Around the NFL

News and notes from around the NFL:

Philadelphia Eagles

RB Brian Westbrook is averaging 8.1 yards per touch in the first two games. That's tops among all league running backs. In the Eagles' last 18 regular-season games, dating back to the start of the '03 season, Westbrook is averaging 6.5 yards per touch. That's two-tenths of a yard more than the Rams' Marshall Faulk averaged in '01 when he was the league's Offensive Player of the Year and exactly the same as Faulk averaged in '00 when he was league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year.

"To average that much per touch, you obviously have to be making big plays in the passing game because you're not going to hit a 50-yard run every time you carry it," said Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress.

QB Donovan McNabb has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league since game seven of last season. He has guided the Eagles to 11 wins in their last 12 regular-season games. In those 12 games, he has a 65.0 percent completion rate, has averaged 8.36 yards per attempt and has thrown 20 TD's and just five interceptions in 352 attempts. That's just one interception every 70.4 attempts.

DT Corey Simon, who is in the final year of his contract, hasn't played very well the first two games. He has just two tackles and had his snaps reduced Monday night as defensive coordinator Jim Johnson preferred to give more time to backups Hollis Thomas and rapidly-improving Sam Rayburn.

DE Jerome McDougle strained his groin Monday night against the Vikings and is listed as probable for this week's game against the Lions. But he didn't practice Wednesday. McDougle, who backs up Jevon Kearse on the left side, had one of the best games of his NFL career against the Vikings, playing about 16 snaps.

DT Darwin Walker, who suffered a calf injury against the Vikings, didn't practice Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday's game against the Lions. Walker had a strong game against the Vikings, getting consistent inside push on the quarterback and notching one of the club's four sacks.

WR Todd Pinkston, who is nursing a shoulder injury, didn't have a reception in Monday night's win over the Vikings. He practiced Wednesday and is expected to play this week though.

Third -year cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown fared quite well against the Viking passing game Monday night. But they also had help. The Eagles used a safety over the top (SS Michael Lewis especially) to take away the Viking vaunted deep passing game. We have a feeling that teams who will face them in the future will scout the Vikings on film this season will see this and do the same thing the Eagles did in coverage.

LB Nate Wayne's new nickname is "Mr. Monday Night." Wayne forced two fumbles against the Vikings, including a strip of quarterback Daunte Culpepper at the goal line that prevented a touchdown. Wayne now has four forced fumbles in 10 Monday Night Football appearances.

S/KR J.R. Reed is quickly making his NFL mark. Reed, the club's fourth-round pick in the April draft, had 46- and 43-yard returns in the Eagles' 27-16 Monday night win over the Vikings. In the Eagles' first two games, he's averaging 27.6 yards per return.

"I helped a team win on Monday Night Football," said the University of South Florida product in disbelief. "It's very rewarding. I have a small part on this team and if I'm not contributing, there's no point in being out there. Anybody can go out there and take up space."

Reed's small role will eventually grow. The Eagles love the kid and think he will be the eventual replacement at free safety for Brian Dawkins.

RB Eric McCoo was signed to the practice squad. McCoo was with the Eagles in training camp.

TE Rod Trafford was signed to the Eagles' practice squad. Trafford was cut by the Bills this summer.

FB Josh Perry was released by Philadelphia.

TE Nate Lawrie was released by Philadelphia.

WR Billy McMullen, the club's fourth-round pick in the '03 draft, is expected to be deactivated for the second straight week. McMullen has lost the No. 4 WR job to Greg Lewis. Since the Eagles often line up RB's Brian Westbrook and Reno Mahe as wide receivers, they seem content to go with four wideouts.

CB Lito Sheppard played last week with a fractured thumb, but it didn't seem to hinder him much.

Minnesota Vikings

TE Jermaine Wiggins hand is out this week and might miss the next two games. He isn't much of a blocker, but he's the team's best pass-catching tight end. Rookie free agent Richard Owens showed good hands and decent moves while catching three passes against the Eagles on Monday.

