starts and 160 catches combined – about a season and
a half’s worth of work for Owens or Ochocinco. By contrast, those
two have combined for 334 NFL starts and 1,829 catches.
It’s the young guys’ turn to unpack and settle in.
”It’s a new generation coming in,” said Caldwell, entering his
fourth season. ”Me and the younger guys, we graduated to the Big
Dog room. Hopefully we can perform like they did.”
In one sense, they can’t do any worse.
Owens and Ochocinco – the self-described ”Batman and Robin”
receiving duo – led the Bengals to only four wins last season, one
of the most disappointing in franchise history. Owens left as a
free agent after the season. Ochocinco finally got his wish and was
traded to New England last week.
Suddenly, the receiving corps is as green as the door to room
113. So is the quarterback, rookie Andy Dalton, who will get a
chance to win the job that opened when Carson Palmer decided to
retire rather than play for the Bengals again.
”Just keep faith in us,” Caldwell said. ”We are a young team.
We learned from those guys. We hope we can continue where they left
off and do bigger and better things and have a better season than
we did last year.”
The focus of the new group is Green, a first-round draft pick
who made a big impression during a practice in pads on Monday. He
put a double move on Leon Hall during a drill and ran past the
cornerback for a long catch. When Dalton underthrew a pass down the
sideline, Green adjusted and went over safety Chris Crocker to pull
”A.J. again showed his physical prowess in making the plays out
there today,” coach Marvin Lewis said. ”There is no doubt that he
gives us a step up. I think we really have come a long way in a
couple of areas, which is great and has improved the team.”
Caldwell was in line to get a lot of playing time last season,
until the Bengals signed Owens at the start of training camp.
Simpson, a second-round draft pick in 2008, finally got on the
field and started the last three games after Owens got hurt,
getting the first 100-yard game of his career.
Quarterback Jordan Palmer thinks Simpson could have a big season
in coordinator Jay Gruden’s new offense. Simpson had trouble
picking up the previous offense under coordinator Bob Bratkowski,
which required receivers to make more decisions and reactions.
”This is a system where Jerome can line up and know exactly
what he’s doing,” Palmer said Monday. ”He can run with the best
of them. This system allows him to be able to just play free and
run the routes he’s worked on.”
One other big change in camp: No self-promotion allowed.
Ochocinco liked to call attention to himself by wearing orange
shorts – the rest of the team was in black – and gold cleats for
practice. He’s gone, and so are the prima donna outfits.
”The first day we had a walk-through out here, Andre had on
orange shorts,” Lewis said. ”So I sent him back to get the right
color shorts on. And Jerome was the last one on the field. So I
thought, `We’re going to nip this right away.’
”We were able to get that corrected immediately. And so I
thought, `Wow, now we’ve really turned the page and closed the
Now comes the sequel.