Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the AFC:
• Titans rookie WR Kendall Wright, despite making his second TD catch of the season in Week Four, had a rough game, dropping three catchable balls. His struggles came on the heels of a critical fourth-quarter fumble one week earlier. Are the Titans concerned about Wright’s gaffes? They obviously want to see Wright cut down on mistakes, we hear, but they continue to be extremely impressed, not only by the energy and explosiveness that he brings to the offense, but also by his no-nonsense approach and willingness to point the finger at himself after such mistakes.
• With the advantage of 20-20 hindsight, it’s easy to say Texans OLB Connor Barwin made the wrong decision by not signing a contract extension prior to the campaign, now that he has failed to record a sack in the first month of the season. However, we hear Barwin is playing well very well against the run, plus he is coming closer and closer to getting in on the sack parade. It is worth noting that Barwin tallied only two sacks in the first eight games last season, before exploding for 9½ in the final eight contests.
• The bad contracts that Jaguars GM Gene Smith has handed out are adding up. Aaron Kampman and Clint Session didn't pan out — will Laurent Robinson and Aaron Ross be the latest to fail? Jacksonville isn’t the kind of team to hand out megadeals to superstars, but one has to wonder if the money Smith spent on these contracts would have been better spent on one megadeal for a full-fledged superstar with the ability to impact the outcome of games.
• Even before trading Vontae Davis to Indianapolis, the Dolphins seemed set to go with Sean Smith as their No. 1 corner. Smith, who is in a contract year, has two interceptions and seven passes defensed in four games. Teammate Reshad Jones discussed Smith’s improvement on the field. “Instead of playing off instincts, he knows different routes and different things before they happen by recognizing formations and different things like that, so he’s getting in on more plays,” he told PFW.
• The Broncos and OLT Ryan Clady had been talking in the summer about an extension, but a deal has yet to be made. One thing we hear could help Clady’s case now is the new system and quarterback, which helps his statistics. Having to block mostly for Tim Tebow last season, Clady had seven holding penalties and allowed nine sacks. Through four games this year, he has one hold call and has yet to allow a sack, getting off to a good start in his contract year.
• With Santonio Holmes out for the season, a big burden will fall on free-agent acquisition Chaz Schilens, who has been a nonfactor with his new team (six catches for 69 yards in four games). Schilens is a tall wideout, similar to rookie Stephen Hill, but he had been behind the starters and not getting enough reps, we heard. Now, Schilens will need to help spark the offense. His size should help QB Mark Sanchez, who has had a propensity of missing receivers high.
• Although Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has struggled with fumbles of late, we hear there’s no reason to believe he’s in any major imminent danger of losing his prominent role in the Cincinnati backfield. RB Bernard Scott has dealt with injuries for much of the season, and there are no other real threats for major work in the backfield. Green-Ellis’ steadiness has been his calling card throughout his career, and he’ll get his chances to prove his ball-security issues are a mere blip on the radar screen.
• There are plenty of things wrong with the Chiefs' defense, but it is receiving a hearty effort from DE Ropati Pitoitua. Although he's battling a sore elbow, Pitoitua has done yeoman's work in replacing Glenn Dorsey and could be considered his replacement if this is Dorsey's final season in Kansas City. Although Pitoitua is perhaps the tallest defender in the NFL, he has done a good job of keeping low and using his reach as an advantage not a weakness.