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Whispers from around the NFL

12/4/2001
  • People in the league say it's almost unfathomable how much Dennis Green
    lets wide receiver Randy Moss get away with. They say it sets such a negative example
    for the team when one player takes so many plays off and does it so
    obviously.

  • LaVar Arrington and Dan Wilkinson are finally playing like premier picks
    for the Redskins, which is a big reason for the team's defensive
    improvement. Give Marty Schottenheimer all the credit in the world for using
    Arrington the way he wanted to be used, giving him much less responsibility
    so he can freelance and use his great natural ability to make plays on his
    own.

  • Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt is trying to persuade either Russell
    Maryland or Cortez Kennedy to come out of retirement.

  • Many scouts feel the Jets have as talented a defense as anyone in the NFL.
    According to one scout, Aaron Glenn, James Farrior, Marvin Jones, Shaun
    Ellis and John Abraham are first-round picks who are playing that way, and
    Mo Lewis and Marcus Coleman are playing like first-round picks now.

  • It appears as though the Jets are phasing out wide receiver Wayne Chrebet, and Herman
    Edwards' opinion of him appears to be closer to Keyshawn Johnson's opinion
    than Bill Parcells' opinion.

  • Ravens cornerback Duane Starks is having a very disappointing year going into free
    agency and has reverted back to his tendency to lose focus and blow
    coverages.

  • The Jaguars are concerned with kicker Mike Hollis' weak kickoffs.

  • Oliver Ross has done a tremendous job filling in on the offensive line for
    the Steelers and could end up being a starter in the foreseeable future.

  • This could be Bruce Matthews' last year with the Titans, and at both guard
    and center, he has struggled this year.

  • Every time Alex Gibbs has been on the Broncos' sideline this year, they've
    seemed to run the ball better.

  • People can't figure out why the rebuilding Chiefs are playing an ancient
    Ray Crockett at cornerback, where he just isn't good enough.

  • While everyone credits the former regime for most of the Bears' personnel
    and their winning, the one thing that Jerry Angelo deserves tremendous
    credit for is that he made the tough calls when it came to cutting popular
    veterans such as Bobby Engram and Mike Wells. And those calls have wound up
    helping the team tremendously in the long run.

  • Because of the success Butch Davis has had in Cleveland, don't be surprised
    if more clubs look to the college ranks to fill their head-coaching
    positions, especially someone who was a coordinator in the NFL and went to
    the colleges. That means Nick Saban would be an ideal choice if he wanted to
    come back to the NFL. Another person who would probably rank very high on
    this list is Ron Turner at Illinois. Steve Spurrier will continue to play
    with the NFL, but most people don't think he's that serious about it and
    merely likes to be flattered that way.

  • With regard to the Giants' struggles, these are the key facts: (1) Quarterback Kerry Collins looks like a shell of the player he was before the Super Bowl last
    year. He looks clumsy and awkward. (2) The offensive line is not nearly as
    good. (3) The defense is down tremendously. Linebacker Jessie Armstead looks like a
    very, very average player at this point. Both rookie cornerbacks Will Peterson and
    Will Allen are really struggling. Cornerback Jason Sehorn has had an erratic year,
    and people don't realize how much the loss of Keith Hamilton in the middle
    has hurt them. Also, playing every down, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin has not
    stepped up at the other tackle position.

  • The three coaches most likely to be replaced after this year are Jim Mora
    of Indianapolis, George Seifert of Carolina and Mike Riley with the
    Chargers. Dick LeBeau could still be in trouble with the Bengals if they
    have a disappointing finish. Mike Shepherd is probably going to be replaced
    as Buffalo's offensive coordinator after this year. It will be interesting
    to see if Bills general manager Tom Donahoe, who in the past has been a Kevin Gilbride
    fan, brings Gilbride in as the offensive coordinator there.

