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September 21, 2023

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Palmer, Johnson not phased by slow start

CINCINNATI – Two games into the preseason, the Cincinnati Bengals’ top receiver is someone who won’t be around for the first half of the season.

That’s their problem right there.

The Bengals (0-2) have yet to score a touchdown with their starting offense. All they managed were field goals during a 27-19 loss to New Orleans on Saturday night, when the only touchdown came in the closing seconds with reserves on the field.

Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson didn’t realize it was so bad until informed after the game.

“No touchdowns? I didn’t know that,” he said.


“No sense in worrying about it,” said Johnson, who has been impressive in practice but gotten few balls thrown his way during his limited time in the games. “The things we’re doing right now are very, very vanilla. I’m not worried about it.”

His point is valid. The Bengals’ offense has been extremely conservative with Carson Palmer and the rest of the starters on the field. The line is missing its two tackles – Levi Jones is recovering from knee surgery, and Willie Anderson has a serious foot injury.

So, they’ve been a little less flashy than usual. Plus, they don’t want to show opponents how they’ve tweaked their playbook in the offseason.

“We just don’t want to put too much out there for film,” Palmer said.

All the points are valid, but they can’t totally erase the early concerns about an offense missing four key players.

The biggest problem is the lack of a No. 3 receiver. Chris Henry leads the Bengals with eight catches for 112 yards and one of their two receiving touchdowns. He’ll sit out the first eight games under his suspension for violating the NFL’s conduct policy.

The Bengals were hoping that Tab Perry would step into his role. Perry, who missed most of last season with a hip injury, had two catches for 19 yards against the Saints, and should have had a lot more.

Palmer and backup quarterback Doug Johnson made an effort to get him the ball. Palmer overthrew him three times, including once at the goal line after Perry had beaten the cornerback.

Their timing is way off.

“Chris Henry and I have had a lot of (experience together),” Palmer said. “We have a great rhythm. It’s a shame he’s not going to be there for the early games.

“Tab and I haven’t had much of a chance to work with each other. He’s been banged up and missed some practice. I think he’s done a great job. On that deep post [pattern], I just overthrew him. I missed him.”

Perry acknowledged that he and Palmer have yet to develop chemistry on the field.

“I’ve just got to keep working on it,” Perry said. “We’ve got a couple more games to go.”

The offensive line also is in flux. Jones is expected back at left tackle before the season opener, but there’s no way of telling whether Anderson will be able to take his spot at right tackle.

The Bengals also are trying to figure out who will complement power running back Rudi Johnson, who had six carries for only 15 yards on Saturday night. Second-round draft pick Kenny Irons was expected to give the offense an outside running threat, but he tore the ACL in his knee in the preseason opener and is out for the season.

Quincy Wilson had four carries for 19 yards, and Kenny Watson had eight carries for 18 yards against the Saints. Neither distinguished himself in the competition for the No. 2 role.

Coach Marvin Lewis is disappointed by how the entire team played on Saturday – the starting defense gave up 17 points on New Orleans’ first three possessions – but he’s counting on the offense to come around once the games count.

“I think we went through that a couple of years ago, and all was good,” Lewis said. “We’ll go back to scoring. We don’t do any game-planning for these games. We are not going to change that. We will keep working on the things we need to.”

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