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PFW: Whispers from around the NFL


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Whispers from around the NFL

Pro Football Weekly


Sebastian Janikowski is back to rushing his kicks and connected on just 1-of-5 field-goal tries through the Raiders' first two preseason games. Janikowski's lack of patience in his approach was believed to be a reason for his struggles in 2001.

Bengals QB Carson Palmer looks to have a shot at becoming Jon Kitna's main backup after his stellar performance Aug. 16 vs. the Lions, when Palmer completed all seven of his pass attempts for 97 yards and two touchdowns. It seemed as if veteran Shane Matthews had an edge to win the No. 2 job, but Palmer is now gaining.

Look for the Eagles to target DT Corey Simon and OLB Carlos Emmons, both eligible for free agency after next season, as the next two players they want to lock up long-term.

The Dolphins claim that nine-year veteran Tim Ruddy and second-year youngster Seth McKinney are continuing to run neck-and-neck in the battle for the starting center job, but our sources believe head coach Dave Wannstedt ultimately will stick with Ruddy as his starter.

One Bucs insider considers QB Chris Simms, the team's third-round pick, the "steal of the draft" because Simms is showing the kind of poise and skills that could make him a franchise quarterback in the future.

Houston will be scouring the waiver wire next week in search of more help at defensive end for its base 3-4 defense, an interest amplified after Pro Bowl DE Gary Walker suffered a shoulder injury vs. Dallas.

Keep an eye on Bears ORT Aaron Gibson, named the first-team starter this week with Marc Colombo out of action. Gibson, coaches say, can be dominant in the running game, but head coach Dick Jauron said the thing to watch is what the average-conditioned Gibson does in the fourth quarter of a game or even on the 11th or 12th play of a drive.

Look for the Vikings to open the regular season with a RB-by-committee approach. Though rookie Onterrio Smith will get the bulk of the carries, the coaching staff is leery of starting Smith early in the season, especially Week One at rival Green Bay.

One week after the Colts said Adam Meadows would maintain his grip on the starting ORT job, they moved Meadows to a swing tackle role and named Ryan Diem, who started at right guard in 2002 but played the perimeter in college, the starter. Rookie OG Steve Sciullo will replace Diem in the starting ORG spot.

The buzz around the Titans' facility centers around the defense. With DEs Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter prepared to enter the season near 100 percent, Tennessee believes its front seven is as good as any in the NFL. A team source also said RB Eddie George is at full health and is running like a rookie.

Jacksonville moved starting OLT Mike Pearson to its second-string unit two weeks ago, but after backup Leander Jordan looked awful on consecutive days, Pearson regained the starting job by default.

Sources in Dallas say undrafted rookie QB Tony Romo sits to pee has the Cowboys bubbling about his long-term potential.

The Bears are attempting to downplay a potential position battle at running back between incumbent Anthony Thomas and second-year back Adrian Peterson, but teammates have said there is more than a spark to this potential flame. Neither back has wowed scouts in the preseason.

Packers OTs Chad Clifton (pelvis) and Mark Tauscher (knee) ended the season on injured reserve, but both appeared healthy in their preseason debut against the Browns last Friday.

Word out of Oakland is that the Raiders may want second-year CB Phillip Buchanon to serve more of a nickel role in the slot until he gets stronger and is able to match up better vs. the bigger, more physical receivers on the outside. Buchanon, hampered by a hamstring problem for most of camp, has seen only limited work. He is currently listed as the backup to Charles Woodson, with veteran Terrance Shaw holding the other starting spot.

Triceps and foot injuries that have limited his participation have been frustrating for second-year OG Toniu Fonoti. No doubt the missed time cost him, as the Chargers appear to have settled on Solomon Page and Kelvin Garmon at the OG spots.

The Chargers' release of veteran DB Ryan McNeil shows their commitment to youth and speed in the secondary. His departure means more playing time for the young talent (Vernon Fox, Hanik Milligan and Terrence Kiel), and gives Kwamie Lassiter almost three weeks to reacquaint himself to the FS spot after briefly making the switch to strong safety.

Chargers S Kwamie Lassiter on rookie S Hanik Milligan, the team's sixth-round pick out of Houston: "I'll tell you, don't turn your back or close your eyes on that guy. In about two or three years, the whole world's going to know his name."

Kansas City's CB situation remains a cause for concern because few plays are being made despite an improved pass rush.

Second-year DT Ryan Sims has been quick and disruptive in the trenches for the Chiefs in his first training camp, and rookie Jimmy Wilkerson probably has played himself into a roster spot by bringing some consistent speed off the edge in the pass rush.

Considering how ineffective both Tom Rouen and Rodney Williams have been in the battle for the Seahawks' punting job, we hear there are some in Seattle who are starting to regret not spending the extra couple thousands of dollars it would have taken to keep free agent P Jeff Feagles from signing with the Giants.

