There is no other way to put it. Chad Johnson is one of the most entertaining players the game of football has ever witnessed.
The former Bengals star is well-known by sports fans everywhere for his outlandish touchdown celebrations, ridiculous outfits and endless antics. “Child please” and “kiss the baby” are two of many of his renowned catch-phrases. Hell, he even changed his name to match the number on the back of his jersey (Ochocinco does not exactly mean 85 in Spanish…).
But as of late, his performance has not been up to his past caliber. No longer is Johnson putting up a 1,300-yard, 10-touchdown season. In fact, in the past four seasons alone, he has averaged less than 700 yards and four touchdowns a season.
In his brief year stint with the Patriots, Johnson was kept in check with an unproductive year as a wide receiver and a personality trapped under the iron grip of Bill Belichick. He stayed out of the headlines completely and fell under the radar.
This season, the rebuilding Miami Dolphins gave Johnson a chance for a revival with a one-year, $925,000 contract, the veteran’s minimum. Although there was significant speculation that Johnson was brought in to spice up this season of HBO’s Hard Knocks, it was clear that the Dolphins were giving him a second chance.
Following last season, Johnson saw next to no activity during free agency, a sign that most of the NFL had assumed the end of the wideout’s career. The Dolphins, after departing with leading receiver Brandon Marshall, were desperate for veteran receiver with a gaping hole in their depth chart. Johnson seemed to be the perfect fit.
However, with the start of training camp, it is clear that Johnson’s future depends entirely on what he makes of it in Miami. The Dolphins and new coach Joe Philbin will look to Johnson as a leader of a receiving corps that other than Davone Bess and Legedu Naanee is very young.
But what Johnson expects from himself is much more. Once the deep threat for Carson Palmer and the receiver that found a way through the Ravens formidable secondary twice a year, Johnson wants to return to his previous form.
While the quarterback battle between David Garrard, Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill continues throughout training camp, Johnson must make a statement early. He has shown hints of brilliance, but fans will have to wait for September to see if Johnson can return to his previous stardom.
“My game is at the point where it doesn't matter who starts at quarterback,” Johnson says. “Oprah can play quarterback and we’ll be alright.”
Even if his play does not return to past heights with the Bengals, one thing is for certain. Johnson will definitely provide an entertaining facet to a young Dolphins squad. Oh, and Hard Knocks will never cease to be entertaining with Johnson in front of a camera.