Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the NFC:
• Despite Sam Shields’ strong performance as the Packers’ starting RCB in the Week Two victory over the Bears, we hear the situation on the right corner remains relatively fluid, with Shields needing to keep playing at that same level over a sustained period to cement the starting job over Jarrett Bush, rookie Casey Hayward and Davon House. House is the X-factor in Green Bay’s RCB equation, as it remains to be seen if he will look as good as he did during the offseason having to play the rest of the year with a harness on the shoulder he dislocated in the preseason opener.
• Falcons DT Peria Jerry is getting an opportunity to start at nose tackle with Corey Peters (foot) sidelined for at least the first six games of the season, and we’re hearing the extra reps he is receiving in practice as a result have really made a difference for him. He has flashed his ability to push the pocket early this season but still has yet to establish the kind of consistency the team wants to see from him.
• We’re hearing the Falcons feel their defense is playing with a different confidence than they are used to seeing from it. Mike Nolan’s preparation and ability to anticipate offensive game plans is the biggest reason for the change.
• Saints WLB David Hawthorne’s playing time declined significantly from Week One to Week Two, as the Saints gave backup Jonathan Casillas more opportunities. Hawthorne, who underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear around mid-August, could be limited to playing in the base defense moving forward.
• There’s a feeling in the desert that there just might be something to the theory among a growing number of league observers that the Cardinals possess a genuine intimidation factor in kick-blocking situations (Arizona has blocked 15 kicks since 2008, more than any other NFL team). “Start with the personnel, with 6-foot-8 Calais Campbell the key getting great push up the middle and Patrick Peterson and rookie Justin Bethel (who blocked a field goal, punt and PAT in the preseason) providing blazing speed of the edges,” said one team insider. “In addition, (special-teams coach) Kevin Spencer really does a good job of changing looks up, and (head coach) Ken Whisenhunt, an old special-teams guy, puts a great emphasis on that part of the game.”
• Expect the Cowboys to blitz more. Through the early part of the season, they have not been a heavy pressure team. But that should change as the Cowboys get a little healthier and show they can stop the run more consistently. Coordinator Rob Ryan has hinted he's itching to send more pressure, but the situations and personnel have dictated them to play more coverage schemes.
• The Giants have been waiting for WR Ramses Barden to step up in a real live game for three years. Thursday he showed what he can do with nine receptions (the same number he had all last season) in a key role with Hakeem Nicks out. But the Giants have been teased by Barden's ability before. They still want to see him separate consistently from press coverage and run cleaner routes, but this was a clutch performance the team needed badly.
• We should see more of Vikings WR Jarius Wright soon, even with Jerome Simpson returning to the lineup with a much-needed dose of speed in Week Four. Wright has started to impress slowly, we hear, and could be more integrated into the offensive game plan. The passing game needs a spark, and coordinator Bill Musgrave has admitted he has not called for much downfield. Speed is one of Wright's best traits.
• Rams WR Danny Amendola can’t say enough good things about fellow WR Brandon Gibson, who rather quietly registered over 50 yards receiving and a TD in each of the first two games. “Brandon’s a great player,” Amendola told PFW. “He’s really hungry this season. He likes being around Rams Park and plays real hard. Since we were both in Philly together, we have become good friends.”
• We hear Rams OLT Rodger Saffold’s latest injury, a third-degree MCL sprain suffered in the Week Two win over Washington, is expected to keep him out at least a month. As for first-round DT Michael Brockers (ankle), word is he will likely return a lot sooner than Saffold, perhaps in a week or so.
• Are the Seahawks worried about the inauspicious start of first-round draft pick Bruce Irvin, who has yet to make his presence felt as the productive pass rusher they hoped he would be? “They say they are seeing progress, but just not seeing results,” said one team insider. “They are not panicking. They realize how raw he is and are willing to let him grow and develop in practice.”
• Lions head coach Jim Schwartz has a unique perspective on MLB Stephen Tulloch, having coached him at the beginning of his career in Tennessee and now in Detroit: “Probably his biggest progression over the course of his NFL career has been pass defense,” Schwartz told reporters leading up to Week Three. “There’s a lot to learn in pass defense. It doesn’t matter who you are, but particularly for linebackers, it’s a very difficult thing. You have to know all your run-fits and all your blitzes. But pass defense is probably the biggest challenge and just looking back on him from him as a rookie, that’s the thing that he’s improved the most on. He’s always been a distinctive defender when it comes to the run. He’s been a short tackler, those sorts of things. But he’s become much more effective against the pass.”