It wouldn't be a gigantic shock if Seahawks FB Heath Evans' utterly forgettable performance in Seattle's preseason loss to the Colts cost him a spot on the roster, especially considering how much the team likes rookie FB Chris Davis.

We hear Seahawks first-year DE Joey Evans, who excelled in NFL Europe, has performed well enough to possibly send oft-injured DE Lamar King to the NFL unemployment line.

After a shaky start early in camp, we hear Arizona's Pete Kendall really has come on strong in his switch from guard to center and is growing more comfortable in his new role by the day.

The Rams are having an extremely difficult time finding a fullback to replace the departed James Hodgins. At presstime, the flavor of the moment was none other than Brian Natkin, who joined the Rams in June after spending two years on the Titans' practice squad.

We hear that Jason Sehorn's foot injury likely has assured a spot on the roster for Rams S Kim Herring, whose veteran presence is considered a big plus in Sehorn's absence.

Our Niners sources tell us the team's coaches have been pleasantly surprised by the mobility of free-agent DT Travis Kirschke, who picked up his game vs. the Raiders last week in Bryant Young's absence.

The Steelers are intrigued by the potential of rookie CB Ivan Taylor, a fourth-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette. Taylor has top athletic ability but played just one year of cornerback in college. However, the Steelers see that inexperience as somewhat of a positive, as Taylor has had less time to learn bad habits. We hear Taylor has impressed with his willingness to learn his new position.

The Jets were stunned when ORG Tom Nütten retired last week. Nütten, signed from St. Louis to replace Randy Thomas, struggled with injuries from the start of training camp. Nütten's retirement leaves the Jets thin at guard, and it wouldn't be surprising if they look to add depth here.

We hear the Saints are impressed with the progress that Michael Lewis, a Pro Bowl return specialist last season, has made at wide receiver, but he won't get many chances to show what he can do in the passing game unless New Orleans is in a four-WR set or someone is injured.

Panthers observers are giving kudos to the team's front office for their work in the 2003 draft. No less than five selections -- OT Jordan Gross, OG-C Bruce Nelson, TE Mike Seidman, CB Ricky Manning Jr. and WR Walter Young -- are expected to be major contributors this season.

We're told Falcons DB Allen Rossum has to do something special in the return game to make the team because his contributions in the secondary have become shoddy at best.

The Falcons' experiment with Martin Bibla at center won't be continuing. He had trouble calling signals at the line of scrimmage and head coach Dan Reeves doesn't want to waste time on something he considers a lost cause.

Of the two potential No. 3 backs who could take Eagles RB Duce Staley's roster spot, Reno Mahe might have a slight edge over Chris Downs because Mahe, a converted receiver, catches the ball well, something Andy Reid requires of his backs. Plus, Reid loves BYU guys.

It's looking more likely that Redskins TE Robert Royal will beat out Zeron Flemister for the starting spot. One insider described Flemister as "a receiving tight end who can't catch" this summer.

Despite all of Redskins FB Bryan Johnson's major troubles catching the ball this preseason, he still holds an edge over Rock Cartwright, although the gap is narrowing.

Although there has been contact between Cowboys coach Bill Parcells and the agent for QB Ray Lucas, a former Parcells protege, a source close to the team says it appears unlikely that the team would bring in another quarterback at this point of the preseason.

Although Cowboys C Matt Lehr is atop the depth chart, replacing rookie C Al Johnson, who is out for the season, we hear he merely is keeping the position warm for former Titans OL Gennaro DiNapoli, who signed last week.

The Giants reportedly are very disappointed with the progress of second-year OT Jeff Hatch, who missed all of last season. Jim Fassel has said he likes Hatch's potential, but sources close to the team say Fassel thinks Hatch needs to toughen up.

The Giants' defensive coaches are trying their best to find ways to get MLB Nick Greisen on the field, although replacing Mike Barrow in the starting lineup isn't likely. Most likely, it will take an injury to get Greisen on the field in more than spot duty.

Don't be shocked if Daniel Pope unseats Ken Walter as the Patriots' starting punter.

Given the Patriots' lack of depth and injury problems along the offensive line, it appears that rookie C Dan Koppen is almost a lock to make the roster.

The Patriots like what they are seeing from OT Tom Ashworth, who spent the majority of last season on the practice squad. If ORT Kenyatta Jones is slow to recover from offseason surgery, Ashworth actually could earn a starting spot at some point this season.

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That's just it...Flem wasn't decent last year. He dropped a number of passes. The point to resigning him was that it could be done cheaply and the hope was that he was going to dedicate himself to improving his pass catching ability. It appears it didn't.

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