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AFC Whispers

Can Wimbley energize Titans' pass rush?

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By PFW staff

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

• Although OLB-turned-DRE Kamerion Wimbley was arguably the best remaining pass rusher available when the Titans swooped in to sign him last week, it remains to be seen what type of impact he'll make on the 31st-ranked sack-producing club in 2011. Wimbley will be asked to learn a new position and, at 6-4, 255 pounds, he does not exactly fit in with coordinator Jerry Gray's desire to bulk up in the trenches. One source in Nashville openly wondered why, if the club wasn't hell-bent on getting bigger, did it really make sense to let DE Jason Babin walk last offseason?

• Although the Jaguars' owner-driven involvement in the Tim Tebow trade market was a bit troubling, we hear it was at least encouraging that Shahid Khan didn't insist his club acquire Tebow at all costs. Instead, the Jaguars drew a line in the sand of what they thought Tebow's value was and stuck to it.

• The Jets entered free agency with the safety position high on their priority list, not only because they had only one starter under contract (Eric Smith), but also because they needed to find a way to compete with New England's tight ends. Former Redskin LaRon Landry hopes to be part of the answer. He may not be the center-fielder type the Jets lack, but Landry, we hear, was brought in to help cover tight ends, as well as for his more renowned run-stopping ability playing in the box. After he missed 15 games the past two seasons because of an Achilles tendon injury, the Jets will have to be careful with Landry this offseason to make sure he is healthy for the regular season.

• Sometimes it's difficult to take a general manager at his word, but Buddy Nix stood by his offseason claims to be aggressive and to address the team's need at pass rusher. Reading the tea leaves closer from things Nix has discussed, two positions loom as top priorities come the draft — wide receiver and offensive tackle. Nix has often mentioned never having enough tackles, and the team did make an early run at WR Robert Meachem. At the 10th pick, the Bills could go after Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd or Iowa OT Riley Reiff.

• The Bengals’ re-signing of CB Adam Jones helps the secondary depth and the return game, the way we hear it. Jones and ex-Texans CB Jason Allen are the primary contenders for the third corner role, we’re told. Leon Hall and Nate Clements are the slated starters at cornerback. Jones returned just two punts a season ago, but one return went for 63 yards in a win at Seattle. However, he pulled a hamstring on the play and missed the next two games.

• It will be interesting to see if the Steelers add a running back in the draft. Their starter, Rashard Mendenhall, is coming off an ACL tear suffered on Jan. 1, and while top backup Isaac Redman played very well in the wild-card round loss to Denver, the depth beyond him is very untested.

• One of the reasons the Chiefs were so aggressive in pursuing QB Brady Quinn in free agency is his familiarity with the team's coaching staff. Head coach Romeo Crennel held the same role with the Browns in 2008 when Quinn was a first-round pick and made three starts, and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll worked in Cleveland in '09, when Quinn started nine games. “One of the biggest things for me was my comfort level in Coach Crennel, having been drafted by him, as well as playing under Brian Daboll,” Quinn said. “I know (Daboll’s) system, have worked with him before, and I really enjoyed my experience with him.”

• Despite the signing of OLB Jarret Johnson, we hear there is still a chance that former Chargers first-round pick Larry English will start in 2012. English has healed from the foot injuries that cost him 19 games the past two years and will compete with Johnson for a starting spot across from Shaun Phillips.

• New Raiders CB Ron Bartell is completely healthy from a neck injury that cost him 15 games last year. We hear that, given the team's lack of depth in the secondary, there is a good chance Bartell will be able to win a starting job in training camp. A big and physical corner, Bartell started 65 games in seven seasons with the Rams before signing with Oakland.

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