Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the AFC:
• The Jets’ rotation at left guard between Matt Slauson and Vlad Ducasse has been an odd fit throughout the season, and O-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo brought more confusion to the situation. In a reportedly fiery meeting with reporters on Thursday, DeGuglielmo said the decision to sub Ducasse is “directed from high above me,” yet another example of personnel issues for this year’s Jets team. The Jets have struggled to find the right situation for Ducasse in his three seasons, and Slauson is set to be a free agent after the season. Ducasse has been considered best in run situations, but it’s unclear if he has shown enough to potentially be a starter should Slauson depart this offseason.
• The Patriots waived WR Greg Salas last Thursday, needing to promote OT Marcus Zusevics because of injuries on the O-line. But Zusevics did not play on Thanksgiving night, and the Eagles claimed Salas the next day. The Patriots’ offense certainly doesn’t need Salas, but trading a seventh-round pick for him doesn’t reflect well on Josh McDaniels, we hear. It’s believed that McDaniels helped orchestrate that trade, as he worked with Salas in St. Louis. New England only lost a seventh-rounder, but Salas played in one game and never had a catch.
• While notable, we’re told that Steelers WR Mike Wallace sharing a first-team designation with Emmanuel Sanders on Pittsburgh’s depth chart might not be a huge deal. For one, we’re told Wallace didn’t see a noticeable reduction in practice reps leading up to Week 13. Also, the Steelers will regularly use three wideouts or more, meaning there are plenty of chances for Sanders and Wallace to be on the field at the same time along with Antonio Brown. There’s a school of thought that head coach Mike Tomlin could be looking to motivate Wallace, who has had something of a disappointing season.
• The Chargers’ offense has struggled throughout the season, falling well short of expectations. The O-line has been a big reason for it, as observers have pointed out that Philip Rivers hasn’t been as comfortable. One statistic that illustrates that fact is Rivers’ penalties. He leads the team with eight on the season — five for delay of game. Rivers was flagged only three times all of last season.
• For those suggesting Jaguars new owner Shahid Khan was behind his club’s decision to claim ex-Eagles DE Jason Babin, we hear it is unlikely. This was a move by GM Gene Smith, though it shows a clear departure from his normal philosophy on team building. Smith looks for team-first players first and foremost, though Babin has a reputation for looking out for himself, often focusing more on sack numbers than doing the dirty work. However, a source points out that there was little to lose by making the move and, with so much on the line for Smith, it makes sense. The move also hints at RB Maurice Jones-Drew returning this season, we hear. With the Jaguars going all in on winning in the final five weeks, Mojo’s return — even if it’s just for a game or two — seems likely.
• The Colts' decision to place fifth-round DT Josh Chapman on injured reserve, effectively ending his season before it started, was not a big surprise. We hear anything the Colts got out of him as a rookie was to be considered a bonus, and for a player that they think is talented enough to be “the cornerstone of their defense,” plugging him in when his knee wasn’t responding the way they had hoped after surgery to repair a torn ACL was just not worth the risk.
• It was a tale of two halves for Lions WR Calvin Johnson against the Texans on Thanksgiving. Megatron lit up reserve CB Alan Ball, starting in place of top CB Johnathan Joseph, to the tune of five receptions for 103 yards and a TD in the first 30 minutes, but he managed just three catches for 27 yards and no TDs once Houston put Kareem Jackson on him in the second half and overtime. One source in Houston thought defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ decision to match up Ball, despite him being four inches taller than Jackson, was a case of the coordinator outsmarting himself and perhaps being a bit arrogant.
• The Titans’ coaching staff loved former DE Jason Babin’s production while he was with the club, yet they weren’t exactly sad to see him go, given he was always the first guy to sound off and didn’t always put his team before himself. But, as the source points out, putting a bunch of company men on the roster certainly hasn’t been the answer for the Titans, nor has it worked for GM Gene Smith in Jacksonville.