The perspective that former Bengals wide receiver and return specialist Glenn Holt added this week provided a unique insight. Not a perspective promoted through the coaches, rather a former player turned coach with experience between different eras. Having spent a majority of his short NFL career with Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry, Holt gives an interesting perspective at how this year's roster of wide receivers compare to five years ago when he proudly wore the stripes.
"This is a great group of guys. I was with a great group," Holt says. "But I'm talking about these guys are for each other. When I was here I had Chad, T.J, Chris Henry, but it was different the way the group was. We were all talented, but it was just different as far as the goals we wanted to do. This is a young group."
"I wouldn't say they were more individual guys," Holt says of his old crew. "I don't know if we had visions. We never talked about Super Bowls or things like that. These guys, they get upset if they drop the ball. They talk to each other. It's a great group. It's just different."
During their respective careers in Cincinnati, Johnson, Houshmandzadeh and Henry combined for 311 games played, 1,377 receptions, 18,391 yards receiving, 124 touchdowns, seven Pro Bowls and two First-Team All-Pro awards (both from Chad). Not bad for a supposed predicable Bob Bratkowski offense.
During Chad Johnson's first season in 2001, as a second-round draft pick out of Oregon State, he was forced to earn his keep on the team's depth chart. Guys like Peter Warrick and Darney Scott were the team's primary receivers that season, forcing both Chad and T.J. Houshmandzadeh into principle roles during three and four wide receiver sets.
|Comparison between Chad Johnson in 2002 (when he became a starter) and A.J. Green's rookie season.
But it's not what they've done that makes this year's wide receiving group excitable. Hell they really haven't done anything. It's what many are projecting them to do, incorporating tiger-like personalities with a strong desire for team-oriented success.
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Along with the all-world dynamics of a talent-rich Pro Bowler like A.J. Green, the Bengals will use training camp next month to arrange the roster once they see who fits where. Guys like Armon Binns and Brandon Tate have reportedly been the most impressive during offseason workouts while Marvin Jones figures to integrate himself into the mix. The recovering Jordan Shipley has as much to prove as anyone coming off a major injury and Andrew Hawkins and Mohamed Sanu on his heals. Sanu also figures to compete for an outside spot as perhaps the most versatile receiver on the roster.
In reflection perhaps Holt's comparison is a bit simple.
Not inclusive in the discussion are the dynamics of what we're witnessing today. Have the Bengals wide receiver position ever been swimming in so much supposed talent from top to bottom? Perhaps that's a bit of an overstatement, riding a wave of saturated optimism from offseason stories this year.
One would rightly argue that the Johnson-Houshmandzadeh-Henry lineup was far more dangerous than the roster today. But that's not a statement at all on this year's group.
Rather simple ignorance because we've yet to see this group play a competitive game against an opponent, judging them based off production and not unsubstantiated emotion based on promise from rookies, undrafted free agents and a receiver that a pass-heavy team in New England had no use for.
Either way there's a reason for the optimism and it's not entirely unsubstantiated. A culmination of great expectations from a group of players that epitomize the essence of team. Something that Glenn Holt's group five years ago never showed.