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Browns NT Rubin impresses Mangini

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By PFW staff

We've been hearing the following Whispers around the NFL:

• One of the standouts early in Browns camp is third-year NT Ahtyba Rubin. "He's been outstanding, he really has," Browns head coach Eric Mangini told Cleveland reporters. "He's a big man, so he's hard to move, but he plays with really good technique, and his block recognition has gotten better over the course of the last year. When you're that size and as strong as he is and recognizes blocks well, it's hard to move you. He does an excellent job." Rubin, who started the final five games of the '09 season with NT Shaun Rogers (leg) out of the lineup, will be a key part of the line this season, particularly with Rogers potentially facing an NFL suspension after having reached a plea bargain on a gun charge in July. Rogers, who's also expected to play defensive end, has missed the beginning of training camp with the leg injury.

• A source close to the Browns tells PFW the club's wide receivers are looking better than they have been billed to be, with every key member of the group, including second-year WRs Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, making strides to this point.

• Although Patriots first-round CB Devin McCourty has been whipped a few times in practice by WR Randy Moss (who has looked outstanding thus far), the team still seems very pleased with the rookie's progress. He is being penciled into a top-three CB role and should be a big performer on special teams.

• With little depth at running back while Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter nurse injuries, Denver turned to LenDale White, who had previously drawn little interest on the free-agent market. He'll serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, and some have suggested he's only a training-camp body who will be released before the regular season. There's a decent chance Denver will hold on to him, however, if he behaves himself and shows the discipline that head coach Josh McDaniels expects.

• Although the Chiefs brought in free-agent C Casey Wiegmann this offseason to add O-line depth, we hear that the veteran is unlikely to be a member of the 53-man roster. Entering his 15th season, Wiegmann's days of being an impact player are in the rearview mirror, and with Rudy Niswanger manning the pivot, the Chiefs don't need to carry an extra center. S DaJuan Morgan, formerly a promising, young member of the secondary, is also in danger of being cut after two disappointing seasons.

• The Eagles are not so quietly concerned about their offensive line. Nick Cole, who is playing center while Jamaal Jackson rehabs from injury, has continued his snapping troubles from late last season. In addition, starting OGs Todd Herremans and Stacy Andrews have been hobbled by injuries, making the interior a real sore spot so far.

• Giants TE Travis Beckum stood out with his pass receiving in the first few days of camp, but a hamstring injury has held him back some. Still, after a mostly lost rookie season, the arrow seems to be pointing up for Beckum when he returns.

• To date, Redskins OL Artis Hicks hasn't stood out in camp. The projected starter at right guard has been beaten repeatedly in individual drills, with our spies saying that Hicks tends to be far too upright in his blocking technique. Chad Rinehart could push Hicks for the job, but for now it remains his to lose.

• Cowboys DE Marcus Spears had been having a strong camp before going down with a knee sprain that puts the start of the regular season in jeopardy. Although the injury was disappointing, the team feels good about Jason Hatcher taking his place in the starting lineup and Stephen Bowen coming on in reserve. Both players could make their statement for more playing time in Spears' absence.

• The Lions have been impressed with the improvement of NT Sammie Hill, who was rushed into the lineup last season. Although Hill did a fairly remarkable job coming from Stillman College (Ala.) to start 12 games as a rookie, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said Hill has made marked improvement. He has shown great power and better leverage and appears to have secured playing time behind projected starters Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams.

• The Vikings know CB Cedric Griffin won't be ready to play in Week One, but he's expected to return from ACL surgery at some point during the season. The expected replacement, Lito Sheppard, is having a nice camp. But by all indications, the star of the secondary has been second-round pick Chris Cook, who has the most interceptions of any defender in practice. Cook will not be thrown into the fire, but he has been quite impressive and might force himself into a key role at some point.

• We hear Bears rookie RB Harvey Unga might have seriously hurt his chances to make the final roster with a pulled hamstring that could keep him out a couple of weeks. It doesn't help Unga, one team insider tells us, that second-year RB Kahlil Bell is "extra motivated" to beat out the supplemental draft pick.

• Out of Green Bay, we're hearing that it is quite possible three different offensive linemen — Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz or Allen Barbre — will either start or get cut.

• Falcons DT Peria Jerry was cleared to practice heading into training camp, but the team is still being very cautious with the 2009 first-round pick as he returns from the knee surgery he underwent last fall. Head coach Mike Smith said Jerry will see his involvement in drills ramp up this week. Smith also said he feels comfortable with where Jerry is in his recovery.

• After looking initially like he might have been seriously hurt when he crumpled to the ground with a right ankle injury in a Tuesday-evening camp drill, we hear Rams starting CB Ron Bartell, who was hindered by injuries in 2009, is "day-to-day" with what has been diagnosed as an ankle sprain.

• Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo on MLB James Laurinatis' outlook heading into his second year: "Huge. I think he'd tell you the same thing. He caught on pretty good last year. That's why he was named the starting 'Mike.' He's kind of run with it from there. Now he's just kind of refining his game. If you probably asked him, he's probably not as tired because it's not as mentally taxing this year as it was a year ago. That's me saying that. He might say differently."

• The early camp reports are encouraging on Niners second-year RB Glen Coffee, who we're told has put on 12-15 pounds of pure muscle.

• Niners offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye on how much newly acquired WR-RS Ted Ginn Jr. has done and his progression from his arrival to now: "I had nothing to prejudge him on because I wasn't there in Miami. Since he's been here, from my vantage point, offensively, we're excited about him. ... If he continues to improve the way he is, I think we will be very pleased with him."

• With the Cardinals still not entirely sure what they have in QBs Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson, it's looking like this could be the first season during the Ken Whisenhunt regime that the team keeps a quarterback on the practice squad — either fifth-round rookie John Skelton or undrafted rookie Max Hall. Early in camp we hear Hall might have a slight edge on Skelton for the No. 3 QB job.

• We hear the Cardinals like what they've seen at the WR position from Stephen Williams, an undrafted rookie from Toledo, and Darren Mougey, a local product with impressive size (6-5, 219) who was cut by the Falcons in training camp last season.

• Before signing with the Giants, veteran ILB Keith Bulluck visited the Cardinals, who we hear were seriously interested in the ex-Titan. But word is Bulluck chose the Giants rather than the Cardinals because he is from New York.

• Our Seahawks sources tell us newly acquired DT Kevin Vickerson has displayed flashes. Said one team insider of Vickerson: "He gives the D-line another really big body (he's listed at 321 pounds) to go with Brandon Mebane, Chris Cole and Red Bryant, but he's had some problems with nagging injuries."



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