WReckage – Now Updated With 25% More WRecks!


The return of Chris Henry completes the deconstruction of what just scant weeks ago looked like an elite Bengals wide receiver corps. Since the beginning of training camp, Bengals fans have seen:

T.J. Houshmandzadeh stuck on the sideline with a bum hamstring;

Chad Johnson slowed first by ankle surgery and now a shoulder injury;

— and rookie 3rd-round pick Andre Caldwell knocked out by turf toe.

and Marcus Maxwell go down today! (see update below)

While these injuries are often cited as the rationale for rushing Henry back into the fold, in fact, Henry’s return only exacerbates the problem. If either Chad or T.J. miss time early in the season, Henry can’t help because he’s suspended for the first four games. And signing him makes it unlikely that the Bengals will pursue another veteran WR — and there are bound to be several available as teams trim rosters over the next couple weeks — as insurance in case Chad and/or T.J. can’t go.

The bottom line is that Henry’s arrival increases the possibility that the Bengals’ top three WRs on opening day in Baltimore will be Marcus Maxwell, Glenn Holt, Antonio Chatman and Jerome Simpson.

Now, the odds of that happening went down a bit today, when Marvin Lewis said that Chad’s shoulder was getting better quicker than they expected, but the same item also includes a note of concern over the lack of progress made by T.J. At the very least, the odds are rising that someone among the Maxwell/Holt/Chatman/Simpson group is going to need to step up early in the season.

Maxwell, a third-year player who came to Cincinnati in 2007 after spending two years in San Francisco and Hamburg, has one career reception, a 5-yard grab against Buffalo last season. Reports from Georgetown were that he impressed in camp, and he’s caught five balls for 65 yards to date this preseason.

Chatman, a former Packer, has struggled to stay healthy since coming to Cincinnati in 2006. Having not missed a game in three seasons in Green Bay, Chatman has appeared in just 16 games in two years with the Bengals, catching 22 passes for 171 yards and a lone TD.

Costal Carolina’s finest, Jerome Simpson, was the Bengals’ 2nd-round pick last April. The small college prospect is talented but raw, and had trouble all through camp getting off the line quickly against NFL corners. In fact, he’s slipped behind Maxwell (who’s backing up Chad) on the depth chart. But thanks to Maxwell’s injury, he’s now the No. 1 backup behind Chad, ahead of Holt. Simpson did flash ability against the Lions with 5 catches for 114 yards, including a 42-yard play.

Looking at the Bengals’ first four games, I shudder at the thought of throwing Maxwell Holt or, heaven help us, Simpson out against the Ravens’ defense in week 1 — though it should be noted that Baltimore had a sub-par pass defense (20th) last season. However, week 2’s opponent, the Titans, ranked in the top 10 in passing defense last year, and next team up, the Giants, ranked 11th. Finally, there’s the Browns, who have no secondary to speak of. If the line can give Carson Palmer time against Cleveland’s revamped defensive front, he ought to be able to make 100-yard receivers out of random fans plucked from the crowd (see update 2 below).

Two tough pass defenses plus Baltimore are going to present quite a challenge to the passing game if one or both of our top two WRs can’t get off the bench.

Update: Scratch Maxwell. He went down today with a muscle tear that could keep him sidelined into October. That raises Glenn Holt to the ranks of “those who must step up.” Holt has amassed 17 receptions for 146 yards and one TD in two years with the club. His primary gig has been kick returner. He’s averaged 24.4 yards on 76 returns. Holt has demonstrated toughness as a receiver, but has only average hands, speed and quickness. He’s a personal favorite of mine, but the Bengals’ coaching staff seems to see him solely as a return guy.

The silver lining to Maxwell’s injury is that this may prompt the Bengals to look at free agent WRs again.

Update 2: It appears the Browns are in full-bore Daniel Snyder draft pick mode: trade-’em-if-ya-got-em. Now, in an attempt to find a secondary, Cleveland has flipped an undisclosed pick to Miami for CB Travis Daniels.