Johnson Wants Bengals to Take More Chances
Pro Bowl Wideout Feels Like 'Sitting Duck' in Cincy
By JOE KAY
CINCINNATI (Oct. 18) - Chad Johnson 's demeanor these days - no boasts, no guarantees, no trash talk whatsoever - matches the Cincinnati Bengals ' mundane offense. And the Pro Bowl receiver says it's time for both to change.
His solution: Throw caution to the wind and throw the ball long.
Johnson was practically demur on Wednesday, flat-out refusing to bait the Carolina Panthers who will cover him this weekend, or make any predictions how things will turn out.
Given the state of Cincinnati's offense, he couldn't even bring himself to brag.
"Stuff is not going the same way it did last year, to where I can come out and be bold," he said. "We're not playing bold. We're not playing aggressive. So I can't be aggressive. I've got to feel it.
"I can't come up and say, 'Man, we're going to go out and torch these guys,' and we go 75 plays in the game and have one explosive play. We're just not the aggressor right now."
Johnson thinks it's a matter of choice.
An offense that was one of the league's best last season has lost its bite. Cincinnati (3-2) has scored 13 points in each of its last two games, both of them losses. Johnson has scored only one touchdown in five games.
A lot of factors figure in: injuries to the offensive line; a receiving corps depleted by injury and Chris Henry 's suspension; Carson Palmer still working back into form after reconstructive knee surgery.
Johnson suggested for the first time Wednesday that play-calling is part of the problem. Johnson, who led the AFC in catches and yards last season, thinks the Bengals have allowed defenses to take away what they do best.
Cincy's Losing Ways Could Continue
From Johnson's perspective, that means throwing deep.
Until his 51-yard catch in the fourth quarter of a 14-13 loss at Tampa on Sunday, Johnson didn't have a catch longer than 18 yards. Defenses are dropping safeties deep in coverage this season, forcing Palmer to throw shorter passes to other receivers.
Johnson wants him to air it out anyway.
"That's what we did before, all the time," Johnson said. "Carson didn't care what defensive back or what safety was over the top. For what? Care for what? Just go make the play anyway."
His head coach doesn't share his assessment.
"Let Chad speak for himself, all right?" Lewis said, getting a rise out of the mention of his receiver's name. "No, I don't necessarily agree, because Chad has a very tainted view of things all the time.
"Greed is good. I think we would all like to make sure we continue to be aggressive, and I think that's all he's speaking to. But we're not going to be careless or foolish."
Lewis then added a little tweak of his own.
"As I said, we need to play better," Lewis said. "We need to take care of the football. We need to make sure we run the right route - OK? All right?"
Lewis went on to list all the recent mistakes on offense, but his point was already made. He, too, likes to throw the ball deep, but doesn't want Palmer doing it recklessly. So far, teams have been forcing the Bengals do to other things.
Palmer isn't surprised.
"In the offseason, everybody looked at every game we played last year," Palmer said. "They looked at our success and looked at games when we struggled and figured out what was what. They figured out how to play us. Teams have played us differently this year. We just need to keep evolving as an offense."
The way Johnson sees it, the Bengals need to go back in time. Specifically, he wants to go back to the time when they threw long and he ran his mouth.
"I can't be the aggressor with this right here," he said, pointing to his mouth, "when my approach and my play out there on Sunday is not aggressive at all. I can't. It's not matching up.
"Last year, I could be aggressive because I knew when I got up on Sunday, we were going to be the aggressive opponent. But right now, I can't take an aggressive approach with you guys, and then go out there and be a sitting duck and a decoration."