Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the NFC:
• It has flown a bit under the radar while other members of the team’s offensive line have come under scrutiny for miscues at points this season, but we hear the Bears believe starting ORG Lance Louis is coming into his own in his contract year. Louis — who allowed 10 sacks in 14 games last season, according to STATS, LLC — has given up only one sack this season and continues to be a feisty run blocker. He brings the physicality offensive coordinator Mike Tice wants to see from his O-linemen.
• Should the Cardinals decide to sign a No. 3 quarterback to back up John Skelton and Ryan Lindley with Kevin Kolb (injured ribs) out of the mix for the next 6-8 weeks, which is far from a given, we hear the best bet to fill such a role would be former Cardinal Rich Bartel, who was waived/injured at the end of the preseason. Bartel’s familiarity with the offense makes him a legitimate front-runner for a third-string role.
• We hear it probably will be a couple more weeks before both C Scott Wells (on the injured reserve/return list with a fractured foot) and OLT Rodger Saffold (knee) will be able to begin practicing again for the Rams. We also hear that when Wells eventually returns to the starting lineup, it’s a good bet that Rob Turner, who has done a decent job in place of Wells, will become the starting left guard replacing Quinn Ojinnaka, who is currently considered the weakest link on the offensive line by most close team observers. It’s also possible that Shelley Smith, who has spent some time recently practicing with the first team, could challenge Ojinnaka for more playing time.
• Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer explained this week how the contrasting running styles of veteran workhorse Steven Jackson and rookie Daryl Richardson, whose playing time has been rapidly increasing, makes it difficult for opposing defenses. “You have to defend different parts of the field with each guy,” Schottenheimer said. “There’s different styles. Steven just pounds on you. The safeties don’t want to see him coming, the corners don’t want to see him coming. Then obviously, Daryl, when he’s in space, is pretty dangerous. They both complement each other very well. You’ll see us try to mix in different packages with each guy and ask them to do things that maybe the other guy’s done early in the season because they’re both certainly capable of doing that.”
• Our sources in Seattle tell us the team is looking forward to getting a boost in the secondary with the return of CB Walter Thurmond, a former starter for a relatively short spell who started the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list rehabbing the leg he broke against the Browns last October. We hear Thurmond is a good bet to be good to go for the Lions game on Oct 28.
• We hear both TE Andrew Quarless (knee) and OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring) are definitely ready to rumble for the Packers after spending the first six weeks on the physically-unable-to-perform list. But it’s a different story for fellow PUP member OLT Derek Sherrod, who team sources tell us still has a ways to go in his recovery from the surgery he had last December to repair the broken leg that prematurely ended his rookie campaign.
• The Buccaneers have been very encouraged with the way MLB Mason Foster is playing, we hear. He was one of the team’s major question marks on defense after a rookie season that saw him fade down the stretch. There was even a debate over whether he should be moved to the outside early in the offseason. Foster has really shined against the run thus far. Excluding sacks, he already has more than twice as many tackles for loss (seven) as he did in 2011 (three).
• The Vikings are allowing ORG Geoff Schwartz to possibly regain his starting position, currently held by Brandon Fusco, who has been up and down in his first starting experience. Schwartz (sports hernia) is getting healthier now and could soon overtake the spot as he continues to rotate into the lineup. He's a favorite of OL coach Jeff Davidson. The Vikings are not down on Fusco but believe he has to execute better, especially in space.
• Our league sources who are familiar with the work of new Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles believe he wants to be more aggressive and blitz, especially on early downs and in the fourth quarter, when the Eagles often were reticent to do so under the dismissed Juan Castillo. One problem, though, is that the Eagles have not been a great blitzing team this season so far. Perhaps changing up the frequency of it will help.
• Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said this week that OT Jammal Brown is doing well with his hip injury and could return in Week 10, but our sources are not sold, having heard similar claims before. Brown has looked broken down at times and might never be the same. Some team sources are not counting on his healthy return.
• Giants OL Dave Diehl doesn't appear to be joining the starting lineup anytime soon, barring an injury somewhere. The Giants like their starting five, as it has grown together well. Diehl is valuable as a four-position reserve and can be used as a third tackle in heavy formations, which the Giants have employed since his return from injury.