RB Michael Bennett sprained right knee won't play this week as long as RB Moe Williams ankle is able to play. The Vikings are wise to let Bennett heal this week and the bye next week and be 100 percent for the Oct. 10 trip to Houston.

RB Moe Williams ankle missed the Philadelphia game, but should return for Chicago. He was missed in goal-line situations against the Eagles. The Vikings scored only three points in two first-and-goal situations from the 2-yard line.

TE Jim Kleinsasser knee didn't play against Philadelphia and will be placed on injured reserve following surgery. He also was missed near the goal line. Rookie Jeff Dugan replaces Kleinsasser, but won't be nearly as effective.

CB Terrance Shaw contributed immediately at Philadelphia. Shaw played nickel back, replacing the struggling Rushen Jones. "Shaw looks good," Coach Mike Tice said. "He's a player."

CB Ralph Brown contributed immediately at Philadelphia. Brown played on special teams and made a nice tackle on kickoff coverage. "That kid has some juice," Coach Mike Tice said.

LB Raonall Smith, who was in danger of losing his job on the final cuts, now leads the Vikings in special teams tackles with five. "Raonall is getting some confidence," Coach Mike Tice said. "He's got great size running down the field in coverage."

WLB Dontarrious Thomas is healthy, but struggling. He'll probably lose his starting job this week. There are two possibilities to replace him. One, the Vikings would start nickel linebacker Mike Nattiel. Two, they would move SLB Chris Claiborne to the weak side and start veteran backup Keith Newman on the strong side.

New York Jets

CB Ray Mickens, out for the season with a torn ACL, opted to use noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews for the surgery rather than team doctors. The move is not so out of the ordinary but it did cause controversy two years ago when WR Santana Moss did the same. However, since Andrews is considered by many to be the best in the field, it's unlikely the Jets will complain.

FS Jon McGraw was outstanding as a reserve against the Chargers, making three tackles, an interception and two pass defenses. But it's unclear whether he'll get his starting job back immediately considering the exceptional play of rookie Erik Coleman, who had an interception and a fumble recovery against the Chargers.

LB Jonathan Vilma will be thrown into a starting role for at least the next month while Sam Cowart sits out with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Although Vilma had trouble in his first game two weeks ago, the Jets are confident the rookie can fill in. Although undersized for the position, Vilma possesses the speed and aggression the Jets are looking for from the linebackers.

DT Josh Evans will be placed on injured reserve because of back surgery to fix a bulging disc.

OL Jonathan Goodwin will likely get some more reps in practice this week and next at center as Kevin Mawae heals from a broken bone in his right hand. Mawae is 50-50 to play against the Dolphins.

C Kevin Mawae broken bone in his right hand might play against Miami next weekend but the reality is it's a 2-4 week injury, with the question being not how much pain Mawae can withstand but whether he can snap the ball.

MLB Sam Cowart will not play next week with a sprained MCL in his left knee and will miss at least the next month. The Jets hope to get him back by the Oct. 24 game at New England.

RB LaMont Jordan, disgruntled and little used as Curtis Martin's backup to this point, will not be traded, GM Terry Bradway said. The Raiders tried to get Jordan during the draft but the Jets held out for a better offer. The Raiders, among other teams, have come back to the Jets this week again looking for Jordan - offering a third-rounder and possible a late-round pick in 2005 as a sweetener.

RB Curtis Martin hasn't carried this many times 61 to start the season in five years. While he's carrying the Jets offense with the workload, don't expect Martin, 31, to continue on this pace. The Jets will eventually work in back up LaMont Jordan, who has just one carry.

QB Chad Pennington leads the AFC with a 75 percent completion percentage and a 124.3 passer rating. With four touchdowns and no interceptions so far, Pennington appears headed to the same kind of season he had when first becoming the starter in 2002, when his play rescued the Jets and put them in the playoffs.

DT Daleroy Stewart, signed earlier in the week, will work his way into the tackle rotation soon.

DB Jarrell Weaver was signed to the Jets' practice squad.

