Chargers' English underachieving

Posted Sept. 17, 2011 @ 5:27 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

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

• Chargers OLB Larry English was inactive in Week One due to poor play in practice, the latest in a trend of disappointments from the 2009 first-round pick. According to a team insider, the Chargers were "dreaming" that English would win the LOLB job, as he has the potential to be a superior all-around player to Travis LaBoy, who is primarily just a pass rusher. However, English has not been able to live up to that potential, so a host of other players, especially veterans LaBoy and Antwan Barnes, will see most of the playing time across from Shaun Phillips.

• The Chiefs still plan on rotating running backs this season, with both Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones receiving carries, along with some touches for FB Le'Ron McClain and WR-RB Dexter McCluster. Charles is the most talented of the four, but his trouble holding on to the ball is a great concern. He lost two fumbles in the team's final preseason game and then coughed up the ball again in the season opener vs. the Bills.

• Penalties were a major problem for the Broncos in the season opener, as they were whistled 10 times for 91 yards. Some penalties were caused by the physicality of the Raiders (who had 15 penalties for 131 yards in the game), but those numbers also highlighted the lack of discipline by the team. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said Denver was going to work on different situations in practice in an attempt to cut down on the miscues.

• Injuries at wide receiver should open up a spot for Derek Hagan, who led the Raiders in receiving yards in the preseason. Hagan doesn't have the blazing speed some of the other wideouts do, but he can make plays over the middle of the field and should be a solid target for QB Jason Campbell, who completed only seven passes to wide receivers in Week One.

• One source was surprised that Bills RB Fred Jackson went public with frustrations in the preseason when C.J. Spiller got a start. We hear that Jackson, who rushed for 112 yards in the opener and is still very much ahead of Spiller on the depth chart, is very loyal to the Bills, considering the chance they gave him, an undrafted back out of Coe College.

• It was a bit of a surprise to see the first long Patriots pass of the season go to WR Matthew Slater, the team's No. 6 receiver and special-teams captain. We hear the team likes to let him go deep once in a while, as he can use his speed and treat it like a gunner going after a returner.

• There's a familiar face on the Dolphins' practice squad this season — WR Julius Pruitt, who has been with the team since 2009. He was activated from the practice squad for last season's finale against the Patriots but was inactive. We hear that Pruitt traveled with the team for some road games last season when the depth at the position was thin with Brandon Marshall battling an injury. Other wideouts have been on the practice squad at times, but Pruitt remains a constant in Miami, even without an opportunity to play in a game yet, as the team clearly likes what he brings to the practice field.

• Ravens OLT Bryant McKinnie proved to be a difference maker in Baltimore's opener vs. Pittsburgh, with one personnel man telling PFW that the former Viking "added more size, power and toughness" to the Ravens' line.

• Keep an eye on the Browns' situation at right tackle. Tony Pashos, who was slated to start, has been out with an ankle injury, leaving Cleveland to turn to Oniel Cousins and Artis Hicks. Both players had their struggles in the Week One loss to Cincinnati. Cousins started in the opener, while Hicks was slated to start Week Two at Indianapolis. One evaluator who's seen Cleveland said that outside of OLT Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack, the line is a "work in progress," which makes right tackle no small concern for the Browns.

• Steelers ORG Doug Legursky struggled vs. Ravens Pro Bowl DT Haloti Ngata in Week One. Yet, head coach Mike Tomlin, when asked if Legursky had played well enough to keep his starting role, replied, "He did." Pittsburgh has sought a long-term fix at right guard for several years, and Legursky is the latest to get a chance to hold down the position. Certainly, there will be more favorable matchups for Legursky than Ngata. Nevertheless, his play, as well as that of rookie ORT Marcus Gilbert, who replaces Willie Colon, who's out for the season with a triceps injury, will be worth monitoring.

• As FB Ahmard Hall continues to serve his four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the onus is on FB Quinn Johnson to open holes in the running game until Hall returns. So far, Johnson has struggled in that role. The way we hear it, there simply has not been enough time for Johnson to develop chemistry with RB Chris Johnson and the offensive line, as witnessed by Tennessee's inability to move the ball on the ground in Week One. At 6-1, 263 pounds, Johnson more than fills the bill from a physical standpoint, but he is not as athletic as Hall.

• The Colts will hold a roster spot for QB Peyton Manning until there is absolutely no chance of him returning this season, the way we hear it. This did not work with former SS Bob Sanders last season, as Sanders didn't appear in a game after going down with a biceps injury in Week One, and he wasn't placed on injured reserve until early December. However, the Colts have held roster spots for Sanders and TE Dallas Clark in previous seasons, only to see the players return and make big impacts in the postseason.