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Sun shines on Bengaldom

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 17, 2010 – 10:21 pm

Maualuga

All must be right in Bengaldom.

Andre Smith is back on the field.

Rey Maualuga is going to be on the field for the Sept. 12 opener in Foxboro.

And Mike Zimmer is fuming.

Smith and Maualuga, the Bengals’ first two picks in the 2009 draft, are big pieces in the Bengals puzzle of the future. Smith, the right tackle of that future plagued by foot and conditioning problems, ended his seventh-month exile from the field Tuesday. Maualuga, who started 15 games at SAM backer last season as a rookie, is going to start against the Patriots Opening Day after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced he faced only a fine for his DUI arrest in January.

The original decision was a one-game suspension and not the usual fine for a first-time offender, apparently because Maualuga hit some parked cars, making the circumstances more serious. Maualuga figures the suspension hung over him for a couple of months, but he was pleased with the appeals process.

He said he met with Goodell and is just thankful “I can move on, think about football, and play against New England with my teammates.”

It figures to be at SAM backer and not in the middle, even though he played about 20 of his 28 snaps at middle linebacker during Sunday’s win over Denver. Zimmer, the Bengals defensive coordinator, relies heavily on Dhani Jones’ experience and grasp of the calls, and he said Maualuga was “rusty” there after he played in all kinds of situations that ranged from base to third down. The idea, at the moment, doesn’t seem to be to replace Jones, but to see if Maualuga can be effective at the MIKE backer in certain packages.

“We have to see more of what he can do there.  He was just getting back,” Zimmer said.

Maualuga, named the best linebacker in the country when he roamed the middle for USC two years ago, missed the opener in Canton because of a tweaked hamstring.

“It was like going back home,” Maualuga said of the middle. “I looked up and it was kind of weird. I’m thinking, ‘Hey, there’s a guy on both sides of me.’ But I’ve got a long way to go. I’m trying to get better a day at a time.”

Zimmer, by the way, is furious with his defense’s performance in the first two games.  And while they would feel better if they were playing better, remember what linebacker Brandon Johnson said a few weeks ago:

“He’s better at fixing things.”

Well, Zimmer says he’s got a lot to fix after the Broncos threw for 257 yards.

“We’re not a very good defense right now,” Zimmer said. “Not good. Overrated. The things we do, we’re not paying attention. Believe me, there will be things emphasized.

Which may be a good sign in the world according to Zimmer.


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