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ESPN Insider PWF Whispers from around the NFL September 29


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Whispers from around the NFL

Pro Football Weekly

Monday, September 29


If you thought Dolphins RB Ricky Williams worked hard during the Buffalo game (42 carries), consider this: After less than three hours of sleep that night, Williams reported to the Dolphins' training facility and ran two miles on an underwater treadmill.

Texans officials quietly admit that WR Andre Johnson, the third overall pick in the draft, has met all of their expectations.

The Lions have been extremely disappointed with the play of their revamped LB corps. Though the unit is much deeper than it had been, there are still too many holes. MLB Earl Holmes has been exposed in pass coverage, and teams are taking advantage of WLB Boss Bailey's inexperience.

After a fantastic preseason, Eagles WR (and former first-round pick) Freddie Mitchell has once again disappeared, leading the coaches to think that he may never be a consistent, 16-game player.

A Cardinals source says the emergence of WR Anquan Boldin was good for fellow rookie Bryant Johnson, because it took some of the pressure off the first-rounder.

It's no sure thing that No. 2 WR D'Wayne Bates returns to the Vikings' starting lineup when he is fully recovered from a foot injury. WRs Kelly Campbell and Nate Burleson have practiced with the first team for two weeks, and each has impressed offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and head coach Mike Tice.

We're told that Saints RB Deuce McAllister is becoming increasingly frustrated with his lack of room to run, especially between the tackles, but the team isn't expected to make any major changes along the offensive line.

Don't for a second think that the Buccaneers' offensive line is set for the year. Insiders say OG Kerry Jenkins could replace Cosey Coleman in the lineup at some point this season if the Bucs can't find any consistency in the running game.

We hear Panthers head coach John Fox spent the team's bye week trying to keep his players grounded, pointing out that Carolina started 4-0 last season before finishing the season 3-9 in its last 12 games.

There is concern that the Panthers are working RB Stephen Davis a bit too hard by giving him 25-30 touches a game, especially when RBs DeShaun Foster and Rod Smart have been productive in limited action.

We're told Falcons defensive coordinator Wade Philips has had an almost uncanny knack this season for calling the wrong defense, using a pass rush when teams run and a run defense when teams pass. That has led to speculation that the Falcons are tipping off their defenses in some way.

There is talk in Falcons camp that head coach Dan Reeves has been so impressed with the play of RB Woodrow Dantzler at quarterback that he's thinking of making backup Kurt Kittner inactive in the future in favor of Dantzler to give the roster spot to some other position.

Bills P Brian Moorman has been kicking the ball extremely well this year, and according to Bills observers, he's benefited big-time from excellent play by Buffalo's punt-coverage teams.

There has been much confusion in Buffalo surrounding RB Travis Henry's rib injury and how long he will be out. While Henry was saying he would play in Week Four and head coach Gregg Williams was saying Henry's condition was improving during the week, we hear WR Eric Moulds said on a TV show that a doctor told him that Henry's type of injury could keep him sidelined 4-5 weeks. Thus, no one in Buffalo knows whom to believe at this point. Meanwhile, we hear rookie RB Willis McGahee is getting very close to seeing his first pro action.

The Dolphins have been happy with rookie OLT Wade Smith's performance, but they've been able to keep him off an island by helping him with two-TE sets and using the fullback as a blocker. Smith, meanwhile, has said he feels fresh and not overworked compared to his college days in Memphis, where he said the coaching staff worked the team extremely hard in practices during the week.

We hear the Patriots are pleased with the play of rookie Eugene Wilson at the FS position, a spot in which Antwan Harris performed quite poorly after the team released Lawyer Milloy prior to the season opener.

Thus far, Patriots rookie DL Ty Warren has been a disappointment playing most of his time at defensive end in the 3-4 scheme.

The talk of the Jets starting rookie QB Brooks Bollinger is very serious, but we hear only if the Jets continue to play poorly without Chad Pennington available. It would not be an indictment of Vinny Testaverde's performance.

Expect Cowboys C Gennaro DiNapoli to take more snaps away from C Matt Lehr, even though Lehr has surprised the coaching staff with some decent performances so far.

Head coach Bill Parcells has said rookie LB Bradie James might be the team's best special-teams player by the end of the season.

Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi tells Pro Football Weekly that the team is not actively seeking a new long snapper in light of Carson Dach's shaky snapping. "We keep an eye on who's out there, but we're happy so far with what (Dach) has done."

