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Volume 6, Issue 124 (Saturday, August 20th)

Tonight's update brought to you by:
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Hi Folks,

We?re right in the thick of the Week 2 Preseason games. Camps are rolling and we?re here for you to plow through the mountain of news and bring you the key things you need to know. Thanks to our Footballguy Aaron Rudnicki for the help rounding up these stories tonight. Let?s get to it.

Joe Bryant



1. SD - TE Gates Expected To Report On Sunday
2. MIN - WR Williamson Impresses while WR Taylor Starts over Robinson; RB Bennett Struggles
3. NYJ - QB Pennington Passes First Test
4. JAX - RB Fred Taylor Expected To Play In Third Preseason Game
5. MIA - Dolphins Rally Around QB Gus Frerotte
6. NE - WR Deion Branch Not Playing Despite Being Healthy
7. BUF - Backup RB Spot Wide Open
8. CLE - WR Northcutt Welcomes Competition From Edwards
9. DAL - Cowboys Expected OT Rogers To Play With Pain
10. JAX - Jaguars Installing New England-Style Offense
11. SF - Nolan Says That C Newberry Will Practice Soon
12. IDP: NYJ - Rookie S Kerry Rhodes Making Plays
13. IDP: DAL - OLB Depth Has Parcells Concerned
14. IDP: KC - Chiefs Concerned About CB Depth
15. IDP: WAS - Rookie CB Carlos Rogers Has Mixed Debut

1. SD ? TE Gates Expected To Report On Sunday

Clipped from: San Diego Union Tribune article by Kevin Acee, 8/20/05

All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates will report Sunday to the Chargers, his agent said Saturday afternoon.

After a morning of negotiations between agent Andre Colona and the team, the sides were no closer in agreement on the length or monetary details of a contract, and Gates missed the team's 12:30 p.m. deadline Saturday to report.

The team promptly issued a statement saying Gates would be placed on the Roster Exempt List when he reported, which the team says means he will miss the Sept. 11 season opener against Dallas.

According to the "NFL Management Handbook," however, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue could lift the exemption sooner than the usual three games.

"Antonio and I believe (the Chargers) backed themselves into a corner," Colona said. "No one said Antonio wasn't going to report. For them to impose the Roster Exemption and say he had to miss games, they didn't have to do that.

"Our interpretation is they could call the commissioner and request he lift the roster exemption. The big issue is if Antonio reports, is San Diego going to punish its fans and Antonio and his teammates by not requesting the commissioner lift the exemption."

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Another team plays hardball and another team wins. This sounds like much better news for Gates owners than what we?ve been hearing earlier Saturday. If he reports Sunday like his agent says, then it seems there is still a chance he could avoid missing the season opener. It?ll be interesting to see if the Chargers try to have the Roster Exemption lifted which would allow Gates to play in the opener. However, both sides don?t appear to be any closer to agreeing on a long term deal so Gates may wind up having to play out the year on the one year tender offer of $380,000 and then looking for a big payday in 2006 when he will be a restricted free agent.

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2. MIN ? WR Williamson Impresses while WR Taylor Starts over Robinson; RB Bennett Struggles

Clipped from: Pioneer Press article by Don Seeholzer, 8/20/05

The Vikings made a change at wide receiver for Friday night's exhibition game against the New York Jets, but it was a guy who didn't get on the field until the third quarter who made the biggest splash.

No. 1 draft choice Troy Williamson, who sat out last week's exhibition-season opener against Kansas City because of an injured right ankle, made his NFL preseason debut a memorable one with a 54-yard reception and a 13-yard touchdown catch in the Vikings' 28-21 loss at Giants Stadium.

Saving his best for last, Williamson scored his first touchdown as a pro on his sixth and final play allotted him by coach Mike Tice. "Coach Tice said I did what I had to do, and it was time to come out," Williamson said. "The first play, I was kind of nervous. After that, it was just a matter of doing what I had to do."

Travis Taylor started at receiver ahead of Marcus Robinson, which Tice said was more than coincidence. "I'd read into it," Tice said. "I put Travis Taylor ahead of Marcus Robinson three days ago. I didn't make an announcement about it. We've got to find ways of getting our playmakers the ball."

