The Cincinnati Bengals got their man when they drafted A.J. Green, the dynamic receiver out Georgia. He has all the tools that you would look for in a No. 1 receiver: height, speed, short area quickness, separation ability, excellent hands, etc. Because the Bengals drafted Green, the team should feel confident for the next four to five years that they have a legitimate number one receiver on the roster.
But did the Bengals already have a No. 1 receiver on the roster? What about Jerome Simpson?
Before the last three weeks of the 2010 season you would have laughed at me, concerned citizens would have wanted me institutionalized, and babies would have spit on me for even suggesting something so ridiculous. Before week fifteen last season, Jerome Simpson's best visible attribute was that he was the most talented player on the team at removing splinters from his own backside.
Things can change fast in the NFL.
In week sixteen, a week after the Bengals snapped their ten game skid against the lowly Cleveland Browns, the Bengals played the San Diego Chargers - a team that had been nearly flawless in the month of December. The Chargers were the number one ranked passing defense in the NFL when they faced the Bengals that week - and Jerome Simpson destroyed them.In the Chargers game, Jerome Simpson caught six passes for 124 yards (including a long reception of 59 yards on a trick play) and snagged not one, but two TD passes from Carson Palmer. And that's how the Bengals took down the number one ranked defense in the league last year.
Was it a fluke? Maybe, but it would be easier to call it as such if it hadn't been for his performance in the season finale against one of the NFL's toughest defenses and division rivals in the Baltimore Ravens. This time, Simpson caught 12 passes from Palmer and went for 123 yards and a TD. Not impressed? Consider that in week two, when the Bengals beat the Ravens, Terrell Owens (it still seems weird that he used to be a Bengal) and Chad Ochocinco combined for only 7 catches 101 yards and ZERO touchdowns.
Add up those last two games of the year and Simpson went for 247 yards, 3 touchdowns and 18 receptions. If those aren't the kind of numbers that a No. 1 receiver is supposed to put up, then I don't know what is.
Still, it's hard to blame the Bengals for wanting to go a different direction. Simpson was on the bench for three seasons because it took him a LONG time to master the playbook and with a new offensive coordinator and a new playbook, having Simpson as a #1 makes me kind of nervous. And it's not like the end of the season was flawless for the receiver. Against the Ravens he fumbled the ball twice, likely costing the Bengals the game and was the beneficiary of unsuspecting defenses.
Obviously Simpson didn't convince the coaching staff that he was ready/able for the job.
We might not know if Jerome Simpson will ever be a #1 receiver in the NFL, but at least for two games last year, he sure looked like one.