INSIDER: PFW Whispers around the NFL

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Well-Known Member
Jul 5, 2006
Whispers from around the NFL
Pro Football Weekly

• RB Willis McGahee wouldn't reveal his weight, but he looked noticeably slimmer and more toned at the Bills' June minicamp than he was at the end of last season. Word is McGahee believes that carrying less weight will bring back some of the explosiveness he lacked last season.

• Sources close to the Raiders indicate that WR Jerry Porter isn't the happiest camper with the way new head coach Art Shell has pushed for more discipline. Sources cite the sometimes tenuous relationship Porter had with Jon Gruden, who, like Shell, was more heavy-handed than Bill Callahan or Norv Turner. The Raiders have dangled Porter as trade bait in the past, so it wouldn't come as a complete surprise for Oakland to shop him if things don't go well early on. :lol:

• Sources say Broncos QB Jake Plummer has been sharp throughout summer workouts and appears to be as confident as ever despite Jay Cutler looking over his shoulder. Though the real bullets have yet to start flying, we're hearing that Cutler looks like the real deal to this point.

• Our sources in New Orleans tell us that newly acquired WR Bethel Johnson and underachieving third-year WR Devery Henderson will compete in training camp for the No. 3 WR role behind Joe Horn and Donte' Stallworth. We hear that the loser of the competition likely will be traded or released because the Saints are only going to keep one deep threat on the roster.

• Jaguars RB Fred Taylor has somewhat smoothed over his disagreement with team management by keeping his word to participate in mandatory workouts. He chose to skip the offseason conditioning program to work out on his own in South Florida against the advice of head coach Jack Del Rio. Taylor has been injured in training camp two of the past three years, and the Jaguars wanted to keep a close watch on the training habits of their offensive cornerstone. In 2005, Taylor failed to rush for 800 yards for the first time in any season in which he had 10 starts, and he had just one carry of more than 20 yards.

• Vikings C Matt Birk is right on schedule in his recovery from hip surgery that cost him the 2005 season. Birk did participate in the offseason program without recurrence of pain or discomfort in his hip or abdomen. The team expects him to further solidify a new-look offensive line charged with paving the way for the Vikings' new ball-control West Coast offense.

• Sources in Jacksonville say the 2006 season is extremely critical for QB Byron Leftwich, who'll be in line for a new contract in the next two years. Leftwich has missed seven of the last 24 regular-season games because of injuries and could take the blame if the passing game falters without Jimmy Smith. Leftwich consistently missed the mark at a recent minicamp but said he wasn't worried about his accuracy or timing with his new starting receivers, Matt Jones and Reggie Williams.

• Despite signing free agent Nick Greisen and drafting Clint Ingram to replace OLB Akin Ayodele, we're told the Jaguars will open training camp with Pat Thomas as the first-string strongside linebacker.

• Several players with ties to Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz are moving their way up the depth chart. ORT Rex Tucker supplanted last year's starter (Kelly Butler) in minicamp, and RB Arlen Harris, a solid receiver with good speed, has ascended to No. 2 behind starter Kevin Jones. A third ex-Ram, WR Mike Furrey, remains very much in the mix for a reserve WR spot.

• The Colts closed their "summer school" practices to the media for the first time in years, leading to rumor and debate about what kind of experiments the team might have tried with the doors closed. One that might be revisited is moving CB Marlin Jackson to free safety. If FS Mike Doss falters, or a third cornerback emerges behind Nick Harper and Jason David, Jackson could get the call inside.

• Don't expect the Colts to be as reliant on the running game early this season as they were last year. Without Edgerrin James, offensive coordinator Tom Moore will anchor the team with a spread formation, using multiple receivers to protect Peyton Manning and create wide running lanes for RBs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes.

• The door isn't wide open for Vikings RB Ciatrick Fason to steal work from Mewelde Moore as the backup to Chester Taylor, but Moore hasn't slammed it shut to date. Still bothered by a wrist injury, Moore must answer the same question he faced from the Mike Tice regime: Can he stay healthy? He appeared to be coming around at the most recent minicamp. If Moore doesn't stay healthy, Fason is one of several backs head coach Brad Childress said he's confident will pick up the slack.

• We're told the Bears don't expect much of a QB controversy between Rex Grossman and Brian Griese. Grossman has the full backing of the coaching staff, but his injury history necessitated the Griese signing.

