Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the NFC:
• Vikings OLT Matt Kalil has room to grow as a run blocker, but his pass protection has been terrific so far. The team has been thrilled with his performance for the most part and believe they have the makings of a strong offensive line for the next several years.
• Keep an eye on Cowboys TE James Hanna. His athletic skills are undeniable, and team sources believe he’s capable of providing a spark in two-TE formations. Hanna has shown his skill on special teams and could be ready for an offensive breakout at some point soon.
• Eagles FB Stanley Havili hasn’t received much attention, but his extra work (especially in the second half of Week Four’s victory) has been very well received in the locker room. Havili has earned himself an expanded role over what was expected of him heading into the season.
• While the 49ers were looking near-perfect on both sides of the ball entering Week Six action, one definite concern was the team’s subpar kick coverage, which more than a few close observers attribute to the departure of special-teams demon Blake Costanzo. “They don’t really have a pure 100 percent special-teams guy anymore like Costanzo, who was a great coach on the field that got the players really fired up. The rest of these guys aren’t as totally focused on special teams; they are thinking more like, if they play well (on special teams), that will lead to them being starters.” Costanzo, it should be noted, is definitely making his special-teams presence felt with the Bears, raising eyebrows with his expected return for the Oct. 22 tilt vs. Detroit only two weeks after undergoing thumb surgery. “He played with a snapped ligament in two games,” Bears special-teams coach Dave Toub said. “This guy is an animal.”
• Our Rams sources are putting their money on WR Danny Amendola returning to action much sooner than later after suffering a shoulder joint injury that normally takes anywhere from 4-8 weeks to sufficiently heal. “A month to recover might be optimistic, but Danny’s a quick healer, and I know he’s going to want to come back,” one source said. “This particular injury doesn’t have a great track record as far as quick recovery goes. It took (Cowboys QB) Tony Romo 11 weeks to recover from the same injury, but don’t forget, he does have to throw the ball. The (Rams') bye week (in Week Nine) will help.”
• While our Rams sources wholeheartedly acknowledge the potential of rookie RB Daryl Richardson, they respectfully agree to disagree with head coach Jeff Fisher’s recent contention that Richardson was “as good as you could find in there as a pass protector.” Said one insider: “I think he actually is a real liability in blitz pickup. I’ve seen him miss a few blocks badly.”
• Making matters worse for the Cardinals’ beleaguered offensive line is an elbow injury that has been hindering starting ORG Adam Snyder all season up to now. It would not be a shock if backup Rich Ohrnberger is thrust into action at some point in place of the clearly struggling Snyder, whose elbow might require surgery after the season, according to team sources.
• We hear Cardinals second-year RB Ryan Williams is expected to make a full recovery from the season-ending shoulder injury he suffered in the Week Five loss to the Rams. It’s expected to take anywhere from 6-12 weeks for Williams’ shoulder to heal fully.
• We are hearing the Buccaneers are looking for more from CB Eric Wright coming out of a Week Five bye. A Wright play — his 60-yard interception return for a TD vs. the Giants in Week Two — is one of the best moments of the team’s season to date, but we’re told the club wants to see him do a better job of tackling. There are high expectations for Wright, who has dealt with head and lower-back injuries this season, after he signed a five-year, $38 million contract in the offseason.
• While he is still very much a work in progress in his first season as a defensive end, the Saints have been giving Martez Wilson, a converted linebacker, more opportunities in recent weeks as they search for a solution to their pass-rush difficulties. Wilson, who made the game-sealing play (a strip-sack) vs. a gimpy OLT Jared Gaither, played a season-high 29 snaps on defense in the Saints’ Week Five win over the Chargers. Wilson played a total of 36 defensive snaps in the Saints’ first four games.