Battle earning more carries for Chiefs

Posted Oct. 08, 2011 @ 3:02 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

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

• Jackie Battle started the season as the Chiefs' fourth-string running back, but he's moved up quickly because of injuries and hard work. Battle is now splitting second-string carries with Thomas Jones behind starter Dexter McCluster. When Kansas City needed a game-clinching first down to ice its Week Four win against the Vikings, head coach Todd Haley handed the ball to Battle, who came through with a pair of big runs to seal the win. "Those were arguably as big as any plays in the game," Haley said. Expect to see Battle get more touches as the year progresses.

Broncos rookie OLB Von Miller is off to a great start, with four sacks and two forced fumbles during his first four games. However, according to a team insider, he still has plenty of room to improve. Miller is just getting by on natural ability at this point, but as he spends more time in the film room and understands how offenses are blocking him and how to adjust to that, the linebacker could be even better.

Many people said the Raiders' secondary would take a step back without Nnamdi Asomugha, but Oakland CB Chris Johnson doesn't see it that way. He told PFW that with the Pro Bowler gone to the Eagles, it just means another player has to step up. "We played a couple games without Nnamdi last year and did good, so one man doesn't make the secondary; one man doesn't make the defense," Johnson said. "(Asomugha) was a great player, but we still have great players now, so that's not a concern after he left."

The Patriots should finally have a 100 percent healthy Taylor Price for their Week Five game against the Jets. We hear they have been hoping to get the second-year wideout on the field, but an injured hamstring has continued to hold him back. Price had three catches for 41 yards in his only game last season and had five catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opener. "There's no doubt he can provide some explosiveness for the offense," one source said.

We hear that, despite losing WRs Marcus Easley and Roscoe Parrish to injured reserve, the Bills are OK with their options at No. 4 receiver and don't feel the need to acquire a veteran. Second-year WR Naaman Roosevelt, who was called up from the practice squad, is a player the team likes and a local favorite, as he is a Buffalo native. Roosevelt had a 28-yard catch in the loss to the Bengals. Brad Smith and C.J. Spiller are also options at receiver.

The Dolphins have continued to struggle inside the red zone this season. One potential solution could be utilizing TE Anthony Fasano more often near the goal line. Fasano is not a seam stretcher, but he has good hands. He has been targeted just once this season inside the red zone. Rookie FB Charles Clay, who had a 31-yard catch in Week Four, could also provide another dynamic now that he appears healthy. Tony Sparano said Clay has been getting a lot of reps of late, but the rookie still has some catching up to do after missing time.

Former Browns DE Robaire Smith, who missed time last season with a bruise on his spinal cord, wants to resume his playing career, his agent, Michael Harrison, told PFW. "He has every intention of playing," Harrison told PFW. "He's 100 percent healthy." Smith, 33, drew interest from the Cowboys at the outset of free agency, Harrison said, but nothing materialized. Smith's bruise has disappeared, according to the agent. "He's 100 percent cleared," Harrison said.

Injuries have forced the Steelers to lean on their depth. Sometimes, this has led to struggles, notably at offensive tackle, but other times, their backups have stepped up and played well. Such is the case with CB Keenan Lewis, the way we hear it. CB William Gay and Lewis have received more playing time with Bryant McFadden missing time with a hamstring injury. Also showing well: OG Ramon Foster, who was inactive in Week One but has made starts at left and right guard since the season began.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh likes what he's seen of NT Terrence Cody early this season. "I think Terrence is becoming ... Is he becoming dominant in there? He dominates in there quite a bit," Harbaugh told Baltimore reporters entering the bye week. "He is big, he is athletic, he is moving so well, he stays square, he doesn't get cut off, he doesn't get reached and he makes plays."

"You look at Green Bay, great organization," a league source told PFW. "They have great people. (Vice president of football administration/player finance) Russ Ball is first-rate. He knows how to do a deal. People don't realize how much the behind-the-scenes people mean. Then you look at a team like Jacksonville; they have guys like (senior vice president) Paul Vance doing their negotiations. He's slow. He's stubborn. People don't like doing business with them. There's a connection between good organizations and good people."
 
Texans veteran CB Jason Allen's tremendous performance in the Week Four win over the Steelers, in which he started in place of the injured Kareem Jackson and made several jarring hits and the game-clinching interception, was a very pleasant surprise, the way we hear it. The Texans have been praising Allen since training camp, but he was coming off a woeful Week Three outing in Miami, where he struggled against WR Brandon Marshall. But against the Steelers, Allen held up very well against speedster Antonio Brown. The Texans need Allen to play more consistently, a problem that has followed him from his years with the Dolphins.

Although Titans OLG Leroy Harris has struggled in the early going and departed early in Week Four with a knee injury, we hear he is not in danger of losing his job. Backup OG Fernando Velasco, who played well in place of Harris in Week Four at Cleveland, is an underrated player, but the coaching staff likes the depth he provides and has confidence Harris will get going.