4-2-03, 9:30 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
These are the stats Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson is going to post in his locker this season:
In his second season, 49ers wideout Terrell Owens had 60 catches for 936 yards and eight touchdowns for 15.6 yards per catch. In his second season, the Colts' Marvin Harrison had 73 catches for 866 yards and six touchdowns for 11.9 yards per catch. What is left hanging unprinted, but in Johnson's head, is that in his second season last year, he had 69 catches for 1,166 yards and five touchdowns for 16.9 yards per catch.
"I outdid both of them and right now T.O. and Marvin are the two most dominating receivers out there," said Johnson before Wednesday's throwing session at Paul Brown Stadium. "If I can stay on my pace with a 1,000-yard season, but raise the bar with what I'm doing now, I think I'll make myself better."
With last year's spate of bold guarantees and predictions, Johnson produced headlines and fanned flames. But he also provided some intrigue in a season of little. On Wednesday, a more somber Johnson offered only goals instead of promises. His working number is 1,800 receiving yards.
"It's a good number to shoot for. I think it's doable," Johnson said. "But I have to cut down on my mental mistakes. I gave away a lot of catches last year. That's why I'm here. I'm here for the next three months. This is the one place to be to get to where I want to be."
Johnson wants to be Harrison and Owens. When he returned last week, he retrieved from his locker the Dec. 9, 2002 issue of "Pro Football Weekly," that has an article about them asking "Who is No.1?"
"Every day I'm just going to look at it," Johnson said. "Who is No. 1? If I want to be that top dude, I've got to compete with the top two."
But 1,800 yards is, well, a lot of yards. Last year, Harrison set a NFL record with 143 catches and finished with 1,722 yards. Only Jerry Rice (1,848 in 1995) has hit 1,800 in a season. No Bengal has ever had a 1,300-yard season. If Johnson played the first four games of '02 like he played the last dozen, he would have averaged 90.6 yards per game and finished with only 1,450 yards.
But goals are good, and those 1,450 yards would have been second in the NFL to Harrison, ahead of Randy Moss' 1,347. New Bengals receivers coach Alex Wood, who was the Vikings quarterbacks coach when Cris Carter and Randy Moss gave Minnesota the NFL's best 1-2 wideout duo, knows what a big-time receiver is all about.
"He's not there yet. He's got all the tools, but he has to stay with it," Wood said of Johnson's bid for the elite. "He's on track. He just has to stay the course and not get frustrated. Keep learning the philosophy of finishing and play on the field as well as the preparation of getting on the field."
Johnson's contagious personality has made its mark on the Bengals' new coaching staff. He ran everything during last year's practices, including scout-team routes, and he's up to his energetic self. He even sat in on a Marvin Lewis staff meeting this week when he poked his head in the office and sat in the last empty chair.
"Great guy," Wood said.
Johnson knows he needs to smooth out his rough edges, and he thinks the new Bengals' weight room is just what he needs.
"They've got stuff I've never seen before," Johnson said. "They've got sandbags, different weight combinations on working different parts of the body. As far as running, I've never done half that stuff we're doing out there. Endurance, agility, working your hips. And then just staying sharp, going out and catching every Monday and Wednesday."
Johnson filed a positive scouting report on Lewis. Maybe because he sees a few similarities.
"He's the head man around here," Johnson said. "There have been some changes. He's got that look, that walk. Like he's got the confidence. Kind of cocky, but not verbally."