Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals had 10 picks in the 2008 NFL Draft back in April. Since then, only ONE player, Keith Rivers, has seen any significant playing time. Rivers, a highly regarded linebacker from USC, has been every bit as advertised, but what about the 9 other guys drafted? Will any of them make an impact in 2008?
The Bengals second round pick, Jerome Simpson out of Coastal Carolina, led the Bengals in receiving yards during the pre-season but hasn't been able to contribute during the regular season because it appears he hasn't earned the trust of Marvin Lewis, Carson Palmer or offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. With the Bengals sitting in the cellar with an 0-3 record, I think it is time to get Simpson some experience playing in the NFL. I understand why Lewis is hesitant about playing Simpson if he isn't ready. but at this point it can't hurt. Let the kid play and lets see what he can do!
With the first pick in the third round, the Bengals selected defensive tackle Pat Sims out of Auburn. The Bengals have been desperate for an upgrade on the defensive line for a decade and I was REALLY excited when I heard Sims' name called. However, he was injured during the pre-season and has yet to touch the field. Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko signed a 5-year 29.3 million dollar contract extension this off season and is a adequate player but simply isn't big enough to be an effective 4-3 DT with the likes of John Thornton playing beside him. Thornton, a ten year vet out of West Virginia, is scheduled to receive close to 4 million dollars this year and has registered only 8 tackles after 3 weeks of play. Like Simpson, I cannot understand why the Bengals haven't played Sims up to this point? If Thornton is a better defensive tackle than Sims then we are in BIG trouble.
With the second pick in the 3rd round the Bengals selected Andre Caldwell out of the University of Florida. Caldwell is the one player that I am in shocked has not touched the football field. I realize he was injured in the pre-season, but to my knowledge he is ready to go. After watching all the Bengals games this year, I simply cannot imagine that Caldwell is any worse than Glenn Holt at returning kicks. Caldwell has great speed and returned kicks in college. Holt, in my opinion is a better receiver than a return man, and that isn't saying much. Although Antonio Chatman has done a pretty good job this season returning punts, I don't see him sticking around Cincinnati much longer after this season, which should hand the return duties over to Caldwell.
In the 4th round the Bengals selected offensive tackle Anthony Collins out of Kansas. Though I am not surprised that Collins hasn't received any playing time up to this point, one thing is crystal clear, Levi Jones is NOT the player he was just a couple years ago and Collins should expect to be the starter as early as next year. I am sure Marvin Lewis is not comfortable asking a rookie tackle to protect the blindside of the franchise (Carson Palmer) at this stage in the season, but lets face it...Levi Jones has been miserable after 3 games!
I am going to be honest, when the Bengals selected 340 pound defensive Jason Shirley out of Fresno State, I wan't happy. With the recent trend of players with problematic pasts calling Cincinnati "home," I thought the Bengals were CRAZY drafting a guy that wasn't a very productive college player, even a Fresno State, and who had a pending D.U.I/Hit and Run charge against him.
After watching him play this pre-season, however, I have to say that I am impressed. When Shirley wants to be a productive football player, he is. When Shirley fires out and stays low on offensive linemen he is virtually impossible to block with one man. This is exactly the type of guy the team needs to be lining up next to a speedy, high motor guy like Peko. If Shirley plays to his potential he will likely demand double teams which would allow Peko to penetrate the backfield, hopefully flushing the opposing QB out of the pocket and giving Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers the opportunity to make some plays.
At this point, I certainly don't see John Thornton being more productive or having the potential to impact the game in the same way that either Sims or Shirley brings. Look for one of those two guys getting some playing time in the near future.
To be fair to sixth round pick Corey Lynch out of Appalachian State, he has played on special teams and has done a very good job. I don't see him starting at safety with Chinedum Ndukwe and Marvin White as the starters, but he could see an expanded role after this season when the Bengals, hopefully, part ways with Dexter "Super Bowl MVP" Jackson.
Tight End Matt Sherry out of Villanova, another Bengals 6th round selection, is on IR and out for the season. I was very upset when the Bengals selected Sherry and don't believe he will ever see the playing field in the NFL. In my opinion, Sherry was one of the worst picks for this club in recent memory.
With the last two picks the Bengals selected University of Cincinnati defensive end Angelo Craig and Wide Receiver Mario Urrutia from the University of Louisville. Craig was cut by the Bengals and signed to the Carolina Panthers practice squad but has since been released for the team. Urrutia, the 6'6 receiver was signed to the Bengals practice squad and probably should have stayed in school. He has the potential to be a significant Red Zone threat if he can eventually make the 53 man roster, but the Bengals shouldn't count on his contribution anytime soon.
Hopefully sometime this season the Bengals will get to see some production of their rookies. I certainly hope Coach Lewis give several of these guys the opportunity to showcase what they can do. Who knows, maybe one of them could provide the spark this team needs to start winning some games.
Oh how I long for the day when Mike Brown hires a General Manager....but I am not holding my breath.