NFL Whispers

Posted July 16, 2012 @ 12:26 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

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

• With the Packers seeming to have an abundance of talent at wide receiver, don’t rule out the possibility that James Jones could be traded if a serious enough need develops at another position. Most close observers currently have Jones, who managed an impressive seven touchdowns despite limited snaps last season, tabbed as the No. 3 receiver behind Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. But veteran Donald Driver and youngsters Randall Cobb, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel could all give Jones a serious run for his money.

• Bears players and coaches spoke very highly of Devin Hester’s performance this offseason and it appears he will be utilized at receiver in the slot as well as outside with Mike Tice running the offense. With Earl Bennett also expected to be featured in the slot, the two could complement each other well. “(Bennett) has stood out over the past few seasons,” one league evaluator told PFW. “They really missed him (when he was sidelined for five games) last season.”

• With Brian Price in line to be the Buccaneers’ starting nose tackle and veteran Gary Gibson added this offseason to back him up, Roy Miller’s playing time is likely to dwindle barring an injury. Miller appears to be on the roster bubble heading into training camp.

• Just how much has the Rams’ situation at cornerback changed? Just like that, Jerome Murphy, who was projected as the team’s No. 3 corner entering last season, currently shapes up as the sixth corner behind Cortland Finnegan, Bradley Fisher, Josh Gordy and rookies Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, according to most daily team observers. We hear there continues to be speculation that the very physical Johnson could be moved to safety.

• After entering the offseason looking like a serious candidate for the Niners’ starting ORG job vacated by Adam Snyder, it appears second-year pro Daniel Kilgore could be settling into the backup center spot behind Jonathan Goodwin, with the team viewing him as Goodwin’s heir apparent.

• We hear Cardinals sixth-round rookie DB Justin Bethel, who is capable of playing multiple positions in the secondary, will most likely be spending most of his time at safety backing up veteran safeties Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes, both of whom had their share of injury issues last season. Ideally, the Cardinals would like Bethel to make his biggest initial impact as a rookie on special teams.

• After hitting a home run with the signing of undrafted free agent WR Doug Baldwin last season, we hear the Seahawks have had a hard time keeping their eyes off of Phil Bates, another undrafted free agent out of Ohio.

• Word inside Jaguars’ camp is that ORT Eben Britton is finally ready to put it all together this season. After a promising rookie campaign in 2009, Britton has lost most of the past two seasons to shoulder and back injuries. But we hear Britton appears to have turned a corner and “big things are in store” for the former second-rounder. This would be music to the ears of QB Blaine Gabbert, who did not receive adequate protection from swing tackle Guy Whimper last season.

• Plenty of attention will be paid to how the WR pecking order plays out in Houston during training camp — rookies DeVier Posey, Keshawn Martin and 2011 undrafted free agent Lester Jean are all in the mix to replace Jacoby Jones and earn playing time behind Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter. However, it will also be important to monitor how Jones’ former return duties are picked up. The Texans privately are hoping Martin clamps down on the punt-return duties, but he doesn’t have prior experience returning kicks. That responsibility could land with DBs Quintin Demps or Sherrick McManis, among others, and Trindon Holliday remains in the mix, as well.

• DE Elvis Dumervil's arrest over the weekend for aggravated assault is certainly a cause of concern for Denver, and it's not the pass rusher's first run-in with the law since he has been in the NFL (charges for assault and disturbing the peace in 2010 were dismissed). It's too early to tell if Dumervil will face a suspension, but any time away would test the Broncos' depth up front on defense. Jason Hunter, the team's top reserve off the edge, would have to step up, and the Broncos will have to look closely at other young players this summer to consider possible contingency plans. And Denver’s front seven is already going to be without starting LB D.J. Williams for the first six games because of a suspension.

• The Chargers drafted TE Ladarius Green in the fourth round, and in the best-case scenario, he will eventually follow in All-Pro TE Antonio Gates' footsteps. Green will get to show off his athleticism this summer, and he could be the team's No. 3 tight end, which we hear could create potential battles for roster spots between veteran TEs Dante Rosario and Kory Sperry. Randy McMichael is still entrenched as the team's No. 2, blocking tight end.

• Jets brass likely breathed a sigh of relief that second-year DE Muhammad Wilkerson only suffered minor injuries in a car accident on June 23. He spoke to the New Jersey Star Ledger about the incident. “With that situation, obviously I’m grateful that everyone is fine, nobody was hurt seriously. It was a tragedy that it happened but I’m just happy everybody is OK and I’m blessed to be here,” he said. The Jets have made it no secret that they expect big things from Wilkerson in his second season. He started every game as a rookie and led the team with 13 tackles for loss. Paired on the D-line with first-rounder Quinton Coples, Wilkerson, who got stitches in his right forearm, is expected to have a breakout year, and he should be ready to go when training camp begins.

• Dolphins new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has helped the secondary, we hear, from a fundamentals standpoint. Despite having two talented outside corners in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, the group underachieved last season and still has question marks at safety. Getting improvement from the defensive backs is crucial for Coyle, as the Dolphins are already strong up front. The hope is that newcomer Richard Marshall, who will play the nickel, and a jump from third-year S Reshad Jones will help give the unit a boost.

• The way we hear it, ex-Cowboys CB Terence Newman showed well in the spring for Cincinnati. How Newman fares in training camp will determine whether he makes the Bengals, we’re told, but word is he’s off to a solid start. Newman played under Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer in Dallas for the first four years of the cornerback’s career (2003-06). Newman started 14 games a season ago but struggled at times, and Dallas released him in March.

• We hear rookie Steelers RB Chris Rainey’s speed gives him a nice shot at having a role this season, with kickoffs perhaps his primary outlet to get onto the field and the passing game another area in which he could see the field, we’re told. Rainey was a bigger factor as a pass catcher (69 career receptions) than a kickoff returner (16 returns) at Florida.