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NFC Whispers

Leshoure will bolster Lions' running game

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By PFW staff

Here are some Whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the NFC:

• Lions RB Mikel Leshoure is eligible to return from an NFL suspension in Week Three, and one NFL defensive assistant familiar with Detroit believes the second-year back will give the running game a lift. “He’s the real deal,” said the coach, speaking on condition of anonymity.

• Is Andy Reid secretly getting rookie QB Nick Foles ready in case Michael Vick crumbles? League spies say that alarm bells sounded loudly when Reid (for the first time in 14 years in Philly) abruptly made practice off limits to media members, suggesting that something was happening under secrecy that he didn't want posted on Twitter. Our sources say that Vick remains the option for now but that the team in no way has ruled out making a change if necessary, having been impressed by Foles' quick ascension.

• Aside from sixth-round rookie PK Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein, who has made an immediate splash with his length and accuracy, don’t be surprised if the Rams' offensive rookie who ends up making the most significant impact this season is none other than seventh-round RB Daryl Richardson, who has jumped ahead of the more heralded second-round pick Isaiah Pead as Steven Jackson’s primary backup. While Pead and WRs Brian Quick (second round) and Chris Givens (fourth round) have all been slow out of the gate, Richardson quickly made his presence felt in Week One with two carries for 20 yards. “Hats off to the kid,” one team insider said of Richardson. “He earned the top backup job with his preseason play. He’s a very decisive runner who perhaps should be worked more into the mix.”

• With nobody really rising up to challenge him, we hear Cardinals free-agent addition William Gay has a pretty firm hold right now on the starting RCB spot over Greg Toler, whose knee problems have continued to hold him back. In Arizona’s nickel defense, Gay moves inside with rookie Jamell Fleming, who has had his moments, taking over outside.

• While it’s a bit premature to predict the Packers will be cutting the cord after this season with free agent-to-be WR Greg Jennings, who some astute daily observers believe should be traded while his value is still sky-high, it’s a lot more likely that the role of S M.D. Jennings could be significantly reduced moving forward after failing to take hold of the starting nickel safety role over rookie Jerron McMillian.

• He is well into his second year with the Bears, but, after missing all but six quarters of play last season due to knee problems, Gabe Carimi is still a rookie in terms of NFL game experience. He has only 3½ regular-season games under his belt, and his inexperience showed in Week Two, when he lost his composure after being pushed by Packers ILB A.J. Hawk. He shoved Hawk, drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty that interrupted a Bears drive. The Bears want to see more consistency from the 2011 first-round pick, who acknowledged his surgically repaired knee is not completely out of mind and that he is trying to keep a narrow focus as a young player still getting acclimated. “This year, I’m still … I’m getting over a knee injury,” he told PFW heading into Week Two. “I don’t worry about anything other than what I’m doing.”

• We hear there is still a strong feeling from some inside the Panthers’ organization that the team was at a competitive disadvantage in Week One because it left Charlotte early in the week because of the Democratic National Convention. The Convention planned to use Bank of America Stadium, which is next to the team’s practice field, but ultimately did not. Carolina left five days early for Tampa to prepare for the game.

• There's certainly no major concern about Giants WR Victor Cruz's slow start and bout with inconsistency, but it's certainly worth reminding that this was Cruz's problem early last season before he busted out with improbable numbers. The coaches are reminding him that success must be maintained with attention to detail.

• It's not shocking that the Cowboys leaked news of their interest to want to get QB Tony Romo signed to a long-term deal eventually. It has been the team's aim all along, and Romo's strong Week One performance only firmed their interest in doing so. The belief is that now that the world knows the Cowboys want Romo to stay in Dallas, the team's hope is that he will agree to a somewhat club-friendly deal that will keep the salary-cap flexibility in good shape.
 
• What allowed Redskins RB Alfred Morris to earn the starting job? For one, his ability to run with power and to run through tackle attempts impressed the coaching staff. He continues to churn his legs after contact and does a good job for a bigger back of maintaining balance. In addition, we hear the coaches never would have given him this chance if he hadn't proven he at least can hold up on pass protection.

• The Vikings are keeping close watch on C John Sullivan's sore ankle, monitoring his work in practice. They have a capable backup in Joe Berger who can play almost any position on the line, but losing Sullivan for an extended period would be a big blow. He's their most capable interior offensive lineman and the glue of the unit.

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