Since the Bengals were grooming defensive tackles Devon Still and Brandon Thompson, selected in the second and third round of the 2012 NFL draft, the likelihood that Pat Sims would return as a free agent was becoming nonexistent. At the time, we weren't sure if we liked that idea. Here's the indisputable facts: The Bengals allowed 4.5 yards/rush when Sims was out. That average shrunk to 3.6 yards/rush when he played. More impressive was that the Bengals won 14 of the 21 games games that Sims played from 2011-'12.
Eventually, Sims departed for Oakland during free agency, signing a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Ultimately it was the right move for everyone. Cincinnati needed to give Thompson playing time as the backup nose tackle and Sims needed a place to expand his NFL career.
Unfortunately, Sims opened training camp in Oakland similar to his tenure in Cincinnati. Injured. Sims was placed on the team's Non-Football Injury list, and eventually missed 16 of the team's first 17 days with a hamstring injury. When he was taken off NFI, he quickly limped out of practice after re-aggravating his hamstring on the same day.
"My initial feeling about him before seeing him play was a concern whether he would be able to play at a high level for an entire game," Levi Damien with Silver and Black Pride told me on Wednesday. "He was never a full time starter before and conditioning was what I thought to be the issue. It was almost impossible to get a feel for what kind of player he would be because he was injured nearly the entirety of training camp."
The Raiders applied caution when Sims made his second return.
"I want to be smart with him," Allen said when Sims returned prior to the third preseason game of the season. "The last time we brought him out here we got him for a half a practice and then we lost him again for a few days. I want to make sure that before we too much stress on him that he’s ready to go. We’re going to ease him into it. We’ll kind of evaluate him on a day-to-day basis to see where he’s at."
Finally, he returned. Sims only played 20 snaps against the Seattle Seahawks during the Raiders preseason finale, but his performance was more than enough to secure his role. Damien with Silver and Black Pride wrote following the preseason finale:
From the very first snap, Sims was on a rampage. He got off the ball in an instant, shucked past the center and was on top of the quarterback as fast as the ball. The result was the entire defense came up and stuffed the screen attempt for a two-yard loss. Two plays later, he was in the backfield again, this time the two-yard loss came from him alone. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to a 50-yard pass play, the Seahawks were able to score a opening drive touchdown.
Regardless, it was clear the defensive line was a very different animal with Sims in the lineup. On the following drive, the line aided in two run stuffs and a sack and Sims finished it off by again shucking past his man to put pressure on the quarterback who was flagged for intentional grounding which is as good as a sack. They settled for a 56-yard field goal. Sims got in the backfield again on the next drive to disrupt a run play and cause a run stuff. The Seahawks again settled for a field goal. Dennis Allen had seen enough and pulled Sims after that.
Vic Tafur with the San Francisco Chronicle added:
Oakland kept the deficit at 16-6, thanks largely to the return of defensive tackle Pat Sims. Sims had missed most of training camp and the first three preseason games with a hamstring injury.
But on Thursday, he pressured Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson on the first play and didn't let up. Sims broke up several plays and finished with two quarterback hits. The Raiders held Seattle to 34 yards on 17 carries in the first half.
"Pat did some good things," Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. "One of the positives tonight was our defense played the run really well. We wanted to be a physical team tonight and we did that."
According to the team's official depth chart, Sims is listed as the first-team nose tackle (ala, Domata Peko in Cincinnati).
We're happy for Sims. Always well-liked in Cincinnati as a run-stuffer, Sims became a victim in a numbers game that was accelerated when the team needed to find what they had in Thompson. Hopefully Sims can just stay healthy.