NFL Nation: Chad Ochocinco

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April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
Join us today at 2 p.m. ET, 11 a.m. PT, as ESPN’s NFL Nation TV’s second Spreecast airs live. Hosts Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guest Pat McManamon (Cleveland Browns reporter) take on topics ranging from Terrelle Pryor to Johnny Manziel to Donald Trump to Vernon Davis to Chad Johnson's attempted CFL comeback. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.
When Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin took over the team two seasons ago, he quickly changed the overall personality to fit his mild-mannered demeanor.

Philbin got rid of boisterous players such as Brandon Marshall and Vontae Davis before he coached his first game. Philbin also reluctantly tried the Chad Ochocinco experiment and ended it following Ochocinco's domestic dispute during training camp.

Soon after, it became well known in Miami that you had to be a "Joe Philbin guy" to survive long-term with the Dolphins. That means work hard, stay out of trouble and keep your mouth shut.

Therefore, you rarely hear any trash talking from the Dolphins. I can recall various instances when there were opportunities but players in Miami's locker room passed. The brash New York Jets have tried to bait the Dolphins several times over the past two seasons with no luck. New Orleans Saints linebacker Junior Galette also called out Miami's offensive line following the Saints' win in Week 4. The Dolphins simply shrugged it off in defeat.

"That's not part of our game. We're not trash talkers," Dolphins center Mike Pouncey said of Galette. "We're just playing football. Guys don't like when you play through the whistle."

One of the biggest complaints from Dolphins fans is their team doesn't play with enough fire and energy, especially in must-win situations. There is a small chance Philbin would take in boisterous, trash-talking players such as Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman -- and it is debatable whether that's a detriment or an asset to the Dolphins.

On a scale of red (not allowed), yellow (within reason) or green (go for it), Philbin's stance on trash talking is: Red.
They are three very different personalities. But put Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez together and they become one.

They form what might be the best receiving trio in the NFL.

“The big thing is that none of us are selfish,’’ Jones said in a telephone interview Thursday. “We all want to see each other go out and make big plays because the most important thing is that we want to win.’’

That might sound a little unusual coming from a wide receiver because history has shown that wide receivers often have diva personalities (think Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson and Steve Smith to name just a few). Those traits also can carry over to tight ends.

I remember days when I covered the Carolina Panthers and they’d win a game but tight end Wesley Walls would be unhappy because he didn’t think he had enough passes thrown his way.

But the amazing thing in Atlanta is that Jones, White and Gonzalez now have been together for three full seasons and there never has been a complaint about the distribution of the ball. White and Jones are the wide receivers and Gonzalez is the tight end. But, at various times, they all have been quarterback Matt Ryan's favorite target.

White and Jones combined for 2,549 receiving yards this season, the most by any wide receiver tandem in the league. Gonzalez had 93 catches for 930 yards and eight touchdowns.

When all three of them have been on the field at the same time, Ryan has averaged an interception once in every 52.2 passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. When the entire trio hasn’t been on the field at the same time, Ryan has averaged an interception once in every 21.3 passes.

“We just take what a defense gives us,’’ Jones said. “If they’re doubling Roddy or me, it’s going to leave Tony open. If Tony’s doubled, Roddy and I will be open. We’ll just take what’s there.’’

Jones said the chemistry among the three has come naturally. Jones is the quiet one, White can be outspoken -- especially on Twitter -- and Gonzalez is the wise elder statesman. But their personalities have meshed nicely.

“I was very lucky to get drafted into the situation I came into,’’ Jones said. “I could have gone somewhere where other guys would resent me because they want the ball. But Roddy and Tony took me under their wings right from the start.’’

Jones entered the league under unusual circumstances. He was drafted during the 2011 lockout and he still was recovering from a college injury. But he showed up at players-only workouts and instantly formed a bond with White and Gonzalez.’’

“We’d go to the workouts, but we’d also go to the movies or just hang out to get to know each other,’’ Jones said. “It was that way in the beginning and it still is that way now.’’

Jones said he and Gonzalez hit the practice field early every day and caught 50 to 100 passes before practice even started. From White, Jones said he’s learned a lot about body control and movement.

