It's safe to say that Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive lineman Domata Peko have both emerged as the team's biggest leaders during the lockout. Whitworth was responsible for bringing the offense together while Peko brought the defense together for workouts without direction from their coaches. Then the two of them brought the entire team together to workout at the University of Cincinnati. They are, without a doubt, the team's biggest leaders.
"I'm not an old veteran but I've always had older veterans around me. To see some of the younger guys take a role, step up and want to take control is good. For a guy like Jordan who doesn't know what is role is going to be and for Rey to organize things says a lot."
Jordan Palmer led workouts with quarterbacks and receivers this offseason. Even though he had to be sure that the Bengals would be drafting a quarterback to replace his older brother and that his chances of starting were slim at best, it showed some great initiative and leadership.
Same goes for Maualuga, even though he'll have a much larger role on the team. He's likely going to be making the shift from outside linebacker to middle linebacker this season unless the Bengals re-sign Dhani Jones once the lockout is lifted. If he does make that shift, he'll need to lead the entire defense as an extension of Mike Zimmer on the field. It's a good sign that Maualuga is honing his leadership skills now.
The 2011 Bengals are going to be extremely young. There's a decent chance that they'll start a rookie quarterback for the first time in the season opener since Greg Cook started in the late '60s. If they part ways with Chad Ochocinco, like most think they will, the most experienced wide receiver will have less than 1,000 career yards and Cedric Benson's most recent arrest may spur the Bengals to look elsewhere for a new running back. The team is lucky to have Whitworth and Peko as leaders, but they'll need more. Guys like Jordan Palmer and Rey Maualuga can be the difference between a bad team and a decent team or a decent team and a good team.
Hopefully their leadership is contagious.