Addition by Subtraction: Bengals a different offense with Andre Caldwell

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 18: Wide receiver Andre Caldwell #87 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after scoring a third quarter touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

With 9:20 remaining in the third quarter, Andy Dalton hit Jordan Shipley on a very familiar 5-yard out-route. Shipley took a shot to the knee by Denver CB Cassius Vaughn. Until that point in the game, the Bengals offense couldn't find a way to get the ball deep with consistency or into the endzone for six. Dalton was 12 of 18 for 111 yards after that last pass to Shipley. The injury appeared to be serious and the Bengals slot WR is done for the season.

In steps Andre Caldwell. He caught over 50 passes in 2009 working mainly from the slot. He's in his contract year and by all reports, worked his but off all off-season. We all love and admire Jordan Shipley's abilities, but when it comes to speed, Andre Caldwell is arguably the Bengals fastest receiver. Caldwell doesn't always play with that 4.37 speed, but his threat to go deep has to be in the back of DB's minds on every play. Jordan Shipley just doesn't offer that element. If the Bengals are going to be a run-first team, defenses will start to tighten coverage and load the box to defend the run. The only way to loosen the defense is by applying pressure in the secondary with deep passes and speed from your receivers.
Before Shipley's unfortunate injury, Andy Dalton was 22 of 33 passing (66.6% comp) for 192 yards (5.81 YPA) and a TD in a little over four quarters of play. That's what we have come to expect from the Bengals offense when Bob Bratkowski was running the show and Carson Palmer loved his slot receivers. Shipley, being the sure-handed and reliable target he is, helps a rookie QB like Dalton's completion percentage. Even if Shipley had 4 catches for 14 yards so far this season.

With Andre Caldwell as the Bengals third WR, Andy Dalton blew up on Denver's defense. He threw for 222 yards (9.65 YPA) and two TDs on 14 of 23 (60.8%) passing. Caldwell's (3 Rec, 27 yards) average wasn't much different than Shipley's career average, but he was running more vertical routes and getting upfield faster. The threat of Caldwell's speed must be respected. Even without Jerome Simpson's 84-yard catch, Dalton's yards per attempt (6.3) was better with Caldwell in the lineup. Dalton's completion percentage was lower, but his yards per completion ballooned from 8.72 with Shipley to 15.85 with Caldwell.

Losing Shipley is unfortunate and it's never a good thing to lose such a reliable player, but Andre Caldwell offers something that is coveted by every offense in the NFL. Besides the speed factor, Caldwell can line-up in all three WR positions and that should open the playbook possibilities for Jay Gruden. If Caldwell can duplicate much of his success from the 2009 season, the Bengals will have a tough decision between Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell next off-season. Both players were drafted the same year (2008), and now are playing with and against each other for that elusive 2nd NFL contract. It's likely that only one of them will be re-signed and now Andre Caldwell has a fair shot and not only impacting his NFL future but the future of the Bengals offense.
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