New playmakers give Bengals needed bite

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — On one side, he sees Chad Ochocinco. On the other side, he sees Terrell Owens. Inside, there is Jermaine Gresham and maybe Andre Caldwell or Jordan Shipley.

Carson Palmer enters his eighth season in the NFL, all with the Bengals.
Carson Palmer enters his eighth season in the NFL, all with the Bengals.

Everywhere Carson Palmer looks, the Bengals quarterback sees a big passing play waiting to happen.

"There’s definitely a lot of talent, a handful of good players," Palmer said after a recent morning practice at training camp. "We feel if we can really get some continuity together and get comfortable with each other, we could be one of the better passing offenses in the league."

The Bengals have had big-time receiving weapons before. Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry once were a formidable trio. But this current group — which should only get better once Antonio Bryant returns from rehabbing a knee injury — could create nightmares for defensive coordinators.

The Bengals went 10-6 and won the AFC North last season, but their passing game lacked teeth. Their top two tight ends, Reggie Kelly (Achilles’ tendon) and Ben Utecht (concussion), were lost during the preseason. Henry suffered a broken arm in November and later died after falling out of the back of a pickup truck.

That left Ochocinco as the only legitimate receiving threat. He managed to catch 72 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns last season, but the lack of explosive plays in the passing game stood out like a broken nose on a Miss America candidate.

So the Bengals went looking for playmakers. In March, they signed Bryant, a former Bucs wide receiver. In April, they drafted Gresham (a tight end from Oklahoma) in the first round and Shipley (a wideout/return specialist from Texas) in the third round. They added the final piece when they signed T.O. right before training camp.

There’s not a quarterback in the league who wouldn’t want to throw to a wide receiver duo of Ochocinco and Owens.

"With what (Ochocinco) brings and what I bring to the table, I’m sure Carson is as ready and excited for the season to start as we are," Owens said.

In his five full seasons as a starter — he didn’t play as a rookie in ’03 and missed 12 games in ’08 with an elbow injury — Palmer threw for more than 4,000 yards twice, was selected to two Pro Bowls and had almost 50 more touchdown passes (125) than interceptions (76). Yet you never see him compared to elite quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Brett Favre.

What’s holding Palmer back?

"Super Bowls, I guess," he said. "You named all those guys; they’ve all got Super Bowls. That’s what it comes down to. You’re not judged on how many yards you throw for as a quarterback; you’re judged on how many Super Bowls you have."

Owens has played with many quarterbacks during his 15 seasons. Despite being with the Bengals for only a couple of weeks, he ranks Palmer behind only Steve Young and Donovan McNabb.

"A quarterback for a receiver, that’s like ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly. They go hand in hand," Owens said. "Playing with Carson this year, knowing that I definitely have a capable quarterback, a proven quarterback, a guy that can throw the ball all across the field and make things happen, that makes my mouth water."

Palmer experiences a similar sensation when he lines up under center and looks around at all the playmakers. A Super Bowl would quench his hunger.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — On one side, he sees Chad Ochocinco. On the other side, he sees Terrell Owens. Inside, there is Jermaine Gresham and maybe Andre Caldwell or Jordan Shipley.

Carson Palmer enters his eighth season in the NFL, all with the Bengals.
Carson Palmer enters his eighth season in the NFL, all with the Bengals.

Everywhere Carson Palmer looks, the Bengals quarterback sees a big passing play waiting to happen.

"There’s definitely a lot of talent, a handful of good players," Palmer said after a recent morning practice at training camp. "We feel if we can really get some continuity together and get comfortable with each other, we could be one of the better passing offenses in the league."

The Bengals have had big-time receiving weapons before. Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry once were a formidable trio. But this current group — which should only get better once Antonio Bryant returns from rehabbing a knee injury — could create nightmares for defensive coordinators.

The Bengals went 10-6 and won the AFC North last season, but their passing game lacked teeth. Their top two tight ends, Reggie Kelly (Achilles’ tendon) and Ben Utecht (concussion), were lost during the preseason. Henry suffered a broken arm in November and later died after falling out of the back of a pickup truck.

That left Ochocinco as the only legitimate receiving threat. He managed to catch 72 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns last season, but the lack of explosive plays in the passing game stood out like a broken nose on a Miss America candidate.

So the Bengals went looking for playmakers. In March, they signed Bryant, a former Bucs wide receiver. In April, they drafted Gresham (a tight end from Oklahoma) in the first round and Shipley (a wideout/return specialist from Texas) in the third round. They added the final piece when they signed T.O. right before training camp.

There’s not a quarterback in the league who wouldn’t want to throw to a wide receiver duo of Ochocinco and Owens.

"With what (Ochocinco) brings and what I bring to the table, I’m sure Carson is as ready and excited for the season to start as we are," Owens said.

In his five full seasons as a starter — he didn’t play as a rookie in ’03 and missed 12 games in ’08 with an elbow injury — Palmer threw for more than 4,000 yards twice, was selected to two Pro Bowls and had almost 50 more touchdown passes (125) than interceptions (76). Yet you never see him compared to elite quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Brett Favre.

What’s holding Palmer back?

"Super Bowls, I guess," he said. "You named all those guys; they’ve all got Super Bowls. That’s what it comes down to. You’re not judged on how many yards you throw for as a quarterback; you’re judged on how many Super Bowls you have."

Owens has played with many quarterbacks during his 15 seasons. Despite being with the Bengals for only a couple of weeks, he ranks Palmer behind only Steve Young and Donovan McNabb.

"A quarterback for a receiver, that’s like ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly. They go hand in hand," Owens said. "Playing with Carson this year, knowing that I definitely have a capable quarterback, a proven quarterback, a guy that can throw the ball all across the field and make things happen, that makes my mouth water."

Palmer experiences a similar sensation when he lines up under center and looks around at all the playmakers. A Super Bowl would quench his hunger.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.

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