C. Johnson not lost in QBs' transition

Nfl Preview 2004

The Division Rivals

Cincinnati Bengals

September 09, 2004|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Chad Johnson isn't worried about Carson Palmer's inexperience as a first-time starting quarterback in the NFL. That's because he knows what Palmer is working with on the Cincinnati Bengals' offense.

"I doubt if he struggles, not with the receiving corps we have," Johnson said early in training camp. "Struggling is when you have nobody to get the ball to."

Johnson is the cocky, fourth-year wide receiver whose breakout season in 2003 coincided with the Bengals' rise to 8-8 after a decade of ineptitude. He pulled down 90 passes, led the AFC with 1,355 receiving yards and started in his first Pro Bowl.

He accomplished all that with Jon Kitna at quarterback. Now Johnson has a new quarterback throwing him the ball in Palmer, who didn't play a down last year as the first pick of the 2003 draft.

Although Kitna "knew where I was going to be and when I was going to be there," Johnson has no reservations about the switch to Palmer.

"Nothing has really been lost between Carson and I that I had with Kitna," he said. "Carson's good. He's consistent, accurate. He's got all those intangibles to be a great quarterback."

Johnson figures to make Palmer's transition smoother. The slender 6-foot-1, 192-pound player has averaged 15.2 yards a catch in 44 career games, and much of that has come on plays over the middle, where he is fearless.

In the past 1 1/2 seasons, Johnson has staked a claim as one of the league's most exciting and dangerous receivers. He has 10 100-yard receiving games in his career, and all have come in the past 24 games.

Last year, Johnson had seven catches of more than 40 yards and four longer than 50 yards. Even the impending double teams don't worry him.

"It doesn't matter how they defense me," Johnson said. "I'm always going to be open."

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