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PFW Whispers

Postby CC » Mon Aug 16, 2004 4:31 pm

Here they are again, enjoy.

Pro Football Weekly Whispers

No starter has had a better training camp for the Packers than OLT Chad Clifton, who enters his fifth season as a starter and signed a $32.4 million contract in March. Clifton repeatedly has dominated DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila in one-on-one pass-rush drills.

The way we hear it, this could be LB Derrick Brooks’ final season in Tampa because he carries a $9.8 million cap figure next season, and Ian Gold is being groomed as Brooks’ eventual replacement. We’re told Brooks will have to restructure his deal and take a massive pay cut to stick around next season.

Vikings head coach Mike Tice convinced all-time sack leader Bruce Smith to spend a few days in Mankato, Minn., to help refine the pass-rush technique of the Vikings’ young defensive linemen. Smith said he came away very impressed with rookie DE Kenechi Udeze.

We hear that Patriots backup QB Rohan Davey has continued to elevate his play after an MVP performance in NFL Europe this spring — so much so that head coach Bill Belichick has offered rare public praise for the ex-LSU star.

Dexter McCleon was the only Chiefs cornerback to be able to hang with Vikings WR Randy Moss during recent scrimmages between the two clubs.

Don’t believe the Bucs’ claim that the signing of former Raiders WR Tim Brown and the holdout of WR Keenan McCardell are unrelated entities. We’re told the fact the Bucs were willing to give Brown a $875,000 contract while balking at McCardell’s demands for a roughly $1 million raise sends a message to the Buccaneers’ players that management won’t tolerate any maverick players making demands on the team to renegotiate their contract.

Although nobody in the Falcons’ organization has said this is a make-or-break year for RB T.J. Duckett, we hear Duckett isn’t fitting into the team’s new offense very well and Warrick Dunn will get most of the work once the regular season rolls around.

The Panthers have been impressed with the progress of rookie CB Chris Gamble in camp, but we’re told the team also hasn’t thrown anything more than their basic defensive scheme at him in an effort to keep his rookie season as simple as possible.

The Panthers may use RB DeShaun Foster in the kick-return game in an effort to get him the ball more, putting him in more situations where he can make plays.

We’re told injuries to Saints QB Aaron Brooks (partially torn quadriceps) and RB Deuce McAllister (sore knee) don’t seem to be big concerns for the coaching staff, although Brooks’ injury has really limited him in practices.

Sources close to Giants CB William Peterson say the new five-year extension he signed could pay him as much as $28.5 million if he stays healthy and continues to play well. The deal includes a $5 million signing bonus along with $5 million more in incentives.

Cowboys RB Julius Jones told PFW the biggest difference between college and the NFL that he has noticed is everything is faster. He is working on both punt and kick returns, saying, “The balls are coming a lot higher, and they are running down a lot faster too.” Jones also said he’s a lot more involved in Dallas’ passing game than he was at Notre Dame.

Titans RB coach Sherman Smith is imploring new starter Chris Brown to pass-block the way Eddie George does — by bending his knees more and not getting bent back by defenders who get under Brown’s blocks. Like George, Brown is tall (6-foot-3), and the coaches think playing lower will make a huge difference in his blocking success.

The Giants would prefer not to have offensive contributors Tiki Barber or Ike Hilliard return punts following Delvin Joyce’s release, but one of them might have to if rookie CB Curtis DeLoatch, recently signed WR Aveion Black or perennially injured WR Tim Carter don’t do well there.

The Redskins have hired a former replay official, Larry Hill, to sit in the coaches’ booth on game days to help the staff decide when to challenge calls.

By now, everyone has heard about RB Willis McGahee’s four-TD performance in a controlled scrimmage vs. the Browns. But we hear that Bills’ insiders believe the best indicator that McGahee is almost all the way back from the horrific knee injury he suffered in January 2003 is the fact that he is making instinctive cuts in the hole on running plays in practice. The Bills still believe he is a year away from being back to his old self.

Redskins PR-KR Chad Morton said that the team spent almost no time practicing punt returns last year under Steve Spurrier and that this season he is already able to read the blocking ahead of him better under Joe Gibbs.

Although Titans RB Jarrett Payton, son of Walter, is getting quite a bit of attention in Titans camp for his lineage, we hear that fellow rookie RB Vick King is making a better impression on the coaching staff and could vie for a roster spot.

Redskins RB Ladell Betts and WR Taylor Jacobs are gaining unwanted reputations with the coaching staff as being constantly injured. As of now, Rock Cart­wright is beating out Betts for the backup RB spot, and Jacobs is stuck as the No. 5 receiver.

Titans CB Mike Echols was written off by many people, but the third-year corner has been very noticeable in camp thus far. He has impressed the coaches with his technique, skills and his confidence, something they were afraid he might have lost following a washout 2003 season. Echols often was inactive as the team went with only three corners in eight of the 16 games.

