Following are whispers we've been hearing from around the NFC:
• The word out of Green Bay is that first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod has been pretty disappointing up to now. Sherrod failed to take advantage of getting the first crack at the starting job at left guard, which now apparently belongs to T.J. Lang. Moreover, Sherrod, who is expected to be the heir apparent to OLT Chad Clifton, has not looked very good at tackle, either. Marshall Newhouse, who can play both tackle spots, shapes up as a much better bet as the top backup tackle over Sherrod, who can only play left tackle and, we hear, might be spending most of his time on the inactive list once the regular season starts.
• Cowboys OL coach Hudson Houck offered high praise to first-round ORT Tyron Smith, who also is being thrown into the fire. "You never know about a guy until you get him in camp, but he has been just tremendous," Houck told PFW. "He has great work ethic. Extremely strong, great dimensions, great recovery (ability). The speed of the game is new to him, but he has been outstanding. Better than I could have imagined."
• With each passing day, Redskins rookie OLB Ryan Kerrigan looks more comfortable. He still isn't completely natural moving in reverse, but his footwork and recognition skills are better, transitioning from a 4-3 edge rusher to a 3-4 stand-up linebacker. The team is happy with what it has seen of Kerrigan lately.
• Vikings rookie Christian Ponder and second-year QB Joe Webb remain locked in a battle to be the backup to Donovan McNabb in Minnesota. Webb has impressed in camp, not only with his athleticism that everyone knows about but also with the improvements he has made as a quarterback. Don't be shocked if it's Webb who wins this battle to start the season, as he also could be used in a few specialty packages as a runner or receiver.
• With Greg Toler suffering a potentially serious knee injury in the Cardinals' third preseason game, it looks like first-round draft pick Patrick Peterson just might start in Week One after all. Peterson helped his cause with a nifty 34-yard TD return of an interception in Arizona's third preseason game. Heading into that game, team insiders had not been overly impressed with his play at all.
• While the Cardinals are saying they aren't panicking over adding a veteran back to help replace rookie Ryan Williams, who we hear was looking great before suffering a season-ending knee injury, word is it's only a matter of time before they do so. Hot names on the rumor mill include Chester Taylor, Tashard Choice and Steve Slaton, who are widely expected to be cut by the Bears, Cowboys and Texans, respectively.
• Is it conceivable Rams free-agent addition Zac Diles, who many daily team observers expected to be a front-runner for the starting WLB job, could get cut after apparently struggling early on to learn the playbook? "That's a really interesting question," said one team insider. "He did sign only a one-year deal."
• One Rams linebacker very likely not to be cut is second-year pro Josh Hull, a seventh-rounder last year who looks locked in as the backup middle linebacker behind James Laurinaitis. "He looked good before getting hurt last year, and he looks bigger and stronger this year," said one daily team observer. "He doesn't have great range, but he's solid."
• We hear it would not be a complete shock if 49ers second-year pro Alex Boone, who has dropped 10 percent of his body fat and has looked very impressive, gives 2010 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis a run for his money at right tackle. "He (Boone) has looked better than Davis, who is still having problems in pass protection," said one team insider.
• Also worth noting on the Niners' offensive line is the surprisingly strong challenge that seventh-year veteran Adam Snyder continues to mount at the center position in competition with free-agent addition Jonathan Goodwin, whom many considered an absolute lock to replace the departed David Baas.
• Our sources in Seattle tell us the Seahawks like the veteran presence that ex-Packers S Atari Bigby adds to their otherwise very youthful secondary. Said one team insider, "They might have preferred 'Babs' (Jordan Babineaux, a free agent who signed with the Titans), but unlike Lawyer Milloy (who was released), Bigby was willing to be a backup."
• Most of the QB focus in Seattle is on Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. But we hear third-stringer Josh Portis continues to open eyes. "Pete Carroll has liked him since his high school days," said one team source of Portis. "He has a live arm and good feet and is a good fit in an offense that likes to feature lots of rollouts and play-action."
• The Saints' competition battles at outside linebacker are not done yet. Scott Shanle and Jonathan Casillas, who are competing to start on the weak side, are going to leave the coaching staff with a very tough choice to make. Sources say their battle is a dead heat. Will Herring is the leader in the competition on the strong side.
• The Buccaneers haven't announced their starting right tackle - Jeremy Trueblood and James Lee are technically still competing for the job. We hear that Trueblood is going to get the nod, however, and Lee will likely serve as a swing backup at tackle.