“I think the biggest thing both of those guys have taught me is that you don’t have to try to be Superman,’’ Jones said. “You just go out and do your job and you’re going to get your share of passes.’’

That formula is working quite nicely. The Falcons don’t need a solitary Superman because they’ve got three super options in their passing game.

No, Cowboys don't want Chad Johnson

August, 15, 2012
Sometimes I just have to shake my head.

Every time a player of whom anyone has ever heard of gets cut, fans want to know if their team will go and sign him. So I guess it's no real shock that Dallas Cowboys fans, unnecessarily panicked about the No. 3 wide receiver situation, would ask whether the team would be interested in former Dolphins receiver Chad Johnson. The Dolphins, who need receivers about 500 times worse than the Cowboys do, just released Johnson after he was arrested last weekend on domestic violence charges. And while he would make no sense whatsoever for the Cowboys to even consider, somehow Jason Garrett found himself answering a question about his team's interest in Wednesday's news conference. Per Tim MacMahon:
"We haven't had any discussions about Chad Johnson," Garrett said.

Rough translation: There is a zero percent chance of Ochocinco joining the Cowboys.

Seriously, folks. Enough. Nothing's changed since the last time Johnson was on the market except his last name and his police record. Only one of those changed for the better, and it wasn't the right one. There's no chance whatsoever that the Cowboys, who already have Dez Bryant, would want to have to stand there and explain why they seem to be collecting receivers who've been arrested on domestic violence charges in the past couple of months.

Johnson also has not become any younger since the last time he was available, nor has he been a good NFL player since 2009. There's nothing whatsoever to suggest that he's a better option than Kevin Ogletree or Andre Holmes or Cole Beasley or any of the other guys currently competing for the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver spot. He's not good, he's a huge potential headache, and there would be no reason for the Cowboys to even consider it. I doubt they did, and I have no problem believing Garrett spoke for the entire organization when he shot it down without hesitation.

No word on whether he was also asked if they had any interest in Isaac Bruce or Rod Smith.

Here's some actual, real, relevant news about the Cowboys' receiving corps.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The first day of Miami Dolphins training camp is in the books, and the AFC East blog was there to take in all the action.

Obviously. the biggest story of the day was the absence of quarterback and first-round pick Ryan Tannehill. You can find our earlier blogs on Tannehill here and here.

[+] EnlargeChas Alecxih
AP Photo/Alan DiazBad haircuts are part of camp for Dolphins rookies like Chas Alecxih.
Here are some additional notes:

  • The offense made some plays, but I didn't like the overall sloppiness. I saw three fumbled snaps (two by Matt Moore, one by David Garrard), four dropped passes and two interceptions. I might have missed a bad play here and there, but that alone was enough to deem it a sloppy practice for the offense. The offense did make some big plays, too. But rest assured the coaches will focus on cleaning up the mistakes.
  • Moore and Garrard rotated first-team reps throughout practice. For what it’s worth, Moore started team drills Friday with the starters before they began rotating. “It just means he’s over with the ones [to start] today. They had to give it to somebody,” Garrard said. “We will continue to battle throughout training camp."
  • I liked what I saw in the training camp debut of receiver Chad Johnson. He made several nice grabs and got open on more plays where the quarterback didn’t see him. Johnson looks like he still has it physically. His cuts in and out of breaks looked solid on the first day. Johnson caught a pair of 15-yeard hook routes that looked like vintage Johnson. The interesting thing is the Dolphins are giving Johnson some work with the first team. Miami is doing everything it can to get him up to speed. The Dolphins need him to produce.
  • This week we mentioned this is a big year for outside linebacker Koa Misi. He made one of the best plays of the day with a pick-six off Moore. Misi looks more comfortable in a 4-3 defense, and the Dolphins hope the new scheme produces a better year. Misi is a former second-round pick in 2010 who has yet to live up to his potential.
  • There was rookie hazing going on, as well. Rookies on the defense got special haircuts, courtesy of veteran defensive tackle Paul Soliai. Rookies got golden blonde hair dye and had their heads partially shaved. Rookie second-round pick Olivier Vernon got the most stylish cut. “I took my time with that one,” Soliai said with a smile.