Robinson had two catches for 46 yards, including a 42-yarder to set up the Vikings' first touchdown. Taylor finished with two receptions for 39 yards.

Running in place: The Vikings have made no secret of their intention to run the ball more this season. Through two exhibition games, though, starting running back Michael Bennett mostly has been running on empty.

Bennett carried eight times for just 14 yards while playing the first 1? quarters and lost a fumble that the Jets turned into a second-quarter touchdown.

Bennett wasn't the only culprit for the Vikings, who averaged 1.8 yards on their 15 first-half carries, but his two-game numbers aren't pretty: 12 carries, 29 yards with a long of six and a 2.42 average.

"The running game hasn't been there with the ones," Tice said. "Right now, we've got too much leakage, but we're going to be able to run the ball well. I'm not concerned."

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As with all preseason games, you can?t get too excited about players that play well and can?t get too down on players that struggle. That being said, however, Williamson had a great debut and demonstrated the type of speed that the team drafted him for. Travis Taylor appears to have clearly surpassed Marcus Robinson as the starting WR opposite Nate Burleson so he could be a nice sleeper pick this year. Finally, the struggles by Michael Bennett are cause for some concern as the Vikings were expected to place more emphasis on the running game this year now that Randy Moss is gone.

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3. NYJ ? QB Pennington Passes First Test

Clipped from AP article posted at

Just after the ball landed halfway down the field, Chad Pennington looked over at his coach on the sideline.

Herman Edwards gave Pennington a soothing nod, knowing the New York quarterback's surgically repaired right shoulder had just passed its biggest test.

"I think he was just seeing if I was going to wince or shake my arm out or do something. I was just surprised," Pennington said with a laugh. "My eyes were probably pretty big because I didn't realize how far I let it go -- with ease, really."

Pennington, playing his first game since undergoing offseason surgery on a torn rotator cuff, was 9-of-10 for 86 yards -- including a touchdown to Laveranues Coles in the Jets' 28-21 preseason victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night.

More important was the 45-yard pass to Justin McCareins that sailed just long to start the third offensive series for the Jets (2-0). "That's the first time I've ever been able to throw a deep ball in about two years where I didn't feel any pain," Pennington said. "It feels really good to have that feeling back."

His teammates were happy just to have their field leader back. "When you're a quarterback, I think that's the most important thing for you to get the opportunity to get out and not only show the world, but show yourself and prove to yourself that you still have everything," Coles said.

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While it may not seem like much, this is very good news for Pennington. There have been concerns about his arm strength all offseason, but he shook off the rust and showed few negative effects in his first action since their playoff loss. If he?s healthy, the Jets should have a very productive offense with Curtis Martin grinding out the tough yards and two reliable WRs in Laveranues Coles and Justin McCareins.

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4. JAX ? RB Fred Taylor Expected To Play In Third Preseason Game

Clipped from Times-Union article by Bart Hubbuch, 8/20/05

After being noncommittal on the subject all week, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio left no doubt Friday that he expects running back Fred Taylor to make his preseason debut next week.

Taylor has been limited throughout training camp because of knee surgery last January and won't play in the Jaguars' second preseason game tonight at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Jaguars look for Taylor to have his first carries of the preseason next Thursday in a nationally televised home game against the Atlanta Falcons that is likely to be blacked out locally. "If we don't have any setbacks, we expect him to go next week," Del Rio said Friday when asked about Taylor's timetable.

Taylor, the Jaguars' all-time leading rusher, has been sidelined since tearing ligaments in his left knee last Dec. 19 at Green Bay. He was limited to one practice during two-a-days and hasn't participated in a contact workout, but he is showing steady progress with his rehabilitation work.

The Jaguars are so encouraged by Taylor's recovery that he traveled with the team to Tampa on Friday, will suit up for tonight's game and will go through warmups as if he were going to play. "He's going to go through the mental work of preparing for a game," Del Rio said.

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Many fantasy owners have shied away from Taylor because of his injury concerns, and it would probably be premature to bump him up your rankings at this point. But, he does appear to be on track to start the regular season and when healthy, there?s little doubt that he could produce like a top-20 fantasy RB. If he returns to his old form, getting Taylor in the 3rd or 4th round could be the type of draft pick that pays huge dividends.

