Scout Scoop: AFC Teams

The Philadelphia Eagles kick off the first NFL training camp in less than three weeks. The Vikings' rookies and select veterans report on July 27. First, however, we turn to the AFC for a look at's latest exclusive news and analysis, including a Vikings' interest in free agency that got away.

Baltimore Ravens – With very little depth in back of starters Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister, the team could be in the market for a veteran cornerback. The team had expressed interest in re-signing CB Dale Carter earlier this year to handle the nickel role.

Buffalo Bills – As reported earlier this year, the Minnesota Vikings were very interested in signing free agent QB Craig Nall. The problem was they wouldn't give him any assurances that he would be given a chance to compete for the starting job, which is why he signed with the Bills. Not only is he being given a chance to compete for the job, those who watched their offseason practices noted that Nall was the most impressive of the three competing for the No. 1 spot. Nall showed the ability to get the ball into tight areas and on time, which is an important facet of offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild's scheme.

Another player to watch on the offensive side of the ball is TE Robert Royal, who was essentially used as a blocker previously with the Washington Redskins. Royal, a former fifth-round pick in 2002, had a very good week of Senior Bowl practices so it was a surprise to some that he wasn't used more as a receiver in the first four years of his career (29 catches). With the club lacking a physical presence at the receiver position, Royal's role with his new team could certainly increase.

Cincinnati Bengals – Veteran QB Anthony Wright, as practice observers note, was clearly out-performing QB Doug Johnson during the club's offseason program. Because the team puts a premium on the vertical passing game, Wright should also have a distinct advantage there. 

Cleveland Browns – As first reported, contract negotiations between the agent for first-round pick OLB Kamerion Wimbley and the club have progressed in recent weeks. Agent Joe Linta has a strong history of getting his players to report to camp on time and the tenor of the talks has been good.

Houston Texans – With second-year WR/KR Jerome Mathis likely on the shelf through the early part of the regular season, that could open the door for oft-injured WR Jake Schifino to make the roster. The Tennessee Titans drafted him in the fifth round in 2002, but he never caught a pass in his three seasons there. The team had high hopes for him, but his playing time was curtailed by a series of nagging hamstring injuries. Still, after Tennessee gave up on him, the New England Patriots signed him in January of 2005, but, again, the hamstring woes continued and he was released last August. The speedy Schifino's best chance to make the roster will be as a special teams returner or as their fifth receiver.

One of the more interesting training camp battles will be at offensive left tackle between fourth-year pro Seth Wand and rookie Charles Spencer. Wand fell out of favor last season and was beaten out for a starting job by Victor Riley who wasn't re-signed. Spencer, who was projected by many to play inside, played left tackle in his final season at the University of Pittsburgh. Wand is being given another chance with the new coaching staff, but those close to the team believe Spencer is the long-term solution at the position. 

Indianapolis Colts – While some fans and part of the media expected the team to reshuffle their offensive line after major problems sprung up in their playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, an NFL source who watched the coaches tape pointed out that most of the problems with the line were from the linemen communicating with each other, not from a lack of talent. Those issues, according to the source, are correctable.

Defensively, one situation that should be interesting to see is how fourth-year DE Robert Mathis holds up as a full-time starter. While Mathis probably was on the field more than most backup ends, his game is built more on speed than size. Mathis, who is listed at 235 pounds, signed a five-year, $30 million extension last month.  

Kansas City Chiefs – According to a league source, veteran CB Ty Law has three teams on his radar to sign with — the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans. But as the source points out, Law will simply sign with whoever will pay him the most money and any allegiances to head coach Herman Edwards won't make a difference in the end. Kansas City and New England are believed to be the only real suitors at the point.

New England Patriots – While no one is saying when he'll be ready to hit the practice field, a league source indicated recently that C Dan Koppen (shoulder) should be ready for the start of the regular season. Koppen not only dislocated his shoulder last November against the Miami Dolphins, he suffered damage to his rotator cuff but is said to be making progress.

Practice observers, during their offseason workouts, noted that second-round pick WR Chad Jackson was very impressive in catching the ball and getting down field. The two areas Jackson will need to prove that he can handle well are his route running and getting off of the line once the pads go on during training camp. Because contact isn't allowed in offseason workouts, receivers get a free release, so it will be important for Jackson to show he can handle getting off the line against different coverages. Route running, as a league source pointed out, was one of Jackson's problem areas in teams evaluating him for this past draft. Both areas are key components for a rookie receiver to see the field earlier.

Defensively, the coaching staff moved ILB Monty Beisel back with the first unit during their recent offseason workouts and put veteran LB Mike Vrabel back on the outside, where most believe he's more comfortable. The team, other than moving back Vrabel inside, doesn't have many options if Beisel can't handle the job after struggling mightily last season. Beisel did seem more comfortable in their scheme recently.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Although he played mostly guard at Hofstra University, fourth-round pick Willie Colon worked behind starting RT Max Starks during their final offseason workouts. Colon was projected to play inside at the professional level so it will be interesting to see if he stays there.  

Tennessee Titans – While some fans may be wondering about how veteran QB Billy Volek will do as the club's starter this season, a team source indicated that he looked very sharp during their offseason program. In fact, as the source points out, Volek is a very good fit for offensive coordinator Norm Chow's structured scheme.

Barring a change of heart, it appears the coaching staff will stick with CB Reynaldo Hill as their other starter opposite fellow second-year CB Pacman Jones. Hill, who wound up starting 10 games, replaced former first round pick CB Andre Woolfolk as the starter around mid-season and never looked back.


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