Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the NFC:
• As good as 49ers FS Dashon Goldson has been the first half of the season, we hear it’s hardly a slam dunk that the team opts to re-sign him at season’s end and keeps him from testing what could be a pretty hot market for his services in free agency. “I’m just not sure what they’re going to do about him,” one team insider said. “They’re pretty high on (fourth-year pro C.J.) Spillman (as a future starting safety). Plus, with heavy payments kicking in for the new stadium, they might not have the money.”
• Lions FS Louis Delmas continues to struggle to stay healthy. His troublesome left knee kept him out of the Lions’ first four games, and he reinjured the knee in Week Eight. “That’s the one guy on the back end they can’t afford to lose,” said one personnel man who has watched Detroit this season.
• Redskins DE Jarvis Jenkins isn’t all the way back yet. There is a lack of his explosion in his game, and he’s lacking a pass-rush impact to this point despite defending the run fairly well from his spot. Jenkins still rushes too high and doesn’t have the off-the-snap quickness he showed a year ago in training camp, but there’s no reason to think it can’t come back.
• Giants SS Stevie Brown has played exceptionally well as a playmaker since Kenny Phillips left the lineup with a knee injury in Week Four. So what happens when Phillips returns? We could see a reincarnation of the “big nickel” defense that has been a staple the past few seasons with Brown taking the role of now-departed Deon Grant. It would take a linebacker off the field — most often the middle ’backer, either Chase Blackburn or Mark Herzlich — and give the Giants a good coverage lineup with a little more speed in passing situations.
• Very quietly, it appears second-year pro Josh Hull has reached equal footing with ex-Redskin Rocky McIntosh at strong-side linebacker for the Rams. “Between the two of them, they had only 27 snaps against the Patriots with the defense in the nickel so much,” one team source said. “But it’s definitely a position to keep an eye on. They like Josh.”
• What did Rams head coach Jeff Fisher get the biggest kick out of the first half of the season? “I’d have to stay probably the production out of the kicking game,” Fisher said early in the Rams’ bye week. “In particular, both the punter (rookie Johnny Hekker) and the kicker (rookie Greg Zuerlein). I think they got off to a good start and they’ve been consistent. Unfortunately, we didn’t get many opportunities (in the loss to the Patriots in London), but they’ve been consistent. We’re nowhere close to where we need to be right now, and we’re going to take advantage of this time to get there.”
• We hear it’s possible seventh-round rookie OT Nate Potter could begin getting some extended playing time for a Cardinals offensive line that needs all the help it can get. There had been speculation that undrafted rookie WR LaRon “Lil’ Fitz” Byrd also might start to see some action. “But they’re having a hard enough time getting the ball to (first-round draft pick) Michael Floyd,” one team source said. “I don’t think Byrd will play much."
• Don’t be surprised if Packers third-year pro Evan Dietrich-Smith gets increased playing time at both guard and center the second half of the season after making a good impression against the Jaguars in Week Eight.
• The Bears have been keeping only three defensive tackles active on game day, and it has left some veteran players with significant starting experience out of the mix. Stephen Paea and Henry Melton are the starters, leaving Nate Collins, Amobi Okoye and Matt Toeaina — who has played in only one game since starting the season opener — to compete for one spot each week. “Everybody has to do their job,” Paea told PFW of the battle for snaps on the interior. “As long as you play well, you’re going to be active (on game day). Competition is high in this league and I think we have a lot of depth on our defensive line. … When competition is high, it helps the team.”
• A Panthers player with much to prove in the second half of the season is DE Greg Hardy. He already has achieved a career high with five sacks, and he could send a message to whomever the Panthers hire as their next general manager with a strong finish to the final season before his contract year. Our sources believe Hardy wore down in the second half of last season, though — he recorded only one sack in the team’s final 11 games in 2011.