Drafted 46th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, Jerome Simpson was always projected as a project with the anticipation that he'd eventually be Chad Ochocinco's replacement if the team decided to trade Chad during the offseason following the 2008 season during his "trade me" campaign. T.J. Houshmandzadeh wasn't expected to stick around because he wanted
number one receiver money to win. So the team drafted Andre Caldwell, concluding the general hope that both receivers would be groomed and made ready as the new receiver foundation for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Yea, we're still waiting.
Andre Caldwell caught 51 passes for 432 yards receiving in 2009, which included two game-winning touchdown receptions against the Steelers and Ravens. However, dating back to the team's 45-10 win over the Chicago Bears on October 25, 2009, Caldwell hasn't recorded more than 35 yards receiving in the 18 games (including the playoffs) since. This year alone, Caldwell has only nine receptions for 66 yards receiving with only 44.4% of those receptions being converted for first downs.
While Caldwell was only the 97th overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, he's not even the biggest disappointment. That title is safely held by the team's second round pick from the same draft. After setting a Big South Conference record with 44 touchdowns at Coastal Carolina, Simpson's 46th overall selection brought about a level of expectation. You know, like catching more than one reception, or like actually being able to get on the field.
A breakdown of Jerome Simpson's gameday participation:
|2008||6||2||8 (not medically cleared in 3)|
The two biggest challenges for any young receiver, said Bengals receivers coach Mike Sheppard, are:
To learn a team's system "so that your coaches and your teammates, in particular your quarterback, can gain confidence that you'll be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there."
If he's spending five of seven games inactive on the gameday roster in his third season, then exactly how much patience are you supposed to have for Simpson to get it?
Simpson believes his inability to get on the field stems mainly from whom he's playing behind, and that the Bengals are in a win-now situation with their 2-5 record.
Wait, is the Enquirer's John Erardi suggesting the two are related or is that Simpson's point of view?
While it's one thing to acknowledge that Simpson is also playing behind Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Jordan Shipley this year, that wasn't the case last year. Laveranues Coles, not in the NFL anymore, was slow, old and dropped several passes. Because of the three years it's taken for Simpson to understand the system, the team had to put a slow and aging receiving on the field when it was Simpson whose time it should have been to shine.
Yet, Jordan Shipley, a rookie selected in the third round in this year's NFL Draft, hasn't just played on the field during the regular season, he's been a vital part of this team's offense with 24 receptions, 349 yards receiving and a touchdown that sparked a third-quarter comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. Shipley has also converted 80% of his receptions into first downs in the final two minutes of either half and a 75% conversion overall.
Players like Bengals rookie Jordan Shipley, who played in a pro-style set at Texas against some of the best college teams in the country, have an advantage over Simpson. But even Shipley said the pros have been an adjustment.
If Shipley and Simpson were both rookies this year, this would be a legitimate excuse, a logical understanding. However, Simpson has a two-year advantage on Shipley in the NFL. This excuse holds about as much wait as a zero gravity environment. So the biggest question is why is the team patient with him? Wide receivers coach Mike Sheppard says:
"He has unlimited ability. He can run, does a lot of athletic things - gets up in the air and (grabs) balls - and has great hands, and is like Gumby - he doesn't get hurt."
Yet, he still isn't on the field. Makes sense for when the team calls "don't run routes but be athletically awesome... on two."
"I'm still young, haven't had any injuries and I know I can play this game," Simpson said. "People can say what they want - Jerome Simpson doesn't do this, Jerome Simpson doesn't do that - but those are people watching whatever camera angle the TV is giving them. They don't see the whole picture."
That's true. What we see is that Simpson's not making the field and in the end, after three seasons, we really don't care why. Either you help us, or you don't. And through 39 games that Simpson's had the opportunity to play for the Cincinnati Bengals, the picture we're seeing is that he's not helping us at al -- just taking up a roster spot because the team can't simply drop their over-inflated ego on bad draft picks.
Hopefully the lesson learned here is that Simpson has provided no reason to be freely given a roster spot for his athletic awesomeness while complaining because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stole a receiver in Dezmon Briscoe by overpaying him for their own practice squad. I love this team. But there are some things that don't make sense to me. This is one of those things.