re-acquisition of DT Orien Harris. Fans wanted a bigg..."/> re-acquisition of DT Orien Harris. Fans wanted a bigg..."/> re-acquisition of DT Orien Harris. Fans wanted a bigg..."/>

Welcome Back, Big O


There’s a bit of grumbling in Bengaldom tonight over the team’s re-acquisition of DT Orien Harris. Fans wanted a bigger splash, preferably a trade for a name DE to replace Antwan Odom, who was placed on injured reserve today, ending his season.

I’m not unsympathetic, but let’s face it: blockbuster trades are rare in the NFL. And the Bengals have at least two players who, by all rights, ought to be capable of filling Odom’s shoes in DEs Frostee Rucker and Michael Johnson.

Both were third-round draft picks. The Non-Dairy Dessert has flashed playmaking ability, but has struggled to stay healthy (he was out last week with a sprained ankle, natch). Johnson is headed for his seventh NFL game. Initially talked about as a first-round talent, he fell to the Bengals in the third due to questions about his motor. That’s been going full blast in Cincinnati this season, but so far Johnson has fallen into the “nuisance” category — getting some pressures, batting down some balls — versus the “menace” category many thought he would fill in the NFL.

Bottom line: Rucker needs to “rub a little dirt on it,” while Johnson needs to take a deep breath and step it up.

As for Harris, he is a substitute for Odom in roster spot only. The Bengals have relied on a strong rotation at DT to keep the line fresh, and right now that rotation is banged up. Tank Johnson has thrown a tread (plantar fascitis), Pat Sims has a busted wing and Domata Peko has a knee owie of unspecified severity, but which appears likely to take him out of the Bears game this weekend.

So enter Harris, veteran of 14 Bengals games last year, who knows the system and can instantly provide some relief for the battered DT corps. It’s a good — and smart — signing.

Full disclosure: I’m a Harris fan. I liked him coming out in 2006, when he was an above-average prospect. But he had the misfortune of being drafted by Pittsburgh in the fourth round. Not that the Steelers are a bad organization to be chosen by, but breaking into the defensive ranks there is tough even for first-round picks (ask Ziggy Hood). From there it was to Cleveland in 2007, New Orleans and Cincy in ’08, and Cincy, St. Louis, Detroit and now Cincy again, this year. Little surprise he’s played in 16 whole games, 14 of them last season for the Bengals. And little surprise he hasn’t shown a whole lot. Hard to do that when you’re learning a new playbook every week.

So I’m happy to see him get another chance. He’s had no better opportunity to succeed in his career than now. Here’s hoping he makes the most of it.

Oh, and thanks, St. Louis, for giving us Brian Leonard for free!