Bengals boast of a formidable passing attack

OWINGS MILLS - Between brash wideout Chad Johnson, strong-armed, understated quarterback Jon Kitna and shifty Peter Warrick, the Cincinnati Bengals have the ingredients for a dangerous passing game.

Entering Sunday's contest against the Baltimore Ravens (3-2), the Bengals (1-4) rank eighth in the AFC in passing offense.

Cincinnati is banking on its vertical strength against the Ravens, who own nine victories in the last 10 games of this series.

"I think this offensive group is one of the most talented in the league," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I don't know if there's another division in the league that has a better overall group of receivers when you look at the group in Cleveland, in Pittsburgh and now this group. They're as talented as anybody in the league." Kitna is on pace for a career-high 3,743 passing yards.

He already has 1,164 yards for six touchdowns and six interceptions and is fourth in the AFC in completions and yards.

Johnson is third in the AFC with 429 receiving yards on 27 receptions. He's on pace for 1,374 yards although he missed a start against the Steelers for violating curfew.

The NFL has had the most success of late in corralling Johnson, the cousin of Tampa Bay wideout Keyshawn Johnson. The Bengals' Johnson has as many fines (three) as he does touchdowns. Johnson and Warrick were fined $5,000 for staging a make-believe photo shoot after a touchdown in a win over the Cleveland Browns. Johnson's other fines were for equipment violations, including one for tucking a towel into his uniform belt.

"It's only going to get worse," Johnson told reporters in Cincinnati. "I'm not going to let the NFL steal my glory as far as celebrating what I do. I'm going to keep doing what I do on Sundays and if I get to the end zone I'm going to enjoy myself."

Traditionally, Johnson does perform well against the Ravens.

Johnson has 14 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns in four games against Baltimore, which is determined to not give him any reason to strut in the end zone.

"My high school coaches said any time you do stuff like that, it means you don't get in the end zone very much," Ravens safety Gary Baxter said. "Act like you've been there before."

Kitna, who is starting until top overall pick Carson Palmer is deemed ready, has a mixed track record in four games against Baltimore.

He has passed for 887 yards and five touchdowns along with seven interceptions. That includes two picked off by safety Ed Reed in a 38-27 Baltimore win last November along with Adalius Thomas' interception return for a touchdown. "He's not making as many mistakes as he used to in the past," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "There are a lot of adjustments that Jon Kitna is making, but, with the pressure, we'll find out."

Meanwhile, Warrick has developed into a steady possession option with a team-high 29 receptions for 280 yards. He's on pace for a career-high 93 catches.

Warrick is in the fourth season of a seven-year contract, and Johnson is in the third segment of a four-year pact.

For all of the Bengals' statistics, they are still losing and scoring only 15.4 points per contest. Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon's absence has had an effect.

"Of course, they have a lot of talent and we can't take them lightly," Baxter said. "Kitna's a real competitive player. We can't sleep on them."

Johnson works the deep patterns, averaging 15.9 yards a catch, while Warrick is more of an intermediate specialist with 9.7 yards per reception.

"Having Pete opposite me, it helps me big-time," Johnson told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "It's a lot of pressure off of me. It puts the defense in a bind. What do you cover? There's nothing you can focus on."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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