Around the AFC: Camp rumblings

Rookie surprises have been the talk of minicamps around the AFC. And second-year players are making their ascent up the depth charts into starting roles around the conference. With training camp just more than six weeks away, battles are already being waged across the AFC.

Baltimore Ravens – Second-round defender Dan Cody will likely play both defensive end and strong-side linebacker this season. Cody has shown excellent athleticism in coverage drills at linebacker and has good feet.

Buffalo Bills – First-year starting QB JP Losman and second-year WR Lee Evans are continuing to develop pretty good chemistry in off-season workouts. Their timing has been pretty solid and they seem to be on the same page. Losman has also impressed coaches with his work ethic and his knowledge of the playbook.

Rookie WR Roscoe Parrish has been the star in the club's off-season workouts. So much so that he could supplant veteran WR Josh Reed for the third spot on the depth chart. In fact, according to a team source, it wouldn't be surprising if Reed were cut before training camp is over. Parrish has been very difficult to cover out of the slot. Should backup WR Sam Aiken continue to progress, he could also make it difficult for Reed.

Cincinnati Bengals – Because veteran MLB Nate Webster's contract was restructured recently, it almost assures that he will be given a chance to win a roster spot in training camp. While many speculated he would be cut, the team historically doesn't like to cut players with time remaining on their contracts. Head coach Marvin Lewis is very fond of Webster but there is still concern with how Webster will respond physically after his second procedure on his torn patellar tendon.

The starting position is still up in the air mainly between rookie Odell Thurman and second-year pro Landon Johnson. Most close to the team believe Thurman, who brings a badly needed physical presence to the position as well as to the defense, will win the job.

The coaches have switched starting DE Justin Smith from the right to the left side and second-year DE to the right side. With veteran DE Duane Clemons deciding not to attend their voluntary workouts, Geathers has gotten plenty of time with the first-team defense. Clemons doesn't appear to be staging a holdout because he restructured his contract last year and is signed through 2006.

Cleveland Browns – While head coach Romeo Crennel said earlier this week that Antonio Bryant and Dennis Northcutt are the current starting receivers, most believe Northcutt will wind handling the No.3 role. That's the position where he's very dangerous working mostly in the slot. Most believe rookie WR Braylon Edwards and Bryant will wind be being the starters opening day. Third-year WR Andre Davis is seen more as situation speed receiver who can do his damage down field.

At running back, third-year veteran Lee Suggs is expected to enter training camp at the top spot on the depth chart. Suggs gives the team badly needed speed and talent at the position while veteran RB Reuben Droughns looks to handle the power-running role, which essentially could mean short-yardage and goal-line.

Denver Broncos – Rookie RB Maurice Clarett has shown decent progress in workouts thus far but he also weighs between 240-245. Most close to the team say he'll need to get to around 230 by the start of training camp on July 28.

The Broncos selected three cornerbacks on the first day of this year's draft. Standing out in workouts has been Domonique Foxworth, the second of their three third-round picks. Foxworth, if he continues to progress during training camp, will compete for the nickel job.

Indianapolis Colts – The team re-signed veteran MLB Rob Morris to a one-year deal this week. Morris, however, will enter training camp No.2 on the depth chart behind Gary Brackett. The job is essentially Brackett's to lose.

Jacksonville Jaguars – One thing that's noticeable in rookie WR Matt Jones' play is that he has remarkable hands for a player who hasn't performed at the position long. He looks like a natural also running his routes. The big test will come in pads when training camp starts on July 29.

While third-year RB LaBrandon Toefield is handling the first-team reps in off-season workouts since veteran RB Fred Taylor (knee) is on the shelf, some close to the situation say that the team will likely bring in a veteran back to compete for the backup job. Some see Toefield as more of a third-down back than a viable starting candidate.

Kansas City Chiefs – According to a league source, veteran MLB Mike Maslowski's representative and the team are continuing to negotiate a restructured deal in order for him to remain a Chief. The source adds Maslowski (knee) is at about 90% and should be 100% by the start of training camp. As long as Maslowski can prove he's healthy, he's expected to start over Kawika Mitchell.

New England Patriots – While new WR David Terrell has shown some progress during off-season workouts, he also looks to be a step slow. The Patriot offense has been one based on speed so it's unlikely he'll have much of an impact in down field if he makes the team. His likely role will be in the red zone area where the team can take advantage of his size.

New York Jets – It remains to be seen of starting QB Chad Pennington (shoulder) will be ready for the beginning of training camp on July 29. Pennington did not participate in the club's off-season workouts. While the team said Pennington will start to throw later this month, some close to the team question how much power he'll have behind his throws. A big part of new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's offense is the deep passing game and Pennington's surgically repaired rotator cuff will have to be at full strength if he's to have an impact in the offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Steeler fans should keep an eye on former Carolina Panther WR Walter Young who offers the team badly needed size at the position due to the loss of Plaxico Burress in free agency. The former seventh-round pick will compete for the final spot on the depth chart against Zamir Cobb and Sean Morey.

Young made a splash in training camp two years ago with the Panthers but was mostly a game day inactive during the regular season and was waived prior to the start of last season.

San Diego Chargers – Practice observers during the club's off-season workouts were very impressed with rookie RB Darren Sproles. Most believed Sproles would just return kicks but by the looks of things, he could get a role as a change of pace runner in their regular offense. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer praised Sproles for his work on the field and justly so. The diminutive back is already a fan favorite in San Diego.

Tennessee Titans – MLB Rocky Calmus (hamstring) has been cleared by the team's medical staff to participate in this week's minicamp. Calmus will likely be brought along slowly until training camp starts. Calmus and Brad Kassell will compete for the starting job.

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