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Coles has skins

Posted: 8 p.m.

Laveranues Coles might not be a T.J. Houshmandzadeh clone, but they do come from the same family of NFL wide receivers.

Both are grizzled, reliable, versatile pros that bring professionalism to an offense and toughness to a locker room.

"Coles is a little faster than T.J. and might be a little better blocker," says one AFC scout. "T.J. is probably more physical in his routes. But you put both guys in your offense and they can catch anywhere between 80 to 100 balls for you."

The draw for both sides being Coles' big-play ability hooking up with the big arm of Carson Palmer.

Laveranues Coles (Getty Images)
In the first day of the post-Housh era, the Bengals hosted Coles on a visit in their efforts to replace Houshmandzadeh's eight seasons, 507 catches, and savvy presence in the huddle. Indications Tuesday night were that negotiations were ongoing after day-long meetings with coaches and staff at Paul Brown Stadium.

Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowkski said his team is looking for a receiver with skins on the wall, and Coles lugged in 631, his number of career catches, which would top the Bengals all-time list.

Meanwhile Tuesday, the Bengals' corps of young receivers that now has to step up and in and do something other than be developed, continued to work out in the Los Angeles area at Charles Collins' Phenom Factory.

Along with last year's top picks—second-rounder Jerome Simpson and third-rounder Andre Caldwell—veteran Chris Henry also worked. So did last year's seventh-rounder Mario Urrutia.

"Caldwell continues to look like a guy who is going to be a starter in this league," Collins said. "The light is coming on for him more and more every day. His technique has really improved."

Collins spent last season as a Bengals offensive assistant working with the receivers and has welcomed the Cincinnati receivers to his camp.

The camp is where Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cinco honed their skills as young players. And it's a spot where they can work on their skills until Bratkowkski and receivers coach Mike Sheppard get a hold of them again.

They're expected to be back in Cincinnati for offseason workouts at the end of March. Backup quarterback Jordan Palmer is throwing at the camp this week and Carson Palmer is expected next week.

Simpson reminds Collins of Ocho Cinco when he hooked up with him in junior college. Simpson, out of tiny Coastal Carolina, struggled with injuries as well as the transition from small school ball and had just one catch.

"Sometimes I stay out with just him after practice and it's just me and him," Collins said. "That's what I used to do with Chad. He knows what he has to work on. Getting out of transition, getting out of his breaks. Having patience against certain looks. Getting (defenders) to turn their hips."

The 6-4 Henry, otherwise known as "Slim," is trying to get through his first full season since his rookie year of 2005 after spending time on the NFL suspended list each of the last three seasons. Unlike last year, when he got released in April, he'll be involved in the voluntary workouts trying to recapture the form that brought him 15 touchdowns on 67 catches in his first two seasons.

"He's a long-strider, so he's working on running lower to the ground because he's such a tall guy," Collins said. "And get him catching something other than the Nines (fly routes) and posts."

Coles has exactly 512 more NFL skins than those Bengals combined.

The word out of New York is that Coles is admired by his teammates, where they've voted him a captain. He plays hurt (he told The New York Daily News that he played with a broken toe much of this last season) while catching 70 balls for 850 yards and seven touchdowns. He's also battled through some concussions.

A former NFL general manager, who worked the 2000 draft when the Jets took Coles in the third round out of Florida State, says it would be a good pickup for the Bengals even though he's a completely different receiver than Houshmandzadeh:

"He's still got that explosiveness. And he's tough. He's mainly a vertical threat. He's a hard-nosed guy. I would think in that offense there he'd get you about 80 catches and he could get 1,000 yards. It would be a good pickup for them."

Coles, who was also discouraged by the trade of good friend and quarterback Chad Pennington, had hoped to get a new deal from the Jets before last year. But instead they guaranteed the final two years of his deal. A few weeks ago they reached an amicable compromise, allowing him to become a free agent in exchange for walking away from $6 million guaranteed.

So that figures to be some kind of touchstone for negotiations.

A comparison:

Coles DOB: Dec. 29, 1977

Housh DOB: Sept. 26, 1977

Coles' bests: 91 catches with 2006 Jets, 1,264 yards with 2002 Jets, seven touchdowns with '01 and '08 Jets, 14.7 yards per catch with '01 Jets and '03 Redskins (for seasons with at least 59 catches).

Housh's bests: 112 catches in '07, 1,143 yards in '07, 12 TDs in '07, 13.4 yards per catch in '04

Coles' career: Nine seasons, 631 catches, 8,095 yards, 12.8 yards per catch, 44 TDs

Housh's career: Eight seasons, 507 catches, 5,782 yards, 11.4 yards per catch, 37 TDs

Coles' '08: 70 catches, 850 yards, 12.1, seven TDs

Housh's '08: 92 catches, 904 yards, 9.8 yards per catch, four TDs

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