Rookie wide receiver has been a surprise.
By Charean Williams
Jordan Shipley found himself caught between an Ochocinco and a T.O. during his first training camp with the Bengals.
“I’m out there, and I’m in between Chad [Ochocinco] and T.O.,” Shipley said. “It was kind of like, ‘What in the world?’ It was crazy.
“Then, the first game going out there, and you’re across from Tom Brady and Randy Moss and [Wes] Welker and all those guys. It’s a crazy feeling.”
The former University of Texas star has fit right in on the Bengals. Despite being on a team with Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, Shipley has become a favorite of quarterback Carson Palmer’s. Shipley, a third-round pick, has 50 catches for 586 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think it’s been good,” Shipley said. “Obviously, I feel like I’ve got a whole lot of room for improvement. I was fortunate to make some plays this year, but I think looking forward, I can definitely make some big improvements now that I have some experience. I think it’s going to be good.”
Shipley, a slot receiver, and rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham give the Bengals future playmakers to build around. Owens, who is on injured reserve, becomes a free agent in the offseason and is not expected back; the Bengals will have to make a decision about whether to pick up the $6 million option on Ochocinco’s contract.
Regardless, Shipley said he feels good about the Bengals’ future despite the disappointments of this season.
“We have a lot of guys that can get the job done,” Shipley said. “Andre [Caldwell] and Jerome [Simpson] made some big plays for us last week. Jermaine has had a big role all year long. I think we’ve got several young guys who can play.”
Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong used to be able to go out in public and not be recognized. Now, he can’t go anywhere without someone asking for his autograph.
“This time a year ago I could have gone to the mall or dinner in full Redskins’ regalia, and people would think I was just another fan,” Armstrong said. “Today, I went to the mall and had on my glasses and everything. I was not looking the part at all, and a kid came up and asked for my autograph. It’s kind of cool.”
It’s taken a long time for Armstrong to become an overnight star.
He spent the 2006 season with the Odessa Roughnecks of the Intense Football League. A year later, he won a tryout with 600 other wannabes for the Arena’s Leagues Dallas Desperados.
He was on and off the practice squads of the Dolphins and the Redskins. It wasn’t until this season that Armstrong finally got his chance to play in the NFL, and he has become the player he always thought he would be. Armstrong has 42 catches for 787 yards and two touchdowns.
“Every team I’ve been on has helped me develop and get to this point,” Armstrong said.
He is the team’s third-leading receiver behind Santana Moss and Chris Cooley and one of the few bright spots for the Redskins. But he still doesn’t feel like he has “made it” yet.
“I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve made it,” Armstrong said. “Even with how far I’ve come, I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I still want to try to reach that pinnacle.”
Fourth and short
• The Panthers have secured the No. 1 overall pick and the rights to quarterback Andrew Luck, assuming Luck leaves Stanford early. Luck has been compared to Peyton Manning, so Carolina is in something of a pickle. The Panthers used a first-round pick on Jimmy Clausen this season, but Clausen has been unimpressive. They haven’t had the No. 1 overall pick since 1995 when they traded down to No. 5 to take Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins.
• John Fox will be coaching his last game for the Panthers. His contract is up at the end of the season. His ideal job would be the Giants, where he served as defensive coordinator from 1997-2001, and Tom Coughlin could pay for the Giants’ collapse. Cleveland also is a possible landing spot, if Mike Holmgren decides to part ways with Eric Mangini.
• Mangini is 10-21 in his two seasons, though seven of the Browns’ 10 losses this season were by seven points or less. Holmgren is expected to make his decision on Mangini’s future next week.
• Bears running back Matt Forté has rushed for 508 yards on only 97 carries, a 5.2-yard average, in the past six games. He is only 22 yards shy of 1,000 yards, and his 4.4 yards-per-carry average is a career best. Forte has been held to less than 4.9 yards per carry once in the past five games.
• Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth was robbed of a Pro Bowl berth. Miami’s Jake Long, Cleveland’s Joe Thomas and the New York Jets’ D’Brickashaw Ferguson were the choices. He has allowed only 2.5 sacks this season, according to STATS, Inc., and has been penalized three times for holds. Two of the sacks Whitworth allowed were on the final drives of games against Atlanta and Indianapolis. Long has allowed five sacks and been penalized for four holds; Ferguson has two holds and two sacks allowed; Thomas has one hold and has allowed four sacks.
• Stephen McGee could become the first native Texan to start at quarterback for the Cowboys since Clint Stoerner in 2001. That also is the last year that the Cowboys started more than two quarterbacks in a season. In 2001, the Cowboys started Quincy Carter in eight games, Ryan Leaf in three, Anthony Wright in three and Stoerner in two. They were 5-11. This season, the Cowboys have started Tony Romo and Jon Kitna. Romo is out with a broken left clavicle, and Kitna has a strained oblique. If they lose, the Cowboys will finish 5-11.
