Posted: 6:15 a.m.
The pundits and the fan base aren't the only ones enthused about the Bengals draft. It also put a smile on the face of the franchise.
Throw tackle Andre Smith and linebacker Rey Maualuga into an offseason mix in which he has already been fired up by the dedication of running back Cedric Benson and wide receiver Laveranues Coles, and quarterback Carson Palmer senses big things on both sides of the ball.
"With (Mike) Zimmer's leadership on defense, the good young cornerbacks that can cover and the pass rushers, we've got a chance to be really good," Palmer said Tuesday. "From what the coaches have been saying, they like the guys they got from top to bottom."
Palmer is well versed in Smith and Maualuga, thanks to the pre-draft dissection of Smith and Palmer's membership in the USC alumni club that has embraced Maualuga. He's been a fan of his fellow Trojan for a couple of years.
"Ever since he knocked out the quarterback from UCLA on the sidelines," Palmer said. "I'll never forget that. He laid this guy out. It made you laugh. I mean, you felt bad for the quarterback and the quarterback's mom, but you just had to laugh. Rey is coming to the perfect division."
You're right. Palmer watched USC games and always hoped the Bengals could somehow get Maualuga.
"For us to get a guy who is one of the best players on one of the best defenses in college football is huge," Palmer said. "Just the fact he's played for Pete Carroll and been in his defense and has had Pete rub off on him for awhile. You're getting a guy that is fast and athletic, perfect for our division. So many guys get drafted out of the division. He got drafted into the right division.
"You know you're going to get 35 runs a game from Baltimore, 30 to 40 runs a game from Pittsburgh, 35 from Cleveland. He's a guy that wants to come up and hit fullbacks in the mouth and make tackles in the backfield. It's not like he's going to the NFC West where there's speed all over the place. You've got two (USC) linebackers with different styles. Lofa (Tatupu) is perfect (for Seattle). It's a fast, explosive division. Our division is slower, more run first."
Which is why Palmer likes Smith teamed with Benson, two guys he believes are going to revive the Bengals running game. He liked what he saw on that now famous plane flight from Cincinnati to San Diego in which he shared an aisle with Smith.
"It looks like we got an impact guy that can come in and play right away; he was supposed to be the best of the three tackles," Palmer said. "He seems like a guy that wants to come in and work hard and do all the things the coaches are going to ask him to do and be a good teammate. I'm excited for him to get out there. It's a position we needed to fill."
Palmer doesn't have a preference on where Smith lines up ("Whatever helps the team most"), but he says he's hearing that Smith is athletic enough to play either side. After hearing Smith's line that he considers the quarterback like his mother, Palmer joked he hopes they have a good relationship.
"You want a guy that takes pride in keeping your jersey clean and giving you a pocket to step into," Palmer said. "That's always good."
But Palmer also couldn't help be intrigued by a guy that is supposed to put heat on the other pass rusher. The dimensions of Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson caught his eye.
"At 6-7, you can do a lot in the passing lanes, especially with long arms," Palmer said. "If you've got a defense with good hands, you can get a lot of interceptions with tipped balls. A guy like that can tip a lot of balls and that's a quarterback's nightmare because those can turn into seven points so quickly. All your fast guys are downfield, and now it's just the offensive line and quarterback chasing down somebody like a linebacker. Besides that, he supposedly has a fast first step and gets after the passer, so that adds another dimension."
But Palmer has been around long enough to know that nothing can be judged this May or even next May.
"You don't know about the draft until two or three years later," he said. "Guys have to perform well, stay on the field, and stay healthy. But if you look at what we did on paper, it's a great draft. We filled spots we needed to fill."
SLANTS AND SCREENS:Former Cowboys safety Roy Williams still looks to be in the mix as a possibility but there doesn't look to be anything bubbling up quickly as the league takes stock after the draft and rookie camps. Agent Jordan Woy said Tuesday he's had a couple of discussions with the Bengals but that there isn't anything imminent.
» Still no word from wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, but his junior college coach expects him to start working out with him this week in Los Angeles. Charles Collins said Tuesday he understands Ochocinco has been lifting and running in Florida and has built himself up to close to 200 pounds.
"He knows he has to play better this year," Collins said. "There's no question about that. He knows that last year was a disappointment and he doesn't want to let it happen again."
Collins says that it sounds like Ochocinco understands that he's going to have to do it in Cincinnati because all indications are he's not getting traded. Collins is not sure if Ochocinco will be here May 19 for the start of the voluntary workouts, but he does expect him to be at the June 18-20 mandatory minicamp.