Updated 2:20 p.m. ET, Monday, Aug. 27
Here are some Whispers we've been hearing from our sources around the AFC:
• The backup to Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali, who is suspended for the opener against the Falcons, is Andy Studebaker, who started the early part of last season before giving way to then-rookie Justin Houston. With 2½ career sacks, Studebaker is not considered a strong pass rusher. He could be the first- and second-down option, giving way to Cameron Sheffield, who has flashed as a rusher but also has been hurt at times this preseason.
• We hear one position that is a concern heading into the season on the Jets’ defense is nose tackle. Sione Pouha has been out with a back injury. The Jets maintain he will be ready for Week One. “His weight is down, which is good. I think that’s the first step when you have some back issues,” Rex Ryan told reporters on Friday. “He seems to be doing better and everyday seems to be doing more, so hopefully it won’t be that long and we’ll get him back there.” Pouha signed a three-year contract extension in the offseason with the Jets and is one of the league’s better nose tackles. His backup, second-year NT Kenrick Ellis, remains raw, but he did stand out in the Jets' third preseason game, recording two QB hits, a tackle for loss and half a sack.
• Chargers head coach Norv Turner has made it no secret that the team has been impressed with undrafted free-agent OLT Mike Harris, who has filled in with the starters in Jared Gaither’s absence. We hear that Harris, who has good size for the position, is a smart player, which has helped him in the transition from undrafted rookie to potential starting left tackle.
• We heard early in Broncos camp the team’s affinity for DE Jason Hunter, and he moved to the top of the depth chart, but a triceps injury that required surgery resulted in him going on injured reserve. That helps pave the way for Derek Wolfe, the team’s first pick in April’s draft whose high motor has impressed, to start Week One. Robert Ayers, who lost his starting spot to Hunter, has had a fine camp and figures to factor in the rotation.
• Don’t be surprised if second-year pro Albert McClellan, not touted rookie Courtney Upshaw, is the Week One starter at the “Rush” linebacker spot in Baltimore. There’s sentiment that Upshaw, a second-round pick from Alabama, is something of a work in progress, we’re told. Paul Kruger is the starter on the strong side.
• It appears that Steelers ORG David DeCastro’s injured left knee will keep him out at least an extended stretch, if not longer. Ramon Foster figures to be the first-team right guard going forward. DeCastro had showed promise in his first summer as a pro, and it was going to be interesting to track his progress on an offensive line that the Steelers had designs on revamping in 2012. However, with DeCastro out, and with rookie OLT Mike Adams expected to be a reserve, the Steelers’ Week One O-line could look a lot like last season’s group, with the exception of Willie Colon now at left guard instead of right tackle.
• It’s possible the Ravens could go into the season with two rookies — Bernard Pierce and Bobby Rainey — as the primary backups to Ray Rice. The way we hear it, the Ravens are high on Rainey, an undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky. However, the club also could be looking for RB help before the season.
• We hear the Bills hope that DT Torell Troup can be a factor in 2013 after the 2010 second-rounder was placed on injured reserve for the second year in a row. The Bills have veterans Dwan Edwards and Spencer Johnson as backups at the DT spot, but Troup could find a spot there next season if he gets back to 100 percent health.
- the Jets