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Five Bengals among nominees for 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame

Former Bengals wide receivers Terrell Owens (81) and Chad Johnson (85) are both Pro Football Hall of Fame nominees. (AP/Stephan Savoia)

CANTON, Ohio (AP/WKRC) - A quintet of Former Bengals are among early nominees for 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame-- wide receivers Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, running back Corey Dillon, fullback Lorenzo Neal and offensive tackle Willie Anderson.

Owens would seemingly have the best shot of the group. T.O. finished his 15-year career in 2010 with the second-most yards (15,934) and second-most touchdowns (153) among receivers in league history. He led the NFL in touchdowns in 2001, 2002 and 2006 and also made six Pro Bowls. Owens eclipsed more than one thousand career receptions, hauling in 72 in his 2010 campaign with the Bengals. In 14 games he amassed 983 yards and 9 TD.

Johnson, another nominee last year, is still the franchise career record holder for receptions (751), receiving yards (10.783) and receiving touchdowns (66). Johnson last played in the NFL in 2011 when he played three games for the New England Patriots after playing with the Bengals from 2001-10. The six-time Pro Bowler (tied for second-most in team history) also has the most 100-yard games (31) in team history.

Dillon played in NFL from 1997-2006 and with Bengals from 1997-2003. He piled up six straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons to begin his career and is ranked 20th in NFL history in rushing yards (11,241 including 8.061 with the Bengals) and 17th all-time in rushing touchdowns (82). Only three running backs with more yardage than him aren’t in the Hall of Fame (Frank Gore, Fred Taylor and Steven Jackson). Dillon was selected to the Pro Bowl four times and earned a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots in 2004 when he rushed for a career-high 1,635 yards and added another 292 in three postseason games.

Neal, who played for the Bengals in 2001 and 2002, was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro. His career spanned 16 NFL seasons, most notably clearing the way for Dillon, Hall of Fame back LaDanian Tomlinson in San Diego and fellow nominee Eddie George in Tennessee. Neal also scored 18 touchdowns in his 236 games.

Anderson was first nominated in 2013 after 12 years with the Bengals and one season with the Baltimore Ravens. Anderson started at right tackle from 1996-2007, playing in 181 games for the club. He was three times a First Team All-Pro and named to four Pro Bowls.

Star linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher and game-breaking wide receiver Randy Moss are among other 11 first-year eligible players for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Also part of the early nominees who are eligible for the first time, having been retired for five years when the class is chosen next February, are cornerback Ronde Barber, wideouts Donald Driver and Steve Smith (former Giant, Eagle and Ram), offensive linemen Steve Hutchinson, Matt Birk, and Jeff Saturday, and defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

The roster of nominees consists of 53 offensive players, 38 defensive players, five special teams players and 12 coaches. Modern era nominees will be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November and, from there, to 15 finalists in January.

During Super Bowl week, 48 voters will discuss the finalists, plus senior nominees Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer and contributors nominee Bobby Beathard. There is no set number for any class of enshrinees, though between four and eight new members will be selected.

Returning finalists from 2017 are receiver Isaac Bruce; center Kevin Mawae; tackles Tony Boselli and Joe Jacoby; guard Alan Faneca; safeties John Lynch and Brian Dawkins; cornerback Ty Law; and coach Don Coryell.

Enshrinement will be next August in Canton.

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