We've been hearing the following whispers coming from the NFC:
• One of the surprise developments in Saints training camp has been the rise of LB Jonathan Casillas, who is the new starting weak-side 'backer. After the first preseason game New Orleans decided to move longtime WLB Scott Shanle to the strong side to clear a spot for Casillas, who made 20 tackles in 11 games last season as a rookie. The Saints were expecting fifth-year veteran Clint Ingram to compete for the starting job on the strong side, but he's still on the PUP list recovering from knee surgery, and Casillas has had a solid camp.
• Falcons head coach Mike Smith said DE Kroy Biermann is pushing for a starting job after another strong performance in Atlanta's second preseason game. With John Abraham firmly entrenched in one of the spots at defensive end, Biermann is putting pressure on the other first-team end, Jamaal Anderson, who moves inside to tackle in passing situations.
• Giants SLB Clint Sintim has not flashed a lot in training camp or the preseason so far, but the team might not expect too much out of that position this season. In coordinator Perry Fewell's scheme, the "Sam" spot is likely to be a one- or two-down position, which should keep Sintim's assignments and expectations in relative check.
• The Redskins have an interesting situation brewing at returner. Both Terrence Austin and Brandon Banks have shown intriguing potential to make the roster, but there could be room for only one of them. Because he's only 5-foot-7, Banks likely would have to make the roster as a returner only, and likely only on punts — but his blinding speed (4.25) has been very real. Austin has the chops to be a kick and punt returner, as well as a wideout, but his speed is in the 4.54 range, a few steps slower than Banks. Could both be kept? Only if the Redskins keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster and use Mike Sellers as a hybrid fullback and tight end, giving them more flexibility.
• While he appears to be in no immediate danger of being released because of the injuries currently shrinking the Bears' ranks at the safety position, we hear second-year pro Al Afalava, who surprisingly won a starting job as a rookie entering the 2009 campaign, really must assert himself after not playing very well in the preseason opener.
• Although they'd like to see more consistency from him, we hear Packers undrafted rookie RB Quinn Porter is probably the front-runner as the team's No. 3 back behind Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson.
• While it's a very good bet Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald will go out of his way to try to convince head coach Ken Whisenhunt that the sprained right MCL Fitzgerald suffered in the preseason opener will be healed enough to enable to him to get on the field for some preseason action, we hear it's pretty much a given that Whisenhunt will exercise extreme caution with Fitzgerald and shut him down until Week One.
• The bad news at inside linebacker for the Cardinals is that we hear it's far from a lock that Gerald Hayes will be fully recovered from early-July back surgery in time for the first regular-season game, even though he is reportedly making steady progress. The good news is that second-round draft pick Daryl Washington could be on a fast track toward a starting ILB job after registering a team-leading 13 tackles and looking very sharp in Arizona's preseason opener.
• After losing out to the division-rival Niners in pursuit of two-time Pro Bowl RB Brian Westbrook, who we hear took less money to play for San Francisco than what the Rams were offering, Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo continues to have good things to say about second-year RB Chris Ogbonnaya, who currently shapes up as the No. 2 back behind Steven Jackson. "I think Chris is doing a great job," Spagnuolo said. "I'll tell you what: He's a smart football player. He's in tune to it. He's out there telling quarterbacks, O-linemen what to do. He's into football. I love that part of him."
• We hear the Niners could be thinking long and hard about finding a spot on the roster for undrafted rookie LB Mike Balogun, who has proven to be an extremely hard worker. "The guy's incredibly dedicated," said one team source of Balogun. "During two-a-days he was going out between practices and hitting the practice dummies. He's very hungry, and with the Niners losing Scott McKillop for the season, he just might make the team."
• Newly acquired Niners RB Brian Westbrook is looking forward to pairing with featured back Frank Gore. "Frank's the man," Gore gushed in his first press conference as a Niner. "He's done tremendous things in the past, Pro Bowls, a talented guy. I've respected his game from afar. In Philly, I watched and studied him an awful lot. ... I'm going to go out there and push him as much as I can, and I'm sure he'll do the same thing for me, continue to make me better."
• While Seahawks sixth-round TE Anthony McCoy definitely passes the eyeball test, we hear he has had persistent problems holding on to catchable passes.
Related link: AFC Whispers
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