Here are some whispers we've been hearing from around the AFC South:
• Derrick Harvey's demotion, paired with another hand injury for Jeremy Mincey, has opened the door for rookie DEs Austen Lane and Larry Hart to make bigger contributions. Lane made his first career start at Dallas, recording one tackle for loss, and Hart added one sack and two QB hits. We hear that Lane got the start because Hart is still viewed as more of a situational pass rusher.
• We hear Jim Caldwell's decision to start rookie LB Pat Angerer over SLB Philip Wheeler in Week Eight was done for a variety of reasons. Wheeler has had a difficult season, making too many tackling and coverage mistakes, and Angerer proved in the Week Six win over the Redskins that he is up to the task of taking on greater responsibility. The Colts would also like Angerer to learn all three LB positions, which will only help the club and the rookie down the road.
• The way we hear it, Jaguars OLG Justin Smiley is growing increasingly frustrated after losing his starting job to Vince Manuwai. Smiley hurt his ankle in Week Five against the Bills but is back to participating fully in practice. The veteran is not causing a problem and acknowledges that Manuwai held up well during his absence, but it is unclear whether Smiley will be given a chance to start again.
• Make no mistake: The Texans are firmly behind OLT Duane Brown, who struggled in pass protection vs. Colts DE Dwight Freeney at Indianapolis in Week Eight. "Duane is our guy, and Duane did a lot of good things in the game, too," head coach Gary Kubiak said, noting he didn't consider benching Brown for backup Rashad Butler. "... (Freeney) has been doing this to a lot of people for many, many years, and doing it there makes it even tougher. We've got a lot of confidence in Duane. We've put him in some tough situations. That tells you how much confidence we have in him. He can play better, and we can also help him better by what we're doing, too." Brown was making his first start after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
• The Colts are not blitzing nearly as often as they did in coordinator Larry Coyer's first season running the "D." Word is Coyer has been somewhat handcuffed by all of the injuries in the secondary, making him less inclined to call blitzes that would leave his defensive backs more vulnerable. Coyer did, however, blitz frequently with great success in the Colts' Week Eight victory over the Texans, despite two of his top three cornerbacks being inactive.