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McFadden looks strong, fast

Pro Football Weekly
Key matchup: Raiders RB Darren McFadden vs. Dolphins front seven
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Key matchup: Raiders RB Darren McFadden vs. Dolphins front seven

Here are some whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the AFC:

• We hear that RB Darren McFadden is fully healed from the foot injury that bothered him for most of last season. Observers say he looked strong and fast at OTAs, lining up both in the backfield as a running back and out wide as a receiver. Considering the lack of depth behind him, McFadden’s health will be a huge key to a successful season in 2012 for the Silver and Black.

• Chiefs DE Allen Bailey is expected to see an expanded role this season after coming off the bench for most of his rookie year. Bailey can play either left or right end and will rotate in as a pass-rushing replacement for starters Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey. With both Jackson and Dorsey nearing the end of their contracts, Bailey could be in line for a starting job in 2013 if he proves himself this coming season.

• As it stands now, the Chargers plan to only carry two quarterbacks — Philip Rivers and Charlie Whitehurst — on their Week One roster. However, a good camp from undrafted free agent Jarrett Lee could convince Norv Turner to change his thinking. Lee is the type of smart, easy-to-coach prospect Turner is looking for in a developmental QB, though many wonder if Lee has the arm strength to succeed in the Chargers’ vertical offense.

• Since trading Randy Moss at the beginning of the 2010 season, the Patriots have wanted another outside receiving threat. Veteran Deion Branch has played admirably there since returning to Foxborough, but the team’s acquisition of Brandon Lloyd this offseason should be an upgrade, and the early returns on the Patriots’ investment are positive. We hear that Lloyd impressed observers at a Patriots OTA practice this week with his acrobatic catches and athleticism. Lloyd reunites with Josh McDaniels, who was the Broncos’ head coach in Lloyd’s career-best season of 2010, when he went 77-1,448-11.

• The Dolphins traded up on the Saturday of draft weekend to select RB Lamar Miller, who was high on their draft board, we hear. Miller’s injury history is what made him slide, but his skill set should mesh well with Joe Philbin’s stretch-zone rushing attack. Miller has plenty of work to do and is not expected to be an immediate contributor with Reggie Bush and 2011 second-rounder Daniel Thomas ahead of him on the depth chart, but he is certainly a rookie to watch this summer. “Lamar is a very fluid player. I think he has multiple skills. I don’t think that he is just a runner; I think he is a guy that can catch the football and (we can) move him around,” Philbin said this week.

• At Browns OTAs, head coach Pat Shurmur said Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi are the club’s top two receivers at present. That has to be viewed as a positive for Massaquoi, who comes off a disappointing season. More is expected this year, however. Little, who led the Browns in catches and yards as a rookie a season ago, was presumed to be a starter, but the major news here is that he has dropped some weight. “I think he has changed his body, he looks much leaner and he was running around well,” Shurmur said this week.

• One Ravens undrafted rookie who has shown well in the spring, the way we hear it, is Florida WR Deonte Thompson. He’s one of 13 receivers on the roster.

• Among the position battles to keep an eye on for the Texans this offseason is the No. 3 RB role. Arian Foster and Ben Tate make up arguably the best 1-2 backfield punch in the NFL, but it is up in the air who will serve as the club’s third back. The way we hear it, the leading candidate to win that job isn’t currently on the roster. UFA RB Derrick Ward, an unsung mentor for Foster and Tate the past two seasons, could still wind up signing with the Texans if he is willing to take the veteran minimum. Ward would add value, not only as a third back and positive influence in the RB room, but also potentially as the Texans’ kick returner next season. Undrafted rookie RB Davin Meggett will compete for the No. 3 job this summer.
 
• The Jaguars’ running game should get a boost this season from the return of backup Rashad Jennings, who spent last season on injured reserve with a knee injury. Jennings is a very solid complement to starter Maurice Jones-Drew, as he gives Jacksonville a bigger back with arguably the best set of hands on the roster. The return of Jennings, who some sources thought could have avoided going on injured reserve last season, will give the coaching staff the freedom to spell Jones-Drew more frequently — as well as an insurance policy if MJD’s unhappiness regarding his contract somehow turns into a holdout later this offseason.

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