WR Carl Kearney was released by the Jets.

OLB Levar Fisher, still recovering from off-season surgery on both knees, was waived. He was a second-round pick in 2002 who was a fierce playmaker in college. He never reached that potential as a pro, however, because of a series of injuries. If he fully recovers from the knee surgeries, he would be worth the risk for another team.

New England Patriots

RB Kevin Faulk knee is likely to appear as questionable on next week's injury report.

Faulk returned from Louisiana last Tuesday after his ill mother died of Leukemia, but he was not available to the media last week. He was listed out of the first two games for personal reasons, but the knee injury would likely have kept him out of action anyway.

"It feels pretty good, but that's me saying it," Faulk said about his knee. "If I was a doctor, I'd be working in some hospital. As a competitor, you want to get out there no matter if you have a little pain or a lot of pain."

The knee pain pales in comparison to the emotional pain of losing his mother, whom he said was "always there for him." Coach Bill Belichick allowed the injured Faulk to remain with his family for an extended period and Faulk was gone for two weeks.

"As long as she was sick, I was going to be down there," he said. "Coach Belichick told me to take as much time as I needed and that just shows you how much class this organization has. And I got a lot of phone calls from people that I haven't heard from since I played high school ball with them or college ball. Former Patriots linebacker Chris Slade called me 15 minutes ago. Every phone call helps out."

NT Keith Traylor was back in the starting lineup after returning to the team for a full week of practice. Apparently, Traylor missed time to mourn his brother's death before the Colts game and because he wasn't around for the full week of preparation, Traylor did not start, but subbed in for rookie Vince Wilfork. Traylor had only one tackle against the Cards while Wilfork had two.

QB Tom Brady has been listed on the injury report each of the first two weeks with a shoulder injury. Brady had surgery on the shoulder last February and reported being fine during training camp leading one to believe he re-injured it during the summer. "I think it's something that I'm always trying to monitor," he said. "It's day-to-day. I think that us going out and throwing in practice sometimes takes a toll, but I'll be out there. I'm not going anywhere."

DE Richard Seymour has been almost statistically absent in the season's first two games, but Bill Belichick believes Seymour is playing well. "He's played like Richard plays," Belichick said. "He's our best lineman and he's playing well. His production will come."

WR Troy Brown, who is in his 12th season, is taking nothing for granted after returning to the field last week for his first game of 2004. The punt return game struggled in his absence and Brown felt good to come in and rip off a 22-yard return Sunday in Arizona. "It gave me some confidence," said Brown, who missed the opener with a knee injury. "I'm still fighting for a job. That's how I'm approaching this. I have to go out and make plays." Brown had only one reception for 6 yards in the Cardinals game although was open deep down the field late in the game, but QB Tom Brady overthrew him for a sure touchdown.

PK Adam Vinatieri has converted his first five field goal tries of the season for the fifth time in his career. Last year, he hit his first five before missing his sixth and going on to finish with a career high nine regular-season missed field goals. His longest made field goal streak to start a season is 17 back in 1997. His first miss that year came in Week 11 at Buffalo.

Carolina Panthers

DE Julius Peppers warned last week that it was too early to jump off the Panthers bandwagon, and his statements certainly proved correct.

"Last week I said everybody who wants to jump off, go ahead and jump off," Peppers said. "We're going to get this thing together. And we got it together this week. If you still don't believe it and you still want to jump off and you think this was a fluke, go ahead and jump off. We're just going to keep rolling."

WR Steve Smith has begun his initial rehab for his broken leg.

RB DeShaun Foster will likely start a week from Sunday against Atlanta, but there's an outside shot Stephen Davis could be back. Either way, expect Foster to get a lot of carries.

CB Chris Gamble, a rookie, continues to hold his own for the Panthers and has not been beat by a deep pass in two games.

DT Kris Jenkins is expected to play against Atlanta despite a subluxed shoulder.

LB Dan Morgan did not practice on Wednesday, resting his sore groin.