Titans coaches are down on top pick TE Ben Troupe, and Troupe appears as if he doesn’t sense it. He has been a little overwhelmed so far in camp, but the coaches have been very happy with the performance of starter Erron Kinney, who has looked great after signing a contract extension.

Falcons OL coach Alex Gibbs was beside himself following Atlanta’s 24-0 drubbing in the team’s first preseason game that saw the Falcons run for 57 yards and give up four sacks. Gibbs has promised to crank up the intensity for the rest of camp.

Titans GM Floyd Reese, who has been very good at finding DB help on the waiver wire in recent years, must translate that fortune to the LB and DL spots. Expect the team to add veteran help in these spots after teams cut down to 65 players.

Wondering why emerging WR David Givens has spent so much time on the sideline so far in training camp? We hear that he has a muscle pull, but if this were the regular season, he would be active. The word is that the team is just being ultra-cautious with a player it believes will have a big year in 2004.

While DEs Ryan Denney and Chris Kelsay are neck-and-neck in their training-camp battle for the Bills’ starting DLE spot, we hear that Kelsay is considered to be the better pass rusher and that may ultimately earn him the starter’s role.

While free-agent WR Antonio Freeman doesn’t possess the speed the Dolphins clearly lack at the WR position, Miami may still end up signing him to a deal before too long. Freeman worked out for the team recently but was not signed despite reportedly catching nearly every pass thrown to him. He would be a good fit as a slot receiver for the Dolphins.

Word is the Jets are not thrilled with the performance of backup QBs Brooks Bollinger and Ricky Ray and are contemplating pursuing a veteran signalcaller.

Members of the Packers’ personnel department aren’t concerned about the foot soreness that kept RB Ahman Green out of practice for almost a week. Green, who wears a size-12 sneaker, said he simply laced up the wrong size shoe and that it wasn’t the first time it had happened.

Signed to a four-year contract as a free agent, WR Marcus Robinson expected to be the starter opposite Randy Moss when the regular season opens. But head coach Mike Tice has said that Robinson, who is nursing a leg injury, is now the team’s No. 3 receiver. Second-year possession target Nate Burleson, based on his performance and not solely on Robinson’s absence, is ahead of Robinson but could fall behind based on Robinson’s ability to make catches downfield and in traffic.

Bears QB Rex Grossman’s outstanding training camp can be attributed to several self-improvements made in the offseason. In watching film, Grossman felt he was hanging on to the ball too long. In addition to dropping 18 pounds to improve his mobility, Grossman has been quicker afoot and with his release. He’s more decisive with the ball than he was last season and has been reading and reacting to coverages in good time.

Team observers report that the SS competition in Packers camp is all but over. If not for an ankle injury to free-agent signee Mark Roman, the Packers might have already declared Roman the winner over Marques Anderson. Both players have very good speed, but Anderson has been abysmal as an open-field tackler and has less range than Roman, who played cornerback at LSU.

The Lions fined OG Damien Woody for reporting to camp well over his target weight, but Lions management is more disappointed in Woody, the team’s highest-paid offensive lineman, for not displaying the leadership it had expected from him. Detroit’s first-team offense doesn’t have a starter older than 27. The team hoped Woody, who turns 27 in November and has been to the Pro Bowl, would be a better example for his younger teammates. In contrast, WR Tai Streets, that unit’s elder statesman, has been a real pro.

Even though Stephen Alexander will be the first tight end on the field, the Lions’ most improved player, second-year TE Casey FitzSimmons, will get a ton of reps. FitzSimmons started 11 games as an undrafted rookie and has outstanding hands and the speed to stretch the field.

Colts OLT Tarik Glenn missed nine practices before reaching what he called his optimal playing weight of 340 pounds. The coaching staff refused to allow Glenn to practice until he met their weight requirement. Word around the team was that Glenn reported near 357 pounds but worked his way to the 340-range by running and lifting weights.

Ankle surgery for Colts starting DLE Raheem Brock forced utility DL Brad Scioli into a starting role with the first-team defense. Brock was hoping to play through the injury but needed surgery just before camp. The Colts feel their best defensive front involves Scioli rotating from the inside and outside to take advantage of his versatility.

LB Donnie Edwards was one of several Chargers who has had nothing but praise for second-year TE Antonio Gates. “He has the potential to be as good as Tony Gonzalez,” Edwards said. “... It’s like night and day watching him now compared to how he was when he came to training camp last year. He’s probably the most improved player we have on our team.”

Word out of Oakland is that if the Raiders didn’t feel so strongly about WR Ronald Curry’s progress, there’s no way they would’ve cut Tim Brown loose when they did.

