Remember before the 2008 season how much uncertainty surrounded the team's wide receiver position? Chad Ochocinco demanded a trade. He sat out voluntary workouts and generally became just as irritating as a camera inside team meetings with Mike Brown at the head of the table. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was entering the final year of his contract and generally speaking, no one believed he would return. Chris Henry was released in the offseason after another meeting with law enforcement; he was later re-signed to the team because Brown had a fondness for him.
To say the team's wide receiver position was this close to disaster, would be such an understatement, that the readers of Cincy Jungle would hire a hitman to put an end to the obnoxious statements of obviousism (my word). The Bengals drafted three wide receivers in the 2008 draft; Jerome Simpson (second round), Andre Caldwell (fourth round) and Mario Urrutia (seventh round). Not only does Simpson one career reception for two yards, but Simpson has been declared inactive in 11 (three due to injury) of 19 possible games; six of which he played and two of which he was active, however did not play. The New York Jets picked up Mario Urrutia off waivers after the Bengals released him less than two weeks before training camp this year. The Jets waived him less than two weeks later. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a couple days later. Tampa Bay waived him in September, signing him to the team's practice squad. Last weekend, Tampa Bay promoted him to the 53-man roster. I need a break.
Even though quarterback Carson Palmer has targeted Chad Ochocinco 25 times so far this season, Andre Caldwell is already a dependable option for Palmer. Of the 19 times Palmer has thrown to Caldwell, the second-year receiver has caught 14 passes for 122 yards receiving. Of all the wide receivers, he's caught the highest percentage of passes thrown his way (74%), which doesn't include poorly thrown passes or well defended plays -- in other words 26% of the passes he hasn't caught doesn't constitute as something he did wrong. He's tied with Chad Ochocinco for a team leading 14 receptions.
When the Bengals tried to convert their first two-point conversion against the Steelers, Palmer looked at Caldwell; which was subsequently deflected by Lamar Woodley. Palmer looked for Caldwell early in the game during long (15 yards or more) third down conversions, which weren't converted. Then, with 18 seconds left in the game against Pittsburgh, Palmer found and hit Andre Caldwell in the endzone for the game winning touchdown.
That's not all.
On what was supposed to be the game winning touchdown drive against the Denver Broncos, Palmer hit Caldwell three times for 26 yards with the third reception requiring a booth review to see if he scored the go-ahead touchdown. He didn't. Cedric Benson took into the endzone a play later. He was only targeted twice against the Green Bay Packers, catching both, including an eight-yard reception on third-and-six that eventually led to the Bengals go-ahead touchdown.
It's evident that Caldwell's opportunity is granted thanks to T.J. Houshmandzadeh's departure. I said last week that I still don't think he's at the level Houshmandzadeh was when he left for Seattle. However, I believe that Caldwell could surpass Houshmandzadeh in both the underneath game, as well as the deep game. I believe his overall talent is superior to Houshmandzadeh; he's still yet a little green to have that realized yet. Most importantly, when the weight of Cincinnati rested on the offense's shoulders, Caldwell easily caught the pass that sent the city into a frenzied celebration.
Here's a breakdown with all intended receivers through three games.
A quick note on Houshmandzadeh. Even though Houshmandzadeh has caught 14 passes for 145 yards receiving this season, he's actually ranked third behind Nate Burleson and John Carlson. Houshmandzadeh is still without a touchdown and his season high, thus far, is a six-reception effort against the Rams and a 62-yard effort against the 49ers. He's on pace for 75 receptions and 733 yards receiving. Leading into Sunday's game, Houshmandzadeh provided plenty of attention for himself.
Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh made more noise Wednesday than he did Sunday.
In a conference call with Chicago reporters last week, Houshmandzadeh pledged to show Bears general manager Jerry Angelo that he was wrong for not pursuing Houshmandzadeh as a free agent. He also said he would win 95 percent of the time against Bears defensive backs.
Houshmandzadeh was much quieter on the field. He made four catches for 35 yards -- seven players had more receiving yards.
Asked if Briggs got the best of it, Houshmandzadeh said after the game: "Of course he did because they won. But I was open all game. They just didn't throw me the ball."