• With Jets C Trey Teague on crutches with a reported ankle injury, rookie C Nick Mangold has been inserted into the starting lineup. Word is, Teague may be out for a significant amount of time.

• Word from South Florida is that the Dolphins are satisfied, for the time being, with their current crop of nose tackles and will only look to add a player like veteran free agent Dan Wilkinson later in training camp if rookie Fred Evans, second-year player Manny Wright and aging veteran Keith Traylor aren't getting the job done.

• Word out of Atlanta is the Falcons no longer plan to trade backup RB T.J. Duckett before training camp begins. But we hear if rookie Jerious Norwood has an outstanding camp, he could take carries away from Duckett and even starter Warrick Dunn, and in the process, put Duckett back on the trading block.

• Our Falcons sources tell us starting DE Patrick Kerney, FB Justin Griffith and backup WLB Demorrio Williams should be receiving contract extensions in the next few months. All three players are in the final year of their current deals.

• We're told there is still no progress on a potential contract extension for Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber. Barber, who is entering the final year of his contract, has said he would like to have a new deal in place by the start of training camp, but we hear GM Bruce Allen won't even return his agent's phone calls.

• Panthers offensive coordinator Dan Henning told PFW why Carolina was so aggressive in signing former Titans C Justin Hartwig to replace veteran Jeff Mitchell: "Justin Hartwig is a younger, stronger guy than we've had there. … We felt like we needed to get better. Back 10-11 years ago, the philosophy emerged that when you need a player at a specific position, you get one in free agency and don't wait for the crapshoot of the draft and then wait for the maturity of a player you don't know about until you are into the season. We take that approach."

• The Saints have reshuffled the deck at safety, and we hear last season's Week 1 starters -- FS Dwight Smith and SS Jay Bellamy -- will both enter training camp working with the second unit. FS Josh Bullocks, who started 13 games as a rookie last year in place of an injured Bellamy, and free-agent acquisition Omar Stoutmire are penciled in as the starters. We also hear Smith, who was on the trading block earlier in the offseason, is no longer being shopped around because the new coaching staff has been impressed with how he handled his demotion.

• With 2005 third-round draft pick Richie Incognito looking impressive in the Rams' last full-squad minicamp and '05 fourth-round pick Claude Terrell still looking chunkier than the Rams would like, we hear Incognito could have a decent shot at replacing Terrell as the team's starting left guard. After missing his rookie season with a kneecap injury, Incognito's mobility and strength drew high marks at the last minicamp, but the fact the Nebraska product hasn't played an actual game since the fall of '03 is a bit worrisome.

• The hamstring that Rams CB Jerametrius Butler tweaked a couple of weeks before the team's last minicamp could be considered a significant setback, especially taking into account how much 2006 first-round pick Tye Hill appeared to improve from the previous minicamp. Conversely, we hear CB Travis Fisher, who, like Butler, was plagued by injuries last season, looked very good in the last minicamp.

• Although new Rams VP of player personnel Tony Softli will oversee both the Rams' pro and college scouting departments, which will be headed by holdovers Charley Armey and Lawrence McCutcheon, respectively, we're told the former head of college scouting for the Panthers still must answer to both head coach Scott Linehan and president of football operations Jay Zygmunt. In addition, the new setup is definitely a demotion for Armey, who just turned 67 and wasn't interested in setting up shop elsewhere at this stage in his career.



Well-Known Member
Jul 5, 2006
• The Cardinals still have some interest in free-agent CB Ty Law, but after spending a fortune on RB Edgerrin James earlier this offseason, it would have to be at a price that's likely to be significantly less than what Law continues to be after.

• Keep a close eye on Cardinals second-year S Aaron Francisco, who we hear has put on decent weight and is being groomed to replace current FS Robert Griffith as early as next season. Our sources tell us the Cardinals believe they can probably get by with the aging Griffith in a starting role for one more season.

• We hear the Niners have been impressed enough with free-agent addition Walt Harris to consider him the starting left corner over Mike Rumph heading into training camp. The Niners also consider FS Mike Adams to be much improved from last year and no longer think of him as a backup playing a starter's role.

• Word is, the Niners were upset that backup QB Cody Pickett decided not to play in NFL Europe this season. There's talk of moving the athletic Pickett to the team's motion-fullback position, which could enable him to salvage a roster spot.