The Raiders’ new-look defense suffered a setback when ILB Napoleon Harris, who had played nearly every down in his first two seasons and is responsible for making the defensive calls, tore the meniscus in his right knee on Aug. 9. He’s expected to miss 3-6 weeks, but Harris insists he’ll be back for the opener. He had been having an impressive camp, leading teammate Warren Sapp to call him “an absolute beast.” A combination of Dwayne Rudd, Tim Johnson and Donny Green will fill in until his return.

Raiders QB Rich Gannon ­hasn’t been in the shotgun formation since his time in Minnesota 12 years ago, but Norv Turner’s offense employs it, and Gannon said it’s allowing him to see passing lanes and the pass rush better.

Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has shifted DT Ryan Sims from the NT position out wider so he’s located more over the guard’s shoulder in hopes the new alignment will make him harder to double-team and easier to get in the backfield with regularity.

Chargers PK Nate Kaeding on being a first-year player in the NFL: “It’s funny, they say there’s only one thing worse than being a rookie, and that’s a rookie kicker.”

Although the loss of second-year DT Jimmy Kennedy with a foot injury was a tough blow — Kennedy had been looking much improved from his rookie campaign before the injury — we hear the Rams are very pleased so far with their defensive line, especially DT Damione Lewis, who has missed 11 games during his three-year career to injuries but has participated in every practice so far this season. The Rams also continue to rave about the raw potential of third-round rookie DE Tony Hargrove.

We hear Rams second-year WR Shaun McDonald certainly didn’t hurt his cause with his performance in the Rams’ preseason opener vs. the Bears. McDonald, who comes the closest to resembling former Rams No. 3 receiver extraordinaire Az-Zahir Hakim, had an impressive 40-yard catch-and-run vs. Chicago, in addition to a highlight-film, zigzagging punt return for a TD that was called back due to an illegal block.

The Seahawks can’t help singing the praises of second-year QB Seneca Wallace, who we hear appears to be throwing the ball a lot better with more zip than last season. Wallace’s continued development doesn’t bode well for QB Brock Huard, who has been sidelined with a back injury.

Seahawks second-year PK Josh Brown is apparently getting more depth to his kickoffs, which he says is due to slowing down and rearranging his approach and getting a lot more rest under new special-teams coach Mark Michaels than he did under Pete Rodriguez last season.

There’s growing reason to believe third-year LB Levar Fisher’s days are numbered with the Cardinals.

Cardinals OT L.J. Shelton, who remains a backup despite signing a five-year, $22 million contract extension last season, has his weight down to 334 — the lightest he says he has been in years.
The word from Bengals camp is that rookie S Madieu Williams has the inside track to be the team’s nickel back. Williams has played well in training camp.

RB Chris Perry’s speed continues to impress Bengals observers. Perry’s ability to catch the ball will make him a factor on third downs, and the feeling is he will also get a chance to spell starter Rudi Johnson.

The Browns are pleased with the right side of their offensive line, as OT Ryan Tucker and OG Kelvin Garmon are faring well. But the left side, where Enoch DeMar and Paul Zukauskas are battling to start at guard, remains a question mark.
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Postby DUKE » Mon Aug 16, 2004 4:40 pm

thanks ;-D
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Postby 34=Sweetness » Mon Aug 16, 2004 6:19 pm

I may be taking Brooks with my 6.3 pick, its a keeper league, how concerned should I be about that partially torn quadriceps?
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Postby MadScott » Mon Aug 16, 2004 6:38 pm

By now, everyone has heard about RB Willis McGahee’s four-TD performance in a controlled scrimmage vs. the Browns. But we hear that Bills’ insiders believe the best indicator that McGahee is almost all the way back from the horrific knee injury he suffered in January 2003 is the fact that he is making instinctive cuts in the hole on running plays in practice. The Bills still believe he is a year away from being back to his old self.
Can we all officially put Henry in as #1 now in Buffalo and end the conjecture?
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Postby deftdelivery » Mon Aug 16, 2004 7:07 pm

Robinson is now Vikes #3? Interesting...will take note 8-o
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Postby treadstone » Mon Aug 16, 2004 7:47 pm

Thanks for relaying all the news.
Last edited by treadstone on Mon Aug 16, 2004 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Budman_ffc » Mon Aug 16, 2004 10:15 pm

Good read....thanx CC! ;-D
That's my two cents and it's worth every penny of it!

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Postby Cupertino_11 » Tue Aug 17, 2004 3:38 am

A big wake-up call for me on TJ Duckett. I thought for sure he was headed for a big season.
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Postby Gunslinger » Tue Aug 17, 2004 5:49 am

I love hearing that Grossman is doing well. I picked him up in my dynasty league. Not sure about picking up a Chicago QB but if anyone can get the ball delivered in 40 mph gusts it should be him. LOL
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