  • The Cowboys have been giving fifth-round pick Matt Lehr more time at center
    with the starting offense in practices. They are evaluating him to see if he
    could be a future starter. If Lehr shows promise, it could lead to the
    offseason release of Mark Stepnoski, who will be 35 in January and is set to
    see his salary increase quite a bit.

  • At presstime, there was still concern over quarterback Mark Brunell's swelling and
    soreness in his quadriceps muscle. In fact, there have been hints that the
    Jaguars will play Brunell every other week to help the injury heal.

  • After placing wide receiver Rob Moore on injured reserve, his future with the team is
    very much in doubt. After not playing a down in 2000 or 2001, Moore is
    scheduled to have a base salary of $3.25 million next season, plus another
    $1.25 million from his original signing bonus will count against the cap.
    While the team could approach Moore about taking a major pay cut, we hear
    the odds of him returning to the Cardinals next season are slim.

  • Armstead isn't playing at his usual Pro Bowl level this
    season, which has fueled some speculation that the Giants could find
    themselves in an uncomfortable situation in the offseason. Armstead has been
    a Giant for his entire NFL career, but he is set to make $4.2 million next
    year. He is 31 years old and on the downside of his career, and we hear
    there is a chance this could be his last season with the team. For his part,
    Armstead realizes he hasn't played as well as he usually does, but he's
    asking that he be judged on the final five games of the year -- a stretch
    where he expects to really come on.

  • Cowboys defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban, who underwent back surgery in September,
    recently had an MRI after the injury flared up again. He was told he needed
    three weeks of rest, which could lead to his being put on injured reserve.

  • Giants defensive coordinator John Fox was considered for the vacant head
    coaching job at San Diego State University, but he has taken himself out of
    the running. He still hopes to be considered for an NFL head coaching job.

  • Insiders say the Bears' interest in former Stanford quarterback Chad Hutchinson is
    extremely high, more than that of other teams, in fact.

  • Look for the Buccaneers to continue to split carries between running back Warrick
    Dunn
    and fullback Mike Alstott. Dunn still doesn't have his legs totally back
    after some injuries, and he's still held out of Friday practices. The Bucs
    also are finding success utilizing both runners.

  • The Packers' pass rush has faded some after a fast start to the season. Defensive end
    Vonnie Holliday hasn't been quite as dynamic, and defensive tackle Jim Flanigan's work on
    stunts has been neutralized. Consequently, Green Bay has had to blitz more
    than earlier in the year.

  • The Lions have worked hard to develop Cory Schlesinger into a West Coast
    offense fullback, and he's proving to be a versatile weapon. Schlesinger
    runs hard, can block and has fairly good hands.

  • Titans offensive tackle Jason Mathews has earned praise for his work replacing the
    injured Brad Hopkins. Mathews doesn't seem to panic in pass protection,
    though he has had some help slide his way.

  • Because of lingering injuries on the Ravens' defensive line and the
    likelihood the defense will continue to face a lot of spread offenses with
    multiple-WR sets, look for Peter Boulware to play more at defensive end than
    outside linebacker the remainder of the season.

  • While the injuries to Ravens defensive starters Michael McCrary, Rob
    Burnett
    and Sam Adams have gotten most of the attention, we hear the
    lingering groin injury that has forced nickel back James Trapp to miss four
    straight games has been just as costly. Without Trapp, the Ravens have been
    unable to employ man coverage against multiple-WR fronts, and their
    exclusive zone coverage has been very vulnerable.

  • Niners general manager Terry Donahue strongly dismissed a smoldering rumor early last
    week that head coach Steve Mariucci could be thinking about moving on if the
    right combination head coach/GM offer came his way, with Donahue then
    replacing Mariucci as the head coach.

  • We hear the Rams may be thinking about finding another punter to replace
    John Baker.

  • The Bills feel rookie Jonas Jennings, a third-round pick from Georgia, is
    their best tackle. He missed four games with a sprained foot, and the line
    was not as good as it is with him in the lineup. He returned to the starting
    lineup in Week 12.