Arizona Cardinals

LB Leon Joe, a fourth-round pick this year by Chicago, was claimed from the Bears on waivers. He made 322 tackles in college at Maryland, where he was a three-year starter.

LB James Darling has filled in admirably for Raynoch Thompson, including a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown that was nullified by a questionable penalty in the opener. While Darling is experienced and smart, he lacks the lively body that makes Thompson a strong playmaker, and that could be a far greater liability against Michael Vick and the Falcons than it was against Marc Bulger and the Rams or Tom Brady and the Patriots, teams with QB's who are not nimble.

CB Dyshod Carter was a surprise member of the game-day active roster instead of Renaldo Hill and Carter performed admirably on special teams. He was signed as a free agent in February then released on Aug. 31. He was re-signed last week.

OL L.J. Shelton, who missed the first two games back, is back at practice but it won't be known until later in the week if he'll be ready to play against the Rams. It's possible. The former starter at LT is expected to begin working as a backup at LG. Leonard Davis now mans the LT spot where Shelton started for five years.

OLB Raynoch Thompson knee, a starter who missed the first two games, is not a strong candidate to return Sunday. The Cardinals have played decently without Thompson, arguably their best playmaker and their undisputed liveliest body. Nobody is the equal of Michael Vick athletically, but Thompson comes closest on this roster.

CB Renaldo Hill did not dress for the game after dressing for practice last week. He is said to have an ankle injury but was not listed on the injury report. Coach Dennis Green said he activated Dyshod Carter over Hill not because of the injury but because Carter is strong on special teams. Hill was a valuable in nickel defenses, where he was replaced by veteran Robert Tate.

Denver Broncos

RB Quentin Griffin will continue to be the Broncos' short-yardage back, Coach Mike Shanahan said. Griffin was stuffed twice on third down and one against the Jaguars last week, and at 5-feet-7, 195 pounds he isn't a prototypical short-yardage back, but the Broncos are going to stick with him for the time being.

DE Anton Palepoi, a former second-round pick with the Seattle Seahawks, was signed by Denver.

QB Matt Mauck was released by Denver. The Broncos will likely bring Mauck back to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

WR Nate Jackson made two big catches against the Jaguars in Denver's final drive of the game. They were the first catches of his NFL career. The Broncos kept Jackson as their fourth receiver because they like his size and hands.

TE Patrick Hape played extensively against Jacksonville last week. Hape is a good blocker and has surprisingly good hands. He's a target in the red zone because he usually doesn't get much attention.

PR Rod Smith is the oldest regular punt returner in the league, but he's getting the job done. His 12.4-yard average on punt returns is tied for second-best in the AFC. Smith has had two good weeks at receiver too, with a team-high 13 catches.

FB Reuben Droughns, a tailback in high school and college at Oregon, is a candidate to be Denver's goal line and short-yardage back if Griffin falters. Shanahan said the team has thought about using Droughns in that spot, and has also experimented with rookie Tatum Bell in those situations.

DT Ellis Johnson was acquired by the Broncos in a trade with Atlanta earlier in the week, but it could be a week or two before he is ready to play. The Broncos have two weeks before they have to activate Johnson. Johnson said he will probably not play this week but perhaps in Week 4.

CB Lenny Walls hasn't returned to practice yet, but he might only miss two or three games instead of the four that was first predicted he'd miss when he dislocated his shoulder in Denver's first game. Walls could be back as soon as Denver's fourth game on Oct. 3.

RB Garrison Hearst missed last week's game with a sprained ankle and did not practice on Wednesday. He was Quentin Griffin's main backup before he hurt himself in Denver's first game and remains 50-50 to play Sunday.

Baltimore Ravens

OT Jonathan Ogden is still not 100 percent but he still clears out space for the running game and protects in the passing game like no other.

RB Jamal Lewis has averaged 127 yards in his six meetings with the Bengals, cracking 100 yards every time.

WR Randy Hymes is expected to be the Ravens' primary deep threat. He only caught three passes for 24 yards Sunday but a 39-yard touchdown was negated by a penalty.

