Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis made a stunning admission in his pre-draft news conference this week. Wide receiver Jerome Simpson didn’t fail as a rookie in 2008 when he had one catch for two yards. The Bengals failed him. Instead of getting Simpson on the field and letting him blossom, the Bengals buried the second-round draft pick from Coastal Carolina behind Chad Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry.
I'm not exactly sure how you can say that Simpson was buried behind Johnson, Houshmandzadeh and Henry. Anyone would be. Not to mention that Simpson wasn't medically cleared for three games, he was active but just didn't play in two games, and was a game-day inactive in eight games. All he was was a receiver; while guys like Antonio Chatman, Andre Caldwell, Glenn Holt and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were the primary kick returners.
Simpson is often considered a "bust", if such an argument can be made of a second-round player after one rookie season. The argument is actually against the Bengals and not specifically Simpson, because Cincinnati passed on DeSean Jackson, who went on to record 62 passes for 912 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
The overall point that I've argued here is the same; no rookie receiver would have supplanted Johnson or Houshmandzadeh. Maybe he could have eventually replaced Henry, who was serving a four-game suspension. However, Chatman was given the keys as the number three receiver, even recording two games of six catches or more and 55 yards receiving or more. After Chatman, Henry eased in. We also played less three-receiver formations, more double-TE formations and I (or off-set I) formations with a tight end which means no one outside of Johnson or Houshmandzadeh would get a significant shot. Furthermore, it's not like our passing offense was something to behold like watching July 4 fireworks at Kings Island; Bengals ranked 30th with 150.4 yards passing per game.
It was also telling that while Caldwell and Simpson waiting to earn their opportunity to win that #2 receiver spot after Houshmandzadeh departed, the Bengals went out and signed Laveranues Coles.
So the question, in my mind at least, is legit. Did the Bengals fail Simpson? You could argue both points. Yes, in that he's not given the time on the field, and the best way for a player to grow is on the field. Plus a rookie wasn't going to replace Pro Bowl veterans. No, in that there's likely a reason they hesitated putting him on the field, and subsequently, signing Coles in the off-season.