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.
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.