CB Deion Sanders hamstring is not expected to play. He will likely be replaced at nickel back by Ray Walls.

WR Devard Darling was not active Sunday against Pittsburgh. The third-round pick that had been banged up in preseason, did not play because of a coaching decision.

C Mike Flynn broken clavicle is out for another two weeks and will be replaced by Casey Rabach.

TE Todd Heap sprained ankle is out two to four weeks. He will be replaced by Daniel Wilcox.

NT Kelly Gregg knee is questionable but likely will miss another game. He will be replaced by Maake Kemoeatu.

WR Travis Taylor groin is expected to miss the next three games. He will be replaced by Randy Hymes.

K Matt Stover ranks fifth on the NFL's active scoring list with 1,379 points. Fifteen percent of them 216 points have come against Cincinnati.

WR Kevin Johnson has recorded a catch in 81 straight games.

LB Ray Lewis has recorded 119 tackles in 13 games against Cincinnati, an average of nine per meeting.

QB Kyle Boller recorded first downs on six of his 10 completions Sunday against the Steelers 60 percent.

OT Ethan Brooks knee returned to practice and is questionable. He is the top backup at both tackle positions.

Pittsburgh Steelers

WR Hines Ward, a three-time Pro Bowler, leads the NFL with 250 yards receiving. Ward dominates the Steelers' receiving stats with 13 catches. Antwaan Randle El is second with four and Plaxico Burress is second with 43 yards. What's more, Ward averages 19.2 yards a game. His career average is 11.9.

"This year, I was just focused on being consistent," Ward said. "I didn't know how much more I could improve on my game. I just have to maintain that level of consistency to do it week in and week out. For the past couple of years I've been fortunate enough to do that. It's still week two, it's still early but it's great just to see that I'm improving and playing on a consistent level. I have to continue to do that, to help this team out as much as possible."

LB Kendrell Bell groin is questionable. Bell hasn't played since the first exhibition game.

CB Chad Scott groin is questionable. If Scott cannot play, rookie Ricardo Colclough would make his first start.

LB Joey Porter's push of injured tight end Todd Heap of Baltimore during a clock-stopping spike play Sunday did not win Cowher's approval.

"We talked about it," the coach said. "It was not condoned. I think a lot more has been made of it than needs to be. It was talked about with the team and was not condoned."

QB Mike Quinn, 30, has played on four teams in seven years since he became Pittsburgh's No. 3 QB in 1997 and he has already qualified for his NFL pension. But he's still eligible for the practice squad and that's where the Steelers put him this week. He is, in essence, their No. 3 quarterback.

WR Chris Doering was released last Saturday by Pittsburgh to make room for QB Brian St. Pierre. The plan was to put St. Pierre back on the practice squad this week, but that went awry because St. Pierre is now the No. 2 QB.

DE Kimo von Oelhoffen, who led the team with 8 sacks last season, leads them with four quarterback pressures.

WR Plaxico Burress is off to a slow start. His three catches in two games would put him on pace for only 24 receptions, the lowest since he caught 22 as a rookie in 2000.

WR Antwaan Randle El could be a beneficiary of the new quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. Randle El caught more passes from Roethlisberger in the preseason and training camp because they were both on the second team and built some rapport.

QB Brian St. Pierre was released two weeks ago. Now he's the No. 2 quarterback and one injury away from No. 1. St. Pierre has not taken a snap in a real game. He was No. 3 as a rookie last season.

RB Duce Staley was supposed to bolster the Steelers' running game. But he's averaging only 3.7 yards a carry and their 3.4 yard average as a team ranks 24th in the NFL.

RB Verron Haynes hip is questionable. If Haynes does not play, Duce Staley will probably play more on third downs, which would open up more opportunities for Jerome Bettis to play on first and second downs.

Atlanta Falcons

LB Matt Stewart broke his left thumb in practice last Thursday, and has a cast on, but he's not on the team's injury report.

