For much of the 2010 campaign, Bengals WR Andre Caldwell had a reduced role in the offense.
"I just had to keep grinding," Caldwell said two days before Easter, reflecting on the past season — one that ended much better than it started, when he lost his role as the primary slot receiver to rookie Jordan Shipley.
But when Terrell Owens left the lineup with a knee injury in December, Caldwell stepped into the starting lineup and produced. He was targeted 22 times in the final three weeks of the season, catching 15 passes for 270 yards (18.0 avg.).
Owens, who is slated to be an unrestricted free agent and seems unlikely to be back in Cincinnati, nonetheless had a major impact on the Cincinnati offense in 2010, leading the Bengals in catches, receiving yards and receiving TDs playing the "Z" position. Owens' presence, Caldwell said, "transformed that position."
When Caldwell stepped in, he found himself getting more one-on-one matchups, and he received more chances to stretch the field — something he often didn't get a chance to do playing the slot. In the final four games of the season, Caldwell had four catches of 20 yards or more — two more than he had in all of 2009, when he caught 51 passes for an AFC North-winning club.
Caldwell is among a group of Bengals wide receivers who have worked out with QB Jordan Palmer in California. Carson Palmer, Jordan's brother and the Bengals' starter the past seven seasons, no longer wants to play for Cincinnati. Caldwell told PFW that he has not spoken with Carson Palmer, but he knows his teammate is "passionate" and must be taken seriously.
"When he says something, he means it," Caldwell said.
Caldwell told PFW he hopes Carson Palmer is back with the team, but he knows that might not happen. In the meantime, the Bengals' wide receivers work to get their timing down with Jordan Palmer.
Caldwell wants to keep a major role in the offense, which is switching to a West Coast scheme in 2011, and he believes he fits the new attack well, noting that he believes Jay Gruden's offense is designed to "get the ball in a player's hands, let them make plays."
"I think it works in my favor," Caldwell said of the new offense.