Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the AFC:
• An injury to Titans starting MLB Colin McCarthy has forced veteran Will Witherspoon to move inside the past two weeks, and his play has left a lot to be desired, the way we hear it. Witherspoon appears to have lost a step, which has led to him losing snaps to fellow veteran Zac Diles, who we hear is the faster, more physical player at this stage of their careers. Both Witherspoon and rookie Zach Brown have struggled getting proper depth on their drops, leading to some of the issues the Titans have experienced in pass coverage, we hear.
• Jaguars undrafted rookie C-OG Mike Brewster has been put in a tough position because of injuries along the offensive line, earning his first NFL start against the Colts in Week Three, after being thrown into the fire two games earlier following an injury to starting OLG Eben Britton. Word is Brewster actually has held up well given the circumstances, with critical blocks helping spring Maurice Jones-Drew on his two biggest runs of the day. Said head coach Mike Mularkey of Brewster: “I don’t know how he came to us as a free agent. Linemen are hard to find these days, especially guys that have that many starts under their belt in the Big Ten. We’re very fortunate we have him. He’s played well. He’s been playing right into the situations. Opening game of the 2012 season against one of the better players in the NFL, Kevin Williams, and he doesn’t even blink. He just goes out there and does his job. He doesn’t say a word, just plays hard.”
• Texans dime safety Quintin Demps has played well to begin the season, the way we hear it. Demps has a knack for being around the football, and he has carried his positive momentum from last season into 2012. Though Demps suffered a broken thumb in Week Three, he gutted it out with a cast on his hand in the second half, and, after having surgery on the thumb, the injury is not expected to have a big impact on his performance moving forward. He will play with a cast.
• Last season was a trying one for Jets ILB Bart Scott, who had his lowest tackle total since 2004 and felt some frustration about leaving the field on third downs. Thus far this season, Scott has looked revitalized, we hear, in games and on the practice field. He has 19 tackles, two of which were for loss, and a QB hit. Scott has been flying around and helping the Jets’ defense where he is best — in the box and as a blitzer.
• The Patriots’ run game has taken a big step back from what we saw from it in Week One, when New England had 162 yards on the ground against Tennessee. Despite the shuffling backfield, we hear that the ideal situation is still featuring Stevan Ridley as a primary back, with Danny Woodhead or Shane Vereen being the change-of-pace back who can help in the receiving game. Ridley needs to show more consistency to fully earn the team’s confidence.
• Some observers had doubts about the Chargers’ decision to sign SS Atari Bigby this offseason. It was even more of a head-scratcher that they expected him to start, considering he had not been a consistent starter since 2009. But we hear that he is fitting in well in the system and is helped by FS Eric Weddle, who covers a lot of ground in the back end. Bigby has started every game and has a team-high 26 tackles.
• Ravens rookie ORT Kelechi Osemele had some struggles in Week Four, committing a pair of penalties and surrendering a sack to Browns DE Jabaal Sheard. However, it’s clear the Ravens like his potential, and he’s likely to get every chance to continue to develop on the job, we’re told.
• Much has been made about the Browns’ youth on offense. Well, they are also quite young on defense, and they have received some significant contributions from unheralded players, with rookie DT Billy Winn and second-year LB Craig Robertson among those doing well with their chances to play. Winn, who has started every regular-season game in place of the injured Phil Taylor, notched five tackles at Baltimore in Week Four, while Robertson, an undrafted free agent in 2011, has 23 tackles and two interceptions in four games. The Browns’ defense has had to deal with significant personnel losses all season, and opponents are gaining more than 400 yards per game against the Browns, but all things considered, Dick Jauron’s group has hung in pretty well.
• The Chiefs have to be wondering about S Eric Berry, who has not played well since returning from knee surgery. Sure, the secondary has been a mess, and sources have said he’s trying to compensate for others’ missed assignments. But Berry has not played with confidence and often has looked out of sorts against advanced passing attacks.