If you look through the annals of history, the Cincinnati Bengals have demonstrated a kinship towards the name "Johnson." With history rich with names like Pete Johnson in the 1980s and the legendary punter Lee Johnson throughout the 1990s, the Johnson's have truly taken over this millennium.
The first part of this article will rank the different Johnson's who have graced Cincinnati with their talents, or lack thereof. The second part will examine where LJ stands and what exactly is Mike Brown, the owner of the Bengals, infatuation with being the ultimate redeemer and his magnetic attraction to all-things "Johnson."
Year with Bengal: 2006
Miraculously, DJ never had to see the field exactly one year after Carson Palmer's knee completely blew up.
He did come in for one game in garbage time, and finished his stint with Cincy 0-0 = 100 percent completion rate. Quite the baller stats if you ask me.
Years with Bengals: 2001-2003
Riall was on the Bengals when they had sweeter uniforms but much crappier players. The 6'3'' Canadian out of Stanford never saw much playing time, but when he did, he made his mark accruing tackles on special teams.
Over his three-year stint, he recorded 30 tackles in 32 games.
**Bonus Fun Fact** Riall was tied for most sacks in the nation his senior year with none other than Julius Peppers. Pretty exclusive company if you ask me.
Year with Bengals: 2009 (present)
The much-maligned DT was one of many "redeemer" cases brought in to Cincy over the past few years by Mikey "I'm like Jesus and will cleanse you of all of your sins" Brown. With that being said, Tank has grown up in many ways and is now considered one of the steadying forces in the locker room.
The one thing he brings to the table that the Bengals haven't had in awhile is run stopping. With the improved play of Domata Peko, the two have provided a one-two punch that Cincinnati hasn't seen in over 20 years.
To top it all off, how frickin' cute were his daughters on "Hard Knocks." Great guy—as long we keep him away from gun collections, alcohol, and glitzy foreign automobiles.
Year with Bengals: 2009 (present)
This behemoth of a man was repeatedly labeled as a waste potential coming out of Georgia Tech last year. Experts like Mel Kiper tagged him as a man with "wasted athleticism," but he has thus far proven the experts wrong with his explosive play on select downs.
He is 6'7'' and if you watched the game against the Steelers, you were able to see his awe-aspiring speed take hold. He also must have hit O+R2 because his swim move was NASTY.
Either way, I like his progression in Zimmer's ball-hawking D. He has the speed and length to pressure the QB and swat balls down (he already has three pass deflections in his rookie year), and as Dicky V says, "you can't coach speed, baby!"
Given his ceiling, I would hope to see him as one of the three best Johnson's to ever don a Bengals' uniform. Time will tell...
Years as a Bengal: 2004-2007
Originally drafted out of Purdue, this former Boilermaker showed steady improvement over his four seasons with the club. Seeing his total tackles rise each year, he had a standout year in 2006 with 114 tackles, three forced fumbles, and two INTs, that he was able to earn himself a payday from Carolina, where he has since been injured quite a bit.
Always the consummate Midwestern professional, Landon often overachieved in a way that made him a fan favorite.
Years with Bengals: 2008-Present
Yes, Brandon Johnson and Landon Johnson sure do look alike (that's why I choose those two pictures). And yes, they both wear No. 59 and play the same position. So naturally, the players with rhyming first names follow one another in this countdown since this No. 59 has filled in admirably for the old No. 59.
Their game is so alike, in fact, that it took me half of the 2008 season to try to explain to my mother that Landon Johnson did not, in fact, change his name (a la Ochocinco).
Either way, I think Brandon has shown a little more speed on the edges with his ability to cover TEs as well as pressure the QB in Mike Zimmer's new schemes. That's why he gets the nod in the rankings.
Years with Bengals: 2003-present
The only reason I have Jeremi (aka Cream-puff) ranked in the top three is because of his longevity. I believe he has the second longest tenure on the team behind Ochocinco. While he repeatedly shows up to training camp out of shape and shows no sign of dedication to any offseason workout regimen, he always seems to make the team and function as a suitable, but not great, blocking back.
He consistently gets about one receiving TD a year in addition to an obligatory 2-3 dropped TDs. True positive contributions, however, include blocking the pass rush and blocking for his RBs. He spend most of his time doing this for Rudi, and now he's paved the way for Benson to resurrect his career.
It needs to be said, however, that he's no Lorenzo Neal. Sorry I'm not sorry.
Years with Bengals: 2002-2008
While at his prime in 2005-2007, Rudi posted three consecutive years of 12 TDs and around 1400 yards. He was automatic. He ran hard between the tackles and could even show glimpses of breakaway speed to get him some longer runs. His best year, 2005-06, he ran for a Cincinnati record 1458 yards and propelled the team to it's first playoff game in over 16 years.
With all of the positives, however, came the mileage of 340-plus rushing attempts per season. As seen with other elite backs during their time (i.e. Priest Holmes, Terrell Davis, etc.), breaking that 340 rushing attempts for consecutive seasons severely shortens your lifespan as a viable NFL running back.
In training camp 2008, the Bengals parted ways with Rudi, after seeing that he had lost his mojo. Even though it was a "smart" business decision, it didn't go over as smoothly as it could have.
I hope everyone appreciates how good he was as a Bengal in the prime of his career.
Years with Bengals: 2001-present.
[Disclaimer - I know he has legally changed his surname to "Ochocinco," but we all know he is and forever will be, "The No. 1 Johnson"]
Chad has etched his name into the Bengals record book countless times. He is a dedicated player who takes pride in his craft. He runs some of the crispest routes in he game today. Still, for all of the positives he brings to the table, critics love to pounce on his show-boat, "me-first" attitude.
Call it maturity or call it conversion by the sword, but Chad has shown an incredible amount of restraint this season. He has struck a balance between his antics (i.e. twitter, feuding with Skip Bayless, sending condiments to opposing cornerbacks) between saying, and DOING the right thing when it counts (blocking for his running backs, running routes over the middle, giving credit to his teammates, buying out 2,000 home tickets to give away to the team's loyal fans).
Chad will go down as the franchises greatest receiver statistically speaking, and if he can continue to stay on the straight and narrow, maybe he'll be the first to lead them something "Super" as well.
One can dream, can't he?
Years with Bengals: a few days
Larry Johnson, the homophobe and womanizer himself, is Mikey-boy Brown's latest redemption project. "What could possibly attract one to want the running services of a man who just got kicked off of his team for being a cancer, not to mention an inferior running back?" Could it be his love for Johnson's? We all know Mikey loves a good JTM bratwurst every now and again. Sadly enough though, the decision to bring in LJ comes down to one simple rule that by which Mike Brown lives and dies: buy low.
What Mikey sees in LJ is a proven two-time All-Pro (2005-06 and 2006-07). What he chooses to ignore is the fact that LJ has had next-to-zero productivity the past three seasons. His yards per attempt dropped from 4.5 to 2.9 this year. That is a SIGNIFICANT drop off.
Mikey doesn't care if he can perform, however, all he sees is a low risk who he'll pay league a veteran's minimum that will also be prorated to seven games. If he sees a few games and completely implodes, no big deal. If he comes into the locker room and stirs the pot, he won't pick up an option for the following year.
What Mikey SHOULD care about though, is the message that he repeatedly is sending to his players. Personal character is second to having been good at a craft. Throw common decency to the wayside and the prospect of making/saving money. Why pick up a running back like DeDe Dorsey with considerably less baggage when we can go for a gamble?
So where does LJ fall??? Only time will tell...