When he had the opportunity to catch passes from Carson Palmer for three seasons, Jerome Simpson simply didn’t do it very often, and it was therefore concluded that he was a bust as a second-round pick, and a classic case of wasted potential.
After being the 47th overall pick in 2008, Simpson had just 21 catches over his first three years while being buried on the depth chart in Cincinnati due to both his own ineffectiveness, and the presence of Chad Ochocinco and later Terrell Owens. With Palmer gone and rookie Andy Dalton at the helm, there was little reason to believe Simpson’s production would change in 2011. Then he easily doubled his career single-season catch total with 50 receptions, and had 725 receiving yards when his previous career high was 277.
Now he’ll be asked to duplicate that performance, and do it again with a young, inexperienced quarterback.
Earlier this afternoon Simpson signed a one-year contract with the Vikings, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. He inked that reported deal on the same day that he was suspended for three games under the league’s substance abuse policy. That’s what happens when you use your friendly neighborhood mailman to deliver several pounds of drugs at his earliest convenience.
The recent turmoil in Simpson’s life may have prepared him for the mess he’s walking into. His job is simple: be another reliable receiving option to help Christian Ponder’s development, and complement Percy Harvin on the other side of the field. But that role is complicated somewhat by Adrian Peterson’s injury, as the Pro Bowl running back who tore his ACL during Minnesota’s final game of 2011 will likely still be on a carry limit when Simpson returns from his suspension.
As Peterson continues to recover and face game action for the first time, there will be an increased emphasis on the passing game. That isn’t an ideal situation for a quarterback who will start just his 11th career regular-season game in Week 1, and finished with a passer rating of 70.1 and a completion percentage of 54.3 last year.
Ideally, Simpson’s presence will help to compensate for the loss of an elite running back if the real Adrian Peterson doesn’t stand up right away next fall. That’s the sunshine and rainbows scenario, while the hell, fire, and brimstone outlook has Simpson irrelevant because Ponder will still be bombarded with blitzes until he proves he can handle pressure. In just his 11 game appearances last year, Ponder was sacked 30 times for a total loss of 164 yards, and that was with a healthy Peterson.
Simpson provides another young weapon, but much like Jacksonville and their project quarterback, the fate of Minnesota’s offense is tied to Ponder’s growth.