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5. MIA ? Dolphins Rally Around QB Gus Frerotte

Clipped from: article by Jeff Darlington, 8/19/05

Should Gus Frerotte be named the starting quarterback for today's pre-season game against Pittsburgh? Absolutely, his teammates said.

"He's the guy," tight end Randy McMichael said. "We need to rally around him." No doubt, Frerotte has proved he deserves the temporary nod over A.J. Feeley, which he got from Saban this week. But Frerotte's supporters aren't happy simply because he won the battle ? they're just happy that someone has won it.

As the pre-season passes its midway point, the urgency to solidify starting roles has increased across the field, including the quarterback position. The reason is simple: chemistry. The more positions that are decided, the more those players can practice with one another.

"That's the biggest thing," McMichael said. "To get your rhythm as an offense, you have to stick with one quarterback. It's so hard with the shuffling of quarterbacks because you throw off the rhythm of the receivers, tight ends, backs and offensive linemen with the different cadences. With Gus pretty much being labeled as No. 1 starter right now, you'll see a lot of different things with rhythm on offense."

McMichael isn't the only one who was glad to see this scenario unfold this week. Unlike the first pre-season game, when Saban waited until the day before the contest to reveal who would start at quarterback, the offense has been able to prepare better for today's game, wide receiver Chris Chambers said.

And considering Frerotte hasn't been around these receivers for long, the first-team offense needs as much time practicing with him as it can get instead of trying to figure out whether Frerotte or Feeley will take the next snap.

"We've only had (Frerotte) for three or four months, so this is the first time we really got him on a day-to-day basis," Chambers said. "You've got other teams with Peyton Manning (at Indianapolis) and all them other guys who have been working together for five or six years. It really takes a long time to get that chemistry and develop that instinct with the receivers and everything."

"Last year, we didn't know who the starting quarterback was going to be until the Thursday before the first game," McMichael said. "This is a better situation because we can get a rhythm with Gus. By the time the first game rolls around, we'll hit on all cylinders."

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With a new coach and new systems in place, the Dolphins are expected to go through a bit of a rebuilding process. But there are several reasons for Dolphins fans to be optimistic about their offense this year. Frerotte is an experienced QB who has had success in the past and is very familiar with the system being implemented by new OC Scott Linehan. The offensive line and running game are expected to be improved thanks primarily to the additions of Hudson Houck and Ronnie Brown, and the top-3 WR group of Chambers, Booker, and Boston have some question marks but all appear capable of putting up 1000 yards if given enough opportunities.

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6. NE ? WR Deion Branch Not Playing Despite Being Healthy

Clipped from: Providence Journal article by Shalise Manza Young, 8/20/05

Deion Branch didn't play in the Patriots' preseason game against New Orleans on Thursday night. That much we know. What we don't know is why he was held out of the game, as a healthy scratch, for the second time this preseason.

The reigning Super Bowl MVP, Branch said after the game on Thursday night that he has never felt healthier than he does now, after a season spent with the Patriots' trainer, Mike Woicik, as well as his own personal speed and strength coach, Mike Canton.

"I hope I can continue to feel this way throughout the entire season. This is the best I ever felt in my entire career, ever since I've been playing football, and that includes high school and college," Branch said Thursday.

But asked during his conference call with the media yesterday for a reason why Branch didn't play, New England head coach Bill Belichick was vague at best. "Deion was dressed for the game, (so) he would have been able to play. The players that weren't able to play, we didn't dress," Belichick said.

That's all he said.

Branch has been practicing during training camp, unlike numerous other players who have missed time for one reason or another since camp began, but the fourth-year receiver has yet to step onto the field when it pseudo-mattered.

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This is pretty strange, but leave it to Belichick to keep people guessing as to what is going on with his team. It is possible that Branch is not completely healthy, or that they are just trying to be extra careful with him to ensure that he begins the season healthy. Many are expecting a big season from Branch after the way he played in the playoffs and the Super Bowl last year, but his small size has made it difficult for him to stay healthy in the past.

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7. BUF ? Backup RB Spot Wide Open

Clipped from: Buffalo News article by Allen Wilson, 8/20/05

The Buffalo Bills' running back competition is heating up. Returning veterans Joe Burns and Shaud Williams, free agent ReShard Lee and rookie Lionel Gates are fighting to be the primary backup to Willis McGahee, a job created by trading Travis Henry to Tennessee.

