Apr 12, 2007
I’ve flirted with the idea of ranking QB Carson Palmer and WR Chad Johnson #1 at this position this year because I feel the pair’s best season together is coming either this year or next. In a previous post, I wrote how Johnson and Palmer exploded over a five-game stretch in 2007 (Johnson’s production was sick: 37 catches for 771 yards and 5 TDs) and how I viewed that level of production as being much closer to reality than the lackluster numbers they put up earlier in the season, especially Johnson, while Palmer was working his way back from his serious knee injury.
I’ll have to think long and hard and analyze things closely on Palmer now because the loss of Chris Henry is a big one. Henry’s gone for eight games for sure, but he might be slow off the mark even when he returns because he’s not going to be able to practice with the team until he’s reinstated. Realistically, we can’t expect Henry to make a significant contribution until late November or early December.
Henry is a terrific player. He drops a key pass here and there, but he has the tools and the talent to not only be a starter in the NFL, but to be a #1 WR. His other issues may always prevent him from being a true go-to guy, but Henry’s game is hard to shoot holes through. He’s got great size and speed, and he’s a dangerous vertical threat, plus he’s a very strong option in the red zone. The Bengals will definitely miss him.
I think the loss of Henry, however, is good news for Chad Johnson. I love Johnson, but he talks too much, and it’s time for him to back it up. He’s clearly an elite receiver, and an elite receiver – especially one who jaws the way he does – need to produce consistently despite receiving a ton of attention. It’s time for Johnson to be less hit-or-miss, and to put up strong numbers every week, give or take a bad game here and there. I think he can do it, too, because he’s not just a great vertical threat; he’s an excellent route-runner and can make plays all over the field in a variety of ways – plus he has a very good #2 in T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who clears out things underneath. Having a healthier and more comfortable Palmer behind center will also help.
Palmer still has Johnson and Houshmandzadeh, who should be even more productive than last year if he can stay healthy, but he’ll need a little more with Henry out of the mix for about two-thirds of the season. What hurts even more is that RB Chris Perry, a dynamic receiver out of the backfield, is not expected to be ready for training camp or even the start of the season, so who knows when he’ll be able to help the team. They don’t throw to the TE enough, so we can pretty much rule that position out. They have Antonio Chatman, who was a nice little receiver for the Packers in 2005. Chatman’s not a big guy, so he won’t help them much in the red zone, but he’s a slippery player who could help them move the chains. He has to stay healthy. The guy to watch is Tab Perry, who has shown some flashes. He’s not considered a fast receiver, but he’s more physical than Henry and he has good leaping ability, so he could help them in the red zone. Injuries have been an issue with Perry, however, so we can’t expect too much from him.
It really is a shame because Palmer could be a 35+ TD guy this year with Johnson, Houshmandzadeh, and Henry, but it’s hard to project that high given the unsettled situation and questionable depth at receiver. Palmer may be only #2 for me now.
But if you’re looking at our rankings, which will come out right after the draft, and you’re saying to yourself “where ya at, 85?” You may find him at the top of the list.