We've been hearing the following whispers from around the AFC:
• It's too early to speculate about the status of Patriots RB Laurence Maroney, who played only 12 snaps and had only eight carries — including none in the third preseason game, in which the starters played into the fourth quarter — through the first three preseason games. It must be noted that the Patriots had a lot of short drives against the Rams and clearly put an emphasis on the passing game, rushing it a mere 11 times. But none of those were by the supposed starting back, which raises questions about his place on the team despite Bill Belichick having praised Maroney through the course of the preseason and training camp.
• All signs once pointed to WR James Hardy winning a starting spot when Terrell Owens was allowed to leave Buffalo, but that hasn't been the case. Instead of seizing his opportunity, the 2008 second-rounder has been sidelined for most of August with a foot injury, falling well back on the depth chart. With fellow WR Steve Johnson looking like the probable starter and both Chad Jackson and multiple rookies impressing in camp, we hear Hardy could be in danger of not making the final roster.
• The struggles of rookie Nolan Carroll — combined with Will Allen's recovery from Aug. 12 knee surgery, which could keep him out during the early part of the regular season — led the Dolphins to trade WR Greg Camarillo for Vikings CB Benny Sapp. Carroll was expected to be the nickel back until Allen could return, but he is in danger of losing that job to Sapp, who functioned as the nickel back at times while with the Vikings.
• Jets WR David Clowney is on the roster bubble. Special-teams coach Mike Westhoff seems to have no use for Clowney, and if he's not contributing on special teams, the Jets most likely won't make room for him on the 53-man roster.
• One of the interesting lineup decisions the Ravens are left to make is at inside linebacker, where Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe are the primary contenders to start at "Will" linebacker alongside legendary "Mike" 'backer Ray Lewis. McClain has started in the preseason and could win the job initially in the regular season, but, having started the last three games of 2009, Ellerbe looms as a threat to eventually recapture the job, the way we hear it.
• The Browns don't have any plans to move veteran CB Sheldon Brown to safety to create a spot in the lineup for first-round pick Joe Haden unless Haden forces the decision with some spectacular play. "I really like what Sheldon is doing at corner, and Joe is going to have to, for that to even be a thought, really make a dramatic push," head coach Eric Mangini told Cleveland reporters on Aug. 26.
• Undrafted first-year RB Devin Moore is the "odds-on favorite" to handle return duties for the Colts. The club remains high on fellow undrafted rookie Brandon James, who has an edge on seventh-round CB Ray Fisher because of James' contributions as a wideout. Fisher has struggled at cornerback, and he muffed a punt in the second preseason game against the Bills.
• The Texans were one of the teams to have put in a waiver claim for OT Tyler Polumbus, whom the Broncos waived on Aug. 24. The Lions — ahead of Houston in the claiming-priority order — added Polumbus the net day. The Texans' interest in Polumbus is understandable. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was the Broncos' offensive line coach for the first two seasons of Polumbus' career, and the Texans employ a zone-blocking scheme, which the Broncos no longer use. Polumbus signed with the Broncos in 2008 as an undrafted free agent when Mike Shanahan was head coach and Denver was a zone-blocking team.
• DE Jeremy Mincey continues to impress the Jaguars and could contribute as a rotational lineman for the club this season. The 6-3, 270 pound Mincey has done more during the preseason than DTs Walter Curry and Atiyyah Ellison, the way we hear it.
• Colts rookie TE Brody Eldridge's ability to run- and pass-block, paired with his surprisingly good hands, could spell trouble for H-back Gijon Robinson.
• Although it's hard to bring in starters off the waiver wire, we hear the Jaguars are very likely to sign a reserve safety or two to add depth to arguably the weakest position on the team.
• The Chargers are clearly interested in trading unsigned WR Vincent Jackson, but we hear that his asking price has scared away most suitors to this point. The Pro Bowl wideout is reportedly looking for a five-year, $50 million contract with $30 million guaranteed, a price that teams are wary of paying for a player with off-field conduct issues. San Diego has permitted the Seahawks to discuss contract parameters with Jackson's camp, but a deal appears unlikely unless the receiver's demands are scaled back.
• The Raiders are giving rookie Jared Veldheer a chance to win the starting job at center with Samson Satele out nursing an injury. Veldheer, a third-round pick, played left tackle in college and would be the tallest center in the league at 6-foot-8. Chris Morris would get the starting nod in the season opener if the Raiders decide Veldheer isn't ready yet and Satele is still sidelined, but the team seems to think Veldheer can provide more of the push it's looking for.
• Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski has gone from being a lock as Jason Campbell's top backup to being on the roster bubble. Head coach Tom Cable has said the No. 2 job is still up for grabs, but Kyle Boller has had a nice preseason and Gradkowski has spent much of his offseason trying to get healthy. Gradkowski dealt with a pectoral injury, which kept him out of OTAs, and has been hampered by a groin injury in training camp.
Related link: NFC Whispers
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