• Our Seahawks sources tell us the team was impressed with the way 2005 first-round pick Chris Spencer, who up to now has been backing up veteran Robbie Tobeck at center, performed when pressed into duty at right guard in the last minicamp. On the downside, the team is somewhat worried about the condition of top OLG candidate Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack, who was bothered during the minicamp by sore triceps.

• The Raiders would love to add a running back for depth behind LaMont Jordan and may look to the early round of training-camp cuts for just such a candidate. Justin Fargas, No. 2 on the depth chart, is considered little more than a special-teams guy, and part-time FB Zack Crockett, while reliable in the past, is not someone you want to hand your offense over to.

• Word out of Oakland is that the development of rookie LBs Thomas Howard and Darnell Bing could ultimately determine how many three- or four-LB looks the Raiders use this season. The Raiders are believed to be at least mildly interested in the services of Junior Seau because they'd like to add a veteran presence defensively.

• The player who most took advantage of Chiefs DE Eric Hicks being limited in minicamps while recovering from shoulder surgery was first-round pick Tamba Hali, who displayed a quick first step and the ability to sense throwing lanes and knock down passes at the line of scrimmage.

• At first glance, the inexperienced Ronnie Cruz stepping in at fullback for the departed Tony Richardson would seem to be an issue in Kansas City, but it should be noted that Richardson's role had diminished with age and the Chiefs have utilized more two-TE, single-back sets recently.

• Massive TE Brandon Manumaleuna may have been acquired by the Chargers more for blocking purposes, but it's his soft hands that have caught the eye of new QB Philip Rivers and the coaching staff.

• Ravens QB Steve McNair showed consistent improvement throughout his first minicamp in Baltimore. The way we hear it, McNair and WR Derrick Mason picked up right where they left off from their time together in Tennessee, and their exceptional chemistry was apparent.

• A source familiar with the Steelers' decision-making process says character is weighed heavily in the draft process, which makes WR Santonio Holmes' recent off-field problems that much more surprising. The way we hear it, there is concern that Holmes might have trouble maintaining focus, given his offseason and that he'll soon be signing his rookie contract.

• Some Texans observers don't share the team's optimism about RB Domanick Davis being ready for the start of training camp as he recovers from the effects of knee surgery.

• Of the Browns' rookies, there's a feeling RB Jerome Harrison is most ready to contribute, likely on third downs.

• Expect the Browns to split out TE Kellen Winslow at wide receiver at times, particularly if Braylon Edwards misses the start of the season.

• Don't count out Erik Meyer, an undrafted free agent, in the competition to be Cincinnati's No. 3 quarterback. Word is that Meyer has caught the eye of QBs coach Ken Zampese.

• Though Titans WR Bobby Wade struggled famously as a punt returner in Chicago with the swirling winds in Soldier Field, he might start the season with that duty. Though the WR position is crowded in Tennessee, expect Wade to make the roster -- the coaches appear to like him a great deal.

• It appears the Titans are slipping out of the Ty Law running, but that doesn't mean they aren't looking for a cornerback. If a veteran comes available before or during training camp, don't be surprised if they make a big push.

• New Redskins offensive coordinator Al Saunders gushed about backup RB Ladell Betts in the team's final minicamp, and Saunders pledges to find more ways to get both Betts and Clinton Portis on the field at the same time. Expect Betts to be used more as a receiver and keep his job as kick returner.

• Though he was beaten out for the Rams' VP of player personnel job by Tony Softli, Cowboys chief college scout Tom Ciskowski is considered a rising star and legitimate GM candidate in the near future.

• Eagles RB Correll Buckhalter, who is coming off his third season-ending knee injury in five years, likely won't be ready for the start of camp and faces long odds to make the roster despite being a personal favorite of the coaching staff.

• There's a chance that both Rob Johnson and Jared Lorenzen could beat out Tim Hasselbeck for the Giants' backup QB job. Johnson must prove he has shed the rust from a two-year layoff, but Lorenzen has impressed the staff with his throwing this offseason.

• With the Cowboys phasing the fullback out of the offense, Lousaka Polite -- who got most of the work there last season -- is fighting for his roster life. He has been working at running back and tight end, but both positions are crowded.