Warrick catching on

11-1-01, 3:40 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Peter Warrick, chairman of Excitement, Inc., has made a business decision after consulting with some of the NFL's Yards After Catch executives.

Warrick has spent the past few weeks watching tape of the instant offense receivers from Minnesota (Randy Moss, Chris Carter) and St. Louis (Torry Holt, Az Hakim, Isaac Bruce) and has formed a mission statement.

"Last year I'd catch the ball, shake, and then somebody would come hit me in the back," Warrick said after a practice earlier this week. "I don't want any more of that. Business decision. I'm not trying to do too much. Get down. Get up the field. Get the first down."

Warrick, the Bengals' first-round draft pick from last year, is looking more and more like a solid investment. He had the big Dr. J hair flowing after Thursday's practice, but only because, "I'm going to get it braided this afternoon."

His flashy hair and clothes betray his blue-collar progress from that rookie quagmire bogged down by an inexperienced quarterback and coaching change.

All the man does is play in every game and improve with little fanfare by cutting down his drops and adding to his clutch catches.

Such as last Sunday's frozen concentrate 19-yard catch in the winning fourth-quarter drive just before he got wiped out cutting to the sideline.

After seven games last season, Warrick had nearly half as many drops (nine) as he had catches (21 for 280 yards) on his way to a 51-catch season. In the first seven games this year, he has dropped just two according to the coaches' stats and has 35 catches with 334 yards, on pace for the Bengals' first 80-catch season in three years.

Yes, he has only one touchdown catch like he did a year ago heading into November. But he's got more catches than his NFC soulmate. Through his tape research, Warrick has identified himself with the Rams' Holt because of their similar size and speed. The 6-foot, 190-pound Holt has three touchdown catches and 485 yards on 31 catches. But with seven third-down catches, the 5-11, 195-pound Warrick is among the AFC leaders in a category Holt doesn't appear in the NFC.

And in the last three games, Warrick's yards-per-catch is 12.3, up from his season average of 9.5.

What has receivers coach Steve Mooshagian excited about Warrick's progress besides a major adjustment in his route running is the "yards after catch," stat.

Last season after seven games, Warrick had 28 yards after catch. Now he's got 96. He may still be looking for the first 100-yard game of his career, but he's clearly starting to figure it out.

In his last dozen games, Warrick has 49 catches for 509 yards. In his first 11 games as a pro, it was 34 for 417.

Throw in the could-have-beens, like last week's 11-yard touchdown catch negated by

a holding call and some passes thrown behind him in the open field, and his numbers would be Holtish.

"I feel badly because I feel like if I could have gotten the ball to him a few times, he would have had some huge games," said Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna. "Pete is going to have one of those 10- or 12-catch games soon. You can see that coming."

Warrick likes taking notes on Moss, but admits, "it's tough trying to do what Moss does because he's special. Not many can do what he does. Holt is me."

With the Bengals preparing for the Bears and Lions the past two weeks, it allowed Mooshagian to make cutups of the Vikings against Chicago and the Rams against Detroit.

"Just looking at little tips on running routes," Warrick said. "Holt likes to get it north and south and when he gets it, he gets down or he gets out of bounds. He's not trying to do too much. He's not taking big hits. I've been trying to do too much at times. Do things that aren't necessary. It's easier this year. The transition was hard last year, man."

Just in the past three weeks, Mooshagian has seen big strides. Warrick has 17 catches with three "big plays," which are categorized by 20 yards or more. He had seven big plays all last season. Much of it has to do with his routes.

"We've stressed getting in and out of your cuts with more speed," Mooshagian said. "Peter wanted to break it down with a lot of moves. Head moves. Shakes. Now he's getting up the field and getting separation."

Warrick's touchdown Sunday didn't count, but the 11-yard pass on an out-and-up shows he can be a red-zone weapon. He might not be as tall as the noted end-zone jump ballists like Carter and Carl Pickens. But he made a nice leaping, ball-in-the-air adjustment against two Lions' defensive backs.

"Give me a shot," Warrick said. "I'll come up with it. Or it will be incomplete so we get another shot at the end zone. Just give me a shot, that's all."

Kitna always plans to when the Bengals are down close to the goal line.

"The big thing with him is he wants to score touchdowns," Kitna said. " He wants it badly. You know if you get it there, he wants it more than the other guy."

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