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Palmer's Replacement Could be Found in Senior Bowl

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"This is the one thing I do know after doing this for the last several years," Mayock said. "He's the most important person on the field and if you don't have him you're not going to the Super Bowl. And to truly understand a guy, the intangibles are so important, which is why it's so hard (to evaluate)."

That's what NFL Network draft analysis Mike Mayock said about the quarterback position; the position, due to Carson Palmer's trade demands, that has possibly completely changed the Bengals plan for the 2011 draft.

Now that the Palmer Drama has moved from stabbing the front of our minds to punching the back of our brains, it's time to focus on what needs to be done to fix the situation. Although many believe that Palmer won't leave $50 million on the table to walk away and that this is just an attempt to change the organization, we've never seen Palmer do anything close to this and I don't doubt his resolve to retire, if the Bengals don't trade him, at all. If that's what happens, the Bengals need to be prepared.

Because it's likely that there will not be a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) by the time the season is getting ready to start, the Bengals won't be able to find a veteran quarterback as a free agent to help the them make the transition from Palmer to a young guy. If Palmer does retire, the Bengals could be forced to start a rookie that they draft this year. Even if he doesn't retire, his trade demand could be a sign that it's time to find his replacement. The only question is who is it going to be?

The Bengals are coaching three quarterbacks on the North team in the Under Armour Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. this week. They are Washington's Jake Locker, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.

According to Geoff Hobson, the closest thing to Palmer, when he was the 2003 Senior Bowl MVP, is Locker.

The closest thing in this game to the 2003 Senior Bowl MVP is Washington's Jake Locker, one of three North quarterbacks the Bengals are enjoying working with after two of these games they had next to nothing at the position. Locker has Palmer's agent, USC's offensive pedigree with Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, and the smooth confidence of a media veteran spitting all-the-right answers.

Bengals quarterback coach Ken Zampese has been impressed with Locker's attitude, presence and leadership in the huddle.

"He's got great energy and enthusiasm that's infectious to the group," Zampese said. "Even when he has no idea what he's doi

ng. Most guys, when they're not sure, they're more meeker. He's kind of the other way. Even if he doesn't know, it sounds like he knows it and people follow him anyway. There's a presence to him. He's got a great deal of enthusiasm."

Rob Rang, a senior draft analyst for NFLdraftscouts.com, based in Seattle, likes Locker and thinks he can be worthy of a high draft pick.

"He's a mid-round (first) guy, but I think he's the kind of guy where teams are going to be worried about somebody else taking him," Rang said. "He has so much upside. He's a good athlete, he's got four years of starting at a Division I program. And he's got the intangibles. His leadership, his passion."

When it comes to the other quarterbacks on the North team in the Senior Bowl, the Bengals coaching staff are impressed with them too, especially Kaepernick. 

"He needs to throw the ball with a little touch and play a little lower," he said. "But I can't wait until he gets in the game. He's an athlete. Really fast. He gives you a real threat on the edge. There will be one or two plays where he'll run for 20 yards until he gets touched."

According to Joe Reedy, Stanzi is a middle-round pick and has accuracy problems and hasn't looked good on deep passes.

When it comes to the rest of the quarterbacks in the draft that aren't playing in the Senior Bowl, Mayock has an opinion about all of them.

"Mallett does not make good decisions. He makes every throw but struggles in the pocket," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "Cam Newton needs a lot of work on and off the field, but he's better mechanically than Tim Tebow was here last year and Vince Young a couple of years ago. Locker has top 15 ability with a big arm and good feet. Bu can he slide and move in the pocket with accuracy? Gabbard is the cleanest of them."

Even though Gabbard may be the cleanest, Hobson mentions that even though he isn't in the Senior Bowl, that the fact that he played in Missouri's spread offense in college is giving many that "David Klingler-Akili Smith" feeling.

There isn't a question that things are changing in the Bengals offense. Palmer demanding a trade could put the Bengals in a position of drafting a rookie early and starting him in 2011. Coaching the 2011 Senior Bowl could possibly be the best opportunity they have to find that guy. The Senior Bowl will be airing on NFL Network (#%&*) at 3 p.m. central standard time (that's 4 p.m. for us Cincinnati guys). The quarterback rotation has not yet been determined.

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