Here are some Whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the NFL:
• If there were two Texans who could afford to miss most of offseason team activities while they rehab from injuries, they’re QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson. That’s the good news. But one adverse effect to keep in mind with Schaub being on the sideline is the impact it might have on an extremely young receiving corps. While players are getting extra reps because of Johnson’s absence, they have missed out on building a rapport with Schaub. One source indicated after Houston’s OTAs wrapped up that neither of the wide receivers the team selected in the draft, third-rounder DeVier Posey or fourth-rounder Keshawn Martin, had yet to jump out.
• Buccaneers first-round pick Doug Martin is expected to earn his way into the club’s featured-back role without much delay, but one team observer said it’s clear that the player Martin will be competing with for touches — LeGarrette Blount — received the message sent by Martin’s arrival and is operating with a greater sense of urgency.
• The Saints are looking for a wide receiver to step up following the departure of Robert Meachem in free agency, and we hear rookie WR Nick Toon was one of the standouts during the team’s non-contact workouts. He has a different skill set than Meachem’s and is more closely aligned with Saints WR Marques Colston. However, Toon is in position to battle Adrian Arrington and Joseph Morgan for the No. 4 WR job heading into training camp.
• The Saints might need to add depth at defensive end before the season starts, but we hear they are not clamoring for help at the position in the wake of snake-bitten DE Greg Romeus’ ACL and MCL tears, which are expected to sideline him for 6-8 months. Romeus, who had worked his way back from an ACL tear that kept him off the field last season, would have been on the roster bubble in training camp. The Saints are left with Will Smith, who is appealing a four-game suspension, Cameron Jordan, Junior Galette, Turk McBride and Martez Wilson as the players expected to make the 53-man roster at defensive end.
• Our sources who were in attendance at the Colts’ official minicamp last week report that CB Kevin Thomas, who has been working with the first team opposite Jerraud Powers throughout the offseason, is starting to make a push. A third-round pick in 2010, Thomas spent last season playing catchup after missing his rookie campaign with a knee injury. But we hear he is starting to make some plays — he nearly intercepted QB Andrew Luck twice last week — and the coaching staff is taking notice.
• Sources on the scene in Seattle believe there’s a decent chance a meeting of the minds before the start of training camp will take place between the team and disgruntled DE Chris Clemons, who opted to skip the Seahawks’ mandatory minicamp presumably because of contract concerns. Word is Clemons, due to bring home $4.5 million in the final year of his current deal, would be comfortable with a deal similar to the four-year contract extension received this offseason by Miami’s Cameron Wake, which included a reported $20 million in guaranteed money.
• Our Cardinals sources believe the team made a “smart move” in signing OLB Quentin Groves, a former second-round pick of the Jaguars who played the past two seasons in Oakland. “He hasn’t lived up to his draft status, but they do think he has enough pass-rushing ability to maybe become part of the (OLB) rotation,” one team insider said. “They certainly could use more help there.”
• We hear the Rams are confident that C Scott Wells, a key free-agent signing who did not participate in the team’s mandatory minicamp after a scope on his knee, is expected to be good to go by training camp.
• New Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer sounds excited about the team’s potential mix at tight end. “I know one thing, Starting with Lance (Kendricks), we really liked Lance back in New York when we looked at him,” Schottenheimer said at the team’s mandatory minicamp. “I think he’s got a chance to be a terrific all-around player. Then we are complementing him with guys that can do some stuff in the running game, also some matchup. We have some really talented young players. I think if you watch DeAngelo Peterson out here, even Jamie Childers is a guy that showed up, and we’ll be excited to get (Mike) ‘Hooman’ (Hoomanawanui) back. Tight ends create a problem in this league, in our opinion, for matchups because you can get in multiple formations with those guys and sometimes they are in the backfield and sometimes they are playing receiver and sometimes they are in line and that allows you to create problems for a defense.”
• A strong case can be made for former Stanford S Michael Thomas as the 49ers’ most intriguing undrafted rookie. “He’s definitely up there on the list,” one team insider said of Thomas, who played in current Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme at Stanford as a junior. “He knows the defense and is very bright and dedicated. He can play both backup safety and nickel corner — an unusual combination. I think he will give (sixth-round rookie) Trent Robinson a real battle for the fourth safety spot (behind Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner and C.J. Spillman).
• We’re told perhaps the most impressive participant in the Packers’ mandatory minicamp was backup QB Graham Harrell, who appears to have added both muscle and arm strength since the end of the season. Harrell also looked a lot more comfortable in every aspect of his game.
• Browns president Mike Holmgren talked up WR Mohamed Massaquoi last week, saying he thought the fourth-year pro was “ready to have a breakout year.” Holmgren also said he believed Massaquoi had been affected by the thunderous hit to the head he took from Steelers ROLB James Harrison in a 2010 game. “He and I might argue about that, but that’s my feeling,” Holmgren said of Massaquoi, who caught 31 passes a season ago but missed time with a concussion and was bothered by numerous other injuries.
• The way we hear it, rookie Mitchell Schwartz seems like a safe bet to win the Browns’ ORT job provided he doesn’t significantly struggle in training camp. Schwartz, a second-round pick from California, started 51 games in four seasons for the Golden Bears (36 at left tackle, 15 at right tackle).
• Patriots head coach Bill Belichick surprised observers when he had praise for third-year DE/OLB Jermaine Cunningham at the start of minicamp. "Jermaine has had a great offseason; he's really worked hard. He looks good," Belichick said. For a coach not known for throwing compliments around, it was noteworthy considering that Cunningham has been a disappointment in two seasons. We have heard that Belichick was a big fan of Cunningham's when the team drafted him in 2010, but he hasn't lived up to expectations. Despite the positive words, one daily team observer still believes Cunningham needs a strong summer to lock up his spot on the 53-man roster.
• Due to the lockout and the Bills' lack of depth at wideout by the end of the year, Brad Smith wasn't used in the "Wildcat" as much as expected in 2011. He has worked at quarterback and wide receiver in OTAs — mainly with the QBs — and head coach Chan Gailey said the team still plans to use the "Wildcat." When asked about the lifespan of the formation, Gailey responded, "I think you have to have the right person. We happen to have the right person." The Bills also have quarterbacks coach David Lee, who helped re-introduce the formation to the NFL in 2008 with the Dolphins. In an interview with PFW in the spring of 2011, Lee singled out Smith's effectiveness out of the formation. "Having that kind of quarterback on your team, (Smith) can read, he can pitch and he can pass — that's when he's lethal."