Scout's Notebook: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Get a closer look at Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, an unrestricted free agent being heavily pursued by the Vikings.

#84, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR
(6012, 202, 4.54-4.61 coming out) Oregon State

Notes:  Born Touraj (pronounced TOO-raj) Houshmandzadeh (pronounced hoosh-mahn-ZAH-duh), 9/26/77, in Victorville, Calif.  His father is Iranian, his mother is African-American.  His name means “son of wisdom.”  Played running back at Barstow High School and led his team to a 10-1-1 record as a senior.  Reportedly dropped out of high school but later earned his GED.  Favorite hobbies include basketball, pool and PlayStation.

College:  Began his college career at Cerritos College.  In his two seasons with the Falcons in 1997 and 1998, he was a two-time first-team Mission Conference selection at wide receiver and kickoff returner.  He wanted to play running back his freshman year, but believing he was too tall to play running back, he was moved to wide receiver.  He finished his junior college career with 1,152 receiving yards on 65 receptions (17.7 avg.).  He also had two 100-yard kickoff returns and an 87-yard punt return.

He received an athletic scholarship at Oregon State by then-head coach Dennis Erickson.  Oregon State is where he and Chad Johnson (Ocho Cinco) first met as Beaver teammates.  Caught 24 passes for 378 yards (15.8 avg.) and two touchdowns, returned 21 punts for 181 yards (8.6 avg.) and returned 13 kickoffs for 250 yards (19.2 avg.) in 1999.  In his sole season as a starter for Oregon State, he caught 42 passes for 656 yards (15.6 avg.) and six touchdowns.  He also averaged 9.0 yards on 24 punt returns.  He was a physical education major at Oregon State.

Pro:  Originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round (204th overall) in 2001.  Slowed by a heel injury early on as a rookie, he finished with 21 receptions for 228 yards (10.9 avg.), 12 punt returns for a 13.6-yard average. (including an 86-yard return) and 10 kickoff returns for an 18.5-yard averag in 2001.  Played in every game (starting five) in 2002, battling a groin injury; caught 41-492-1 (12.0 avg.) and averaged 4.9 yards on 24 punt returns and 22.2 on 13 kickoff returns.  He led the team in preseason catches with 13 (for 155 yards), but suffered a severe hamstring pull in the preseason finale and was inactive and did not record any official statistics in limited action in just two games in 2003.

Re-signed with Cincinnati as a restricted free agent in 2004; played in all 16 games with 13 starts, catching 73 passes for 978 yards (13.4 avg.) and four touchdowns. Also averaged 8.0 yards on 11 punt returns and 22.7 on 10 kickoff returns.  He caught 78 passes for 956 yards (12.3 avg.) and seven touchdowns in 2005, reportedly ranking first among all wide receivers in the league with just three dropped passes (a 2.6 dropped-pass percentage).  Took yet another step forward in terms of production in 2006, initiating a three-year stretch of 90 or more receptions as he finishing with 90 catches for 1,081 yards (12.0 avg.) and nine touchdowns.  His 30 receptions on third down led all NFL wide receivers and were second-most in the entire league (behind only Saints’ RB Reggie Bush with 33).  Earned Pro Bowl recognition in 2007 as he collected 112 catches for 1,143 yards (10.2 avg.) and 12 TDs.  

Caught 78-956-7 (12.3 avg.) in 2005.  Began a stretch of 90-plus receptions per season with 90-1,081-9 (12.0 avg.) in 2006; 112-1,143-12 (10.2 avg.) in 2007; and 92-904-4 (9.8 avg.) in 2008.  Despite playing on a 4-11-1 team last season and facing frequent double-teaming, he once again put up strong numbers with 92 catches for 904 yards (9.8 avg.) and four touchdowns; also averaged 9.9 on eight punt returns.  Houshmandzadeh has more receptions than any other receiver in the NFL over the past three seasons.

Positives:  Nice size.  Big and physical.  Has become one of the NFL’s best at getting open in key third-down situations.  He knows how to find holes in zone coverages, is quick enough to find the open area and is very adept running after the catch.  Excellent on short and intermediate routes.  Very reliable and consistent hands.  Seldom drops a catchable pass.  Quick feet.  Plays a little faster than people give him credit for.  Has returned punts and kickoffs.  Team player.  Has been involved in the community (in a positive way) and been a solid citizen.

Negatives:  Does not have explosive speed or quickness and is not a true home-run threat down the field.  Has a bit of the typical wideout personality and some character questions in his past.

Summary:  An exceptional possession receiver who has continued to emerge into a top starter.  He would be an excellent complement to the downfield threat of Bernard Berrian.  A genuine go-to guy type of receiver in the clutch.

What they said:

“You can look at my age if you want.  But I’ve never had surgery, and I take care of myself.  I haven’t smoked a cigar, cigarette or weed a day in my life."  -T.J. Houshmandzadeh to Sean Jensen of the Pioneer Press

“T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) and Chad Johnson are no different than ‘81’ and ‘85’ because T.J. is a No. 1 receiver.  We just happen to be two No. 1 receivers on the same team at the same time.  It’s no different.”  -Chad Johnson, quoted last season

“T.J.’s a physical guy; a physical blocker, physical when he gets the ball.  He's like (the Pittsburgh Steelers') Hines Ward."  -Carson Palmer, Bengals quarterback

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