Coach Mike Mularkey is intrigued by the No. 2 running back race, which is too close to call going into tonight's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers in Ralph Wilson Stadium. "It's pretty close," Mularkey said.

Don't look for McGahee to get much time tonight. The Bills want to give his backups all the time they need to distinguish themselves. If the first preseason game is an indicator, Williams may be the early front-runner. He rushed for a team-high 46 yards on five carries against Indianapolis and showed tremendous burst through the hole with runs of 20, 13 and 12 yards. He also had a 16-yard gain negated by a penalty.

At 5-foot-7 and 193 pounds, Williams is the smallest of the running backs. But his size didn't stop him from leading the Southeastern Conference with 1,367 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior at Alabama in 2003. It also didn't prevent him from earning a place on the Bills' roster as an undrafted rookie last season.

"He's battled against this size thing his whole life," said Bills running backs coach Eric Studesville. "It's not an obstacle for him. He understands that he's going to have to battle a little bit harder sometimes in pass protection against bigger guys. But you give him the ball and he can run as effectively as anyone we have. Size isn't a factor. He continues to make strides and continues to impress out here."

Gates (6-0, 233) has been just as impressive. The seventh-round draft pick is a big, physical player who is a good fit in the Bills' power running system. He ran for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns at Louisville last season, using the inside-outside power running skills that McGahee possesses. "He's got a good running style for as big of a back as he is," Mularkey said. "He's a big-bodied back that does have some speed similar to Willis, and I think the more he gets reps and sees things at the speed of the NFL that he's got a chance to be a good back."

"I feel like I can play with anybody," said Gates, who had six carries for 15 yards and a kickoff return for 27 against the Colts. "But there's some good competition out there. Those guys are here for a reason."

Lee signed with the Bills in May after spending two years with the Dallas Cowboys. He looked good against the Colts, rushing for 29 yards on seven carries, catching two passes and averaging 19.5 yards on two kickoff returns. Lee also has the ideal size (5-10, 220) to grind out yards between the tackles and enough speed to run outside. "I think I can handle a heavy load if given the opportunity," Lee said. "But whether I get 20 carries or two, I'm going to go out and leave it all on the field."

Having size might give Gates and Lee a slight advantage, but it will take more than that to get into the Bills' backfield.

"The one thing these guys know from being around me is they've got to be a complete running back," Studesville said. "The ability to run the ball only helps us part of the time. Whether it's pass protection or pass receiving or special teams, we're looking for the most productive players we can find regardless of height, weight or size."

Burns fits that description the best. The 5-9, 215-pounder has only 193 yards on 64 carries in three years, but he has been one of the Bills' top special teams performers. He also can play fullback.

The Bills kept five running backs last season, including fullback Daimon Shelton. It's very likely they'll take that same number into the regular season. That means one of the backups will be the odd man out.

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This race still appears too close to call. Williams has the early edge because he was on the team last year and has played well when given an opportunity, but if McGahee were to get injured, Gates or Lee seem like better candidates to take over as the primary back given their size and power running ability. McGahee owners looking for a handcuff will want to watch this situation closely over the next couple preseason games.

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8. CLE ? WR Northcutt Welcomes Competition From Edwards

Clipped from: Cleveland Plain Dealer article by Mary Kay Cabot, 8/19/05

Browns receiver Dennis Northcutt knows he's probably keeping the seat warm for No. 1 pick Braylon Edwards, but he's encouraging Edwards to try to take his job. "Hey, they drafted him No. 3 overall," Northcutt said. "They didn't bring him in No. 3 overall to play behind me. I really hope he tries to beat me out because that's going to take my game to the next level."

Edwards, who will play in his first preseason game Saturday in his hometown of Detroit, is working as the fourth-team receiver. He's working overtime to catch up, but the general consensus is he has a long way to go.

Even coach Romeo Crennel said Wednesday that Edwards will be hard-pressed to beat out Northcutt anytime soon. Asked if he thought Northcutt would give Edwards a good run for his money for the starting job, Crennel said, "I think you have that backwards. He doesn't have to give Braylon a run for his money. Braylon has to do the running, because Dennis is the starter and Braylon has to catch up. That's just the way it is. He's been here, he's done it and it's his job until somebody else can beat him out."

