CINCINNATI - DECEMBER 26: Jerome Simpson #89 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after catching a touchdown pass during the NFL game against the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium on December 26 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. The Bengals 34-20. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
For almost three seasons, we watched Jerome Simpson do absolutely nothing for the Bengals while DeSean Jackson, who selected by the Eagles in the 2008 draft after Simpson was taken by the Bengals, tear up the field against NFC East opponents. Bengals fans rolled their eyes when Simpson's name was brought up in conversation and most labeled him a bust.
Then came the last few games of the 2010 season. Injuries forced both Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens to the sidelines and Simpson was thrust into a starting role and a sink-or-swim scenario. He rose to the occasion, catching 20 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns.
While we were all very happy for Simpson, he left us all wondering if he could put up those kinds of number throughout an entire season. Many didn't know, and still don't, if Simpson can be a No. 2 receiver and play opposite of A.J. Green if the team releases Chad Ochocinco.
There is one person that is 100 percent sure that Simpson can and will fill that role -- Jerome Simpson himself.
"I've gone through some intense training trying to get my body right," Simpson said by phone. "I think I'm where I need to be and feel like this is going to be a breakout year for me. I wan to go out there during the season and show the world what Rome can do."
Simpson has been working with the performance director at Ignition Performance Athletic Group, Clif Marshall, in Mason. Marshall believes that Simpson can have a breakout year in 2011 as well and can't wait to watch Simpson cash in on all the hard work he's put in this offseason.
"I can't wait to watch Jerome reap the fruit of his labor this season," Marshall said. "It's not just about the increase in strength, but more so the level of confidence he's gained. Jerome has been the most consistent guy of all the veterans in practice. That's not coming from me. That's coming from his teammates."
Hopefully both Simpson and Marshall are right about Simpson's ability to play wide receiver consistently at the professional level. For a long time, I was under the impression that it was Simpson's inability to adjust to the pro game from a small college and if he had a hard time learning the playbook. However, I am now beginning to believe that Simpson couldn't get on the field because he was always playing behind Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Laveranues Coles or Terrell Owens. When he was finally put in a situation where he could play an entire game, he flourished.
And now he says it's his time to give the Bengals a return on their investment.
"I have been sitting back watching everyone else perform for three years," Simpson said. "Now it's my time to show what I can do. It felt great to go out there and make plays for my team in those games last year. It showed that I can play this game and the reason why I'm here. The Bengals kept me around for a reason and time for them to see a return on their investment."