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Jerome Simpson And Andre Caldwell Finally Come Through In Final Three Games Of 2010

First roommates, now projecting as the Bengals starting wide receivers in 2011.

Six months ago, the debate went like this: The Bengals gave Jerome Simpson two seasons and Simpson has given the Bengals nothing in return. So it's time to let Simpson go for Dezmon Briscoe, who was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Six months later, the debate is over and -- dare I say at the risk of having my manhood removed -- the Bengals were right.

That's not to take anything away from Briscoe. On Sunday, the rookie wide receiver in Tampa Bay had the best game of his young career, catching four passes for 65 yards receiving -- including a 54-yard reception. His two-yard touchdown gave Tampa Bay a 10-7 lead in the second quarter in a must-win game for the Buccaneers.

On the other side of the debate -- the part of the debate we actually care about -- Jerome Simpson's 12 receptions against the Baltimore Ravens fell one short of Carl Pickens' record 13 receptions on October 11, 1998 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Receptions Player Date Opponent
13 Carl Pickens 10.11.1998 Pittsburgh
12 James Brooks 12.25.1989 @ Minnesota
12 Carl Pickens 11.10.1996 Pittsburgh
12 T.J. Houshmandzadeh 12.12.2004 @ New England
12 T.J. Houshmandzadeh 9.23.2007 @ Seattle
12 Chad Ochocinco 11.25.2007 Tennessee
12 T.J. Houshmandzadeh 9.21.2008 @ NY Giants
12 T.J. Houshmandzadeh 11.16.2008 Philadelphia
12 Jerome Simpson 1.2.2010 @ Baltimore

Of course, Jerome Simpson doesn't care one bit about having 12 receptions on Sunday:

“This was such a tough loss, that it doesn’t mean as much. I made all of those catches, but we didn’t win. So, it’s not that important. The fumble I had was very costly. It led to a touchdown, and really put us in bad position.”

Marvin Lewis said after the game:

“The best thing about it, is that Jerome has been able to play through this stuff now. You’ve got to be excited about him. I was just standing out there and watching him during practice on Friday and watching Carson [Palmer] speaking with him and everything. And it’s like he’s the number one pick, and it’s so fun to see. And it’s like you’re going to be going through a little bit of growing pains, but there’s no one who’s going to work harder than him. And I believe stay grounded through it, which is going to be key.”

Simpson is having as good a two-game stretch as we could have ever hoped for from the former resident inactive player with 18 receptions for 247 yards receiving and three touchdowns. But his emergence with the Bengals started as far back as Cleveland, when Terrell Owens injured his knee with a torn meniscus, placed on Injured Reserve later that week.

Opponent Result Rec Yard Avg. Long TD
Cleveland W, 19-17 2 30 15.0 15 0
San Diego W, 34-20 6 124 20.7 59T 2
Baltimore L, 7-13 12 123 10.3 21 1
    20 277 13.9 59T 3

For as much notoriety that Jerome Simpson is receiving, Andre Caldwell is actually putting up equal numbers, including a 4.1-yard improvement over Simpson on his average receptions. In fact, I'd call his recent three-game surge more impressive because he's clearly not the same receiver we saw in 2009, used far more effectively as an X/Y receiver, rather than as a slot receiver.

Opponent Result Rec Yard Avg. Long TD
Cleveland W, 19-17 4 89 22.3 53 0
San Diego W, 34-20 4 87 21.8 44 0
Baltimore L, 7-13 7 94 13.4 39 0
    15 270 18.0 53 0

When asked about working with both receivers, Carson Palmer said:

“It’s been a blast. They are so energetic, and they are so excited. They want to be great players. They have the talent and mental makeup and speed to play in this game."

So in the end, the debate between Briscoe and Simpson worked out for us, at least for this season.

However, I find the hindsight debate somewhat interesting, if the Bengals could have simply not signed Owens and kept both Simpson and Briscoe. Of course, it's all academic -- and partly me disrupting the oceans of hindsight antagonists. Even though Terrell Owens had a fine season with the Bengals in 2010, keeping Briscoe and not signing Owens would articulate a commitment to the future. However, the Bengals (perhaps rightfully so coming off a 10-6 season), decided to make a commitment for this season by signing Owens to a one-year rental contract. Now the Bengals have neither and Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell are entering the final years of their rookie contracts.

Don't mind me. I'm just having fun.

The modified debate at this point can be broken down to questions that produce variable results. In other words, the modified debate has to examine questions before the full shape of the debate can be formed.

  • Do the Bengals bother with a wide receiver in the first round of the 2011 NFL playoffs, or find support players that will fill roles on the wide receiver depth chart behind Jordan Shipley?
  • Would picking up Chad Ochocinco's option in 2011 actually be a detriment to the team? Or should Simpson's obvious mentor be given another year to groom the team's emerging number one wide receiver?
  • Are the Bengals comfortable with making Simpson and Caldwell the team's starting wide receivers, or do they think they need a "backup plan" with a veteran receiver if they elect not to pick up Chad's option?

No matter how you cut it, no matter how hard you want to bemoan the Bengals coaching errors in waiting three seasons to get Simpson on the field, Simpson is on the field now and unless something happens that we can't foresee -- like a midget riding a camel in downtown Cincinnati -- the Bengals starting wide receivers should be Caldwell and Simpson.