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Newton, Locker Show Blazing Speed At Combine

Will the Bengals pull the trigger if Newton is available at 4?

It cracks me up to read around the net how NFL observers are so seemingly surprised to report how the Bengals are “apparently” acting under the assumption that Carson Palmer will not be on the team in 2011.  This has gotten even more play this weekend when Marvin Lewis was asked if his starting quarterback was already on the roster.  His reply of, “I don’t know that,” obviously hit a lot of people harder than it did me.

In my mind, the team’s pursuits in Indianapolis are both wise and prudent.  Whether Palmer returns to the team in 2011 and beyond, retires or gets traded, the organization’s careful evaluation of the quarterbacks coming out is to be expected.

The most recent speculation du jour seems to be around how enamored the team might be with Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner, Cam Newton.  So much so that Mike Brown himself is participating in the interviews.  Frankly I’m more astonished he doesn’t sit in on all of them since he fancies himself a GM, but I digress.

All of this is leading many to speculate that QB will be the team’s primary concern when they send their card to the podium at number 4.  As of right now, the only quarterback generating that kind of buzz is Newton, with Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert leading a pack of others that are currently looking like mid-first to second rounds including Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, Florida State’s Christian Ponder, and Washington’s Jake Locker.

Newton helped his stock with an impressive press conference Saturday, and apparently one-upped that showing by running a lightning fast 4.58 in the forty-yard dash.  Locker ran even faster, posting a 4.52.

Newton’s speed, combined with his unbelievable athletic skills and size (6-5, 248) make him an eye-popping prospect, but he has only one year of Division I playing experience, and there are questions about his character to be addressed.  Locker is smaller (6-2 1/2,  230) but has four years of playing experience going for him.  Plus, the team worked closely with Locker during the Senior Bowl, so they probably know him a lot better and may have a better sense of what kind of kid he is.

So what does this all mean?  Not a heck of a lot right now, but Newton clearly has the upper hand at this point for the QB’s, and is making a strong case to be a top-5 pick.  If he’s still sitting there at 4 (meaning the QB-deprived Bills pass on him) there will be a great deal of pressure on Marvin Lewis to take him.  Most of that pressure will come, no doubt, from Brown.

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