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NFC Whispers

Bears' Idonije could lose starting job

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By PFW staff

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

• The Bears drafted Shea McClellin 19th overall to be their starting left defensive end and provide a consistent pass rush playing opposite Julius Peppers. McClellin’s arrival could push Israel Idonije, the starter at left end since early in the 2010 season, into a backup role, but there’s little doubt Idonije will battle if given an opportunity to compete to keep a starting spot. One league personnel evaluator recently told PFW he still views Idonije, who has the versatility to play inside as a tackle, as a starting-caliber player. “(Idonije is) a good player and a good athlete,” the evaluator said. “He’s pretty good in the run game and as a pass rusher. … He’s just not explosive from the outside.”

• We now know that the Vikings chose to release PK Ryan Longwell, despite having given him a four-year deal with $3.5 million in guaranteed money 10 months earlier, because they wanted to save money and get younger across the board. But team sources say that mistakes such as paying Longwell so heftily were the kind of thing that led the team to name an authority in the front office, giving Rick Spielman the title of GM this offseason. Ownership felt too often previously that a lack of communication and accountability with the many decision makers led to some questionable transactions that they now believe they can avoid with one chief voice.

• Lions WR Ryan Broyles, who suffered a torn ACL in November, isn’t participating in the club’s rookie orientation this weekend. However, head coach Jim Schwartz noted that Broyles is “working very well and he’s better than when we saw him at his pro day; he’ll be better tomorrow than he is today.” Schwartz also said that Broyles has “had a very, very good rehab from his knee and has made good progress.”

• It’s way, way too early to make judgments on any rookies practicing in shorts and shells, but Giants fourth-round TE Adrien Robinson has displayed very good hands in his first practice appearances. Robinson stood out for his receiving ability and athleticism at his pro day after a career at Cincinnati in which he totaled only 29 receptions (12 as a senior), and the Giants think they might have something of a sleeper on their hands, to be groomed by respected TE coach Mike Pope.

• Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson, coming off a hip injury that ended his rookie season prematurely, is in line to earn a starting spot this season with a strong training camp. But his immediate concern is getting back on to the field, and that might not happen at the team’s June 11-13 minicamp. Nevertheless, hardly anyone — Hankerson included — is concerned about his progress following February surgery and the subsequent rehab.

• One subtle thing that could help Cowboys OT Tyron Smith in his attempt to switch to the left side (he started 16 games at right tackle as a rookie) this season: Smith said recently he worked on his left-handed and right-handed stances every day last year, knowing that if Doug Free (who is the new right tackle, moving from the left side) went down, Smith likely would have replaced him. Few expect Smith’s transition to be anything but smooth considering how well he played in his first season.

• The Eagles think they might have pulled a fast one by landing undrafted rookie RB Chris Polk, whose name was not called on draft weekend, likely because of injury concerns. But if Polk is healthy, the Eagles might actually have found their backup to LeSean McCoy. Dion Lewis looks best to fill the No. 3 role, primarily on third downs. The team did spend a seventh-round pick on troubled RB Bryce Brown, but Polk actually appears to be the cleaner prospect, if his health is not an issue.

• Assuming the Rams decide to go with six wide receivers, we hear the team currently considers only three of their current wideouts to be locks to make the team — rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens and trusted slot receiver Danny Amendola. “If Steve Smith is healthy, I’d expect him to be the fourth guy,” a team insider told PFW. “But after that, it really is up in the air between Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander, Austin Pettis and Greg Salas. I really was starting to like Salas before he got hurt (he broke a leg in November). He reminds me of a bigger Amendola.”

• It appears the rumors in the Bay Area that Niners starting ORT and former first-rounder Anthony Davis could be shifted to guard have all but vanished. “With his size and mobility, you can’t help but think about how good he could possibly be as a guard,” said one close observer of the team. “But I think after what they did in the draft (selecting OG Joe Looney), Davis will stay put.”

• Observers of the Seahawks’ early camp workouts have had a hard time ignoring newly acquired OG Deuce Lutui, who we’re told looks to be as thin as he’s ever been (about 338 pounds) after modifying his diet.

• We hear it’s far from a given that Cardinals sixth-round rookie QB Dale Lindley will beat out holdover Richard Bartel for the No. 3 QB job behind Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. “They really like Lindley’s physical and mental attributes, but the coaches love what Bartel brings to the table in the meeting room,” said one team insider. “(Bartel) is a future coach, for sure.”

• Among the Rams’ 23 rookie free agents, team sources tell us two players particularly worth keeping an eye on are Houston’s Sammy Brown and Washington State’s Alex Hoffman-Ellis, each of whom could have a legitimate shot at competing for the starting WLB job. In addition, Duke’s Matt Daniels, Virginia’s Rodney McLeod and UNLV’s Quinton Pointer could be on the cusp of a spirited battle for the team’s fourth safety spot.

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