  • Bills defensive end Erik Flowers may be on his way out of Buffalo. The Bills' top
    draft choice in 2000 was inactive against the Dolphins despite being
    healthy. He started five games earlier this season but has lost playing time
    in recent weeks to Bryce Fisher and free agent Kendrick Office. Look for the
    Bills to try to package him in a deal for draft picks this offseason.

  • New England linebacker Bryan Cox worked hard to make a miraculous comeback. Cox,
    who broke his leg in two places in Denver on Oct. 28, returned to practice
    Tuesday and played Sunday vs. the Jets. We hear that Cox was especially
    inspired to return vs. the Jets since they gave up on him and let him sign
    with the Pats.

  • Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is thrilled with linebacker Tedy Bruschi's play
    this season. With Cox and Ted Johnson out, the Pats went to a 4-3 defense
    with Bruschi playing the inside. Bruschi has been the Pats' unsung hero.

  • Speaking of Belichick, the usually stoic coach was unusually animated on
    the sideline following the Pats' win over the Jets. He was seen hugging
    players, slapping them on the back, slapping them on the helmet. He called
    it their most impressive win of the year and said he felt that way because
    they had practiced well all week and then did what they had been told to do
    in practice during the game.

  • The interceptions are piling up for Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Many feel the
    turnovers are a product of the no-huddle offense and Manning forcing the
    issue without having running back Edgerrin James to turn to.

  • Though he has one year left on his contract, speculation is rampant that
    Colts head coach Jim Mora will be handed a pink slip. Some feel Mora may
    walk before owner Jim Irsay and general manager Bill Polian can fire him.

  • The Colts are thrilled with the play of third-year wide receiver Terrence Wilkins of
    late. The difference? Wilkins is back to being aggressive, as he was as a
    rookie.

  • Despite the four touchdowns rookie running back Dominic Rhodes has scored, the Colts
    would like to see more from him in the passing game. The opportunities will
    exist in an increased number of screen and swing passes and flat patterns.

  • Dolphins left guard Mark Dixon's ankle injury may be career-threatening. He is
    weighing medical options and will decide by early next week whether to have
    surgery. The left side of the line is depleted without Dixon there.

  • To say that the Raiders are pleased with the addition of running back Charlie Garner
    would be an understatement. "Obviously he's been the difference with Tyrone
    (Wheatley) being out," wide receiver Tim Brown said. "If it would have been the same
    situation last year, if Tyrone would have went down I don't know if Napoleon
    (Kaufman) could have stepped in and done everything that Charlie is doing.
    Napoleon was a different player. Charlie's been the key, the catalyst to our
    offense. We have to keep him healthy and keep going." Head coach Jon Gruden
    said: "He's kind of like a joker or ace. He's good in any hand you have."

  • Brian Waters will be given every chance to hold on to his starting left guard spot
    in Kansas City. Injuries to offensive tackle Victor Riley and offensive guard Donald Willis got him the
    job, but both of them are due to become free agents after this season, and
    Waters has performed well in his time in the trenches.

  • Even with Raiders offensive guard Mo Collins back from a stress fracture, expect to see
    Frank Middleton continue to rotate in every third series until Collins gets
    back into playing shape. It wouldn't come as a surprise to see the Raiders
    experiment with Middleton spelling left tackle Barry Sims at times as well. Sims is
    not practicing much these days while continuing to stay off his fractured
    foot, and his backup, Matt Stinchcomb, has not progressed enough to make the
    Raiders feel completely confident with him there.

  • The Broncos are still undecided on what they are going to do with their left guard
    situation. They had hoped starter Lennie Friedman would be further along
    than he is at this point, and when a torn knee ligament began affecting his
    play, they promoted Steve Herndon, who has played pretty well. Now they
    could rotate the two or spread playing time on a weekly basis.

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