Crennel, who was here during Northcutt's rookie year in 2000, has raved about Northcutt all camp. "He came to camp ready to go and he hasn't missed a beat," Crennel said. "He has quickness, he has savvy, he's a punt returner, he runs excellent routes and he catches the ball."

Quarterback Trent Dilfer also has developed chemistry with the six-year veteran. "There's no doubt in my mind he's a starter in this league," Dilfer said. "He's somebody you can count on to make the tough catch. He reminds me of Bobby Engram, who I played with in Seattle."

Despite Edwards' desire to take his job, Northcutt is helping Edwards in meeting rooms and on the field. Northcutt said he does the same thing with the young defensive backs. "I teach them how to beat me so they can make me better," he said. "That's the same way I feel about Braylon. He has so much talent and power and size. I want him to try to beat me out so we can both help this team."

He said the best part about tutoring Edwards is that he's an eager student. "Braylon is ready," said Northcutt. "He wants to work. He wants knowledge. He wants everything that you have to give him. He wants that experience from me, because I've been here. He wants the coaching from Terry Robiskie. "When you see a young guy like that who wants it, and who's going to try to pick your brain, it's like 'OK, cool. I'll give you everything I've got.' "

Northcutt, drafted in the second round of the 2000 draft out of Arizona, started 11 games last season, most of his career. Despite an offense that struggled with Jeff Garcia at the helm and a makeshift offensive line, Northcutt caught a team-high 55 passes for a career-high 806 yards and two TDs. He also proved his critics wrong by staying healthy despite his slight 5-11, 171 pound frame.

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There have been a lot of positive reports coming out this preseason about the Browns starting WRs Antonio Bryant and Dennis Northcutt. The holdout by Braylon Edwards will hold him back a bit at first, but he?s likely to emerge as the starter at some point. Because of Northcutt?s size, he?s probably a better fit to line up as the slot WR anyway. If Dilfer plays well, there is some nice value to be had with the Browns WRs on draft day as many owners are overlooking these guys.

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9. DAL ? Cowboys Expected OT Rogers To Play With Pain

Clipped from: Dallas Morning News article by Jean-Jacques Taylor, 8/20/05

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Friday night many NFL players play through the injury that will force Jacob Rogers to miss the 2005 season.

Rogers, the leading candidate to start at right tackle after the first 10 days of training camp, is scheduled to have season-ending micro-fracture surgery on his right knee Friday. With Rogers out, sixth-round pick Rob Petitti and three-year veteran Torrin Tucker will compete for the starting job. They will each play about half the game Monday night against Seattle.

"We got our expectations up because he played well early in camp, but when you look at his injury situation in college and how he's trying to prove himself as a young player in the NFL," Jones said of Rogers, "sometimes you have to play through something like this. We didn't think it was that serious. It was discouraging when he decided to have surgery. We had hopes that he would play through it."

Earlier in the day, coach Bill Parcells said he didn't know much about Rogers' injury. "I knew he kind of tweaked his knee in the game, but I didn't know what it was. I still don't know," Parcells said. "It's just bad luck. There is nothing I can do about it."

Rogers, who had off-season shoulder surgery, missed a practice last week to have an MRI on his shoulder after tweaking it during one-on-one pass-rushing drills. That MRI showed no structural damage, according to Parcells.

Parcells demoted the 2004 second-round draft choice to the second team upon his return. In the Cowboys' first preseason game last week, Rogers injured his knee two plays after entering the game in the second quarter. An MRI the following day showed no significant damage, according to Parcells.

Now, Rogers' season is over. "We were planning on him being out here at practice the next day ? not having surgery," Jones said.

Every NFL player has the right to choose a surgical procedure to repair an injury, if he believes that's in his best interest. Rogers said he couldn't comment on whether he could play through the injury because of Parcells' team rule about not discussing injuries in the media.

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Jerry Jones has certainly never been afraid to speak his mind, and this is just another example of that. Hard to know what the real story is here with regard to the severity of Rogers? injury, but it can?t be a good sign when the owner of a team calls out a player like this and the coach says the MRI revealed no significant damage.

