Their tepid offense has the outspoken wide receiver keeping quiet.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Chad Johnson's demeanor these days -- no boasts, no guarantees, no trash talk whatsoever -- matches the Cincinnati Bengals' mundane offense. And the Pro Bowl receiver says it's time for both to change.
His solution: Throw caution to the wind and throw the ball long.
Johnson was practically demur on Wednesday, flat-out refusing to bait the Carolina Panthers who will cover him this weekend, or make any predictions how things will turn out.
Given the state of Cincinnati's offense, he couldn't even bring himself to brag.
"Stuff is not going the same way it did last year, to where I can come out and be bold," he said. "We're not playing bold. We're not playing aggressive. So I can't be aggressive. I've got to feel it.
"I can't come up and say, 'Man, we're going to go out and torch these guys,' and we go 75 plays in the game and have one explosive play. We're just not the aggressor right now."
Johnson thinks it's a matter of choice.
An offense that was one of the league's best last season has lost its bite. Cincinnati (3-2) has scored 13 points in each of its last two games, both of them losses. Johnson has scored only one touchdown in five games.
A lot of factors figure in: injuries to the offensive line; a receiving corps depleted by injury and Chris Henry's suspension, and Carson Palmer still working back into form after reconstructive knee surgery.
Johnson suggested for the first time Wednesday that play-calling is part of the problem. Johnson, who led the AFC in catches and yards last season, thinks the Bengals have allowed defenses to take away what they do best.
Matter of trust
"We have to call it and they have to trust us as receivers," Johnson said. "The quarterback has to trust his receivers to make the plays for him, regardless of what they line up in. We can't allow teams to dictate what we can do. We need to start dictating what we want to do."
From Johnson's perspective, that means throwing deep.
Until his 51-yard catch in the fourth quarter of a 14-13 loss at Tampa Sunday, Johnson didn't have a catch longer than 18 yards. Defenses are dropping safeties deep in coverage this season, forcing Palmer to throw shorter passes to other receivers.
Johnson wants him to air it out anyway.
"That's what we did before, all the time," Johnson said. "Carson didn't care what defensive back or what safety was over the top. For what? Care for what? Just go make the play anyway."
His coach doesn't share his assessment.
"Let Chad speak for himself, all right?" Marvin Lewis said, getting a rise out of the mention of his receiver's name. "No, I don't necessarily agree, because Chad has a very tainted view of things all the time.
"Greed is good. I think we would all like to make sure we continue to be aggressive, and I think that's all he's speaking to. But we're not going to be careless or foolish."