Updated 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Sept. 11
We've been hearing the following Whispers from around the AFC:
• Tony Moeaki's loss is Dexter McCluster's gain. The Chiefs' tight end was placed on I.R. due to a torn ACL, suffered in the team's fourth preseason game. Since Moeaki's backup, Leonard Pope, is primarily a blocker, it is McCluster who will see an increase in playing time when the team wants to air it out. We hear the second-year wideout was a star in camp and that the coaching staff is excited to get him on the field more, though losing Moeaki still hurts.
• The Broncos' defense doesn't want their opponents to turn it over. Instead, they want to take it away. That difference, according to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, is the aggressiveness of the unit, making plays instead of being handed them. The coach has been preaching that his players swarm to the ball, telling them that all 11 players should be in the TV frame when a play is over.
• WRs Bryan Walters and Richard Goodman made the Chargers' 53-man roster, but don't expect to see them catching too many passes from Philip Rivers. Unless there are injuries to players near the top of the depth chart, Walter and Goodman will mainly be used on special teams. The same could be said for a few of the team's linebackers, 11 of whom made the roster to improve the speed and physicality on the coverage units.
• The Patriots had two rookie blocking tight ends in camp: fifth-rounder Lee Smith and undrafted TE Will Yeatman. Of the two, the team wanted to keep Yeatman, but when cuts came, the Patriots had to part ways with both. Yeatman was expected to join the Patriots' practice squad, but the Dolphins claimed him off waivers. New England signed Dan Gronkowski, starting TE Rob Gronkowski's brother, to be the team's No. 3 tight end. Expect Dan Gronkowski to play around 10 snaps a game, mainly in short-yardage situations.
• Bills WR Marcus Easley got a lot of hype in the offseason even though he didn't play last season. As the Bills look for a young receiver to replace Lee Evans, Easley has showed that while he still may need some time, the upside is there. We hear Easley was a pleasant surprise in camp and he certainly impressed with a 5-51-1 outing in the team's third preseason game.
• Two of the Jets' acquisitions on cutdown day came on the O-line — OG Caleb Schlauderaff and C Colin Baxter. The preseason seemed to expose the lack of depth up front, and second-year OL Vladimir Ducasse had his struggles. One intriguing project at the position is OL Matt Kroul, who wound up on the team's practice squad. Kroul played defensive line last season, where he recorded six tackles, before switching to the O-line this offseason.
• The Bengals made an intriguing addition after rosters were cut to the 53-player limit, claiming KR Brandon Tate off waivers from New England. Tate, who will be tried on both kickoff and punt returns, is more explosive than Quan Cosby, who returned only punts last season (7.5-yard average, 20 long).
• The Ravens signed rookie DE Michael McAdoo, who went unselected in the supplemental draft, and then kept him on the 53-player roster to begin the season, but his spot on the roster is tenuous. Said head coach John Harbaugh leading up to Week One, according to the club: "It's just a future move for the future of the team. That's the way [GM] Ozzie [Newsome] structured the agreement with the agent. He's here for a week, and then we'll go from there. He's a practice-squad guy, in my mind." The Ravens like the 21-year-old McAdoo's upside as a pass rusher, but the 6-7, 245-pound end is certainly a work in progress.
• The Browns had their eye on QB Thaddeus Lewis dating back to the 2010 draft and moved to pick him up when he was released by St. Louis in the cutdown to 53 players. Head coach Pat Shurmur worked with Lewis last season as St. Louis' offensive coordinator, and GM Tom Heckert was an admirer, too. "He was on their practice squad all last year, and we talked about possibly trying to get him," Heckert told reporters. "He's a guy we loved in the draft when he came out, and he's just a very talented kid. ... He's got a strong arm; he's a good athlete. We just like everything about the kid and we're really excited to have him." Lewis will be Cleveland's No. 3 quarterback.
• Jaguars GM Gene Smith has impressed in his first two-plus years on the job, but he has encountered some bumps in the road in the past few weeks. Smith came under fire for his handling of QB David Garrard's release, and although he chose admirably to take accountability and explain his side of the story in a letter to the Florida Times-Union, the messy situation reflects poorly on the organization. And while it certainly doesn't absolve Smith, we hear he was simply more comfortable going down with his own guy, QB Luke McCown, than with a holdover from lame-duck head coach Jack Del Rio's regime. Smith's run of players whom he drafted sticking with the club also came to an end when 2009 seventh-round WR Tiquan Underwood, '10 fifth-round DE Larry Hart and '10 sixth-round RS Scotty McGee all were released in training camp.
• DT Tommie Harris was the most surprising absence from the Colts' final 53-man roster, the way we hear it. Harris played well in the preseason and appeared to be a guy who could provide some push and stoutness from the interior, but word is his prima donna attitude and unwillingness to practice through a hamstring issue early in camp contributed to his release.