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PFW: Whispers 08-23-04


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Aug. 23, 2004

The Michael Boulware experiment just might be working in Seattle. We hear the converted outside linebacker is starting to get used to his new SS position, making good reads and taking good angles on running plays. Boulware wowed his teammates last week when he made a 35-yard interception of a Matt Hasselbeck pass intended for WR Darrell Jackson without looking back. Said Hasselbeck: “That was probably the best catch I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Word is that agent Tom Condon and the Jets have begun negotiations to work out a new contract for QB Chad Pennington before the Sept. 1 deadline that Pennington set.

Warren Sapp has been in the ear of Tyler Brayton quite a bit in Raiders training camp, helping the second-year defensive end with some of the game’s intricacies.

We hear the Panthers have been impressed with rookie WR Keary Colbert’s poise both in practice and in games, where he never gets too high or too low no matter what situation he is in.

Don’t look for DE Calvin Pace, one of the Cardinals’ two No. 1 picks last season, to make much of an impact any time soon. Pace is currently buried at right end behind Bertrand Berry and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and we’re told he shows no signs of moving up the depth chart.

Losing a starter on the offensive line is never a positive, but team observers point out the Bears weren’t entirely impressed with the performance of OLG Rex Tucker, who is out up to three months with a dislocated elbow. Tucker’s injury opened the door for veteran Ruben Brown, an eight-time Pro Bowler, to step into the starting offensive line.

Because the Bears aren’t sold on RBs Adrian Peterson or Brock Forsey as the backup to Thomas Jones, the coaching staff is beginning to fret over Anthony Thomas’ absence from training-camp workouts. Thomas reported to camp in the best shape of his life but missed all but three days of camp with an injury the team called either a “side” or an “abdominal strain.” Head coach Lovie Smith has been very vague in setting a timetable for Thomas’ return. The Bears question Peterson’s toughness — he missed 10 games with a sprained ankle last year — and aren’t sure Forsey fits the new system.

The Lions signed OLG David Loverne hoping the journeyman would provide depth and be the “swing guard” reserve, but Loverne has been the best practice player on the offensive line and has secured the starting role.

Though the Jaguars are not admitting that the CB competition between Dewayne Washington and Juran Bolden has gone to Washington, team observers say Washington separated himself in the preseason opener and training camp.

Both the Packers and sources close to OLG Mike Wahle contend the 27-year-old lineman, who will be coveted in free agency next spring, intends to return to practice before the Sept. 13 opener. Wahle suffered a bone bruise lifting Atlas stones while doing a strongman workout.

Packers RS Antonio Chatman might get a longer look at wide receiver. Chatman is in better shape and has been consistently catching the ball in workouts.

The Lions see second-year RB Artose Pinner filling a role similar to what Moe Williams has done in Minnesota. Pinner, who had a breakout season in 2002 at Kentucky, excelled in the pass-happy offense and also is a strong runner between the tackles.

Rookie WR Jerricho Cotchery has impressed the Jets with his play in camp, causing head coach Herman Edwards to regularly praise him on the practice field. He appears to have passed Jonathan Carter for the Jets’ fourth WR spot.

We hear that Dolphins ORT Damion McIntosh is progressing nicely in his recovery from March ankle surgery and could be filling a backup role as early as Week One.

We hear that the two wide receivers the Dolphins have drafted the past three years, J.R. Tolver and Sam Simmons, might not make the roster.

Diminutive rookie RB Fred Russell has raised eyebrows in Dolphins camp with his speed and his ability to break long runs and could fill a role as a kick returner and special-teams flier.

While Matt Light says he’s at his usual weight (305 pounds), we hear that the Patriots’ left tackle looks lighter upon his return to action following offseason appendix surgery.

Patriots second-year CB Asante Samuel is pushing veteran Tyrone Poole for the starting spot opposite Ty Law.

Undrafted rookie free-agent S Rashad Baker has been turning heads in Bills camp and has an excellent chance of making the final roster.

The Buccaneers’ public image took a hit when the team decided against donating money to the Hurricane Charley relief fund like their NFL brothers, the Dolphins and Jaguars. The Bucs also have decided to provide refunds for fans who missed the opening preseason game vs. the Bengals, which had to be rescheduled due to the massive storm, on a case-by-case basis after initially refusing to provide any refunds.

Although Bucs QB Chris Simms has looked spectacular in workouts and in preseason games, we hear veteran Brian Griese still likely will be the team’s No. 2 quarterback in Week One.

The Saints have been disappointed by the development of backup QB Todd Bouman, who seems to have taken a step back in the past couple of weeks.

Saints DT Johnathan Sullivan has slowly but surely been dropping weight, but he won’t be handed a starting job without truly earning it on the field.

Word out of Carolina is the Panthers may look to put together a contract extension for S Mike Minter in order to lower his cap number of $6 million for next season and possibly assure that he finishes his career as a Panther.

