NFL Insider Blog-New Orleans finding OL depth

Who is pushing Jamar Nesbit for playing time?...What will the Buffalo Bills do with Ashton Youboty?...Will Darren Howard make Philadelphia's final roster?...San Francisco and Minnesota to host free agent offensive linemen...What is Jeff Garcia's status with Tampa Bay?...Who is the rookie who is impressing in camp with the Raiders?...Those stories and more inside.

Updates 8/11-8/17


Nicks Making His Presence Known; Pushing For More than Roster Spot?

When the New Orleans Saints selected Carl Nicks in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, it was expected that he would just be a developmental offensive line prospect.

In fact, a player from the offensive side of the ball told that Nicks was really being pushed by the offensive coaches during early OTA practices to light a fire under him.

Apparently whatever the coaches put in Nicks' ear worked.

Practice observers note Nicks has been dominant at times during one-on-one drills against veteran ends Will Smith and Charles Grant.

Nicks has shown to have tremendous power and he moves well for a player of such large size.

The rookie offensive lineman has lined up at both tackle positions and also has seen some at guard during training camp.

His progress has been so strong that he has taken reps over second-year LG Andy Alleman in recent weeks and replaced starting LG Jamar Nesbit in the first quarter of last week's game against the Arizona Cardinals.  


Youboty Could Stick A Few More Weeks

Despite having good depth at the cornerback position, a team source notes the Buffalo Bills are likely to keep Ashton Youboty around a few weeks longer.

The former third-round pick has been viewed as a disappointment in his first two seasons of play but he's putting together a solid camp.

Buffalo has six legitimate players at cornerback out of the eight currently on the roster.

The source believes they will wind up keeping five and the fifth spot on the depth chart will come down to Youboty or veteran Will James.

Should the team decide they want to keep James over Youboty, look for Youboty to be dealt.

Teams that could be in need of cornerback help include the Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams, and Jacksonville Jaguars.  

Updates 8/4-8/10


Patrick to Visit San Francisco

Free agent OL Chris Patrick is expected to visit the San Francisco 49ers, has confirmed.

Patrick, who was recently waived by the Detroit Lions, was on his way to take a physical for the team on Sunday.

Should he pass the physical, there's a good chance the former University of Nebraska lineman will sign a one-year deal with the team.

Patrick is capable of playing guard or tackle but projects better to tackle.

San Francisco has two roster spots cleared up after placing backup OL Damane Duckett on injured reserve and after releasing backup LB Brandon Moore on Sunday.

San Francisco was expected to have free agent OL Charles Spencer in for a visit this weekend but that visit has been postponed.


Free Agent Lineman to Visit Vikings

Free agent OL Brock Pasteur is expected to visit the Minnesota Vikings, has confirmed.

Pasteur was recently waived by the Tennessee Titans and is capable of playing guard or tackle.


Spencer to Visit San Francisco

Free agent OL Charles Spencer, who was just waived by the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, is scheduled to visit the San Francisco 49ers within the next few days, has confirmed.

According to a league source, the former third-round pick of the Houston Texans still needs to lose around 10 pounds in order to get into game shape.

Spencer, as first reported earlier this week, is still practice squad eligible so if San Francisco decides he's worth keeping around after watching him practice over the next four weeks, they could try to decide to sneak him through waivers when the final rosters are set.

Spencer is expected to compete for a job behind starting LT Joe Staley.


Bush Struggling to Impress

There had been some optimism during off-season workouts that Oakland Raiders RB Michael Bush could have a significant role this season with the team.

But if the first few weeks of training camp are any indication, Bush has a long way to go.

Bush lacks explosion on his runs and seems to have a shall hitch when he tries to accelerate.

While Bush was targeted by some to handle a short-yardage role this season, it seems that's not even a certainty at this point.


Howard To Stick?

It seemed like a long-shot a few months that Darren Howard would stick on the roster of the Philadelphia Eagles this season after being relegated to backup duty in 2007.

But the veteran end looks to be in the best shape he's been in since he signed with the club back in 2006.

In fact, a team source adds Howard could perhaps have been one of the most impressive defensive players in training camp.