LT Kevin Shaffer, who missed the Falcons' game last Sunday against the Rams with a sprained right medial collateral knee ligament, was back at practice Wednesday and not even on the injury report. He's almost certain to start Sunday against the Cardinals.

DT Rod Coleman missed practice Wednesday for the Falcons, and he's questionable on the team's injury report. It's no sure thing he'll practice Thursday because of a strained hamstring, but judging from his demeanor and body English, his chances of playing against the Cardinals Sunday are good.

WR Brian Finneran missed practice Wednesday, and may have the least chance of the Falcons' four "questionable" players of being ready for Sunday's game against the Cardinals. He has a sprained ankle and strained Achilles tendon.

LB Jamie Duncan, who has been out for about a month with a torn pectoral muscle, has been practicing with the team for nearly two weeks, but he's already been listed as out for Sunday's game against the Cardinals. He's still listed as the backup to Falcons starting MLB Chris Draft.

DE Karon Riley stands a decent chance of being available in a reserve role when the Falcons play the Cardinals Sunday, even though he's questionable on the team's injury report. Riley, who has been out for about a month with a groin pull, has been practicing for about a week.

CB DeAngelo Hall, who fractured his left hip socket Aug. 28 in a preseason game, is supposed to get off crutches by the end of this week, or early next week.

WR Michael Jenkins has been in on just a few snaps this season, all in last Sunday's game against the Rams. He and WR Jimmy Farris got a little playing time when No. 3 WR Brian Finneran sprained his left ankle and strained his Achilles tendon against St. Louis.

That'll be the plan, for the time being, any time one of Atlanta's top three WR's gets hurt.

"It depends on play call, formation," Coach Jim Mora said. "If one of the top three receivers was hurt, and was going to be out for an extended period of time, we'd probably designate Mike Jenkins. In a game, it kind of depends on what we're trying to do. They both have a role."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Chris Simms said he learned much from watching the tape of his NFL debut against Seattle in which he was 21-of-34 passing for 175 yards. He also fumbled twice, losing one, was sacked four times and threw a game-clinching interception.

"I thought I played good in some spots and made a lot of good plays and had a few bonehead plays," Simms said. "My fumble and interception at the end of the game are something I'm going to have to live with and I'll definitely learn from it."

WR DeAndrew Rubin was signed to Tampa Bay's practice squad. Rubin was a seventh-round draft pick by the Packers in 2003 and was most recently with the Colts.

RB Ian Smart was signed to Tampa Bay's practice squad. Smart entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Jets in 2003 and was allocated to NFL Europe. He rushed for NCAA-record 95 touchdowns in four seasons at C.W. Post.

FB Casey Moore was released by Tampa Bay.

WR Huey Whittaker was released by Tampa Bay.

WR Joey Galloway is out 3-5 more weeks with a groin tear. WR Charles Lee will start in his place.

PK Martin Gramatica has accounted for all the offensive scoring by Tampa Bay this season, connecting on all three of his FG attempts this year after a dismal '03 and preseason.

FB Mike Alstott could get more rushing attempts. He has carried six times for 11 yards this season.

WR Tim Brown has caught at least one pass in 175 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NFL.

WR Frank Murphy ranks fifth in the NFL in kickoff returns with a 26.9-yard average.

WR Michael Clayton leads all NFL rookies with 13 receptions.

Although head coach Jon Gruden said earlier this week that Brad Johnson will remain the club's starting quarterback, his hold on the job is hardly secure. With the club already off to a slow start at 0-2 and facing a tough game on the road at Oakland, 0-3 is realistic possibility.

Once they are out of the playoff picture or even before that, look for second-year signal caller Chris Simms to take over the starting job from Johnson. With little to play for in that scenario, they could get a head start on next season with Simms behind center.

Dallas Cowboys

With rookie back Julius Jones (broken shoulder) out for at least eight weeks, look for second-year back Reshard Lee to get plenty of work in his absence. The former Middle Tennessee St. star, is a much more explosive runner than veteran back Eddie George who remains the starter. If George isn't productive, look for Lee to see even more work than expected.

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