The Falcons are keeping their fingers crossed that TE Alge Crumpler will be recovered from the bruised knee that has kept him out of practice because the team’s other tight ends have really struggled at pass protection in drills.

Although the Falcons will continue to use CB-RS Allen Rossum on punt and kickoff returns this season, they will work to try to include rookie CB DeAngelo Hall and rookie WR Michael Jenkins in the return game to start to make the transition to the next generation of returners.

Although Cowboys C Al Johnson appears to be in great shape after missing all of his rookie season with a right knee injury and should earn the starter’s spot, he is receiving very good competition from Matt Lehr and Tyson Walter. Gennaro DiNapoli, who has been hurt, could be in trouble.

There are some who think that Giants WR Tim Carter, whom the team had hoped would lock up the No. 3 role, would be a candidate to be cut, but because there is so little depth at the position, Carter might get a reprieve.

Although at presstime, Eagles FS Brian Dawkins had missed all but one day of training camp, sources close to the team feel he will be back and ready to go before the team’s final preseason game.

Cowboys coaches are glad they signed Dedric Ward to provide a safety net at receiver and as a returner — two areas where they are not terribly deep.

We hear that journeyman TE Dwayne Blakely might make it tough on the Titans’ coaching staff, which expected to keep three tight ends, with his impressive play so far, which has caught the eye of many offensive players. The fact that rookie Ben Troupe has been disappointing hasn’t hurt Blakely’s chances. Other impressive undrafted players who have a chance to make the roster include safeties Justin Sandy and Akil Grant.

Although the Cardinals aren’t thrilled with either of them, we hear Damien Anderson has an edge over Josh Scobey for the backup RB job behind Emmitt Smith.

We hear 49ers first-year DL Michael Landry is making a strong case to become the team’s designated run-stuffer, and that the Niners coaches have been extremely impressed with his strength.

Our sources in San Francisco say second-year OT Kwame Harris, who struggled more than a little in his rookie campaign, has looked like a different player this season both run-blocking and pass-blocking on the left side.

Impressed with the way he comes off the ball, we hear the Rams are intrigued by the prospect of moving promising rookie Tony Hargrove from defensive end to defensive tackle, where they could use some depth after losing former first-round pick Jimmy Kennedy for the season.

We hear incumbent Ravens RS Lamont Brightful has lost confidence, which explains why he’s having problems catching the ball.

Bengals QB Jon Kitna continues to draw raves for his professionalism. In addition to mentoring Carson Palmer, he is staying patient and doing plenty of teaching while playing with Cincinnati’s backups.

We hear Steelers OLT Marvel Smith has looked good in camp.

Smith missed the bulk of last season, and it really unsettled the offensive line.

The Steelers’ runners behind Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis on the depth chart — Verron Haynes, Dante Brown and Willie Parker — have fared well in the preseason. However, we hear Bettis is unlikely to be cut, even though he is not having a good camp.

We hear the Texans are experimenting with sliding ROLB Kailee Wong inside on some passing downs to get Antwan Peek and Jason Babin on the field at outside linebacker. The odd man out in such a setup would be LILB Jay Foreman.

The smooth transition from cornerback to free safety for veteran Ray Buchanan has been a nice surprise in Raiders camp. “Hey, I said it would take me a little while to get comfortable back there,” Buchanan said recently. “I guess it’s not taking me as long as I thought.” Buchanan shouldn’t be expected to have the same influence as the released Rod Woodson, but he provides the Silver & Black with more than enough veteran leadership to get by.

Fourth-round pick DE Jared Allen has really helped himself in Chiefs camp, and he could push R-Kal Truluck for time as the team’s pass-rush specialist. Allen’s dual role as a long-snapper only helps his chances because Dick Vermeil is adamant about getting the most out of his roster, but one source close to the team said LS Kendall Gammon’s consistency “lets coaches sleep at night,” so don’t count him out yet.

Second-year CB Julian Battle has not had the kind of training camp the Chiefs hoped he would. Sources say the team would have liked to have seen him solidify the nickel CB role and perhaps even challenge for one of the starting roles, held by Dexter McCleon and Eric Warfield, but his progress seems to be at a stand-still.

Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer believes the LB corps is the strongest position on the team. The improvement shown by special-teams standouts Carlos Polk and Stephen Cooper could have them pushing for more playing time, and rookie Shaun Phillips, a converted defensive end, may see a part-time role as a rush linebacker. The four starting spots in the new 3-4 scheme are penciled in with the likes of Ben Leber, Donnie Edwards, Randall Godfrey and Steve Foley.

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The Michael Boulware experiment just might be working in Seattle. We hear the converted outside linebacker is starting to get used to his new SS position, making good reads and taking good angles on running plays. Boulware wowed his teammates last week when he made a 35-yard interception of a Matt Hasselbeck pass intended for WR Darrell Jackson without looking back. Said Hasselbeck: “That was probably the best catch I’ve ever seen in my life.”

2-3 years from now, Boulware is going to be seen as a steal for the Seahags. This kid has first round potential and is going to be a good/great safety IMO.

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