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PFW: Whispers from around the NFL 9-27


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# Early returns on Jets second-year DT Dewayne Robertson have been encouraging. Robertson has been active, disruptive and is making plays away from the line of scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson went so far as to say that if Robertson keeps it up, he'll earn Pro Bowl consideration.

# There are growing rumblings that the Buccaneers' defense is getting more frustrated with the lack of points scored by the offense, with DE Simeon Rice saying that he is getting sick of not getting more out of the offense.

# Jets head coach Herm Edwards admitted that he pulled out all the stops in the first two games to get the Jets off to a fast start, knowing that New York had a Week 3 bye to recover and rest. As a result, he fully realizes it's impossible to run 31-year-old RB Curtis Martin 30-plus times per game (he carried 61 times in the first two games), so look for LaMont­ Jordan to get more carries in the coming weeks.

# The suspicion in Arizona is that neither Alex Wood, in his first year as an NFL offensive coordinator, nor new OL coach Bob Wylie, who most recently worked in the same capacity for the Bears, is feeling real secure after head coach Dennis Green's decision to hire old crony Carl Hargrave as an offensive consultant.

# Second-year Lions RB Artose Pinner has earned more playing time with his performance on inside runs. He gained 13 yards (four, four and five yards) on three fourth-quarter carries vs. Houston, but he lacks the explosion the Lions would like from a featured back.

# The Lions won't cut DE Robert Porcher, even though he was a healthy inactive each of the first three games. But there are those in Detroit who believe Porcher is frustrated and humiliated and is considering retirement.

# The Lions opened preliminary contract negotiations with ORT Stockar McDougle. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was in Detroit last week.

# The Colts expect SS Mike Doss (hamstring) to return this week, but the team will be guarded in regard to pushing him in practice. The news is more puzzling on rookie FS Bob Sanders. He is recovered from a foot injury but has not been allowed to practice for what were classified as "conditioning" issues.

# The Vikings' offensive approach won't change, but the appearance will with do-it-all TE Jim Kleinsasser (torn anterior cruciate ligament) out for the season. Minnesota realizes it cannot replace Kleinsasser with one player, especially with pass-catching TE Jermaine Wiggins out for two weeks with a broken hand. For now, Richard Owens will play the receiving role, Sean Berton the blocking role.

# There is little to distinguish Vikings WRs Marcus Robinson and Nate Burleson on the depth chart, even after the coaching staff said Burleson would be No. 2 all season. Robinson has become more involved in the offense, and the veteran is expected to find the starting lineup as soon as Week 5 vs. Houston.

# Falcons CB DeAngelo Hall, who has been out of action since the preseason with a hip injury, still is on crutches and hasn't yet returned to doing cardio work. He just recently started lifting weights again.

# Panthers team observers believe the front office isn't getting enough credit for its draft class, considering the impact both CB Chris Gamble and WR Keary Colbert have made so far.

# Panthers DT Kris Jenkins' shoulder injury isn't expected to be a chronic issue, but he will be forced to play in pain for the next few weeks.

# One source close to the Saints called the defense "delusional" when it comes to its assessment of its play this season, touting performances based on how strong the "D" is if you remove from the equation the big plays that have been given up.

# Despite being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance vs. Arizona, Patriots SS Rodney Harrison admitted he has to tone things down after accumulating his second personal-foul penalty in as many weeks -- an out-of-bounds hit on Cardinals QB Josh McCown. He has been whistled for four penalties in the two games.

# We hear that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick isn't concerned about DE Richard Seymour's lack of production – seven tackles, zero sacks – on the stats sheet after the first two games. Belichick pointed out that the 2003 Pro Bowler is doing his job, occupying blockers and freeing up other players to make plays.

# Though they weren't thrilled by the helmet-tossing aspect of his sideline outburst in the Week 2 loss to the Bengals, we hear that the Dolphins were happy to see TE Randy McMichael speak up and try to take a leadership role on an offense that, for the most part, is filled with quiet guys.

# The Broncos will be relying heavily on age and a number of complementary pieces along the defensive line until DE Trevor Pryce returns from the back surgery that is expected to sideline him at least five more weeks, but the team appears up to the challenge. "We're definitely better-equipped than we have been in previous years to handle this," MLB Al Wilson said. "There's not going to be any letdown from our defense." The recent trade for Falcons DT Ellis Johnson and the signing of DE Anton Palepoi, a former second-round pick of the Seahawks in 2002, will help, as should the high level of play the team has seen from DEs Reggie Hayward and Marco Coleman to start the season.