Dolphins Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: “Hard Knocks” will be a good thing for the Dolphins. This is a team in need of exposure and a better national perception after another poor, 6-10 season. The Dolphins started 2011 0-7 and the rest of the league pretty much forgot about them.

The storylines in Miami are not sexy, but they are plentiful. There is a quarterback competition, a new coaching staff and colorful receiver Chad Johnson. HBO does a tremendous job on these shows, and it will be up to the Dolphins to put their best foot forward.

One thing that might happen: We might see a resurgence from the 34-year-old Johnson in training camp. But he cannot be as bad as the player we saw last year with the New England Patriots. Johnson, who recently changed back to his birth name, never fit the system in New England and recorded just 15 catches. He still might be Miami’s most dynamic receiver entering his 12th season. Perhaps that’s more of an indictment of Miami’s receivers.

Johnson looked pretty good in minicamp. He still has a quick first step and made several big plays against Miami’s secondary in practices. The Dolphins need the old Johnson to return -- or least a player close to it. Johnson first needs a solid camp and preseason to earn a starting job.

One thing we won't see: Ryan Tannehill will not be a factor in Miami’s quarterback competition. It’s being billed as a three-way race for the starting job, but Tannehill is a long shot. David Garrard and Matt Moore are the two legitimate quarterbacks battling for Miami’s starting job in Week 1. Both veterans have looked far ahead of the rookie Tannehill in offseason workouts.

Tannehill has just 19 career starts at quarterback in college. It is hard to make that jump to the NFL with limited experience, and Tannehill is already showing that with his uneven offseason performance. It would be shocking if Tannehill can make up so much ground on Moore and Garrard in a few weeks.
Miami Dolphins receiver Chad Ochocinco is coming full circle. As promised a few weeks ago, Ochocinco is officially going back to his birth name: Chad Johnson.

Johnson's Twitter account has been changed for weeks. He recently married reality television star Evelyn Lozada and tweeted she had no interest in being "Evelyn Ochocinco." Obviously, Ochocinco married a smart woman.

But this time Ochocinco's name change is no gimmick.

His intentions are pure. This is not about being different or new jersey sales or garnering more attention. The newly renamed Chad Johnson is changing his name in an effort to keep his wife happy and also get back to his roots.

We examined a couple of weeks ago whether the 34-year-old receiver can get back to Chad Johnson the player. His numbers were much better under the name Johnson than it was under Ochocinco. He averaged 28 more receptions per season as Johnson, but he also was younger and in his prime.

The receiver-deprived Dolphins need a Chad Johnson resurgence for their passing game to be successful. Miami will get the old name on the back of the jersey this season. But will they get the old player?
The Miami Dolphins desperately need help at wide receiver. And veteran free agent Terrell Owens is desperately looking for work.

Could Owens and Miami be a match?

According to NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes, the Dolphins should make this move.

"The guy [Miami] needs to bring in -- I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it -- is Terrell Owens,” Dukes said Friday on the NFL Network. “Terrell Owens, I believe if healthy, is a top-25 receiver. He had a great year in Cincinnati and Chad [Ochocinco] and T.O. have worked together before in Cincinnati."

Dukes wasn't kidding. He said everything with a straight face.

Dukes went on to explain that Owens, 38, is better than anything Miami has at receiver, outside of Ochocinco, and that Miami needs excitement to sell tickets. Owens could help in both categories.

But I totally disagree with Dukes on this one. Signing Owens would be a bad move and probably wouldn't help much in the win column.

Miami traded Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall in an effort to remove troubled players from its locker room. Getting rid of Marshall and signing Owens sends a bad message. It also would create a circus atmosphere that Miami is trying to avoid in the first year under rookie head coach Joe Philbin.

Ochocinco is colorful enough for Miami's locker room. Ochocinco and Owens would be too much for this rebuilding team to handle.
New Miami Dolphins receiver Chad Ochocinco is all about change. Last month during minicamp, he talked about getting back to the basics, focusing on fundamentals and becoming the dynamic player he once was. Ochocinco also got married last week.