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10. JAX ? Jaguars Installing New England-Style Offense

Clipped from: Times Union article by Vito Stellino, 8/20/05

Coach Jack Del Rio doesn't yet have a name for the Jaguars' new offense, but he outlined a vision for it Friday. Call it New England South. As the Jaguars wrapped up training camp and prepared for the trip to Tampa for tonight's game against the Buccaneers, Del Rio for the first time explained in detail the type of offense he hopes to see from new coordinator Carl Smith.

Del Rio wants an offense similar to what offensive coordinator Charlie Weis ran with New England before he left for Notre Dame. "I know everybody likes to have a word that you can kind of associate with that [the offense], that describes the unit,'' Del Rio said. "We want to be whatever we feel we need to be to attack the opponent we're playing. If it takes running the ball 50 times, we want to be able to do that. If it takes spreading them out and throwing it 50 times, we want to be able to do that.''

Del Rio noted that New England's offense under Weis would line up with five wideouts and throw on the first eight plays one week, then line up with two tight ends and "pound it down the field'' the following week. Patriots coach Bill Belichick liked the approach so much that he didn't hire a new coordinator to replace Weis. He just divided up his duties among the assistant coaches to keep the same approach.

Of course, the Jaguars have a ways to go to be compared with two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England after the first unit managed only 29 yards in four series in the preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins. Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich was sacked four times. But Del Rio said he sees a lot of positive signs for the offense. "I know there remain some question marks,'' he said. "I don't know that any of them can be answered by a coach telling you it's coming. There are signs of timing being better and all the things that it takes to have a well-oiled machine.

Obviously, it helps that the Patriots have Tom Brady to run their offense, but Leftwich put up good statistics last year in his second NFL season. As the Jaguars pointed out on their Web site last week, Leftwich's numbers were almost identical to those Mark Brunell put up in 1999, when the Jaguars were 14-2.

Both threw 441 passes; Leftwich had an 82.2 passer rating, Brunell 82.0. Leftwich had a 15-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Brunell 14-9. Leftwich threw for 2,941 yards, Brunell 3,060.

But Brunell put up 396 points. Last year's team scored only 261, though Leftwich didn't start in two games. The big difference was the running game, which accounted for 20 TDs in 1999, compared to nine last year (three by the QBs).

While Fred Taylor -- who isn't expected to play until next week's game against the Atlanta Falcons -- continues to progress from knee surgery, Del Rio says he's encouraged about several of the Jaguars' younger running backs, specifically mentioning Greg Jones, rookie Alvin Pearman and LaBrandon Toefeld.

Each will see action tonight against a Tampa Bay defense that ranked fifth in the NFL last year and held the Tennessee Titans to 83 rushing yards in a 20-17 overtime victory last week. The Bucs forced turnovers on the Titans' first two series.

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Wouldn?t every team love to implement a ?New England? style offense that could attack any defensive weakness? While that is a great goal to strive for, it remains to be seen how effective the Jaguars will be. They certainly have a few of the pieces in place to be an effective offense, particularly if Taylor can return to health. Leftwich, in particular, could be poised for a breakout season if some of the young WRs play up to their potential.

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11. SF ? Nolan Says That C Newberry Will Practice Soon

Clipped from: San Francisco Chronicle article by Glenn Dickey, 8/20/05

Coach Mike Nolan emphatically denied a rumor that center Jeremy Newberry would miss the season because of his knee injury.

"The situation is the same as it's been since training camp started," Nolan said Friday, just before the team left for tonight's exhibition game in Denver. "It's still a matter of how much pain he can endure, because it's bone on bone. A lot depends on if there's swelling. If there isn't, he can play."

Newberry has been rehabbing his knee, usually with a small group of players at the side of the field, but inside the locker room on Friday. He has yet to practice, but Nolan said he planned to have Newberry on the field some time next week.

"It might be Monday, or it might be later in the week, depending on how he feels," Nolan said. "He's sore now, but it's not from football, it's from the rehabbing he's doing."

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Losing Newberry for the season would be a major blow to a 49ers offense that can?t really afford to lose many players. Hopefully, for the 49ers sake, he?ll be able to return to practice soon.