# Broncos CB Champ Bailey has been pleasantly surprised by how much action he's seen on the offensive side of the ball early on. Through the first two games, he was only thrown to twice but was on the field for 19 offensive plays, indicating he's more than just a decoy for Denver. He insists fatigue has not been a factor with the extra workload, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

# The knock on the Raiders' defenses of years past was that they were too predictable, but Rob Ryan has garnered praise for his use of multiple fronts, ranging from a 5-2 look to a 3-1-7 alignment, and personnel groupings with interchangeable parts to keep offenses off guard.

# The barbs that Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil and RB Larry Johnson sent back and forth via the media last week were somewhat surprising, considering that the consensus was that Johnson had been working harder at the little things and looked like he was beginning to finally turn the corner. The two met privately last Thursday to clear the air, but it's clear Vermeil wanted to send a message to Johnson that they're expecting a lot out of him with all the time they've invested in his grooming process.

# One league scout has been impressed with Denver's young cornerbacks, primarily Willie Middlebrooks, a former first-rounder who had fallen well shy of expectations before emerging this year. "I hope they think he's a bust, because he can come play for us anytime," the scout said.

# The Chiefs are aiming to get Dante Hall and rookie Richard Smith more involved in the passing game in hopes of providing some kind of a spark with their speed.

# Expect the Chargers to tweak a few things defensively very soon, as the shift to the 3-4 has yet to yield a positive effect on the pass rush. More freedom for the linebackers to take off after the passer is a likely start.

# The knee problems that forced Roland Williams to miss all of last year are already cropping up and are limiting him in practice and games for Oakland. This is problematic mainly because he is Oakland's only accomplished blocker at the TE position.

# Having Todd Heap (ankle) out of the lineup hurts the Ravens both at tight end and at wide receiver. According to a source close to the team, Heap lined up at wideout in half of the 36 snaps he took vs. Pittsburgh in Week 2.

# Our sources say the Ravens were hoping WR Kevin Johnson would have provided more of a lift to the passing game than he has thus far.

# The way we hear it, the Browns will make a decision by their Week 8 bye as to whether they will put TE Kellen Winslow on injured reserve.

# Dennis Green has gone out of his way not to tip his hand on any possible lineup changes from week to week, but our sources in the Valley suspect that Kyle Vanden Bosch is closing in fast on Peppi Zellner for the starting DLE job.

# The best-case scenario for Seahawks OLB Chad Brown, who broke his left leg in late August, was that he would miss four games, but the way we hear it, even though Brown is currently able to put weight on the leg and will benefit from a bye this Sunday, it will probably be the end of October before he's able to return to the starting lineup.

# Seahawks special-teams ace Alex Bannister explaining what seems to be his telepathic ability to consistently down Tom Rouen's punts: "If you have a good punter with a good bullet, it's like peanut butter and jelly. They go together, hand in hand. We're good at what we do. And Tom Rouen is one of the best."

# The early reviews on the Rams' new defensive coordinator, Larry Marmie, have been far from flattering. Our sources are still scratching their heads over the ill-fated decision not to put a spy on Falcons QB Michael Vick in Week 2.

# The Giants are quietly optimistic that No. 4 CB Frank Walker (foot), their most aggressive corner, can return earlier than the six weeks he was originally told he'd be out. He could return as early as the Green Bay game this week.

# Giants head coach Tom Coughlin insists he and defensive coordinator Tim Lewis will stick with a large DL rotation with the multiple fronts and looks, working DTs Lance Legree and William Joseph and rookie DE Khaleed Vaughn into the mix, depending on the scheme they call.

# Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells checked with the league last week to make sure he was teaching his defensive players properly about them being able to make contact with receivers downfield after the QB was out of the pocket. The league confirmed that his interpretation was correct.

# Although he doesn't see the harm in having two different players make the QB exchange, Parcells plans to rotate centers Al Johnson and Tyson Walter until one proves he deserves to start full time.

# Sources close to the Titans insist that WR Drew Bennett (sore ribs) has been playing in more pain than either he or the team is letting on.

# The Eagles' defensive strategy on Monday night against the Vikings was to put DE Jevon Kearse in a stand-up role, filling different gaps along the line as a linebacker guarding against runs by Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper. But that practice might not be dusted off for a while this season because the Eagles don't face a mobile quarterback anywhere near Culpepper's caliber for the rest of the regular season.

# The Eagles love what they see from CB Sheldon Brown on blitzes, and he has two sacks this year replacing the "Sam" linebacker in the nickel defense. Because of the defense the Eagles run, Brown could actually challenge the NFL mark for sacks by a defensive back, which is seven, held by former Bears S Dave Duerson in 1986.

# Despite the Redskins' thin defensive line, sources close to the team indicated that there was no interest in bringing back DE Regan Upshaw, who was cut in training camp.

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