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AFC Whispers

Williams can help Broncos defend tight ends better

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By PFW staff

Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the AFC:

• The Broncos’ defense showed in Week 10 that it still doesn’t have a great answer for opposing tight ends, when Panthers TE Greg Olsen had nine catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns. We had heard this was the team’s biggest Achille's heel, but that area could get some help with the return of LB D.J. Williams, whose suspension has ended. Williams is an experienced linebacker who can give the defense some flexibility moving forward, which might increase the team’s options when deciding how to keep tight ends in check.
• “The Colts are playing such inspired football,” one NFL personnel evaluator said. “(Head coach Chuck) Pagano deserves so much credit for what is happening there. His enthusiasm, his message — regardless of whether he is with the club or not — has had such a strong impact on his players. You can’t say enough about where that team is at right now.”

• Texans CB Kareem Jackson isn’t the same player he was two years ago — or even last year. The game has slowed down so much for him. He is able to play with a lot of aggression and, even more importantly, with confidence. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has once again proven that he knows exactly how to get the most out of his players, by putting them in the best possible positions to be successful.

• The Raiders’ season has taken a turn for the worst in recent weeks as the defense has been gashed, and first-year head coach Dennis Allen has had to answer for a unit he was brought in to upgrade as the club’s first head coach with a defensive background in decades. We hear Allen has not changed much schematically with the defense from week-to-week, but the pressure to do so is obviously building. The consistent approach has not exactly rubbed off on Allen’s players.

• One of the things we’ve heard about the Chargers is that they are very reactionary, and that is seen in the OLB rotation, which has been minimized compared to what it was last season. Larry English, who had a strong camp, was a healthy scratch in Week Nine and played nine snaps in Week 10, and Antwan Barnes, who got hurt in Week Nine, has only seven tackles and one sack after notching 11 sacks last season. This has also allowed for more snaps for rookie Melvin Ingram.
• Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez will reportedly miss Week 11, confirming that the third-year tight end may have rushed back from his ankle injury. The timing works out with the activation of TE Visanthe Shiancoe from the short-term injured reserve list, allowing more time for Hernandez to heal. When he does return, he’ll join teammate Rob Gronkowski, who is playing through a hip injury.

Hue Jackson made his name as an offensive assistant before becoming the Raiders' head coach in 2011. In his second stint with the Bengals, Jackson has served as an assistant coach for the special teams and defensive backs. Bengals DBs coach Mark Carrier told PFW that Jackson's perspective and presence has been valuable to the secondary. "He’s able to break down quarterbacks and other offenses so well," Carrier said.

• Leading up to Week 11, Browns head coach Pat Shurmur praised second-year WR Greg Little for his willingness to be coached. "I’ve always appreciated Greg because he’s a competitor, he’s a tough guy and just like all players, there are times where you don’t play perfect or you play less than perfect, but he’s fun to work with because he listens."

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