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12. IDP: NYJ ? Rookie S Kerry Rhodes Making Plays

Clipped from: Star-Ledger article by Dave Hutchinson, 8/20/05

Rookie safety Kerry Rhodes is making a habit of making plays.

Rhodes, a fourth-round pick out of Louisville, did it again last night as he intercepted a pass by Minnesota quarterback Shaun Hill with 1:16 left to play to secure the Jets' 28-21 victory over the Vikings at Giants Stadium.

It was the second straight game Rhodes had an interception, and the second consecutive game he came up with a big play in the final minutes. Last week, he broke up a pass in the end zone against the Lions to preserve the Jets' 10-3 victory.

Rhodes, 6-3, 210 pounds, is pushing second-year pro Oliver Celestin for the starting job at one of the safety positions. Second-year pro Erik Coleman is the other starting safety. Celestin started against Minnesota.


"I'm not surprised," Rhodes said. "I've always had confidence in my ability to play on any level. Coming here, things were fast at first, just learning and knowing the defense. That's the big thing for me. Once all of that started slowing down, I could see things better."

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The Jets have a youth movement going on at the safety position. Both Rhodes and Celestin have played well enough to earn the starting job playing opposite Erik Coleman, but Rhodes has been making the bigger plays so far this preseason. IDP dynasty owners could find a nice sleeper pick here as both players will likely be available on most waiver wires.

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13. IDP: DAL ? OLB Depth Has Parcells Concerned

Clipped from: article by Nick Eatman, 8/19/05

While free safety and right tackle have been hogging most of the attention this summer when it comes to the Cowboys' biggest concerns, head coach Bill Parcells has now added outside linebackers to the list as well.

For the last week, Parcells has found various ways to express his concern, citing the team's lack of depth and experience at the key pass rush position in the 3-4 defense. In fact, this apprehension surely will affect how much the Cowboys actually play the 3-4.

Remember, improving the pass rush was one of the top priorities this year. So if Parcells isn't sure he has the right tools in place, we might just see more four-man fronts than anticipated heading into training camp here at River Ridge.

The Cowboys currently seem to have more depth on the defensive line, especially considering Chris Canty is much further along than expected, and rookies Jay Ratliff and Thomas Johnson have emerged into serious candidates to make the 53-man roster. But the Cowboys did open the first preseason game in a 3-4, starting veteran Al Singleton and rookie first-round pick Demarcus Ware on the outside. The Cowboys are also using Kalen Thornton and rookies Kevin Burnett and Reggie Love on the outside. "We're just not very experienced there," said Parcells, who also said he could move defensive end Eric Ogbogu back to outside linebacker as well. "Three of the five outside guys are rookies and Kalen Thornton is in his second year. We're just not that deep on the outside. So that's why I'm concerned about it right now." Even Singleton, the most experienced of all the linebackers, is making quite an adjustment to the 3-4. Having played outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme in Tampa Bay and with the Cowboys the past two years, even he said making the transition has been difficult, despite having eight years of NFL experience. "I think it's easier for veterans to (adjust)," Singleton said. "But I wouldn't say it's been easy. When you're used to doing one thing all the time, it doesn't matter how much experience you have, it's going to take some time to adjust and get everything down like you want." Like all of the outside linebackers, Singleton's biggest obstacle will be the size difference he faces against opposing blockers, usually offensive tackles and tight ends. Even in practice here at training camp, the 6-2, 250-pound Singleton gives up about 80 pounds each to the Cowboys starting tackles Flozell Adams (335) and Rob Petitti (325). Parcells even said this week he has contemplated moving Bradie James from inside to the outside as a possible solution. That would not only give the team more experience there, but James gives the team more speed. However, he's also 6-2, 250, and would fight the same size battles as does Singleton.

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While many expect the Cowboys to be much better on defense this year, there are still a few reasons for concern. They are hoping to use the 3-4 front much more frequently but their defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has never coached a 3-4 scheme before. They are also asking players to play at positions they are not very familiar with, particularly the outside linebackers. It could take some time for this defense to adjust so don?t be surprised if they get off to a slow start.

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14. IDP: KC ? Chiefs Concerned About CB Depth

Clipped from: Kansas City Star article by Adam Teicher, 8/20/05

If training camp was any indication, the Chiefs were wise to send their No. 2 pick to Miami and give a sizable chunk of their bank account to Surtain. He almost single-handedly ended a 2-minute drill at camp this week by deflecting two passes away from Eddie Kennison as the defense enjoyed a four-play victory.