Ochocinco also says his transformation in 2012 will include going back to his birth name: Chad Johnson. The change has already been made on his Twitter account.

The name change to Johnson brings Ochocinco's career full circle to when he was one of the league’s most dynamic receivers. Johnson was a six-time Pro Bowler for the Cincinnati Bengals and averaged nearly 80 receptions for seven seasons. Ochocinco never lived up to those expectations following the name change. He averaged just 51.75 receptions in four seasons, including a career-low 15 for the Patriots in 2011.

Which version of Chad Johnson/Ochocinco will Miami get? He may not be the same explosive player he was at 25. But Johnson/Ochocinco should be better than the struggling, confused player we saw last year with in New England.

The Dolphins and their thin receiving corps would be much better off with a resurgent Ochocinco/Johnson.

Can anyone catch the Patriots?

July, 10, 2012
Ryan, Ochocinco, WilliamsUS Presswire Rex Ryan, Mario Williams and Chad Ochocinco hope their teams challenge the Patriots this season.
Is it too early to crown the New England Patriots the 2012 AFC East champion?

Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Patriots have so much depth, talent and a Hall of Fame coach and quarterback, that other AFC East teams should not be able to keep pace. It's been that way 10 of the past dozen seasons. Why should anything change this year, right?

Well, not so fast.

Offseason moves and coaching changes by the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins have made the AFC East much more competitive in 2012. Last year only one team -- New England -- had a winning record. This season at least three teams are capable of making the playoffs.

Each AFC East opponent presents a threat to New England that we didn't see the prior season. Here's why the Patriots should be concerned:

Buffalo Bills

The Bills had arguably the best offseason in the NFL. The $100 million signing of stud defensive end Mario Williams was a game-changer, and instantly presented something for the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady to worry about. The additions of defensive end Mark Anderson, rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore and left tackle Cordy Glenn all plugged holes. And re-signing No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson and starting tailback Fred Jackson were important moves.

Buffalo is well-stocked and has the talent to compete with the Patriots. The biggest question is experience. The Bills are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Many players in their locker room have never made the postseason. The growing preseason hype only adds to the pressure.

At their best, the Bills can play with anyone. They proved it last season during their 5-2 start. Buffalo was the only AFC East team to split with the Patriots in 2011, which should get New England’s attention.

With a two-headed rushing attack, a versatile offensive line and a defense that could finish in the top 10, Buffalo has provided a lot of reasons for the Patriots and the rest of the AFC East to be concerned this season.

Patriots' concern meter: 7

New York Jets

The Jets imploded last season. But head coach Rex Ryan and his veteran roster have been New England's biggest rival in recent years. New York knows how to beat New England. The Jets have proved it over the past few years, including a huge win in the playoffs following the 2010 season.

New York's defense has slowed the Patriots’ high-powered offense in the past. The Jets were No. 5 in overall defense in 2011, and have high hopes for being the No. 1 defense this season. That would go a long way toward closing the gap with New England.

The Jets also must improve significantly on offense under first-year offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. New York had the 25th-ranked offense last season, and was inconsistent in nearly every phase. Starting quarterback Mark Sanchez must have a bounce-back year for the Jets to challenge New England. Backup quarterback Tim Tebow also could play a role as a dual-threat from the read-option offense. Tebow gave New England’s defense a lot of problems last year in its regular-season meeting with the Denver Broncos.

Overall, the Jets are the most experienced challengers to the Patriots’ crown in the AFC East. But it’s hard to tell if New York’s arrow is pointing up or down.

Patriots' concern meter: 6

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are making a lot of changes for 2012. Although most of it is for the better, there should be some growing pains in Miami.

It all starts with a new coaching staff, led by rookie head coach Joe Philbin. The offensive-minded Philbin is installing a new West Coast offense in Miami that relies on timing and precision passing. The problem is, Miami is trying to do it with quarterbacks who all have questions and a questionable group of receivers.

