Originally Published: September 2, 2010
AP Photo/Ed Reinke JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (10): Now in his eighth year, Carson Palmer has a chance to put up impressive numbers with what might be the best supporting cast of his career.

Expert Picks (Consensus: 1st)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Bengals:

1. T.O. will mesh well in Cincy: The initial thought of pairing receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati might not be appealing to some. But there have been no issues so far, and the Bengals do not anticipate any. Owens is fitting in well with the Bengals. His friendship with Ochocinco certainly helps, as the two are not in competition for attention and receptions. Quarterback Carson Palmer's endorsement also helped Owens get instant credibility in the locker room. As long as the reigning AFC North champs are winning this season, this experiment should work.

2. Adam Jones will be a factor: Despite missing all of 2009, Jones already has established himself as one of the top athletes on the team. Jones looked rusty at times in the spring but was in great football shape once he returned for training camp. He has played aggressively at cornerback and looks natural as a kick returner. Jones needs to continue improving his technique, but look for the Bengals to work him into the defense. Jones probably will be Cincinnati's third cornerback to start the season behind starters Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph.

3. The defense is legit: To most football observers, Cincinnati's defense came out of nowhere last season to be ranked No. 4 in the NFL. But for those who paid close attention to the Bengals, this unit was gradually built over the past several years. From 2006 through 2008, Cincinnati spent three consecutive first-round picks to add Joseph, Hall and linebacker Keith Rivers -- all starters. The Bengals also used a second-round pick on linebacker Rey Maualuga last year. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer molded this defense into a tough, hard-nosed unit, which finally came into its own last season. The Bengals are deep defensively and should be very good again this season.

4. Andre Smith remains a work in progress: It's too early to call Smith a draft bust. But entering his second season, the right tackle and former No. 7 overall pick in 2009 needs to get it together because he's quickly heading in that direction. Smith missed all of training camp last year with a lengthy contract dispute. A subsequent foot injury sidelined him for a majority of last season, and more foot surgery and weight issues this year kept him out until mid-August. Cincinnati invested a lot of money in Smith. But it's been one headache after another so far, and the Bengals are losing patience.

5. Backup QB an issue: You probably can say this about 70 percent of NFL teams, but Cincinnati lacks depth behind starting quarterback Carson Palmer. Jordan Palmer hasn't done much to inspire confidence this preseason. He has been inaccurate and turnover-prone against second- and third-string competition. If Carson Palmer goes down long term, the Bengals' season is over regardless. But there might be a situation in which Palmer misses only a game or two, and it would be nice if a backup stepped up. Perhaps rookie Dan LeFevour is the answer. The Bengals cut ineffective backup J.T. O'Sullivan and signed LeFevour, who was cut by the Bears.

-- James Walker, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five

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