The Bengals are trickling into training camp with the HBO and NFL cameras documenting every move. Chris Henry carpooled in with Carson Palmer and the Ocho claims he’s “85 million times better” than last year, according to Bengals.com. The best news for the Bengals is that the team is fairly healthy heading into their first practices and everyone but Andre Smith is under contract. Smith’s negotiation should be sped up with the signing of seventh pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, which was reported by Adam Schefter earlier today. Bey’s signing establishes the floor for Smith’s deal, but the ceiling is still pretty freakin’ high thanks to Mark Sanchez’s huge contract with the Jets (the Jets also screwed the Bengals by giving Vernon Gholston a hefty contract last year, which will drive up Smith’s price). You could make an argument that Smith’s spot is the one position where the Bengals could afford a holdout, considering the presence of Anthony Collins, who played pretty well in my opinion last year. Hopefully, the HBO cameras create just enough pressure to get Smith into camp in the next few days.
With the first practice starting tomorrow, let’s take a look at the team’s wideouts, perhaps the Bengals deepest position group…
Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid again (I’m still waiting for an endorsement opportunity with the folks who make that delicious, refreshing drink), but I believe the Bengals could have the best receiving corps in the league if everyone stays healthy. Honestly, what team has a better top trio of receivers? (I could see the argument for Arizona, but I believe Chris Henry is more talented than Steve Breaston).
The Ocho says he’s healthy both mentally and physically heading into this season, which is great news for the Tiger Stripes. Chad commands double coverage when he’s healthy and that should lead to favorable matchups for Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry. I really like the signing of Coles and don’t see much of a dropoff between his play and T.J. Houshmanzadeh’s. Coles has never worked with a stud quarterback like Carson Palmer so you would have to expect he’s excited heading into this year. Furthermore, he’s never had a receiver like The Ocho opposite him so he should face a lot of one-on-one matchups this year. Henry seems to have finally seen the light, or perhaps he has seen the green that he could get heading into the final year of his contract. I could care less about his motive as long as he stays motivated, productive and out of handcuffs this year. Andre Caldwell and Antonio Chatman should battle for the fourth receiver spot, a battle that Caldwell should win and one that might put Chatman on the chopping block. Chatman has just never seemed to stay healthy enough to warrant keeping him with younger talent on the roster. Jerome Simpson is behind those two and needs to start playing up to his second-round selection. He seems to have the athletic ability necessary for the receiver spot, but has struggled making the leap from Coastal Carolina to the NFL. If he flashes any improvement, you would have to think the Bengals will keep him rather than admitting a huge mistake with a second-round pick. I still haven’t figured out why he was working out with Ricky Proehl (what Brian Finneran wasn’t available?) but I like the kid’s initiative. Plus, he has yet to get arrested as a Bengal, which is always a plus. Also in the mix are rookies “Downtown” Freddie Brown and Quan Cosby, who seems to be pretty solid overall, except for the fact that he had to catch that pass and score that touchdown that beat the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. Jerk. The Bengals also will take a look at a few receivers in camp: Maurice Purify, David Richmond and Greg Orton, who I don’t believe is related to the wrestler “Cowboy Bob.” A few players from this receiver group should also get a chance to return kicks, probably Chatman, Cosby and Caldwell. Hopefully, someone emerges as an explosive returner, a weapon they haven’t really had since the Tremain Mack days. Remember him? Anyway, there’s a lot to like about the Bengals receivers, let’s just hope they stay healthy and happy throughout training camp.
And since training camp is a time to fall in love with your team, to dream of playoff runs and Super Bowl victories, I’ll end this post with a picture of orange Kool-Aid, the official beverage of StripeHype. Let’s drink it up.