Updated Saturday, Oct. 6 at 5:23 p.m. ET
Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the NFC:
• Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio can’t say enough about the relatively unsung efforts of starting DT Ray McDonald. “He has a tremendous impact on our game, any game, and our defense,” Fangio said. “When teams have a hard time running against us, he’s right in the middle of all that. Whether he’s getting credit with a tackle or not is irrelevant. He’s the one holding the point up there, and allowing our linebackers and other people to make that play. He gives us great pass rush in our nickel stuff. And he’s a very, very, very important part of our defense.”
• Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald didn’t mince words when asked about his team’s mistakes in their first loss of the season Thursday night. “How much time you got?” he said in the locker room after the 17-3 loss to the Rams. “There were mistakes across the board. It wasn’t just one guy. It was a collective group effort. One guy messing up here, dropped ball here, missed assignment there. If you have a lot of those, offensively it’s going to stop a lot of drives, and that’s what happened. We weren’t able to sustain any good drives, and when we were able to get down there and put a couple of good plays together, we weren’t able to punch it in and obviously get in the (end) zone. That’s what we definitely need to work on.”
• Our Packers sources tell us that, with both Sam Shields and rookie Casey Hayward playing well ahead of Davon House at right cornerback, playing time could be increasingly hard to come by for the second-year pro. House was looking like a lock as a starter at the RCB position before suffering a left shoulder injury in the preseason opener. It’s a much different story, though, for rookie Jerron McMillian, who appears to have an increasingly solid grip on the nickel safety job over M.D. Jennings.
• We hear versatile OG Paul McQuistan remains one of the Seahawks’ more valuable players, despite little fanfare. With former first-round pick James Carpenter taking over at left guard after making a much quicker recovery than expected from a serious knee injury, McQuistan has seamlessly switched over to the starting ORG spot to replace former first-round pick John Moffitt, who also has a knee injury that could make his status iffy the next couple of games, if not longer. “He’s been an unbelievably good pickup for them,” one daily team observer said of McQuistan, who started games at three different positions for Seattle last season. “And with Moffitt getting hurt, Carpenter’s return couldn’t have been better timed.”
• Two Seahawks veterans who we hear are feeling the effects of prior injuries are DT Brandon Mebane, who is currently battling the same calf injury that caused him to miss four games two seasons ago, and CB Marcus Trufant, who is currently hampered by the same back injury he has been forced to deal with since 2009.
• It would be a mistake to automatically assume Steven Jackson will be moving on to greener pastures in the wake of a published report the afternoon before St. Louis’ Week Five win over Arizona that the Rams had given their featured running back the option to void his contract after the 2012 season. (Jackson’s contract was actually reworked Sept. 8, the same day LB James Laurinaitis signed a contract extension.) “I think he might choose to stay,” said one team insider. “Does he really think he can still strike it rich at the age of 30? Kevin (Rams executive vice president Kevin Demoff) has a history of willingly letting players test the open market with every intention of still re-signing them, which is what happened before with Ron Bartell. I could see the same thing happening with Jackson. I also see Jackson remaining highly motivated the rest of the season.”
• Although Panthers rookie WR-RS Joe Adams is trying to earn the trust of the coaching staff after fumbling away a kickoff and a punt return in Week Three (he was a healthy scratch in Week Four), our sources expect he will be limited to returning punts the next time the team gives him an opportunity.
• DE Adrian Clayborn is one of the Buccaneers’ top pass rushers, but the pass rush is not the area of the game where the team feels it misses him most, we hear. The Bucs are really feeling the void left by Clayborn (knee), who was placed on injured reserve after Week Three, vs. the run, where he is so adept at setting the edge.
• Panthers observers who questioned the franchise’s decision to draft DE Frank Alexander in the fourth round this year are having a change of heart about the pick. There was a perception that Carolina had reached when it traded up to land Alexander, but he has shown good disruptive ability from the outset of the season and has become a key cog in the team’s sub packages.
• Cowboys LB Dan Connor was disappointing as a run stopper in replacing an injured Bruce Carter in Week Four. The team feels it hasn't received its money worth from Connor so far and might not ever.
• Eagles GM Howie Roseman didn't come out and say it when asked by PFW, but there might be a little concern from within about the team's OL depth. It has had to rely on Dallas Reynolds as a replacement starter, and Roseman hinted that practice-squad OLs Julian Vandevelde and Matt Reynolds might be promoted before any outside players are signed if needed.
- Vic Fangio