• Tim Tebow has brought hope to Denver. In his two starts, he has passed for 449 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, while running for 133 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries. Skeptics still question whether Tebow is the Broncos’ long-term answer at the position, but he has carred the “it” factor with him into the NFL.
• Green Bay was 3-5 away from Lambeau Field in the regular season and has lost three consecutive road games.
• Aaron Rodgers needs 307 yards to reach the 4,000-yard plateau for the third time in three seasons as the Packers’ starter.
• After 264 attempts and 60 catches, Peyton Hillis appears to have hit the wall. He has 259 yards on 65 carries, an average of 4.0, in the past four games. He has no touchdowns. In the first 11 games, he had 905 yards and 11 touchdowns on 199 carries, an average of 4.5 per carry.
• The Texans, who rank 29th in total defense, including last in pass defense, made two huge mistakes in the offseason. They underestimated cornerback Dunta Robinson’s value to the defense and let him leave as a free agent for Atlanta, and they didn’t bring in a veteran to replace him. The Texans drafted Kareem Jackson in the first round and tabbed him a starter opposite second-year player Glover Quin. Second-year player Brice McCain kept his job as the nickel back, and fifth-round pick Sherrick McManis won the job as the dime corner. Quin and McCain have had sophomore slumps, and Jackson has been a huge disappointment. Quin has allowed 58 catches for 757 yards and six touchdowns, according to STATS, Inc., while Jackson has given up 46 catches for 873 yards and four scores.
• The Colts can win their seventh AFC South title and reach the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.
• The Jaguars are 19-18 in the month of December under Jack Del Rio.
• Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles has 1,835 yards from scrimmage on 259 touches, or 7.1 yards per touch.
• Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown has gone 20 games without a 100-yard game.
• Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has thrown 319 passes without an interception, an NFL record. Brady’s last interception came on the last play of an Oct. 17 game against the Ravens.
• Sean Payton is 8-2 against the Falcons since become the Saints’ head coach.
• The Giants have been outscored 83-48 in their past two games. They have eight turnovers, which gives them 41 giveaways for the season. Their defense, once ranked fifth overall, has allowed 933 total yards to the Eagles and the Packers the past two weeks, including 316 rushing.
• Eli Manning has had four 300-yard games this season. The Giants are 1-3 in those four games. In his career, the Giants are 7-7 when he throws for at least 300 yards.
• In their seven victories, the Raiders allowed 519 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on 188 carries, or a 2.8-yard average. In their eight losses, the Raiders allowed 1,504 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. That’s an average of 188 rushing yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry.
• The Steelers are 5-2 on the road and 5-3 at home this season.
• James Farrior has led Pittsburgh in tackles every season since 2006 and all but one season since 2003. But Lawrence Timmons has five more than Farrior does this season, with 139.
• The Cardinals have 12 returns for touchdowns this season, one short of the record set by Seattle in 2003.
• The Seahawks have not had a Pro Bowler since offensive tackle Walter Jones in 2008.
• Only six years ago, the 49ers hired Mike Nolan as head coach and Scot McCloughan as general manager. They drafted Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick. Now, they are back where they started. They are looking for a GM to hire the coach, and they will have a high draft pick to possibly take a quarterback.
• Rams quarterback Sam Bradford’s passer rating is 59.4 in the fourth quarter this season. The reason? Nine of his 14 interceptions have come in the fourth quarter.
• Seattle traded for Charlie Whitehurst in the offseason, swapping second-round picks and giving up a third-rounder in the 2011 draft. They signed him to a two-year, $8 million deal as the team’s quarterback of the future. But Whitehurst has given no signs that he is that, having completed only 55.6 percent of his passes for 315 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in spot duty.
• Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman has passed for 3,196 yards with 23 touchdowns and six interceptions. His 93.6 passer rating is better than those of New Orleans’ Drew Brees (92.2) and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (89.8).
• Kerry Collins is in the final year of a two-year, $15 million contract, making him a free agent at season’s end. Collins, 37, has not said whether he wants to play in 2011 or retire. Although Jeff Fisher said he believes Collins has the ability to play another year, the Titans coach was non-committal about Collins’ future in Tennessee.
• Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has had four consecutive games with a passer rating under 100.
• Since 2002, when the NFL went to eight divisions, there have been 11 top-two seeds reach the Super Bowl. Only two wild card teams have done so.
• Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is the third starting quarterback since 1970 to lead his team to the NFL postseason in each of his first three seasons. He joins Bernie Kosar (1985-87) and Dan Marino (1983-86).