Quarterbacks David Garrard, Matt Moore and rookie Ryan Tannehill all have their issues. Garrard has been out of football since 2010, and is coming off back surgery. Moore played well last season, but doesn’t appear to be a natural fit for the West Coast offense. Tannehill has the physical tools, but has limited starting experience and needs time to get up to speed with the NFL game. One of these quarterbacks will be throwing to a limited group of receivers, potentially led by 34-year-old Chad Ochocinco, who produced little last season in New England.

Miami's defense is switching to a 4-3, but should be solid under first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. The Dolphins’ defense is stout up front against the run, and needs to focus on improving its pass defense, especially against New England.

The Dolphins aren't a legitimate threat to the Patriots now. But if Tannehill eventually develops into a franchise quarterback, and the offense eventually comes together over the next 2-3 years, Miami could be a team to keep an eye on in the division.

Patriots' concern meter: 4

Overall, the AFC East is New England's to lose. Barring significant injuries, the Patriots should walk away with this division for the 11th time in the Brady-Belichick era. But if New England loses focus, the upstart Bills and veteran Jets might be good enough to give the Patriots a few headaches.
Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens have plenty of similarities.

Both were prolific receivers and perennial Pro Bowlers. Both are good friends with eccentric personalities. Both also were aging free agents looking for work this offseason.

Terrell Owens/Chad Ochocinco
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaTerrell Owens' negative reputation is perhaps why he's out of the NFL, while his equally eccentric ex-Bengals teammate Chad Ochocinco is employed.
But while Ochocinco lasted just four days on the open market, Owens has been on the scrap heap for more than a year and may not get another chance in the NFL.

What gives?

The story of Ochocinco and T.O. provides a cautionary tale that goodwill matters. You can be eccentric and high maintenance without being surly. You can even do selfish things without burning bridges. Ochocinco always understood that. Owens did not -- and now it's costing him.

Owens still has something left to offer. In his last season with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010, he caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine touchdowns. If he could give a team half of those numbers in 2012, Owens is still ahead of many receivers in the league.

Conversely, Ochocinco recorded just 15 receptions for 276 yards and one touchdown last year with the New England Patriots. Yet, he got a job immediately with the Miami Dolphins. The difference is Ochocinco has never imploded a locker room. Owens has done it several times, and at 38 that risk is no longer worth the reward.

A couple of weeks ago I asked New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady about Ochocinco's release at minicamp, and Brady gave a glowing response.

"I loved being with Chad," Brady said. "He's a good friend and a great competitor, and I enjoyed my chance with him and my opportunity to play with him."

That's pretty much the response you get from everyone who's been around Ochocinco. He's different, but overall he's fun-loving and harmless.

Former quarterbacks will say the opposite about Owens. In fact, did an anonymous survey of NFL head coaches a few years ago and Owens was the No. 1 player coaches didn't want on their team. That perception clearly hasn't changed, because Owens is still looking for a job and no one is willing to touch him.

Owens says he's humbled and improved as a person, and that might be the case. But after wreaking a lot of havoc with coaches and teammates over 15 years, it's questionable if T.O. will get another chance to prove he's changed.
DAVIE, Fla. – During Tuesday's minicamp, Chad Ochocinco sprinted up the right sideline as fast as he could.

After the Miami Dolphins' newest receiver gained a step on cornerback Sean Smith, quarterback David Garrard threw a back-shoulder pass deep that forced Ochocinco to make a quick adjustment. Ochocinco spotted the ball, stopped on a dime and leaped over Smith while keeping his feet in bounds to make an acrobatic catch. It was one of several great plays the 34-year-old receiver made in Miami's first day of minicamp.

"He definitely has 'it,'" Smith said of Ochocinco. "I know a lot of people wrote him off. If you look at his numbers last year, they weren't productive. But he's out here, his routes are crisp and he's coming out of his breaks. He looks good. He's definitely going to be one of those guys who turns heads this year."

Although it's just one practice, Ochocinco was the best receiver on the field for Miami on Tuesday. It's been awhile since that was the case.

