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Titans QB battle to rage well into summer

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By PFW staff

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

• A decision on who will be under center for the Titans in Week One — veteran Matt Hasselbeck or youngster Jake Locker — likely won’t come until after both players have gone through a full training camp and shown what they can do. GM Ruston Webster said last week that it would come down to a “gut feel,” with offensive coordinator Chris Palmer adding that whichever player can provide more positive plays for the offense will end up on top. The Titans have long been a consensus-building club, but we hear this decision will be made, for the most part, by the coaching staff, without meddling from the front office.

• There were rumblings that the Chiefs would target a quarterback in the draft, instead, they signed Brady Quinn, who is competing with 2011 fifth-rounder Ricky Stanzi to be Matt Cassel's backup. According to the Chiefs' website, it was Stanzi who took snaps with the second-team offense during the most recent week of OTAs. Stanzi didn't seem to develop as quickly as the Chiefs may have hoped, as he wasn't ready to step in last season after Cassel went down and Tyler Palko struggled, leading to the signing of Kyle Orton. With lingering questions about Cassel's future, this is a crucial offseason for Stanzi, who was ranked as the fourth-best QB in the PFW 2011 Draft Preview book, and he appears to be off to a good start.

• Though the temporary lease default scare between the Jaguars and the city of the Jacksonville last week turned out to be much ado about nothing, the quick headlines and panic it created might have been avoidable, the way we hear it. One source close to the situation told PFW that overreactions by both sides caused a misunderstanding to become public. The city never should have sent the letter in the first place; the author was unaware of an amendment in the lease, allowing the Jaguars to hire a facilities manager, which, at the time, the lawyer believed was a breach of contract. Further, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan also could have refrained from responding via letter, which our source called a broadside, when picking up the phone and calling the mayor likely would have accomplished the same result. In the end, it appears to be no harm, no foul, but it will be interesting to see how the relationship between Khan and mayor Alvin Brown develops moving forward.
 
• The Colts have showed a renewed commitment to special teams under new GM Ryan Grigson, adding a pair of dynamic returnmen, T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill, via the draft and signing Tom Zbikowski and trading for Cassius Vaughn to bolster the unit. There figures to be heavy competition for the return duties this season, though a source in Indianapolis pointed to Zbikowski’s experience as a punt returner as a positive that might tip the scales in his favor. As for Hilton and Brazill, nagging injuries have prevented both players from strutting their stuff early in OTAs.

• Pass-rush ability gives DE Marcus Benard, who missed most of last season after a motorcycle accident, a chance to have a role with the 2012 Browns, the way we hear it. Benard notched a team-best 7½ sacks in 2010. If Benard contributes, it would figure to be as a rush specialist.

• Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden’s accuracy and arm strength have been apparent in OTAs, we’re told. He’s looked the part, which can’t be a negative, even if it’s just OTAs. Weeden is regarded as the front-runner for the starting job in Cleveland.

• Lions WR Titus Young’s return to the club’s good graces after a week away from OTAs will have to occur gradually, head coach Jim Schwartz indicated. Young, who reportedly punched S Louis Delmas, issued an apology upon his return to OTAs May 29. “Honestly, that's one of those ones that it's going to be a work in progress,” Schwartz said of Young’s participation in OTAs. “There (are) certain criteria for him to be able to come out and practice and play the way that we know that he can. He had an outstanding practice (on May 29). That doesn't erase the incidents that have occurred and it doesn't change the process that we're going to have for him to stay in good standard. Not just with the team, but with his teammates. Again, we're talking about a young guy, a guy that has to change to be able to do what you said, to put it behind him. It's not going to be a one-day thing. It's going to be over a long period of time.”

• Jets seventh-round WR Jordan White suffered a setback in the team's first OTA, fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. White put up huge numbers at Western Michigan, and left school as the MAC's leader in career receiving yards. He did so despite two torn ACL injuries, and durability concerns have followed him to the NFL. Wide receiver is a thin position for the Jets, and White could develop into a No. 4 receiver who can fill in out of the slot, but he will need to prove he can stay healthy.

• In May, the Patriots hosted a few veteran O-linemen for tryouts, and eventually signed ex-Colt Jamey Richard. Even with the retirement of Matt Light, the Pats are pretty stocked with experience on the O-line, considering former No. 2 overall pick Robert Gallery is currently a backup, and either Dan Connolly or Dan Koppen, both of whom have plenty of starting experience, will also be running with the second team. But there are a couple lingering concerns up front, as one daily team observer pointed out, such as Logan Mankins' health as he returns from offseason ACL surgery and the right tackle position. ORT Sebastian Vollmer battled injuries last year and his backup is currently 2011 fifth-rounder Marcus Cannon, but the cancer survivor may not be ready to step into a starting role if Vollmer goes down.

• We heard last year that getting Chris Kelsay back with his hand in the ground would benefit the Bills' front seven, and the move to the 4-3 with Dave Wannstedt has done just that. "I'm super excited to get back to the 4-3. That's what I played my first seven years in the league, that's what I played throughout college, even in high school," Kelsay said last week, per the Buffalo News. "When we were in nickel packages and could put our hand on the ground and just play fast and not think about things, that's where you get the most out of your players and guys are most effective." Kelsay will compete with free-agent addition Mark Anderson for playing time opposite Mario Williams.

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