Friday, October 25, 2002

Johnson shows hints of being a go-to receiver

In last 2 games, has 143 yards on 13 catches

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Chad Johnson catches a pass against the Cleveland Browns earlier this year.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
In the two games since Jon Kitna was named the starting quarterback, Bengals receiver Chad Johnson has made significant progress toward becoming the go-to receiver that the team currently lacks.

Johnson emerged from being practically non-existent in September, when he made five catches in four games, to become the leading receiver after six games. He has 13 receptions for 143 yards in the last two games, giving him 18 receptions for 221 yards on the season. More importantly, the Bengals now have some consistency at the position, which is how Johnson describes a go-to receiver.

"A go-to receiver would be your best player or someone who does things on a consistent basis," Johnson said. "That's really what it's all about."

Judging by the last two games, Johnson appears to be heading in that direction.

"It looks that way, but I don't want to say it," he said. "We're all talented here, and we can all get the job done."

But right now, Johnson is getting it done with regularity, which is why Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said Johnson could remain a more permanent fixture on the field.

"We basically have made that move with him over the last two to three weeks where he has played more and more and not come off the field," Bratkowski said. "We've seen his game elevate a little bit in that time. But still, we're dealing with consistency issues with him as you do with most young players."

Against Indianapolis Oct. 6, Johnson played a key part in two Kitna interceptions. One ball went through his hands; he was outfought on another.

Other concerns include Johnson's ability as a second-year player to run precise routes on every down and make correct, split-second decisions in the middle of the game, which Bratkowski said will become easier as Johnson gets more playing time.

Another question surrounding Johnson's current rise is whether he has the attitude shared by top receivers like San Francisco's Terrell Owens and Tampa Bay's Keyshawn Johnson, Chad Johnson's cousin.

"You've got to be cocky," Chad Johnson said. "I'm cocky in a way, not as far as talking to reporters. But on the field, you've got to have that cockiness. Or you've got to have a type of selfishness to you to want the ball all the time."

That's what makes being a high-profile receiver different than any other position, said Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who was teammates with Johnson at Oregon State.

"Being receiver is more of a glamour position," Houshmandzadeh said. "They're going to get the recognition. Everybody just thinks they're the best. Every receiver I know thinks that way."


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