The Bengals have a young and talented group of receivers. A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson will play on the outside and Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham will play on the inside from the slot and tight end positions. It would seem that Andre Caldwell, the team's most experienced receiver and third-leading receiver from 2009, wouldn't be able to step foot on the field unless the team ran with a four-wide set.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy writes that what will save Caldwell from fading away is his versatility, having played at all four wide receiver positions and on special teams.
However, Caldwell, confident in his play-making ability, believes that he can be a starter and make plays for the Bengals in 2011.
"I love it where all the pressure is on me, that's when I respond best," Caldwell said. "It has been a roller-coaster. I showed them at the end of last year I could make plays. I'm not just a backup receiver. I can be a starter and be effective and be one of the top guys on this team."
Caldwell and Jerome Simpson are the two most veteran wide receivers on the team and have formed a solid friendship in the three years that they've been fighting to get playing time playing behind Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Laveranues Coles.
"It's great. We're a bunch of humble guys trying to make a name for ourselves," Caldwell said. "It's a real special relationship between Jerome and I. we always hang around together, talk and we're finally getting the opportunity. It feels good to see him make plays and I know he would love to see me make plays, too."
There's no question that Caldwell will make the team. Where exactly he'll fit in the offense is another question. However, as long as he continues to grow and prove to his coaches that he can produce for this offense for an entire season, new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will find a spot for him and get him on the field as much as possible.
Head coach Marvin Lewis even jumped onboard, saying that there isn't anybody playing ahead of Caldwell and Simpson and that it is now their time to show everybody what they can do. He also believes that, even in the absence of the team's all-time leading receiver, Ochocinco, the wide receivers are more athletic and have improved as a unit.
"There's no cap on them anymore, there's no ceiling, so let's go," Lewis said. "I've been up here how many summers and how many springs, and talked about how good they've done, and now it's time to make the transition for 16 games."
"I wouldn't say we took a big leap, but I know we've improved," Lewis said. "And we just have to keep going. We've got a lot of work to do. Those guys (Caldwell and Simpson), their maturity will help."