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NFC Whispers

Bucs seeing more of Bowers' ability emerge

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By PFW staff

Following are a number of whispers that we've been hearing from around the NFC:

• Attention to detail and technique is still an emphasis when Buccaneers coaches work with rookie DE Da'Quan Bowers, but he's made significant strides in that area, and his raw ability is starting to show up more frequently in games. Bowers, who recorded his first career sack and five total tackles for loss against the Panthers in Week 13, is expected to make his third straight start Sunday against the Jaguars. We're told his work ethic has improved over the course of the season and he's doing a better job of preparing off the field than he was early in the season. The team has loosened the reins on Bowers, a second-round pick, after breaking him in slowly.

• Falcons C Todd McClure has spent all 13 seasons of his NFL career with the Falcons, but he'll turn 35 in February and is due to become a free agent this offseason. The Falcons have a potential younger, cheaper replacement for McClure in second-year veteran Joe Hawley, who filled in at center when McClure missed some games early in the season and became the team's starting right guard in Week Nine. McClure isn't sure if he'll be back with the Falcons next season, but he told PFW he plans to keep playing and would like stay with the only NFL franchise he's known. "I know this is a business and (the Falcons) may have other plans or they might like to bring me back, but no matter what happens in March or whenever it happens, I'm going to try to play for two more years," McClure said. "... I'm still having fun. I still like being with the guys in the locker room. I still don't have a world championship ring."

• It speaks volumes that, even with Eagles starting safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman struggling, the team is not considering a promotion for second-rounder Jaiquawn Jarrett. The rookie has played minimal defensive snaps and has failed to stand out. His best chance of competing for a starting job will come next season.

• Redskins OLG Maurice Hurt has struggled since being thrown into a starting spot. That's to be expected. The seventh-rounder was cut after training camp and rose to the active roster from the practice squad only after injuries started hitting the line. He's in there by need, not by choice. That said, the team remains patient with Hurt, who has some physical ability but must be better-conditioned and disciplined, as he could end up being a decent player down the line.

• Cowboys QB Jon Kitna is not ready to go now, but his back could be in good enough shape that he would be available by season's end. The team hopes he can play, possibly by Week 17, in case there is an injury to Tony Romo. The Cowboys still like Stephen McGee, who has been elevated to backup, but would prefer to go with Kitna in a playoff-like situation.

• Some have questioned the Giants for hanging on to RB D.J. Ware, a player who appeared to have exhausted his time in New York prior to this season. But Ware has responded in his limited offensive snaps with some heady play, and it would not be stunning to see him receive a handful of carries in specific situations down the stretch. He's proving his value as a third back.

• The Vikings know that, athletically speaking, Everson Griffen is one of their better defenders. So why doesn't he receive more snaps? Well, for one, his attention to detail has to be greater. He has missed assignments defensively and committed a few head-scratching plays, such as jumping offside and losing his gap integrity, and the team feels it has to keep limiting his snaps. On special teams, Griffen has been a monster; on defense, he remains a work in progress.

• The word out of Green Bay is that it's pretty much a given that safety will be one of the top positions the Packers address in the draft and free agency after this season because of the iffy status of FS Nick Collins, who is on injured reserve with a neck injury and is far from a lock to be able to resume his career. We also hear the Packers will strongly consider drafting another quarterback.

• With three of the five cornerbacks on the Bears' roster due to become unrestricted free agents this offseason and only one year left on nickel back D.J. Moore's deal, corner will be a spot that requires attention from the team after the season. There's a good chance Tim Jennings, the starting corner opposite Charles Tillman for the past 25 games dating back to early last season, will be available at a reasonable price if he and the team don't get a deal done before the start of free agency, but the other two potential free agents — Corey Graham and Zack Bowman — will be looking to sign with teams that will give them a chance to start. Their primary role with the Bears is on special teams, and Graham performed well while filling in for Moore as the nickel back for the past three games.

• Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is both optimistic about second-year SS Amari Spievey's progress at the position and realistic about Spievey's relative inexperience playing there. "I just wish he was as confident in himself as I am in him," Cunningham told reporters on Dec. 9. "We talk about that a lot. ... He had a play last week (at New Orleans), where he made a mistake in the man-to-man — and he can cover any tight end in the league; he runs better than about 95 percent of the safeties. It is just a matter of time. ... He was a corner (at Iowa) and never played safety. So I kind of wish he would make more progress, but it is impossible. That said, he still makes a tremendous number of plays for us."

• Penalties have been a significant problem for Lions rookie WR Titus Young. Though not a starter, he has committed eight penalties, tied for second-most on the club entering Week 14. His unnecessary-roughness foul at New Orleans was especially costly, as it occurred at the Saints' three-yard line. Young has committed multiple fouls in three different games.

• One major mistake many close observers of the Rams believe offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels made this season was not employing a QB coach to help further develop Sam Bradford. Said one team insider: "With Josh so involved in setting up the new offense, you have to wonder just how much time he is actually spending with Bradford communicating specific details, different things here and there. I don't know if Sam is getting enough feedback like that."

• One special quality the Niners have probably not been given enough credit for is the run support provided by their defensive backs — particularly SS Donte Whitner, who was known as a strong run defender in Buffalo before joining the Niners, and reserve C.J. Spillman, who came up with a key tackle for loss that kept the Ravens from scoring a TD in Week 12. "It absolutely has made a big difference," said one daily team observer. "All the DBs tackle exceptionally well. It's a lost art."

• It would appear the continued makeovers on the Seahawks' offensive line don't bode particularly well for TE Zach Miller as far as being anything more than an occasional receiving threat. With games coming up against teams with strong run defenses (the Bears and Niners have top-10 run units, and the Cardinals' run D has gotten much better lately), Miller is expected to be used more as an extra blocker than a receiver.

• We hear Cardinals WR Jaymar Johnson, who was recently promoted from the practice squad, is definitely worth keeping an eye on. "They're very intrigued by him," said one team insider.

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