Here are some Whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the NFL:
• With both Rams rookie CBs Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson making very strong impressions for the most part this preseason — it should be noted that Jenkins does have to do a better job tackling, as evidenced by some really ugly whiffs on a few occasions — rumors that the Rams could be looking to trade holdover CB Bradley Fletcher make a lot of sense. Fletcher, currently fourth on the depth chart behind newcomer Cortland Finnegan, Jenkins and Johnson, is scheduled to make $1.2 million in the final year of his contract.
• The loss of first-round draft pick Michael Brockers for what we are hearing could be up to a month after suffering a high ankle sprain in the preseason finale leaves the Rams perilously thin at defensive tackle entering the regular season. Backup DT Matt Conrath also was injured (undisclosed) in the exhibition wrap-up. Short of added manpower via the waiver wire, the onus would appear to be on third-year pro Jermelle Cudjo to replace Brockers as the starting DRT. “’Cudj’ has done a nice job,” Rams assistant head coach Dave McGinnis said recently. “He has been healthy and has really taken to the type of techniques (D-line coach) Mike Waufle has brought to his game.”
• Third-year S Reshad Jones is a key part of the Dolphins’ secondary and has had his starting spot cemented since the spring. Former Dolphins TE Les Brown, who was cut last week and faced Jones in practice, had this to say about the safety: “He runs well. He’s fast, he’s quick, he gets to the ball. He has all the skills to be an effective, or even premier safety in this league.”
• Jets head coach Rex Ryan likes his corners and will put up to six of them on the field in certain situations. With that in mind, undrafted rookie CBs Donnie Fletcher and Ryan Steed seemed to have a chance at making the roster. Both players had decent draft grades earlier in the process, but neither made the final roster. Part of that is due to the play of CBs Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant, two players who made most of their contributions in 2011 on special teams. With Donald Strickland gone, look for Lankster and Trufant to see more time in dime packages. We hear that Trufant will be used as a blitzer as well.
• The initial reviews of Bears DT Stephen Paea’s training-camp performance were positive. We’re told he was showing development as a pass rusher and seemed to be on track to win the starting job at nose tackle over Matt Toeaina, but early-season expectations for Paea, a second-round pick in 2011, have been tempered by the ankle sprain he suffered in practice on Aug. 11. The injury kept him out of the final three preseason games and it’s expected to be a source of discomfort for him well into the regular season.
• Look for the Cardinals to continue seriously looking for help at offensive tackle, in the wake of OLT Levi Brown’s season-ending injury, and outside linebacker, where free-agent addition Quentin Groves currently is the only backup at the position. “They would love to find another tackle,” a team insider told PFW. “I think they’re more concerned about (rookie) Bobby Massie (the projected starter at right tackle) right now than they are about (projected starting OLT D’Anthony) Batiste, who played pretty well in the last preseason game. Massie still has a lot of work to do, but he’s got a lot more ability than Jeremy Bridges, so they’ve decided to start Massie at right tackle for the time being.”
• Were there any surprises among the Cardinals’ cuts? “Not really,” one team source said. “I thought (veteran OLB Clark) Haggans could be in trouble, and they figured to keep all three of their drafted offensive linemen (fourth-round OT Bobby Massie, fifth-round OG Senio Kelemete and seventh-round OT Nate Potter). I was a little surprised they cut (second-year WR) DeMarco Sampson, but they really like (undrafted rookie) LaRon Byrd, who’s a good, level-headed kid and another really big target to go along with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.”
• The biggest eyebrow-raiser among the Packers’ offensive cuts was the decision to retain undrafted rookie WR Jarrett Boykin over WRs Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel. At the end of the day, we hear the 6-2, 218-pound Boykin greatly outperformed both Gurley and Borel in training camp and the preseason and would have been a very enticing waiver claim for another team.
• If there was a surprise among the Packers’ defensive cuts, it was the release of ex-Colts DT Daniel Muir, who most observers believe lost a battle for a `roster spot to fellow free agent Phillip Merling, a more natural 3-4 defender. There are some close team observers who think Muir, who provided great energy, did a better job this preseason providing an inside pass rush than both rookies Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels. Don’t be shocked if Merling is let go after either LB Erik Walden or DE Mike Neal come back from their suspensions after Week One and Week Four, respectively.
• The most noteworthy Niners cut was Josh Johnson, who played quarterback under Jim Harbaugh at San Diego University. Johnson lost out to Scott Tolzein for the No. 3 QB job behind Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. But a much bigger surprise was the decision to keep undrafted rookie Garrett Celek as the No. 3 tight end over ex-Stanford product Konrad Reuland, a practice-squad member last year who made a habit out of making tough catches this summer. We hear Celek, the younger brother of Eagles TE Brent Celek, made the team on the strength of his superior blocking.
• Two big reasons why we hear the 49ers don’t appear to be in a great rush to re-sign FS Dashon Goldson and C Jonathan Goodwin, both of whom are entering their contract years, are the backups behind them — C.J. Spillman and Daniel Kilgore, respectively. Team sources tell us both Spillman and Kilgore are considered future starters.