Howard is slated to back up at end and is also expected to play in nickel situations at defensive tackle.

Should Howard contribute significantly this season, Philadelphia could have a tough call next March when his $1 million roster bonus is due. He also has a cap number of around $3.7 million in 2009.


Rookie Making an Impression for Oakland

The Oakland Raiders were looking to improve on last year's paltry sack total of just 27.

To do that, they signed free agent DE Kalimba Edwards but one player who could play a bigger role than expected is rookie Trevor Scott.

The sixth-round pick, who had been a big surprise for the team over the first two weeks of camp, dominated pass rushing drills during Monday's two combined practices with the San Francisco 49ers.

In one-on-one drills, the former University at Buffalo defender blew by San Francisco's offensive tackle on his first step and easily got to the quarterback.

After watching Scott over three practices, he reminds us of a younger and less bulked up Jared Allen.

Scott figures to make the final roster and could possibly be active on game days.

Once his body fills out, he could push starting LDE Jay Richardson for playing time.


Philadelphia Could Move More Than One Back

The Philadelphia Eagles have five quality running backs on their roster but if all are healthy, only three of them will likely make the final roster.

A league source notes former third-round pick Ryan Moats will almost certainly be traded or waived.

Moats was likely out of a job prior to the start of last season but he suffered a season-ending injury during training camp and was placed on injured-reserve.

Moats, like veteran Correll Buckhalter, is on the final year of his deal.

The two locks at the position are starter Brian Westbrook and newcomer Lorenzo Booker who looks to be Westbrook's main backup at this point.

The third spot on the position figures to go to Buckhalter or second-year back Tony Hunt.

Buckhalter's experience and versatility gives him the advantage over the younger Hunt.

Hunt, because he was on Philadelphia's active roster for his entire rookie season, he's not practice squad eligible.

Buckhalter and Hunt are big backs so one of them figures to make it since Westbrook and Moats are much smaller.


Garcia Not Close to Extension?

Lost in the midst of the Brett Favre to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers talk is the status of a possible contract extension for QB Jeff Garcia.

A league source notes Garcia, as of earlier this week, wasn't close to signing an extension. Tampa Bay, despite being loaded with a ton of salary cap room, hasn't shown a sense of urgency to get something done with the veteran signal caller.

Garcia is on the final season of the two-year deal he signed with Tampa Bay in 2007.

Garcia has a base salary this season of $2 million. Garcia, according to league salary documents, also received a roster bonus of $750,000 earlier this year and has a cap number of just over $5 million.


Jackson Still Impressing

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson continues to impress practice observers with his speed and elusiveness during training camp.

As noted a few weeks ago in this space, the coaches continue to move the rookie around the offensive formation to keep the defense from getting a good shot at him.

Apparently the move has worked this far.

Jackson has been matched up one-on-one against almost all of top cornerbacks on the roster and he's made moves in space against all of them which have resulted in big gains.

The next test for Jackson is this Friday when the team opens up their pre-season schedule at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While Jackson's progression might not be that much of a surprise, the rapid development of seventh-round pick King Dunlap has to be.

Dunlap struggled a bit in the first week of practices but he's really come on and has a chance to win the backup left tackle job this season.

Dunlap has done a better job with his feet and because his long reach, defensive ends aren't getting around as quickly as they were previously.

Dunlap figures to get a lot of playing time Friday night which will be interesting against a Steeler defense which uses a 3-4 scheme--something Dunlap hasn't seen much of in training camp.


Notes From Chiefs' Camp

Here are some brief impressions on our recent visit to see the Kansas City Chiefs:



There's no question that QB Brodie Croyle has much better understand of the offense and what he's being asked to do. With that progression, Croyle is doing a nice job of getting the ball out of his hands quicker into the receiver's hands.

Because of his improvement in all aspects of the offense, he has done a better job of going through his progressions and he's more willing to throw the ball into traffic.

On the negative side, Croyle will still make a bad decision from time to time.

During last week's evening scrimmage with the Minnesota Vikings, Croyle threw one really bad interception to CB Charles Gordon. In fact, there were three Minnesota defenders around the ball on that play and no Kansas City receiver. It's possible it was a miscommunication with his receiver.

