Houshmandzadeh on state of the Bengals

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Cincinnati Bengals, who entered the season with high expectations, are one of the NFL's biggest disappointments in 2010. Coming off a playoff appearance and AFC North title a year ago, Cincinnati is just 2-9 and there doesn't appear to be many victories in sight for the remainder of the season.

This week ESPN.com's AFC North blog caught up with Baltimore Ravens receiver and former Bengal T.J. Houshmandzadeh. He spent seven seasons with the Bengals and had some very interesting thoughts on coach Marvin Lewis, former teammates Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, and the future of the team.

T.J., how surprised are you that the Bengals have imploded this year given the high expectations?

Houshmandzadeh: Yeah, I thought they were going to be really good, especially when they beat us [in Week 2]. We turned the ball over a bunch. But wow! It shocks me. It really does.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and a lot of key players have contract situations upcoming. What direction do you see them going in the offseason.

Houshmandzadeh: I don't know Marvin's situation. But you would assume, outside looking in, that if he's not signed by now he's not going to be there. I kind of look at it similar to my situation, you know? Carson, I would bet there is no chance that he's gone.

Really? No chance Palmer leaves Cincinnati in 2011?

Houshmandzadeh: Yeah, he's too good [laughs]. People always look at it like, 'Man, I wish I had that guy or this guy.' Carson is the real deal. You can say it's Carson's fault and he will take all the blame, because that's how he is. But trust me, a lot of those interceptions and a lot of things that's going on, they are not his fault. Now, obviously, some of them are when he tries to force things when you get behind. But I know that offense. So I know the hand signals they make, I know what they're trying to accomplish when a play is called and what defense they're looking for. So when you see something go wrong, I know what's going on and a lot of those things aren't his fault. But with the type of guy Carson is, he will always take the blame.

In terms of your good friend Chad Ochocinco, he also has an option year. Do you see his future in Cincinnati?

Houshmandzadeh: I would say he's going to be there, because he's good. But who knows? They could've traded Chad going into my last year there to the Redskins and got a great deal for him. If you don't trade him then, which is not even three years ago, why would you get rid of him now? Chad can play -- period. He will freelance every once in a while, but you take that with Chad. He's going to do his own thing periodically. But he can still play, that's for sure.

If Lewis doesn't return, what type of coach is needed in that locker room?

Houshmandzadeh: Maybe not so much this year, but the defense has played well. So maybe they let [defensive coordinator Mike] Zimmer get it. Or do they bring in a guy like [Raiders offensive coordinator] Hue Jackson? Everybody on the team knows he will command your respect right now. You're going to have fun, but you're not going to cross the line. Hue and Carson would work well together. Maybe Marvin does go back. But if not, Zimmer is there and he likes those guys. Zimmer is the reason why the expectations became so high, because of what he's done for them on defense.

Last question: Do you feel the Bengals lack leadership, especially after key veterans like you, Willie Anderson and John Thornton left the past few years?

Houshmandzadeh: The thing with me when I was there is I spoke up. They have guys there that will speak up. But offensively, Carson is not going to say too much unless it gets out of control. The two guys I can see speaking up offensively are going to be Bobbie [Williams] and Whit [Andrew Whitworth]. Guys when they're younger -- this may sound crazy but it's the truth -- it means more in my opinion when it's guys you've seen on TV. I mean, when you come into this locker room, if Ray Lewis speaks up you respect that because you know his name, and you know him. But if a lineman says something, you're going to listen, but it's not going to resonate as much because you don't know him. That's just the reality of the situation. Bobbie, he's a heck of a leader and Whit is more quieter. But that's my take on it. I would always speak up. I spoke my mind and sometimes to a fault, but that's who I was from the day I got there. [Offensive coordinator] Bob Bratkowski will tell you I was like that from Day 1. I never changed my whole time in Cincinnati. Also when I was there, I think Chad had a little more leeway to kind of be crazy because I could bring him in. I don't think there's anybody there who can bring him in anymore .... When I was there, when he didn't talk to nobody, he talked to me and the coaches knew that. But I wanted them to do well. I really did. They beat us the first game. So I was really looking forward to the last game, because I didn't play well in the first game. I still am looking forward to the last game, but it will be a little different.