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Old 08-18-2008, 04:04 AM   #1
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Default Pro Football Weekly Whispers Aug. 17, 2008

Whispers — league wrap-up
Aug. 17, 2008

NFC East

Cowboys rookie TE Martellus Bennett has had a rough training camp. He appears to have all the physical ability in the world, but he has struggled badly with his consistency in all phases of the game. He’s not in jeopardy of being cut, but he has a long way to go.

Eagles RB Tony Hunt didn’t hurt his cause of making the roster with his 51-yard TD dash in Thursday’s exhibition win over the Panthers, but he still needs to show he can contribute on special teams and be more effective in short-yardage situations. But team sources think that Hunt might have pushed himself slightly ahead of Ryan Moats for the final RB roster spot, for now.

NFC South

The Falcons were counting on veteran PK Jason Elam to bring some much-needed consistency to their kicking game when they signed him to a four-year, $9 million contract this offseason, but he got off to a shaky start. Considering he's a notoriously slow starter, Atlanta downplayed Elam's performance in the preseason opener, when he missed 2-of-3 field goals. Sure enough, he bounced back Saturday night with a perfect 3-for-3 performance, connecting from 25, 35 and 40 yards.

The Saints are hoping to avoid the same early-season slump that sank their postseason chances last year, and having a healthy OLT Jammal Brown could go a long way to helping that cause. Head coach Sean Payton has raved about Brown throughout camp this year, and it looks like he’s getting back to playing at a Pro Bowl level.

NFC North

Vikings rookie C John Sullivan quietly has had a nice camp and has been working with the second-team offense at both center and guard. Matt Birk remains the starter at center, but Sullivan’s strong showing and flexibility could make the sixth-round pick a strong candidate to be on the game-day roster.

There’s a good chance the Lions could replace Jon Bradley, last year’s starting fullback, with rookie Jerome Felton, who appears to offer more versatility.

Going into the Bears’ second preseason game in Seattle, team insiders told PFW that Devin Hester, Rashied Davis and third-round rookie Earl Bennett looked assured of spots in the WR corps, but that it might be a different story altogether for newcomers Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd and former second-round pick Mark Bradley. Word is those three players could be locked in a pretty tight battle for two roster spots, with the team presumably leaning toward carrying only five receivers on the final roster.

Daily Bears observers keep having good things to say about seventh-round OT Kirk Barton, who they believe could become a factor on the right side of the line sooner than later.

We hear the Packers haven’t been very happy with seventh-round rookie WR Brett Swain. The team raved about his route-running skills when they drafted him, but daily team observers tell us he has had a hard time getting open and has looked rather tentative.

Our sources in Green Bay tell us CB Tramon Williams has tightened his grip on the nickel back role, even though Jarrett Bush, who began last season as the nickel after a strong camp, has once again looked good in August. Williams, we hear, has been one of the team’s most impressive-looking players this offseason.

NFC West

Because of a lingering hamstring injury, we hear Cardinals rookie WR Early Doucet appears to have fallen behind both holdovers Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban for the team’s third WR spot behind Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

Back on the field wearing a huge club to protect the broken middle finger that had forced him to miss a couple of weeks, DE Victor Adeyanju has been playing like a monster, daily Rams observers tell us. One more D-line whisper: We hear DE James Hall could be shifted inside in nickel formations a lot more frequently this season.

Considered an afterthought at the start of training camp, we hear Seahawks rookie WR Michael Bumpus out of Washington State is really making his presence felt with catch after catch in practice sessions and has earned a legitimate shot at making the final roster, with injuries to Bobby Engram and Deion Branch thinning the WR ranks.

AFC West

Sources at Raiders camp say the team’s passing game actually regressed in the last week of camp. QB JaMarcus Russell has not been consistently accurate with his throws, and receivers have had their share of drops, as well. The aerial game will be a work in progress well into the regular season, and Oakland will likely rely on RBs Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush to keep the offense on the move.

We hear the Broncos are weighing their options at receiver as they contemplate opening the season without Brandon Marshall for at least the first two games while he serves a suspension. One consideration that has not come up, however, is moving Brandon Stokley out of the slot, according to sources in Denver. The Broncos want to accentuate what he does well, and he can wreak havoc as the slot receiver.

Apparently unhappy with their experiment of moving DT Alfonso Boone to defensive end, the Chiefs last week inserted Turk McBride into Boone’s DLE spot with the first-team defense. The battle between Boone and McBride likely will continue throughout the preseason.

Although it was widely believed Chargers C Nick Hardwick, recovering from offseason foot surgery, would be placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list to start the season, we hear he’s making good progress and might begin ’08 on the active roster.

AFC South

The Colts love what they’re seeing out of rookie TE Jacob Tamme, whom one team source dubbed a “Dallas Clark clone.” But don’t expect to see Tamme moving around the offensive formations like Clark, at least for now. The team wants him to first master the traditional TE role.

One rookie making a positive impression in Texans camp is S Dominique Barber, a sixth-round pick who played well in the preseason opener and appears to be an intriguing prospect at a position of need for Houston.

Word from Texans camp is that while the club likes what it has seen of rookie RB Steve Slaton, his consistency from play to play must improve.

The competition for the final spots on the Titans’ WR depth chart will be fierce, and we’re hearing one of two 2007 draft picks — Paul Williams or Chris Davis — is unlikely to survive the final cut. And the status of WR Roydell Williams, a starter last season who has fallen back in the pecking order as he returns from a broken ankle, bears watching, too.

If Jaguars undrafted rookie CB Brian Witherspoon has any shot of making the team, it will come as a return specialist. But the Stillman (Ala.) College blazer with 4.22 40-yard speed may fumble away his chances. Literally. He needs to prove to the coaches he can hold on to the ball if he’s going to make the final roster.

AFC North

A numbers crunch at safety helps Steelers S Anthony Smith’s case to hold down a roster spot. Rookie Ryan Mundy, who was having a good training camp, suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason opener vs. Philadelphia. Also, veteran SS Troy Polamalu has a nagging hamstring injury that has kept him on the physically-unable-to-perform list since the beginning of training camp. There is no doubting Smith’s athleticism — certainly a factor that helps his case to remain in Pittsburgh — but his maturation hasn’t progressed as quickly as the team would have hoped. Nevertheless, he is likely to get another season with the Steelers.

Expect Bengals rookie WR Andre Caldwell to get every chance to return kickoffs as the team looks for more playmaking ability at that position. All indications are that CB Deltha O’Neal will replace Antonio Chatman on punt returns.

The way we hear it, Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco’s demeanor was the most impressive aspect of a preseason debut at New England in which he didn’t play all that much and failed to complete a pass. Flacco took everything in stride and was not dejected after the game, a positive sign for any rookie but especially for a quarterback.

AFC East

Although the Patriots have pressing concerns at offensive tackle with Matt Light injured and Nick Kaczur a suspension possibility (related to his alleged involvement in a drug sting), we hear that recently acquired OL John Welbourn was primarily added to compete at guard. Welbourn has started at both tackle and guard in previous stints with the Eagles and Chiefs, but there’s concern that the 32-year-old’s lack of foot quickness would be a liability against speedy defensive ends.

Dolphins CB Will Allen has had an outstanding training camp but drew the ire of coach Tony Sparano when he incited a brawl this week that lasted almost a minute. It’s one thing to be fired up and passionate, which Allen is aplenty, but Sparano has little tolerance for anyone who messes with the rhythm of his practices. Still, Allen is one of the most impressive defenders out there.
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Old 08-18-2008, 06:13 AM   #2
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Default Re: Pro Football Weekly Whispers Aug. 17, 2008

Thanks Lambert...
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