RELATED: Quarterbacks* * *
Posted: 5:45 p.m.
Bengals.com continues to break down each position group in preparation for the June 12-14 mandatory minicamp. The spotlight, not to mention the microscope, is going to be trained on the wide receivers whether Chad Johnson shows or not. With Johnson expected, at least by the national media and others, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh committed, here's a look at their surrounding cast.
(The battle is behind Johnson, Houshmandzadeh, and rookies Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell for the fifth and sixth roster spots. Who of the trio of Antonio Chatman, Glenn Holt and Marcus Maxwell gets left out?)
Travis Brown (6-3, 202, Rookie, 0 NFL catches)
The free agent out of New Mexico, cut by Seattle, has made some plays and wide receivers coach Mike Sheppard says "he's better than you think." He'll need to prove he can run consistently with the stepped-up speed.
Andre Caldwell (6-0, 204, Rookie, 0 NFL catches)
The third-rounder out of Florida is farther along than any of the rookie receivers because of his experience of catching 175 balls and 16 touchdowns for the Gators in four SEC seasons. He's smooth, smart and fast, and can come in and play the slot pretty readily along with an outside spot. He'll also get a shot to return kicks, which he hasn't done since he broke his leg a few years ago.
Antonio Chatman (5-8, 182, Sixth season, 93 NFL catches)
This is the healthiest he's been here in his three seasons and he looks to have retained the quickness and explosion that led to some nice yards after some of his 49 catches in Green Bay in '05. He would look to have the edge to be the No. 3 receiver going in because of what he can do in the slot.
"Tone's had a great camp," Sheppard says. "When he's been healthy, he's got really nice ability inside and outside and is a nice complement to our big receivers."
If Chatman can stay healthy, the next question may not matter. What if somebody at another position emerges as a punt returner who can offer more than his 5.2-yard per average last year and knocks him out of special teams? But will his versatility at receiver prove to be more important?
Glenn Holt (6-1, 193, Third season, 17 NFL catches)
Ever since he won a job on a tryout basis in the '06 rookie camp, Holt just keeps improving with a great attitude and grinding work ethic.
He got some game experience last year and proved to be reliable as well as tough enough to take plenty of shots and hold on. One of his 76 career kick returns has gone for a touchdown. And he can play all three spots.
But he's in the same boat as Chatman. If someone else at another spot emerges who is a more dynamic kick returner, the Bengals may be able to keep a receiver offering more upside. But don't rule out this guy's heart and soul.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (6-1, 200, Eighth season, 415 NFL catches)
Coming off a career year in which he co-led the NFL in catches with 112 with New England's Wes Welker. His next three catches put him past two iconic Bengals names in Isaac Curtis and Cris Collinsworth on the club's all-time receptions list.
He does it with a little speed, a few jukes, flypaper hands and a steel-belted soul symbolized by last season's run of eight straight games with a touchdown, longest in a Bengals season.
Is this his last year in stripes? With free-agent receivers going for $7 million per year, can the Bengals pay both Johnson and Houshmandzadeh and keep them happy?
While they mull on that, savor Houshmandzadeh's red-zone wizardry.
Chad Johnson (6-1, 192, Eighth season, 559 NFL catches)
By the numbers the greatest receiver in Bengals history, not to mention the biggest soap opera for this As-The-World-Turns franchise.
Now the question doesn't seem to be if Johnson will come back, but what will be his frame of mind be when he does come back.
There's no questioning his elite status as a five-time Pro Bowler who just missed his fifth straight AFC yardage crown by less than a football field. But even though he's missed all 10 voluntary sessions so far, he's been working with Charles Collins, his junior college position coach, and Collins has been emphasizing his focus and sharpening his skills that got him to this level.
Collins was nagged by his count of 20 dropped balls, but he believes Johnson's work ethic will carry the day on and off the field.
Clyde Logan (6-3, 202, Rookie, 0 NFL catches)
A nice find with good speed and size that has caught mostly everything. Plus, a good story. Before going to Idaho State he spent four years in the military and is the oldest rookie at age 26.
Marcus Maxwell (6-4, 205, Third Year, 1 NFL catch)
One of the most impressive receivers in camp after getting cut by the 49ers last year and then joining the practice squad before getting activated for five games. Sheppard likes Maxwell's brew of size, speed and physicality and has shown Carson Palmer some reliability on his routes. Major playbook student.
Maurice Purify (6-3, 224, Rookie, 0 NFL catches)
He's got all the physical tools with some big-time speed. But the Nebraska free agent has some off-field baggage and right now is dealing with a web injury between his index finger and thumb that has sidelined him.
Jerome Simpson (6-2, 200, Rookie, 0 NFL catches)
The second-rounder from Coastal Carolina is undergoing a massive Class A to big league transition. As far as playbooks, he's gone from the Reidsville, N.C., phone book to the Manhattan Directory and as he gets acclimated to everything from surfaces to formations, he's fallen down almost as often as he's made the wondrous catch.
And he's made plenty of those, like reaching back to pluck underthrown balls with one huge hand. His exotic jumping and catching skills are as advertised and the Bengals think they'll have a potential gamebreaker in the next year or two.
Mario Urrutia (6-5, 232, Rookie 0 NFL catches)
He's got great size and presents a nice NFL target, but his speed and route running have to make the transition.