Flacco's playmaking ability against the rush is key

PFW staff
Flacco to face far different Patriots' secondary

Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the AFC:

• One personnel man familiar with Ravens QB Joe Flacco came away impressed with the Baltimore passer's ability to make accurate throws under pressure in the season-opening win vs. Cincinnati, calling Flacco's playmaking in the face of the rush the difference in the game.

• The loss of Bengals OLB Thomas Howard is a big one for the Cincinnati defense. Howard, who suffered a season-ending knee injury leading up to Week Two, was one of two Bengals defenders to play every snap in the Week One loss at Baltimore, per NFL play-time statistics. The way we hear it, Dan Skuta, Vincent Rey and Vontaze Burfict are among the options to replace the valuable Howard.

• To no one’s surprise, Broncos TEs Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme played a large role in the team’s season opener on offense. “It’s huge, being able to open up the lanes down the middle and the outside because you can’t focus on one guy, because there’s so many targets and weapons on this team,” Broncos WR Eric Decker told PFW about the dynamic the two-TE set brings. “Peyton’s going to find them. That’s the best thing he does, go through his reads and hit the open guy. Having two tight ends inside that can get open just makes it easier on the receivers on the outside.”

• One of the bright spots for the Dolphins’ defense a year ago, DT Randy Starks, got off to a good start to 2012 with a pair of sacks in the season opener. Starks is in a contract year, and though this is his ninth season, he is only 28. Starks has not missed a game since 2007, playing in every game since having joined the Dolphins in 2008.

• CB Leodis McKelvin got praise in training camp for his play covering slot receivers, a new role for the fifth-year player looking to make up for a poor 2011 season, but he was burned in Week One. Second-year CB Justin Rogers could see some time in the nickel, head coach Chan Gailey said. Rogers has been limited with a hamstring and showed flashes on kickoff returns last season, but we hear that the team likes his play at corner, which his why he is on the roster, and the Bills certainly know what they will get out of McKelvin at this point.

• After a steady preseason, Chiefs CB Jacques Reeves' play in the opener worried some people close to the team. He was asked to step up in place of injured Brandon Flowers and will be needed again if injuries persist, unless Jalil Brown can show he's worthy of more time. This is suddenly an area of concern again.