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AFC Whispers

Dolphins might add another running back

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By PFW staff

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

• Dolphins rookie RB Daniel Thomas battled injuries and didn't show a whole lot in his first season, but the club is still behind the player it traded up to draft in 2011. "Daniel is going to be a fine player. I believe in him," GM Jeff Ireland said at the Senior Bowl. "He's tough, he's strong, he learned the pass protections really quick. He's got to keep his feet in the ground when he's making contact." The Dolphins were 11th in the league in rushing, thanks to a breakout campaign by Reggie Bush, but we hear they still might draft another back to add depth to the unit. Short-yardage back Lex Hilliard is a restricted free agent.

• How much did Kelvin Sheppard impress the Bills' coaching staff during his rookie season? He already has a spot in the team's new 4-3 defense. "I know Shep's going to be in the middle, don't hold me to anything after that," head coach Chan Gailey told reporters last week. The Bills are shifting to a four-man front under Dave Wannstedt and questions remain about personnel, mainly at one DE spot and in the LB corps. It's expected that Nick Barnett, who excelled in his first season in Buffalo as one of the inside linebackers, will move outside in 2012. It was Sheppard, though, whom Gailey showed confidence in by announcing that his position is set in stone. The rookie took over as a starter in Week Eight and was fourth on the team with 70 tackles.

• Bengals RB coach Jim Anderson wants to see Bernard Scott become more of an all-around back. "He has that versatility, so we just expect for him to work on it," Anderson told PFW at the Senior Bowl. "We're going to work on it and everything so that he can be more of the total package." Scott carried 112 times for 380 yards and caught 13 passes for 38 yards in 2011, his third NFL season. Overall, Scott received nearly twice as many touches as he did the previous season. The potential for Scott to receive even more work in 2012 is very apparent with starter Cedric Benson slated to be an unrestricted free agent. Should Benson depart, Scott will be the top option at tailback, though Cincinnati would figure to add another veteran and/or a rookie via the draft to bolster the depth at the position. Anderson, who's beginning his 29th year coaching the Bengals' running backs, is confident Scott can become a more well-rounded player. "He's got that skill; we just need to refine it," Anderson said.

• At the club's season-ending press conference, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens would consider signing CB Lardarius Webb, who's slated to be a restricted free agent, to a long-term deal. "(Is) that something that we would entertain? Yes. I think it would be best for this organization. The sooner you strike, the better deal you can get for yourself," Newsome said. The Ravens' GM cited the play of Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith as one of the season's positives.

• Colts owner Jim Irsay said he was looking for a culture change — and early signs point to a dramatic shift. Former vice chairman Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell were veiled in secrecy in their relationship with the media. Meanwhile, new GM Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano have been very gracious with their time thus far. Irsay said at his press conference announcing the departure of the Polians that he wanted the relationship between the team and the media to improve and it has been very positive early under the new regime.

• The hiring of former Texans QB coach Greg Knapp as offensive coordinator by the Raiders is not surprising. By all accounts, Knapp was simply tremendous in getting QB T.J. Yates ready to play last season. The real surprise is that the Texans' coaching staff didn't receive more interest from around the league.

• Titans head coach Mike Munchak might have begun to develop a bit of a slow trigger finger when it seemed to be time to make moves with personnel last season, but give him credit — he has swiftly identified changes that needed to be made on his staff in his first offseason. Munchak is definitely making sure his entire staff will do things his way; there is a lot of accountability involved.

• Many were shocked that the Chargers opted to keep head coach Norv Turner after their second consecutive season missing the playoffs. However, to those inside the locker room, the news that Turner would be around in 2012 was positive. "It was pretty unanimous in the locker room, guys were hoping he'd stay," QB Philip Rivers told PFW. "Fortunately, that was the case." Rivers acknowledged the team has been successful in the regular season with Turner at the helm (49 wins in five years), but not in the playoffs (three postseason wins in that span). That said, he still believes in the coach. "I think Norv and his staff, and the group of guys we have, give us the best chance to get (a Super Bowl) done."

• New Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has a background working with signalcallers, most recently as the quarterbacks coach of the Texans. He has history working with QBs who can make plays out of the pocket — including Jeff Garcia while with the 49ers and Michael Vick with the Falcons. We hear that is a good sign for Oakland backup QB Terrelle Pryor, whose best attributes are his ability to run and make plays outside the hashmarks.

• Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel will continue to call the defense, just as he did when he was the team's defensive coordinator. That is good news for the team, as we hear that the players have a great respect for the coach and were skeptical of another coach running the unit instead of Crennel.

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