Chris Henry, playing the final season of a two-year deal, caught a 20-yard pass early in the second quarter. He broke his forearm while falling to the turf. In one respect, it was sad to see Henry suffer a season-ending injury (likely) during a year in which he worked so hard to recast his image. Henry finished the season with 12 receptions (tied for fifth on the team) for 236 yards receiving (third) and two touchdowns. His 19.7 yard-per-reception average led the team.
With Chris Henry likely out for the year, the Bengals will likely look for someone to step up into that role. But what role? A fourth receiver? A deep threat? The Bengals have Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and Andre Caldwell as their first three receivers, so there's no real desperation after Henry's injury. Furthermore the Bengals are a run-first offense, rushing the football on 47% of their offensive plays; their 245 attempts is seventh in the league and Cedric Benson leads the NFL with 198 rush attempts -- by 23 carries.
So is there really an urgency to implement a fourth receiver that's integrated into a game plan that requires more than ten snaps? Not likely. But the question remains. When the Bengals go four-wide, or need someone to replace one of the top three receivers either injured or needing a rest (I refuse to say "blow"), who do you go with?
While saying that Jerome Simpson is close, Carson Palmer says that the "guy who’s closer is Maurice Purify." Purify is on the team's practice squad. And if the Bengals elect to put Chris Henry on Injured Reserve (and there's no reason why they wouldn't), that opens a spot on the team's 53-man roster for Purify. Another alternative, especially if they want to use the open roster spot for another position, is Quan Cosby. But who knows how he's coming along as a wide receiver. This brings us back to Jerome Simpson, who is taking up room on the 53-man roster.
On August 1, I wrote a piece about Simpson asking if his time was already running out. Simply based on numbers and the talent ahead of him, I questioned if he'd even get any playing time. And if he's not ready to become the team's fourth receiver by now, with a Roy Williams destroying Maurice Purify waiting, one has to wonder if he'll ever make his own luck and become a contributor for this offense. The problem for Simpson is that he's lost every opportunity to improve his standing on the team's depth chart. It might even make more sense if the team makes a move to take Simpson off the 53-man roster if he's not the guy that replaces Henry in the lineup.
But he's young and needs time. How much time? And when will opportunity suddenly appear? I would expect the Bengals to bring Chris Henry back next season if they can. Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles, Andre Caldwell are all signed. Where exactly would Simpson fit? He might still have an impressive NFL career. But with the Bengals? Where does he fit?
I even made the suggestion on Sunday that Chase Coffman could be an option, a hybrid tight end/wide receiver in the shape of Dallas Clark. Lines up outside on four wide receiver formations and becomes the second tight end in double tight end formations. Just a thought.
Who do you guys think should take the number four wide receiver spot?