Here are some Whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the AFC:
• An NFL evaluator familiar with the Ravens’ roster recently told PFW that OLB Terrell Suggs' Achilles injury, should it keep him out the entire season, could have a trickle-down effect on the entire defense, with more stress being placed on the defensive backs. The Ravens’ secondary, the evaluator said, benefits from the pressure Suggs creates, and Suggs’ presence also helps the club’s other pass rushers. Suggs, said the evaluator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was adept at funneling quarterbacks toward his teammates with his pressure. Suggs notched 14 of the Ravens' 48 sacks in 2011; no other Baltimore defender had more than a half-dozen.
• Last offseason, the right side of the Bills’ offensive line was a concern. ORT Erik Pears played well, though, and earned a contract extension. Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart held down the right guard spot, giving the team two starter-caliber players for the position. Bills offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris had high praise for the three players. “Erik is consistent day in and day out. He has been a pleasant surprise for us,” he told PFW. “Urbik is very versatile — he can play guard and center. He is an intelligent football player and does a very nice job in pass protection. … Chad Rinehart has been a plus for us. He is tough and physical and can play right guard or left guard.”
• Broncos LB D.J. Williams continues to make headlines for the wrong reasons. A couple weeks after tweeting a photo of the team’s defensive playbook, Williams is back in the news for his appeal after a judge dismissed Williams’ complaint against the NFL for his six-game suspension. We hear that Williams’ roster spot would be under more scrutiny if the team had more depth at the linebacker position. Williams has led the Broncos in tackles in five of his eight seasons and his replacement for a few games last year, Wesley Woodyard, played well, and will be expected to do so again to start 2012.
• With Maurice Jones-Drew’s ominously looming holdout taking center stage, PK Josh Scobee’s absence from Jaguars’ offseason work flew under the radar. Scobee, who is coming off a career year, has yet to sign a franchise tender that would pay him close to $2.9 million in 2012. The way we hear it, with July 16th the deadline to sign a franchise player to a long-term deal, the chances of Scobee showing up in training camp and playing under the franchise designation are increasing.
• Patriots OG Brian Waters missed minicamp for personal reasons, but all reports indicate he will return for the 2012 season. In his first year with the Pats, Waters earned a Pro Bowl nod, even though he joined the team just before the regular season. Current Bills offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris was with Waters in Kansas City. “Brian is a pro. He has excellent intelligence and great communications skills,” D’Alessandris told PFW. “He is a great one-on-one pass blocker. I have nothing but outstanding things to say about Brian. I can see why he did so well in New England.”
• Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has his work cut out for him in Oakland, as the team cut some of its veterans and didn’t have many draft picks to work with. That has left a lot of question marks in the back seven. “I’m looking at the linebacker position because we added so many numbers there,” McKenzie told reporters when asked about training-camp battles. “I want to see who jumps out, makes plays.” The Raiders signed free agents Philip Wheeler to join Aaron Curry and Rolando McClain at linebacker. Fourth-round pick Miles Burris also saw some time at the position in minicamp, and the Raiders also added LB Nathan Stupar in Round Seven. McClain has off-the-field issues to work through, and the jury is still out on Curry, who was a bust in Seattle after being the No. 4 overall pick in 2009.
• Our sources all agree: C-OG Fernando Velasco is a promising young talent and a valuable asset to the Titans. However, part of his value is his versatility — Velasco can play guard and center — and we hear that versatility may actually hurt him, as he is considered a darkhorse in the starting center battle with Eugene Amano and Kevin Matthews.