The wide receivers dropped like names on a red carpet during Friday's first two workouts of the Bengals rookie camp, but by the end of the afternoon session receivers coach Mike Sheppard began to see why he had urged the drafting of Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley.
Shipley revealed after his first pro practice that there has been a fake Twitter and MySpace page under his name, but he looked to be himself when he ended the day with a couple of catches over the middle in an attempt to gain a rhythm with a new playbook and tryout quarterbacks.
"He looks better every time I watch him," Sheppard said. "He made some catches where he ran away a little bit. He showed his quick feet. He's smart, savvy. He didn't get a lot of balls in the morning because of the way defense was playing. The balls go outside when they play soft on the corners. There was a lot of that."
The guy that caught a lot of those balls, sixth-rounder Dez Briscoe of Kansas, was so busy that he strained his groin and probably is out the rest of camp. Sheppard thought he showed up well with his hands and route running, but that is for another day. With Briscoe out and the muscles tightening of last year's seventh-rounder Freddie Brown and tryout candidate Carlos Singleton of Memphis, Sheppard told his guys, "That just means on more rep for you guys."
With no one but Brown out there that knew the offense, including tryout quarterbacks Billy Cundiff of Ashland and Daniel Raudabaugh of Miami University, Sheppard admitted it was a little ragged.
"And everybody has to play all three positions," he said. "But we didn't have a lot of mental mistakes out there."
Shipley isn't going to make any mental mistakes. The coach's son didn't waste any time getting immersed into his role. He's just 6-0 and he's confident he can play the outside like he did at Texas, where he says half the time he played the X last season while catching a Texas-sized record 116 balls. But he said Friday the sense is the Bengals want him in the slot.
He only heard about Chad Ochocinco's tweet welcoming him to the team after last week's draft because his Twitter page is a fake and he doesn't think he'll ever get one. Shipley appreciates the sentiment, particularly the offer of McDonald's and jewelry, and he says he's looking forward to learning from The Ocho. But he's not a Twitter or jewelry guy and he admits it's a little unnerving what can go on in cyberspace. He says there is also a fake MySpace page attributed to him.
"It is a dangerous thing nowadays because people can get on those deals and act like you and try to get you in trouble and all kinds of stuff," he said. "People have the freedom to do those things and it is a little scary that they can say what they want to and people don't know that it's not you."
Shipley said he wasn't aware of it until a few days ago when he got a call from his agent and it is his understanding it is being taken care of.
But there has also been a little bit of identity theft on Shipley's part. Every scouting report says he's the next Wes Welker, the Patriots Pro Bowler that has caught more balls than anybody in the NFL over the last couple of years. But it sounds like offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is looking at Shipley as the next T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
That slot receiver that can kill you softly on third down.
Before practice Friday the Bengals receivers group watched cutups of a lot of receivers, including Houshmandzadeh, a guy that hasn't been here since '08. Sheppard says to get used to it.
"I can't compare them in styles because it's only been two practices," Sheppard said. "But what I can tell you is that we're going to make sure he watches a lot of film of T.J."
Shipley could see some of the similarities.
(Another Houshmandzadeh trait. Shipley dropped back to catch some punts Friday and caught them all. But Houshmandzadeh was known just as a catcher back there. The hope is Shipley can contribute after the catch.)
"Obviously he's really good; especially in that slot position," Shipley said. "Hopefully I'll be able to watch a lot on him. It's one of those trades that you learn. Find those little openings. That's one of the things I've been working on this morning. Learning the system and then trying to figure out how to get open."
Sheppard doesn't want to limit Shipley to the slot. He thinks he can play outside and he wants to get a variety of guys inside, including the incumbent, Andre Caldwell, and the new starter, Antonio Bryant.
"Antonio's a physical, smart guy; he can do that," Sheppard said. "Andre Caldwell can do that. We'll see how it works out."
At least in the slot, it is one MySpace that Shipley knows is his.