Johnson names his number
WR wants 1,800 yards. He just needs 634 more than last year.
By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
GEORGETOWN, Ky. - Chad Johnson wants to go where only one wide receiver has gone before, and he says he needs his coaches to help him get there.
Johnson, the talkative, energetic third-year Bengals wideout, has set a goal of 1,800 receiving yards for the 2003 season.
The only receiver in the 83 years of the NFL to have 1,800 receiving yards in a season is Jerry Rice. He had 1,848 with San Francisco in 1995.
Johnson is looking for coach Marvin Lewis, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and wide receivers coach Alex Wood to push him to greater production. Johnson is coming off a 1,166-yard season, fifth-best in Bengals history.
"I don't care if it's cursing, fussing, I need them to get me on that page to perfection on every down," Johnson said.
"It all starts with my weakness, blocking. I need to be a blocker first, and everything else is going to come - route depth, discipline, sights, hot reads, all that, being able to read the defense. The consistency is there, but it's not where it needs to be to reach 1,800."
A year ago at this time, Johnson was third on the Bengals' training camp depth chart at one receiver position.
He had no receptions in Games 1 and 4, and he had just five catches for 78 yards after the first four. But Johnson, like the rest of the offense, started to produce when Jon Kitna became the starting quarterback.
In the final 12 games, Johnson averaged 90.7 receiving yards. If he can maintain that average, he'll have 1,451 for the season - which would establish a Bengals record.
To reach 1,800, Johnson will need to average 112.5 yards a game over 16 games.
Johnson's single-game career high is 152 receiving yards, against the Steelers on Nov. 24.
Three times he has exceeded 112.5 in individual games.
"Receivers get 1,300-1,500 yards any day," Johnson said Wednesday. "All those good receivers - (Terrell Owens), Marvin Harrison, Amani Toomer - those are 1,300-, 1,400-, 1,500-yard receivers. Why in the world do I want to be like them? Why do I want to sell myself short?"
The Colts' Harrison led the league with 1,722 yards in 2002.
Johnson said he is trying to learn to see the game as a coach would, which is why he is constantly talking to Lewis, Bratkowski and Wood.
Lewis and Johnson have had a running two-day conversation in practice. Johnson said Lewis constantly reminds him about missed blocks or running imperfect pass routes.
"You can talk the talk, but you've got to walk the walk on every play," Lewis said to Johnson at the end of Tuesday's morning practice.
"I do both," Johnson said in return.
Lewis likes Johnson's enthusiasm and desire for greatness.
Asked how Johnson can reach his lofty goal, Lewis said: "Be a complete player and understand what that means. It's one thing to talk about it and another to go out there and do it every day, every play, every practice, every meeting."
Johnson has impressed in camp. He has caught nearly every ball within arm's reach. On Wednesday alone, he jumped high to pull in a sideline pass and managed to get both feet down inside the line. He also made a one-hand grab of a ball thrown behind him.
"Little things," said Lewis, clicking off a list of what Johnson has to do. "Blocking, run after the catch, it's staying on your feet when you catch the big slant and not falling down. It's all those things."
A necessary ingredient is Johnson's boundless energy.
"He loves what he does," Lewis said. "If you're not out there having fun doing it, it gets to be a long year."
Said Johnson: "I might cut up every once in a while or get mad. It's because I expect so much out of myself. (His coaches) know how I feel about the game. I love this game. Everything is football, 24-7. When I mess up and catch a tantrum out there on the field, that's why I need them there in my corner to tell me what to do next time."