Following are a number of whispers that we've been hearing from around the AFC:
• The Colts have done a poor job drafting cornerbacks. Two of their recent high picks at the position, Marlin Jackson, a first-rounder in 2005, and Kelvin Hayden, a second-rounder in '05, are gone. Daymeion Hughes, Tim Jennings, Jason David, Joseph Jefferson, Donald Strickland — the list goes on — all fizzled out. More recently, Kevin Thomas, a third-rounder last season, has been a healthy scratch in the first five weeks. It is no wonder the Colts are grasping at straws to find defensive backs who can play this season.
• It will be interesting to see how Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis responds after being called out by head coach Jack Del Rio in a team meeting last week for allowing a defender to strip a would-be TD out of his grasp in Week Five. After being rewarded with a lucrative contract extension this offseason, Lewis, who has been slowed by a calf injury, has not made much impact, with only eight catches and no TDs. In addition to his struggles as a receiver, we hear Lewis' run blocking has been inconsistent.
• The acquisition of veteran WR Derrick Mason from the Jets for a conditional seventh-round pick made a lot of sense for the Texans. They were not happy with the slot contributions from David Anderson, and Mason can still move the chains on short routes in the middle of the field. But bringing back RS Trindon Holliday was very puzzling, the way we hear it. Holliday does not have good hands and hasn't really shown anything during two training camps in Houston. If he puts one on the turf in Baltimore on Sunday, the front office is going to get roasted for its decision.
• One positive for the Dolphins this season has been the play of C Mike Pouncey. The rookie has been very consistent and steady in a very tough position for a youngster, taking after his brother Maurkice, who was a Pro Bowler for the Steelers last season.
• When the Bills cut Reggie Corner after training camp, head coach Chan Gailey wasn't shy about saying that special teams had something to do with it. But injuries to the CB group brought Corner back, and the team does like what he brings to the secondary. He has three passes defensed and a pick this season.
• In the loss to the Ravens, the Jets featured RB Joe McKnight as a pass-rushing defensive back. The wrinkle is something we could see again as the season goes on, and Rex Ryan has said McKnight may have a future as a cornerback. While a lot of the chatter has been to get McKnight involved in the ground game to add a speed element, we hear that he still won't get many carries and will continue to be a special-teams ace.
• Bengals TE coach Jonathan Hayes played one season (1993) in a West Coast offense for Kansas City. His quarterback? Hall of Famer Joe Montana. "It's the most catches I had (in) one season," said Hayes, who "loved" playing in the scheme. Given his past experience in the offense and his tenure in Cincinnati (he's been a member of Marvin Lewis' coaching staff for all nine seasons), he has a unique perspective on the progress of the Bengals' offense in its first season in Jay Gruden's West Coast scheme. In rookie QB Andy Dalton, Hayes sees a passer growing more comfortable as the season goes on, with progress and growing pains alike, realities of a young offense that didn't have the benefit of a full offseason to work together. Said Hayes: "The guys like his leadership abilities and how he stands in front of the team. I think where he is right now is where we're at as a team."
• Browns head coach Pat Shurmur indicated that DE Marcus Benard, who was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list on Oct. 12 after suffering a broken hand in a motorcycle accident two days earlier, has a future with the club beyond this season. "I think so, and I'm hopeful that he'll come back healthy, ready and raring to go," Shurmur said. Benard led the Browns with 7½ sacks a season ago. Now, the Browns' DE depth looms as a potential concern with Benard out for the remainder of the campaign. The Browns will reportedly pay Benard his full salary the rest of the season although they aren't obligated to do so because it was a non-football-related injury.
• Al Davis loved giving players second chances, and his tradition was continued just days after his death when the Raiders traded two late-round draft choices to the Seahawks for LB Aaron Curry, a former top-five draft pick. The move gives Oakland more depth at a position of need and allows it to shuffle a lineup that has been hurt by injury. According to one team insider, the trade may have been worked out before Davis passed away. "It was like Al never left," the insider said.
• Now that he is back to full strength from a hamstring injury, Champ Bailey has returned to his spot as the Broncos' No. 1 cornerback. That generally means lining up on the outside against the opponent's top target. However, in nickel situations, the team has decided to line Bailey up in the slot. With a good pass rush and poor safeties, the team believes a lot of offenses will try quick throws over the middle on passing downs. With their best corner now in the middle of the field in those scenarios, the Broncos feel they are better-equipped to handle that situation.
• It has taken the Chargers' two offensive rookies some time to learn the playbook, as the lockout prevented them from having a complete offseason with coaches and teammates. But expect to see WR Vincent Brown and RB Jordan Todman on the field more often in the coming weeks.
• The Chiefs' offensive line went through a bit of a makeover during the offseason, with the most noticeable change coming at right guard, where Jon Asamoah replaced Brian Waters in the lineup. Head coach Todd Haley said that the unit needed some time to develop as a group but that he is happy with where it currently is. "You're seeing that group come together," Haley said of his blockers.