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Torrid tandem

Posted: 2:55 a.m.



With Chad Johnson lining up in more spots than a presidential candidate, the yards are coming in a landslide in the first three games of the season he is on pace for an unprecedented 2,000 yards.

Instead of lining up just on the outside, he's in the slot. Or in motion. Or in trips. Or incognito. It doesn't matter where. He's got an NFL-best 442 yards for 147 per game.

Speaking of blistering, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the NFL's leading receiver with 29 catches, figures to become Monday night only the sixth Bengals wide receiver ever to catch a ball after his 30th birthday.

"They're moving me around a lot more than they did," Johnson said. "It's not just left or right. It's inside, outside, all over. ... It's kind of confusing a lot of people where I line up."

What's not confusing is that he's off to the fastest start of his career. Remember how people used to look cross-eyed at Johnson when he said his goal is to have 1,800 receiving yards in a season, a feat done only once by Jerry Rice?

At this rate, he'll have more than 2,000 yards this season.

"I think it's moreso '9' (Carson Palmer) just having trust in me letting the ball go regardless of the coverages," Johnson said. "We've got a very, very, very good game plan this week."

No doubt he will continue to be moved to different spots. It took him seven games to reach 442 yards last season.

"We haven't kept him in the same spot like we have in the past," Palmer said. "The defense always knows where he's going to be, so they always know there the double team is going to be. But this year we've been moving him around a lot and taking the double team away by putting him in the slot, or putting him all over the field in trips (multiple receivers on one side) and stuff like that."

Johnson belies the notion that receivers have be either small and fast or big and physical to play in the slot. Johnson says except for the Brian Russell hit in Cleveland last year, no one has ever got a clean shot at him.

"C'mon. I'm Ocho," said Johnson when asked how he avoids the hits.

"I can get open inside because they can't jump everybody on me all at one time," he said. "I never get hit (like Houshmandzadeh). Now those have meaning."

The moves don't come without a price. Any tinkering done by offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski results in a change in pass protection and reaction to the blitz.

"It's not easy to just say, 'All right, we'll put Chad over here,' " Palmer said. "It changes a lot of people's routes, a lot of people's (blitz reads). We haven't done a ton of it. We'll see how it goes as the games go along."

Houshmandzadeh turned 30 Wednesday and is closing in on some prime real estate in the Bengals record book. This season he has already passed tight end Rodney Holman into seventh place on the list with 332 catches. Wide receiver Eddie Brown is next with 363.

The Bengal with the most catches starting from the season he turned 30 is Isaac Curtis with 158. He retired at 34 after 12 seasons.


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