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AFC Whispers

Steelers' Lewis looking good at corner

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By PFW staff

Here are some whispers we're hearing around the AFC:

• Steelers second-year CB Keenan Lewis has impressed in training camp. Lewis, who appeared in just four games as a rookie, came off the bench in Pittsburgh's preseason opener vs. Detroit, notching three tackles. The 6-foot, 208-pound Lewis broke up a potential TD pass to star Lions WR Calvin Johnson late in the first quarter. However, Johnson — listed at five inches taller and nearly 30 pounds heavier than Lewis — finished the drive with a two-yard TD catch on a stop-fade route against Lewis, who was isolated in coverage and had no defense against a pass thrown to Johnson's back shoulder. 

• One of the lingering questions in Baltimore, the way we hear it, is whether the club makes a deal for another cornerback before the start of the season because of injury and depth concerns at the position. The Ravens started CB Chris Carr (who played sparingly after missing practice time with a hamstring injury) and Travis Fisher (who didn't join the club until May) in the preseason opener vs. Carolina. However, the Ravens' secondary held up well against the Panthers, with Carolina completing just 18-of-40 passes, and Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh praised his pass defense after the game.

• Observers say Dolphins rookie John Jerry has looked overmatched at times in training camp, but he's expected to be the starting right guard in Week One. The third-round pick has taken reps with the first-team offense throughout camp in an effort to get him prepared for a starting role in the regular season.

• After a rough first couple of days in camp, Patriots S Patrick Chung has turned it around. He has his limitations — Chung is much better up near the box than he is in deep coverage. But so far, Chung has flashed a real mean streak in terms of hitting and appears to be a more confident player in Year Two.

• We hear that the Bills' decision to release DE-OLB Aaron Schobel on Aug. 4 was more a sign of gratitude than anything else. After putting in nine seasons in Buffalo without a playoff appearance to show for it, the 32-year-old either wanted to play for a contender or retire. Knowing that staying with the rebuilding Bills was not in Schobel's plans, GM Buddy Nix opted to grant him his release so he could attempt to sign elsewhere. Thus far, he's drawn interest from multiple teams.

• Texans rookie WR Dorin Dickerson seems likely to make the final roster, the way we hear it. "He's got the body and the tools to be a one or two (No. 1 or No. 2 receiver) in this league," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak told Houston reporters of the seventh-round pick from Pittsburgh in August. However, Kubiak noted that Dickerson has "got a long way to go" and indicated preseason performance would be key for him.

• Titans rookie CB Alterraun Verner, a fourth-round pick from UCLA, has shown some playmaking ability in training camp, a source close to the team tells PFW. Verner, who saw playing time as a reserve in the preseason opener against Seattle, notched four tackles and intercepted a pass.

• With C Jeff Saturday out 2-6 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, OGs Jamey Richard and Mike Pollak will both get looks at center. The Colts rotate their linemen a lot during practice, which could really help in Saturday's absence.

• For as much as the Jaguars are counting on DT Tyson Alualu, he has spent very little time on the practice field during training camp. Alualu missed the first week while his agent negotiated a deal, and a calf injury, which the team says is not serious, has slowed his progress since he arrived.

• Jaguars first-year DT Walter Curry appears to be the beneficiary of third-round DT D'Anthony Smith's Achilles injury. Curry got plenty of reps in place of Smith during camp and looked solid. Veteran Atiyyah Ellison also will have a better chance to make the roster if Smith is lost for the season.

• Former CFL star DE John Chick showed major flashes in Colts camp. Head coach Jim Caldwell doesn't normally mention individuals in practice, but he mentioned Chick on several occasions. Word is Caldwell and defensive line coach John Teerlinck love Chick's motor and believe he not only can make the team but also contribute this season.

• Chargers head coach Norv Turner isn't worried about the conditioning of OLB Shawne Merriman, who sat out the first two weeks of training camp before signing his one-year tender on Aug. 13. The notoriously hard worker was reportedly working out twice a day while he was away from the team, so he was not expected to miss a beat upon arriving at camp. It's likely he'll be quickly reinserted into the starting lineup in place of 2009 first-round pick Larry English.

• Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels likes having several different receivers rotate in his offense, but he may have to make a difficult decision about whether or not to keep Brandon Stokley when the time comes to trim the roster. Word is Brandon Lloyd has a slight edge on Stokley as the two compete for what could be the final roster spot at receiver.

• The competition between Rock Cartwright and Michael Bennett to become the Raiders' third running back is an important one, considering RB Darren McFadden's lack of durability. We hear Cartwright's ability to help on special teams gives him an advantage over Bennett, although Bennett had an impressive showing in the first preseason game, rushing for 68 yards on 12 carries.


Related link: NFC Whispers


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