[+] EnlargeChad Ochocinco
AP Photo/J Pat Carter"He definitely has 'it'," new teammate Sean Smith said after getting beaten by Chad Ochocinco.
The six-time Pro Bowler spent most of his 2011 season on the bench with the New England Patriots. Ochocinco recorded a career-low 15 receptions for 276 yards. He fell as low as fourth or fifth on New England’s depth chart before finally being released June 7. It was the first time in the NFL that Ochocinco was ever cut.

Now, for the first time in a long time, Ochocinco has something to prove. Ochocinco was very business-like in his approach this week, and he looks determined to show his critics he still has something left in the tank.

"I'm getting back to what we're all used to seeing, the basic fundamentals of how I came to what I am," Ochocinco said. "I think I kind of lost that. Now, I'm looking to go back to Chad Johnson, just making it live again."

Sometimes it takes going back home to get back to your roots. Ochocinco grew up in Miami and went to Miami Beach High School. As soon as he was cut by the Patriots, he came back to South Florida to work out with his friend and fellow free agent Terrell Owens.

The receiver-deprived Dolphins worked Ochocinco out a few days later and signed him to a modest one-year contract. It’s a team he always rooted for growing up. Ochocinco cited “The Marks,” as in Mark Clayton and Mark Duper, and quarterback Dan Marino as some of his favorite players.

More importantly, the Dolphins are more accepting than the Patriots to let "Ocho be Ocho." He is charismatic and has a unique personality. At any moment, Ochocinco can say something funny, something from way out in left field. It's a big part of who he is, and the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick took that away from him. Ochocinco had the muzzle on his mouth from the day he arrived until the conclusion of the Super Bowl. It was an uncomfortable year to say the least.

But Ochocinco is back to having fun again in Miami. He's already chirping to the defense and his quarterbacks, which is something he was scared to do in New England. Ochocinco was that way earlier in his career, and that's when he was confident and played his best football.

"Chad thinks he's open on every play," said Garrard. "Even when it's the punt team [on the field], he's open. So it's been great. He will remind you that whoever he's got on him, he's open."

Smith said he wants Ochocinco to let his personality show this season, because that will help the receiver be more comfortable as a player.

"As a player and a teammate, I would like for him to go out and be him," Smith said. "Let it loose, and give it everything you got. If you have to talk when you play, talk when you play, as long as you back it up."

Ochocinco is winning over his new teammates and coaches in Miami. That's a great first step. No one has ever questioned Ochocinco's work ethic. He's always been a hard worker and showed up for Dolphins camp in great shape.

Miami rookie head coach Joe Philbin told a story this week displaying Ochocinco's dedication to getting back to his old form.

"Last Wednesday we had a team meeting and we called off practice to go and perform some community service," Philbin said. "This is my 10th year in the NFL and I have been around practices that have been canceled and I've never been around a player that wanted to practice, but Chad wanted to practice, so he’s been good. So far it seems that he is fitting in well."

At the end of Ochocinco's meeting with the media Tuesday, he said "enjoy the show."

Perhaps Ochocinco has something in store for 2012 that will surprise a lot of people.

NFL32: Could Tomlinson come back?

June, 19, 2012

Mark Schlereth thinks LaDainian Tomlinson could be coaxed out of retirement; meanwhile, can Jared Allen get 25 sacks this season? And the crew has some tips for Chad Ochocinco to be successful in Miami.
Anytime a Green Bay Packers receiver is mentioned as potential trade bait, the first team that comes to mind is the Miami Dolphins and rookie head coach Joe Philbin.

First, Donald Driver's name came out of the rumor mill. The latest Packers receiver whose name is being thrown around is James Jones. Green Bay's backup has two years left on his contract and plays behind Greg Jennings, Driver and Jordy Nelson.

If the rumors are true, the Packers may be willing to move their backup receiver for the right price. Miami isn’t a team which likes to give up draft picks. But the Dolphins’ receivers haven’t impressed this offseason, which is a reason they jumped at the chance to sign 34-year-old Chad Ochocinco once he was released by the New England Patriots.

Jones, 28, is closer to his prime and played under Philbin last year when Philbin was the offensive coordinator in Green Bay. They know each other well, and it wouldn’t be much of a learning curve for Jones.