Surtain gives the Chiefs peace of mind at cornerback like nobody since James Hasty. Nobody emerged in camp to challenge McCleon as the other starter in the absence of Eric Warfield, who will miss the first four games because of NFL suspension.

Perhaps because they have no other alternative, the Chiefs are showing an extraordinary amount of faith in McCleon after his season last year. He was benched at one point, and after a particularly awful game in Jacksonville, the Jaguars admitted to going after McCleon because they believed he was a weak link.

?It was an injury thing, and we put too much pressure on him,? Vermeil said. ?The emphasis on press coverage and the safeties not getting there to help him ? you gradually find out what certain people can do and handle. People would audible against our blitz looks and man looks and take a shot at him and he?d have his guy covered and the guy would be 2 or 3 inches taller and the safety wouldn?t get there to help him. We?ve adjusted that a little bit to help the entire scheme, let alone Dexter.?

In his defense, McCleon played much of last season with nagging injuries, including a bad shoulder that needed offseason surgery.

Ideally, the Chiefs would prefer to leave McCleon as their nickelback. He probably will move back to that role when Warfield returns, but for now, the Chiefs don?t have that option. He figures to see plenty of action in the first four games as opponents throw away from Surtain.

Sapp is the nickelback. The Chiefs also have Ambrose and Washington, and at least one probably will make the opening day roster. Also in the mix are rookies Alphonso Hodge and Justin Perkins. Both have shown some promise.

Then there?s Warfield, who missed some practice time this week because of a sore back and may not play tonight. The Chiefs walked the delicate line in camp between getting Warfield enough work to last him through the suspension ? he can?t practice during that time ? and getting ready for those first four games.

Warfield received little work early in camp and more as time went on until the back soreness.

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The Chiefs have added a lot of depth at the CB position this year, but apart from Surtain everybody else remains somewhat of a question mark. Surtain is a huge upgrade though as he can frequently be matched up against the opposing team?s best WR, which would allow the safety to slide over and help out whoever winds up starting at the other CB spot. McCleon, Ambrose, and Washington have a lot of experience and should be good enough to get by.

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15. IDP: WAS ? Rookie CB Carlos Rogers Has Mixed Debut

Clipped from: article by Gary Fitzgerald, 8/19/05

Carlos Rogers proved Friday night that he can be a quick study. But he also proved that he has a lot to learn.

An injury to cornerback Walt Harris forced Rogers into the starting lineup on Friday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was Rogers' first NFL preseason action. Due to an ankle injury, the Redskins' top draft pick had watched from the sidelines most of training camp, until Aug. 15 when he returned to practice for the first time since mid-June.

Midway through the first quarter, Rogers floated back in a zone and stepped in front of a Carson Palmer pass for his first NFL interception. Rogers returned the interception 25 yards to put the Redskins' offense in excellent field position. "We were in a Cover 2 zone," Rogers said at halftime. "I saw the receiver coming from the other side. I recognized the play from practice. The quarterback didn't see me and I picked it."

On the next play, Patrick Ramsey and the Redskins' offense capitalized, as Ramsey connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver James Thrash.

Said defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin: "It was a big momentum switch. What more could you ask for?"

Later in the first half, Rogers was beaten on deep passes on consecutive plays. First, Bengals' wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh got a step on Rogers and nearly caught a 45-yard touchdown pass. But the ball slipped out of his hand for an incompletion.

The reprieve was short-lived. On the next play, Bengals' Kelley Washington pulled ahead of Rogers on the left sideline and caught a pass on his fingertips from quarterback Carson Palmer. Washington raced into the end zone for the touchdown. The score tied the game at 7-7.

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The team lost Fred Smoot to the Vikings via free agency this year and Rogers is expected to eventually take over his spot in the starting lineup. He showed great instincts on the play where he made the interception, and then got a little too aggressive on the plays when he was beat deep. It is not surprising that he was burned in his first game against some quality NFL WRs, but he should learn from that experience and get better in the future. For now though, Walt Harris will remain the starter opposite Shawn Springs.

That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great day and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.


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