We've been hearing the following whispers around the NFC:
• Cornelius Ingram has taken the lead heading into camp for the Eagles' backup tight end battle behind starter Brent Celek. Martin Rucker and rookie Clay Harbor are running third and fourth right now, and Rucker could be in a fight for a roster spot this August because the Eagles plan to use Harbor some at fullback as well. Ingram appears to be fully back from a second serious knee surgery in two years, showing off the athleticism that had some people thinking he would be a first-round prospect before getting hurt his final year at Florida.
• We hear RB Michael Turner was one of the stars of the Falcons' offseason program. Coming off an ankle injury that kept him sidelined for most of the second half of last season, Turner has said he's motivated to prove he's not a one-year wonder. He reportedly is in much better shape than he was last season.
• Giants WR Steve Smith wants a new deal, saying he thinks he is worth "Greg Jennings money." Jennings signed a four-year contract extension, with $16 million guaranteed, last summer. Smith is in the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him a base salary of $550,000. Although no talks currently are going on between Smith's agent, Ben Dogra, and the Giants, we hear there is little chance that Smith will make his contract situation a distraction when camp arrives.
• Most Bears observers believe the team will be hard-pressed to make a final decision between Garrett Wolfe and Kahlil Bell for the No. 3 RB job behind Matt Forté and newly acquired Chester Taylor. "As a ballcarrier, I think Bell could be more valuable," said one team insider. "Wolfe is more limited in the role he can play and has had problems staying healthy, but he has turned out to be very good on special teams. The question is should he make the final roster solely due to his special-team abilities. They already have one guy filling that bill in Tim Shaw." Further adding to the uncertainty is the drafting of Brigham Young's Harvey Unga in the seventh round of last week's supplemental draft.
• The Buccaneers signed OG Keydrick Vincent on July 9 to add some much-needed veteran depth to their offensive line, and Vincent, a full-time starter for the Panthers over the past two seasons, will get a chance to start at left guard. Tampa Bay moved Jeremy Zuttah into the starting lineup at left guard last season while Arron Sears was away dealing with personal issues, but Zuttah is an ideal fit as a swing backup, since he can play multiple spots on the O-line.
• Word is Will Blackmon, who appears to be slowly but surely fully recovering from the torn ACL that ended his season in Week Four in 2009, is looking like the best bet as the Packers' primary punt returner, with Jordy Nelson appearing to be the early front-runner to handle kickoffs.
• Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe is buying into the Joe Webb hype. The Vikings drafted Webb, a college QB at UAB, in the sixth round and planned to use his athleticism at wide receiver. But the team kept him at quarterback this offseason after watching Webb throw. Shiancoe said Webb possesses a unique "combination of his size and confidence. I know it's early and he still makes a lot of mistakes, but I can see some real promise in him. He has great athleticism. Almost like a tight end or a linebacker."
• Safety will be the position the Lions' scouts look the hardest at through the preseason, hoping to snag off the waiver wire. C.C. Brown is perhaps the front-runner to start at this early stage, but that easily could change — just ask Giants fans who nicknamed him "Can't Cover" after a tough season in New York last year. The Lions' Week One starting safety opposite Louis Delmas might not even be on the roster currently.
• The Redskins believe OLB Brian Orakpo can be a 15-sack player in their new defense, having seen him adjust well over the course of the offseason as they install their new 3-4 defense. Orakpo adjusted to playing outside linebacker in the team's 4-3 scheme last season but should be a better fit for his skills. He reportedly has had a terrific offseason.
• The Cowboys' coaches believe that CB Orlando Scandrick's shattered finger should be in good shape by the time players report to training camp. He's regarded as a gym rat and a fast healer and should have no problem keeping his No. 3 CB role this season.
• We hear it would hardly be a shock if Cardinals fifth-year NT Gabe Watson does not make the final roster this season. "He really needs to have a good training camp," one team insider said of Watson, who has battled weight problems on and off as a Cardinal. "Dan Williams and Bryan Robinson look like locks, and the team could think twice about keeping a third nose tackle at a position that's on the field only about 40 percent of the time."
• It would appear an interesting battle could be in the offing in the Seahawks' training camp for backup safety jobs among holdovers Jordan Babineaux and Jamar Adams; newly acquired Kevin Ellison, who played for head coach Pete Carroll at USC; and fifth-round rookie Kam Chancellor, whose impressive size (6-3, 232) has reportedly raised a lot of eyebrows.
• Word is it's not looking real promising for Niners WR Brandon Jones, a virtual nonfactor since being added to the team as a free agent. "He has never been liked much by Sully (WR coach Jerry Sullivan)," said one source close to the team. Whether or not Jones is released, we hear No. 3 and No. 4 receivers are not likely to make much of an impact in a passing offense tilted much more toward the tight ends.
• Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole on newly acquired veteran DT Fred Robbins: "It gives us another big body inside. … Guys that can take on double-teams and not lose ground, guys that can absorb those kind of blocks, so that the linebackers behind them can play free, that's important."
• Wallace Wright, who stood out on special teams during his four years with the Jets, signed with the Panthers in the offseason because he wanted to join a team that would give him a chance to play receiver. Carolina will indeed give him that opportunity and, while he's a lock to make the team, we hear he's a long shot to start. He could factor into the rotation as a fourth receiver.
Related link: AFC Whispers
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