The draft class of 2008 hasn't been one to write home about for the Bengals.
Keith Rivers, their top choice, was living up to all expectations before a broken jaw three weeks ago ended his season. Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell, two receivers taken in the first three rounds, have been hampered by injury and inexperience while combining for just one catch and two yards this season. Two other late-round picks in safety Corey Lynch and tight end Matt Sherry are on injured reserve with Rivers.
Slowly but surely, however, the Bengals are seeing progress and production out of at least one of the class – defensive tackle Pat Sims.
Sims was inactive for the first five games of the season but since getting his first action against the Jets on Oct. 12 he is proving to be worth the third-round selection the Bengals used on him.
"I think he's finding out that he can do this, and he can do it pretty good," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "He's just got to keep going and work harder and harder, and a little bit more understanding now of offenses and when it's going to be a screen now, it's second-and-10 Pat, it's probably going to be a screen in that situation. And some things like that's he's got to get better with, and I think he will. He's a smart enough guy to understand it, and I think he'll continue to grow."
Sims came out of Auburn early after his junior season. Injuries plagued him through training camp and early in the season but he has steadily earned more playing time in a rotation with starters John Thornton and Domata Peko.
The Bengals coaching staff has credited Sims with 23 tackles and one sack in four games played. Equate that over the full nine games the Bengals have played and Sims would trail just Peko among defensive linemen in tackles. Peko is tied with safety Chinedum Ndukwe for second on the team with 60 tackles, 29 behind middle linebacker Dhani Jones for the team lead.
"I'm just getting my confidence level higher and higher each week," said Sims. "I'm telling you, it's going to be sky is the limit once I get there."
Sims got his first career sack in the Bengals' 21-19 win against Jacksonville in their last game before the bye. He tracked down Jaguars quarterback David Garrard as Garrard was attempting to scramble out of the pocket, dropping Garrard for a 2-yard loss.
"It was great," said Sims. "I've been wanting a sack for the longest time and I finally got it. I finally got it… I was hoping to get him up top but he kind of outran me and I had to show a little speed, dive out there and show that 4.7."
Sims and Peko would appear to be the future of the Bengals defensive interior. Peko signed a five-year contract extension in June despite being in just his third season. Thornton is a 10-year veteran who is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. In addition to his play on the field, Thornton has been a mentor to Sims.
"He plays a big role," said Sims. "He's been helping me out a lot with the transition from college to pro. They're easing me in there slowly but he's helped me out a lot with the tendencies of the offense when they line up in certain formations. It's been about giving me more knowledge of the game."
ODOM HURTING – Defensive end Antwan Odom had his left arm in a sling Thursday after suffering a shoulder injury in practice this week. Odom said he was due to receive further examination in the day and find out from the medical staff if he'll be able to play Sunday against Philadelphia.
"I want to play," said Odom. "It's been a hard year for me but all I can do is go on to the next day and hope I can be out there soon."
Odom missed most of the preseason and didn't start the first two games of the regular season because of a foot injury suffered on the first day of practice. The Bengals signed him as a free agent from Tennessee in the offseason to replace Justin Smith. Odom, in his fifth season, wanted to show he could be an every-down player with the Bengals but the injuries have been a setback to that goal.
Odom has two sacks (which lead the Bengals, who have just nine as a team) and 31 tackles to go with two forced fumbles.