Here are some Whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the NFC:
• Redskins DE Jarvis Jenkins is coming on. He still must get lower and bend at the knees better, but he has displayed power, leverage and force recently and will make his impact felt on this team. In the preseason opener, he made a few plays that won’t show up in the stats sheet, taking on blocks and funneling runners back inside, but that the coaches will mark down as big positives.
• Has Cardinals star WR Larry Fitzgerald been a willing mentor to first-round WR Michael Floyd? “I think the word ‘mentor’ is something that is overemphasized in our game,” Fitzgerald told PFW. “What I try to do is make myself available to Michael. I’ve known him for a long time. The last thing he needs from me is to be another coach or brother. He has that already. Now, what I do have is a wealth of experience and knowledge of the game. I’m going into my ninth year, so I can help him with a lot of techniques and understand the mental aspect of the game. … He’s got all the physical tools you can imagine. He’s so physical at the line of scrimmage, can catch the ball, he’s strong, intelligent, he’s making plays, and you’ve got to love his confidence."
• We hear two Rams players facing suspensions to start the season — second-year WR Austin Pettis, who has two games left on a four-game suspension carried over from last season, and ex-Colts TE Brody Eldridge, who will be serving a four-game suspension (both violated the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy) — are likely going in different directions in their careers. “Pettis had one really great practice, and he has a lot better chance of making the final roster than Eldridge,” one team insider said. “I know Eldridge has a history with (former Oklahoma teammate Sam) Bradford, but four games is a lot, and the Rams have a real logjam at tight end. I think he’s in trouble.”
• We hear 49ers second-year NT Ian Williams, who played in only game last season, could have a hard time making the final cut.
• 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio can’t say enough about the widely unsung value of DT Ray McDonald. “He is a big, big piece in our defense, both in run and pass defense,” Fangio said. “He plays the run and rushes the passer extremely well for us from the inside position. I think he improved as the season wore on last year. He was a guy that was one of the most pleasant surprises for us, in that I knew he was a good player, but I think he played his best last year, and (head coach) Jim (Harbaugh) would tell you that, too.”
• King Dunlap has moved ahead of Demetress Bell as the Eagles’ starting left tackle. Bell struggled in his brief debut against the Steelers (six plays), but this move appears to have been coming for a little while. Dunlap always has intrigued Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, and the 6-foot-9 tackle will get every chance to win the starting job despite Bell being signed to a big contract this offseason to replace injured Jason Peters.
• The Cowboys just might have some depth at defensive end, which could push Marcus Spears onto the roster bubble. Rookie Tyrone Crawford has looked impressive and is working with the second team, and Sean Lissemore is forcing the coaches to use him more based on his play. Lissemore could be a breakout player in 2012 in his third season. Spears, meanwhile, appears to be a candidate to be cut based on his salary.
• What to make of Giants WR-PR Jerrel Jernigan, who has had some highlights catching the ball in training camp but struggled to catch punts in the preseason opener? At this point, he must find a role. He will make the roster, it appears, because he has looked good as a receiver, and he backs up Victor Cruz in the slot. But if Jernigan can’t catch punts effectively, the Giants will not keep putting him out there. Making the team is one thing; playing on Sundays is another entirely.
• Lions rookie CB Bill Bentley got the start in the preseason opener vs. Cleveland, and though he had an interception, he gave up a long pass completion to fellow rookie Travis Benjamin, and he had an interception clang off his chest and fall incomplete. Head coach Jim Schwartz made it clear that he has higher expectations for the rookie. “It’s too inconsistent play for a cornerback,” Schwartz said. “Give up a deep ball — that’s something that we shouldn’t allow to happen — and we were 50 percent on making interceptions. I don’t think that’s a good day at all for what he can do.”
• Young Packers WR Diondre Borel, who appears to have made great strides since last season, told PFW he has received valuable guidance from veteran WR Donald Driver, even though he and Driver could be competing for a roster spot. “He’s helped me a lot,” Borel said of Driver. “I kind of feel like we have a similarity in quickness and stuff like that. He’s a wise man, an older guy. He knows what he’s talking about.”
• There was growing sentiment among regular Packers camp watchers before the signing of RB Cedric Benson that projected featured back James Starks was not sufficiently progressing. “I get the feeling we might have seen the best of what he had to offer in the (2010) playoffs,” one daily team observer said. “I’ll tell you what: None of these RBs can pick up the blitz, which is going to keep (FB John) Kuhn on the field more.”
• Vikings WR Stephen Burton is an injury worry, but his strong play and faith from the coaches show that he is certainly in the mix for a spot on the 53-man roster as both a returner and receiver. That’s especially true with Greg Childs out for the season, Percy Harvin a chronic health concern and Jerome Simpson suspended for the first three games of the season.
• Count former Saints CB Tracy Porter, who signed with the Broncos as a free agent this offseason, among those who think the Saints are resilient enough to stay strong this season despite the punishments for their “bounty” program. “Those guys, they’ll do a good job in weathering that storm,” Porter recently told PFW. “… It’s just another phase of adversity they had to go through. We went through adversity when we won the Super Bowl (in the 2009 season), with guys being injured, people saying the defense couldn’t stop the run, stop the pass. … They have great leadership starting with Drew (Brees), and I think they’re going to be fine.”
• We hear Saints DE Cameron Jordan and DT Sedrick Ellis appear to be the most excited of anyone on New Orleans’ defense about the schematic changes implemented by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who replaced Gregg Williams this offseason. The Saints are hoping their excitement translates to the field — the two combined for only 1½ sacks last season.
• We hear the Seahawks are pretty excited about the interior of their nickel line, with both ex-Titan Jason Jones and holdover Clinton McDonald exceeding expectations. “McDonald needed to step up, with quite a few bodies to contend with, and he has,” one daily team observer said. “He looks to be in great shape. He’s real wide and squatty, but he’s also very fast and explosive.” We hear Jones, who had his moments in Tennessee, is likely to be getting more playing time at rookie Jaye Howard’s expense.