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Undrafted Shields making noise for Packers

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By PFW staff

Here are some of the whispers we've been hearing from around the league:

• The latest word out of Green Bay is that undrafted rookie Sam Shields, a fan favorite with blazing speed (4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash), has moved ahead of both Brandon Underwood and Patrick Lee as the Packers' third cornerback behind Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams until veteran starter Al Harris hopefully returns from the physically-unable-to-perform list six games into the season.

• There were reports in February that the Saints planned to extend QB Drew Brees' contract before the 2010 campaign, but the potential of a new deal wasn't a major topic in New Orleans this offseason, sources say. Brees is signed through the 2011 season and the Saints probably will not address his contract until this season is over.

• Now that the Cardinals have placed veteran ILB Gerald Hayes, who underwent back surgery in July, on the physically-unable-to-perform list, they will have to get used to starting second-round rookie Daryl Washington at one of the ILB spots — whether they like it or not. The good news is that Washington, who has very impressive speed, looked decent more often than not this preseason.

• While Rams featured back Steven Jackson probably wouldn't mind more quality help behind him on the depth chart, a much more important thing as far as he's concerned is having the same five offensive linemen blocking in front of him all season. "I don't know how long it's been since we've had a starting O-line to start a season and complete it," Jackson said recently. "I would think that's the biggest goal for us, and make sure that our five guys up front stay healthy and play together the whole season."

• We hear it would not be a surprise if 49ers third-year S Reggie Smith regularly replaces veteran starting SS Michael Lewis on passing downs once the season starts.

• Our Seahawks sources tell us the team has been very pleased with seventh-round rookie Dexter Davis, who is shaping up as the primary backup behind Chris Clemons at the "Leo" end spot. "What they really like about him is his versatility," one team insider said of Davis, who also can play strong-side linebacker. "He has had a tendency to get lost in coverage, but he has shown some real pass-rush ability."

• The Patriots will have a decision to make regarding FS James Sanders, a six-year veteran. A daily team observer thinks Sanders might be traded before the season starts as he is behind Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung and newly acquired Jarrad Page on the depth chart. Sanders has a big contract and won't see the field much, even with the Pats' secondary concerns, so he could be trade bait.

• Minor injuries to starting OTs Jake Long and Vernon Carey shouldn't keep either of them out of the season opener against the Bills but it raised questions about the depth behind arguably the top tackle combination in the league. With top backup Nate Garner on injured reserve with a broken foot, the Dolphins acquired OT Pat McQuistan from the Cowboys, likely for a late-round draft pick.

Aaron Maybin was a non-factor as a rookie, producing only 18 tackles with no sacks at defensive end. But having been moved to an OLB spot in Buffalo's new 3-4 scheme, the 2009 first-round pick looks much more comfortable and should be able to contribute much more. Chris Ellis also has been a pleasant surprise in Buffalo's LB corps; he has benefited from extra playing time after Reggie Torbor's injury.

• A source close to the Steelers suggests the club could look at free-agent running backs to bolster their depth beyond starter Rashard Mendenhall. Veteran Mewelde Moore is slated to be Mendenhall's backup, but the options beyond Moore are not as established or steady.

• Browns WR Josh Cribbs' improvement and development as a wide receiver has been one of the positive stories of the summer coming out of Cleveland. Cribbs, who is entering his sixth NFL season, started a career-high 12 games at receiver last season after making just five starts on offense in his first four NFL seasons. 

• A source close to the Texans suggests that the team could rotate Antoine Caldwell and Mike Brisiel at right guard in the regular season, as both have played well. At left guard, Wade Smith has beat out Kasey Studdard, who became the starter last season after Chester Pitts suffered a season-ending knee injury.

• He may spend much of his time in the defense's meeting room, but Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha told PFW he can tell two key additions on offense are making a big difference. "Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has come in and done a really nice job of getting guys in position to be effective and bringing out the most in the players," he said. "I think the quarterback situation (with Jason Campbell) has helped us out a lot. Anytime you're going to be a contender, he has to be the guy that can have a commanding presence, not just for the offense, but for the entire team."

• An injury kept ILB D.J. Williams out of the first two preseason games, but a Broncos observer expects Williams to be more effective this season. Williams is playing the same position he did last season after being bounced around at several different linebacker spots the past few years, which should be beneficial. He's also at his best when he has room to move in space, and Denver's defensive line should be better at keeping blockers off of him than it was in 2009.


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