Expect Redskins rookie OG Derrick Dockery, who is splitting time now with OG Dave Fiore, to eventually wrestle the starting position away from Fiore.

We're told the 49ers will try to run the ball more in the next couple of weeks to take some of the pressure off rookie OLT Kwame Harris, who has struggled to adjust to the speed in the NFL and has needed help in pass protection, because Harris has been a pretty decent run blocker in the first quarter of the season.

Rams insiders are buzzing about the improved performance of DE Leonard Little. His incredible quickness off the edge has long been a trademark off his game, but he has shown a lot of improvement vs. the run and is drawing more double-teams.

We hear the only thing keeping S Kim Herring on the St. Louis roster is his health. As soon as the Rams can agree on an injury settlement with his agent, Herring is expected to be released.

We hear the Seahawks informed NFL officials of the Rams' subtle defensive holding technique long before Steve Hutchinson pointed it out to officials in Week Three, when the Rams were called for a penalty and it ultimately cost them a victory. We're told the Seahawks pointed out the illegal trick in the offseason, sending film to the league office showing how Rams defensive tackles grab the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle and allow the defensive end to get by nearly unscathed.

Seahawks sources have credited the defensive pursuit drill that Ray Rhodes runs before every practice for the team's swarming presence and high number of turnovers.

Colts officials really like CB Cliff Crosby's work on special teams. He hits, forces fumbles and has a great rapport with P Hunter Smith, whose punts he routinely downs.

We hear that the Colts are still adjusting to changes on the offensive line. Rookie Steve Sciullo was inserted at right guard, and Ryan Diem, last year's starting right guard, moved to right tackle before spraining his ankle. Ryan Meadows, last year's starter, has replaced the injured Diem.

While DE Hugh Douglas has been a loyal soldier and not spoken up, PFW has learned that he is frustrated by the Jaguars' defensive scheme that moves their defensive ends inside on several plays.

The Titans will make signing unrestricted free-agent TE Erron Kinney a priority at the end of the season but feel that TE Shad Meier can replace TE Frank Wycheck.

We hear that Texans RB Stacey Mack must show some life soon, or rookie Tony Hollings will replace him as the starter.

The hip soreness Chiefs RB Priest Holmes suffered from during practice last week was located in the flexor muscle, which is a different part of the hip that underwent surgery during the offseason.

Despite a good start, there is at least a little concern in Kansas City over Trent Green's lack of patience in looking for downfield receivers, which would help open things up even more for the Chiefs offensively.

Raiders head coach Bill Callahan believes that the evidence and information he has received concerning Sebastian Janikowski's recent arrest for a scuffle at a Bay Area restaurant points to his kicker being the non-aggressor and will "lead to justice being served."

Despite their problems defensively, the Chargers haven't found too much wrong with the play of young CBs Quentin Jammer and Sammy Davis.

An overlooked factor in the Raiders' pass-blocking problems could be the loss of TE Roland Williams, who is on injured reserve, and RB Randy Jordan, who was not re-signed. Both were excellent blockers, and their replacements, TEs Doug Jolley and Teyo Johnson and backup RB Justin Fargas, aren't close to their level in terms of blocking.

Raiders head coach Bill Callahan on how other teams have caught up to their passing system: "When you're exposed and have problems in the NFL, the other coaches are going to pick up on it. And other coaching staffs are going to study it, and they're going to deploy it. Until you show people that you have the ability to stop what they're presenting at you, you're going to continue to see it."

PFW asked Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer what his reaction would have been if someone had told him DEs Reggie Hayward and Bertrand Berry would have eight combined sacks through the first three games "I would've probably said you'd have been smoking some kind of tobacco. But both those guys are working hard, and it's a team thing. They've been getting the benefit of dirty work by other guys. Sometimes that works in your benefit, and other times you have to do the dirty work. Right now it's working in their benefit."

The Steelers' special-teams coverage units, a trouble spot in recent years, are again struggling. A Steelers source partially attributes this to the fact the team lacks a special-teams ace in the mold of former RB Fred McAfee, who played with Pittsburgh from 1994 to '98 mainly because of what he brought to the kickoff and punt teams.

We hear the Cardinals' Jerry Sullivan has done well as a play-caller for being in his first season as an NFL offensive coordinator.

We've been told the Bengals are pleased with the way Peter Warrick has returned punts this season.

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