I don’t think Miami will make any trades for a wideout at this point. The Dolphins probably want to go into training camp with the group they have. But if Miami’s receivers continue to struggle, Jones could be a name to keep on the back burner.
A.J. GreenFrank Victores/US PresswireCincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is hoping to build on a strong rookie season.
CINCINNATI -- A.J. Green is the next Calvin Johnson. Just as important to the Bengals, he's not the next Chad Ochocinco.

With few words and many hours of hard work, Green is primed to take that next step and join the elite wide receivers in this league. He just doesn't need a reality show to announce it. Or his own news network.

Green out-leaped and outran defenders to put up better rookie numbers than Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, and he did so without a full offseason. Now, as the Bengals conclude their spring workouts this week, he's watching film to improve his game. He's talking (well, it's more like listening) to coaches about refining his route running. He's even going to work out with Fitzgerald next month to pick up some pointers.

There's no diva qualities with Green. It's all about desire and dedication. That's a scary combination considering he has everything you want in a playmaking wide receiver. Speed, check. Size, check. Athleticism and aggressiveness, check and check. Work ethic, a big check.

"He has tremendous ability and he never says a word," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "Every time he watches film, he envisions himself getting better. He envisions himself doing it better than he did it the last time. That’s the key element of him. There’s not a bit of satisfaction in what he’s doing."

Green's debut was extremely impressive. The fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft led all NFL rookies with 65 catches for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. His 11 catches of 35 yards or more were the most in the league and the most by an NFL rookie since Minnesota’s Randy Moss had 14 in 1998. As a result, Green became the first rookie wide receiver to make the Pro Bowl since Anquan Boldin in 2003.

His encore would be scintillating if he follows the path of Johnson and Fitzgerald. In their second seasons, Fitzgerald caught 103 passes for 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns while Johnson produced 79 receptions for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those are realistic numbers for Green in 2012.

When talking about where he ranks in the NFL, Green simply says he'll let his play do the talking. Fortunately, his teammates and coaches are more than happy to talk about Green, too.

"He’s by far the best receiver I’ve guarded," Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said.

Does he expect Green's name to be mentioned with the likes of the elite receivers this year? "His name should be up there already," Jones said. "All you have to do is watch him."

Lewis even referred to Green as the best receiver in the NFL on Tuesday, before he quickly qualified it by saying "one of the best."

The moment that defined Green last season was a leaping catch for a 51-yard gain in the final minute that set up the winning field goal over the Cleveland Browns. His clutch play as a rookie shows his importance in the offense. It's not about the number of catches. It's about the significance of them.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, 44 of Green's 65 catches (68 percent) came when the score was within seven points. That ranked 10th among all wide receivers last season.

"When the game is on the line, I want to be the go-to guy," Green said. "I feel like that separates the good from the great receivers."

Part of what separates the good from the great players is their influence on teammates. With veterans Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell gone, Green has become the clear leader of a wide receiver group that averages 2.2 years of experience.

As you would expect from his low-key personality, Green is a leader by example by being the first one in every drill and running it at full speed. According to the Bengals' official website, the receivers say: Whatever A.J. does is exactly what you want to do.

This represents the most drastic difference between Green, the team's current No. 1 receiver, and Ochocinco, the team's all-time leading receiver.

Ochocinco has been described by his former Bengals teammates as a performer who never "shepherded" teammates.

"A.J. is the opposite," offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "Not only is he super talented, but it means a lot to him to be an example [to teammates]. I think he takes that to heart."

While Green is now a leader, that doesn't mean he has stopped learning. The emphasis of this offseason has been to grow as a player.

He is becoming more patient in his route running (he acknowledged he ran most routes at 100 miles per hour last season), which should generate more big plays. He is also learning all three wide receiver spots (split end, flanker and slot), which will allow him to move all over the field and make it more difficult for defenses to double him all the time.

“A.J. is one of those guys who is so gifted athletically, and you find ways to get him the ball," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "Whether it’s early on in the game or the end or in crunch time, you just try and find ways to get him the ball. Once he’s got it, he can do a lot with it. He’s just that kind of receiver."



Thursday, 10/30
Sunday, 11/2
Monday, 11/3