Following are a number of whispers we've been hearing from around the AFC:
• We are hearing that injuries are no longer an issue for Dolphins rookie RB Daniel Thomas, who missed games early in his first season with a hamstring. He has shown some flashes catching the ball out of the backfield and has improved his blocking but is still struggling in terms of production.
• The Patriots' recent blowouts have allowed rookie RB Shane Vereen to finally see some time. The second-round rookie out of Cal got off to a slow start but has looked good in his limited opportunities running the football, showing off his speed on the edge. We hear Vereen could be the featured back when the team runs the no-huddle, spread offense. The team still likes Stevan Ridley, who has leveled off a bit since a breakout game against Oakland, and he continues to back up BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
• Former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore, who is now a consultant for the Jets, paid the Gang Green a visit this week. Moore was brought in to help the team's red-zone play, and the Jets are second in the league, converting 65.7 percent of red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. QB Mark Sanchez has thrown 15 touchdowns and one interception in the red zone this season.
• Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said the club's current plan is to get WR Lee Evans more snaps as relief for starters Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. "Right now, he's working into the three-wide receiver packages," Harbaugh said, leading up to Week 13. "I think we can continue to work him into the two-receiver packages and rotate him with Torrey and Anquan; give those guys a break." It's clear that the Ravens want to keep giving Smith, who replaced the injured Evans in Week Three and has flashed major field-stretching potential, regular playing time.
• Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger recently had high praise for Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton, calling him the "rookie of the year" in a conference call with Cincinnati media leading up to Week 13. Roethlisberger said that Dalton's skill "anticipating throws" was notable. Roethlisberger said of Dalton: "Whereas in college you can wait for guys to get open and throw it, he throws it before guys are coming out of their breaks, before guys are getting into their holes, as he's getting pressured."
• Browns SLB Scott Fujita's 2011 season was cut short by a hand injury, marking the second time in as many years in Cleveland that he ended the year on injured reserve. However, defensive coordinator Dick Jauron believes that the 32-year-old Fujita can continue to be a productive NFL player, noting how well Fujita has stayed in shape. "He works at his craft and he represents himself and the organization well. You can totally trust him all the time. There are lots of really good things about him," Jauron said.
• Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham has the ability to be a downfield threat, as he showed on a 22-yard TD catch vs. Cleveland when split out like a wide receiver. However, the way we hear it, the feeling is he's going to primarily be an underneath target in the offense because of his reliability on those routes.
• The Texans were extremely impressed with the workout and first practice of veteran QB Jake Delhomme. We hear Houston was not only thrilled with the way Delhomme threw the ball and that he was in such good shape, but also that he passed on other opportunities to sign with teams while waiting for the right one to arise. They also were pleased with Delhomme's willingness to do whatever it takes to help new starter T.J. Yates.
• Titans WRs Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins got off to rocky starts after teammate Kenny Britt was lost for the season to a knee injury. Both players struggled with drops and overall consistency earlier in the season. However, each has stepped it up in recent weeks, the way we hear it. Williams has five TD grabs since Week Four. Hawkins, who has a reputation for not always being in the right place, has raised his game, becoming a more dependable option for veteran Matt Hasselbeck.
• On the same day last week, the Jaguars fired head coach Jack Del Rio and the Colts dismissed defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, while also naming QB Dan Orlovsky the Week 13 starter. The timing of each move was at least a little curious. With the Jaguars on a bye in Week Nine, it would have made a lot more sense to remove Del Rio then. Instead, the Jaguars lost two close games to Cleveland and Houston that might have kept them in the playoff conversation if they had won. In the case of the Colts, who changed QBs, clearly it would have behooved Orlovsky to have had two full weeks to prepare for what was arguably the Colts' most winnable remaining game, against Carolina.
• It is hard to believable how quickly Texans S Danieal Manning returned from a broken fibula. Manning missed only one month while recovering from the injury, and upon his return at Jacksonville in Week 12, it was like he never left, according to one daily team observer.
• The Chiefs are pleased with the development of rookie OLB Justin Houston. The third-round pick has seen his playing time increase in recent weeks and is really coming along as a pass rusher opposite Tamba Hali. Playing mainly in the nickel and dime packages, Houston isn't asked to stop the run very often, which is still a weakness in his game.
• Like several other teams in the division, the Raiders have had to deal with a QB change this season, losing Jason Campbell in Week Six and replacing him with Carson Palmer. According to OLB Kamerion Wimbley, the switch was a difficult one for the guys inside the locker room, though not because they don't believe in the player currently under center. "We all have great admiration and respect for Jason, what he's done here for this ballclub, and it was tough when we saw him go down," Wimbley told PFW. "And then the team made the choice to bring in Carson Palmer. I had the chance to play against Carson when I was in Cleveland, so I was confident in the guy we were getting to come in and take over once Jason went down. He's an experienced quarterback and he's a leader, and he has proven that since he came here."
• The Chargers signed former Chiefs OT Jared Gaither on Nov. 30 to replace the injured Marcus McNeill. Gaither struggled mightily in Kansas City, and according to a source, he showed no signs of being a serviceable NFL player despite claiming he was fully healthy. Offensive line depth has been a huge issue for the Chargers this season, and it remains to be seen if adding Gaither will be an upgrade.
• Broncos SS Brian Dawkins is still playing at a high level in his 16th season in the NFL. Always known as a big hitter, recently Dawkins has been asked to rush the quarterback more often, as defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has been dialing up more blitzes. Dawkins said he knows his 38-year-old body can still do damage when he has a chance to lay an opponent out. "When I get my chance, when he calls my number and I get that opportunity, Coach Allen knows and my teammates know, if I get there, it's not going to be pretty," the safety said.