Their No. 2 quarterback, Damon Huard, seems to have lost some velocity with his passes. Apparently this has been a problem him so far in camp after talking to other practice observers.

Running Back

• Starter Larry Johnson looks noticeably thinner and is moving faster than he did last year. It helps that he reported on time as opposed to last year when he was in contract negotiations and was out of camp.

Johnson is running with great vision and is doing a good job of setting up his blocks. Those are Johnson trademarks that he's carried throughout his career.

• The surprise so far has to be who has been running with the second-team offense.

Second-year back Jackie Battle, who was signed as an undrafted free agent, has been taking most of the second-team snaps in individual and team drills.

Battle is a big back who hits the hole but he runs too upright which makes it much easier for the defender to knock him down at the point of attack.

• Second-year back Kolby Smith, who was Johnson's top backup last season, is trailing Battle.

• Rookie Jamaal Charles noticeably quicker than the other four backs on the roster but lacks the power to handle a lot of carries. His role figures to be as a change of pace.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

• Starter Dwayne Bowe, the top target at the position, was terrific during his time on the field when we had a chance to watch him.

Bowe looks fit and very strong. He's also a very good route runner. He could develop very quickly into one of the best young players at his position in the league. He has all the qualities you look for in a No. 1 receiver.

• Newcomer Devard Darling seems to be a little further ahead of third-year pro Jeff Webb who needs to show that he can catch the ball consistently in traffic.

• Rookie Will Franklin, who a team source notes the coaches are very high on, struggles to make clean catches in traffic. Franklin dropped an easy pass over the middle and also shied away from another pass by turning his body before getting hit. We would imagine the coaches will point this out to him when watching the practice tape.

Franklin could have the most suddenness of the group of receivers. That seemed clear watching him get in and out of his breaks.

Other Notes of Interest

• The lack of offensive line depth certainly has to be an issue. Only veteran Wade Smith has starting experience. The good thing about Smith is he can play center or either guard position.

• Rookie TE Brad Cottam could develop into Tony Gonzalez's replacement down the line. Cottam runs well for a guy his size (over 6'7") and he's a willing blocker.

Defensive Notes

In a surprising decision, veteran DT Alfonso Boone has moved to end with the first-team defense and he's expected to stay there this season.
Boone did a nice job last season for Kansas City in his 15 starts but he hasn't ever posted more than 2.5 sacks in any season of his eight-year career.

If second-year DT Tank Tyler gives more of a consistent effort from play to play, he has a chance to be a solid contributor for years to come.

Tyler is capable of taking up a few blockers as we saw during last week's practice with the Vikings.

He's going to get a chance to be on the field more since rookie Glenn Dorsey will miss at least as week with a grade-1 MCL sprain.

• In yet another surprising move, LB Demorrio Williams is playing on strong-side instead of the weak-side.

Williams was signed to eventually replace starting WLB Donnie Edwards.

Williams is a bit small to play on the strong-side so it will be interesting to see if he stays there this season.

Napoleon Harris could be in trouble. The veteran linebacker has been running with the second-team defense at MLB most of camp.

Backup LB Pat Thomas has been with the first-team defense. The fifth-year pro has only started one game in his career.

Here's another move that we can't see sticking all month.

• In the secondary, second-round pick Brandon Flowers is pretty much a lock to start at cornerback opposite Patrick Surtain.

The player to watch is fellow rookie Brandon Carr. The small school star was targeted by Kansas City several months before the draft by their scouting staff. He figures to handle the nickel role this season.

At strong safety, the feeling is rookie DaJuan Morgan will over take the job this season from inconsistent veteran Bernard Pollard.

Morgan was highly thought of around the league and many scouts thought he could develop into a starter down the line.



Recently added Charles Spencer continues to practice once a day as he gets in better shape.

The Carolina Panthers claimed the offensive lineman from the Houston Texans less than two weeks ago.

A league source notes that Spencer, if waived again, would be practice squad eligible this season.

Spencer only was on Houston's roster for a few games during his rookie season in 2006 but wasn't back on their active roster again before he was waived.

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