Time for struggling Jets to ‘dig ourselves out’ of 3-5 hole

NEW YORK (AP) — All those good feelings and positive vibes from a two-game winning streak are long gone. Two straight losses have the Jets scrambling for answers — again — and they need to find them fast.

Todd Bowles’ bunch is 3-5 after eight games for the third straight season. New York finished 5-11 in each of the past two, and a repeat performance might not sit well with ownership — or the fans.

“It’s very frustrating,” Bowles said Monday during a conference call. “We’ve got to put our heads down and we’ve got to correct this and we’ve got to try to come out and win some ballgames.

“The season’s not over, but we’re halfway through and we’re 3-5 and you don’t like where you are, but we’ve dug ourselves this hole, we’ve got to dig ourselves out.”

Easier said than done, of course. Especially based on how the previous two seasons played out.

New York has a pair of AFC East rivals up next on the schedule, with a game at Miami next Sunday before the Jets return home to face Buffalo in two weeks. Then, they’ll have their bye-week break — and have a good sense of what direction their season is heading.

“I mean, obviously we’re not satisfied with our record,” safety Marcus Maye said. “We know where we want to be, but we took a look at it today and we know we still have all of our division games coming up, so those are our most important games coming up here on our schedule.

“Even with a 3-5 record, we know we still have everything sitting in front of us despite everything that’s happened already.”

The Jets ended a three-game skid three weeks ago with a convincing 34-16 win over Denver and followed that up by outlasting Indianapolis in a 42-34 victory to get their record back to .500 at 3-3.

But in a 37-17 loss to Minnesota last week and an ugly 24-10 defeat at Chicago on Sunday , New York has looked flat and sloppy.

Injuries to key players such as wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, running back Bilal Powell and center Spencer Long haven’t helped. But the Jets have also not made things easy on themselves with penalties, including eight against the Bears.

“Just shooting ourselves in the foot,” quarterback Sam Darnold said. “The penalties killed. If we don’t have the early false starts, I think it’s just a different game.”

New York was actually called for 10 penalties, with eight accepted. Of those, five were false starts and two neutral-zone infractions.

“That was probably the worst part of the game,” Bowles said. “It’s just a concentration thing by certain guys at certain times. We get that fixed as coaches, they’ve got to fix it as players. The false starts were the most disheartening thing of the whole ballgame.”

That’s saying a lot, considering there was plenty not to like against the Bears.

Darnold was 14 of 29 for 153 yards and a touchdown to Chris Herndon, but the offense was sluggish for most of the game. New York had just 207 yards of total offense, the third-lowest total in Bowles’ three-plus seasons — and that’s even with Chicago being without the injured Khalil Mack.

The running game was completely ineffective with just 57 yards on 24 attempts, a dismal average of 2.4 yards per carry. That’s a far cry from the 323 yards rushing, boosted by Isaiah Crowell’s franchise-record 219, against Denver three weeks ago.

“That’s a good question,” Bowles said when asked about the running game’s struggles lately. “I didn’t think it was good at all yesterday. I thought they beat us up front and they beat us to the punch.

“I thought we missed some assignments that we’ve got to correct, but we’ve got to keep grinding at it. We can’t be up and down. We’ve got to be consistent at it. If we want to throw the ball consistently, we got to be able to run it consistently.”

Sounds simple enough, but the Jets have found consistency in just about anything to be tough to come by.

Bowles spoke after the game about how he liked how the team stayed together throughout the game against the Bears, and that is a positive from which to build. The players echoed their coach’s sentiments, insisting that they can turn things around together.

Bowles also believes the Jets are better today than they were at the start of the season.

“Any time you don’t win ballgames, you don’t see that on record,” Bowles said. “But I feel like we’re closer from a chemistry standpoint and camaraderie standpoint. We’ve just got to make some plays.”

NOTES: The Jets re-signed CB Juston Burris to the practice squad. Burris, a fourth-rounder in 2016, was cut from the active roster Saturday to make room for RB De’Angelo Henderson. … Bowles had no update on NT Steve McLendon’s ankle injury that forced him out of the game.


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Jaguars rookie S Woods retires

Jaguars rookie S Woods retires

Jacksonville rookie safety Zedrick Woods filed

Jaguars rookie S Woods retires

Jacksonville rookie safety Zedrick Woods filed retirement papers with the NFL, The Athletic reported Monday.

Woods, who signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent, was dealing with a turf toe injury, according to his agent, Ron Butler.

“It was kind of shocking to me just because I knew how much he was grateful for the opportunity to get a chance to play in Jacksonville and not being too far from home,” Butler told The Athletic of the decision by Woods, who is from Lake City, Fla., about 65 miles west from Jacksonville.

Woods, who turns 22 next month, played college football at Ole Miss and had six interceptions in 47 career games. He surprised NFL teams by running the 40-yard-dash in 4.29 seconds at the NFL Combine.

–Field Level Media

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Seahawks DT Reed draws six-game suspension

Seahawks DT Reed draws six-game suspension

Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed

Seahawks DT Reed draws six-game suspension

Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed has been suspended for the six first games of the NFL season without pay for violating the personal conduct policy, the league announced Monday.

Reed was disciplined for an incident in Bellevue, Wash., on April 27, 2017, according to multiple reports. A woman filed a complaint of assault against Reed. Prosecutors investigated and declined to press charges.

The NFL Network reported that Reed’s appeal of the suspension was denied on Friday.

“We are aware of the situation involving Jarran Reed and have followed league and law enforcement protocol since the alleged incident in April of 2017,” the team said in a statement Monday.

Reed posted his own statement on Twitter.

“I apologize to those close to me including my family, the entire Seattle Seahawks organization and fans of the team for putting myself in a position where I could be disciplined by the NFL,” Reed wrote. “While I totally disagree with the decision of the NFL, I still must accept it and take responsibility for the situation. I have learned from this and will do everything I can to make my friends, family, teammates, fans and the Seahawks proud of me moving forward.”

Reed will forfeit approximately $394,000 of his nearly $1.17 million salary in 2019.

The 26-year-old Reed will be eligible to return to the active roster of the Seahawks on Oct. 14, one day after a game against the Cleveland Browns.

Reed had a career-best 10.5 sacks in 16 games last season after having just three in 30 games over his first two NFL seasons.

Reed underwent sports hernia surgery in late April but recovered in time to participate in minicamp drills during the second week of June.

–Field Level Media

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Lions’ $90M man Flowers on PUP

Lions' $90M man Flowers on PUP


Lions’ $90M man Flowers on PUP

New Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers will start training camp on the shelf with a shoulder injury, per multiple reports.

Flowers, an end and linebacker in the 3-4 defense, signed as a big-ticket prize in free agency in March. He left the New England Patriots, where he began his career as a protege of current Lions head coach Matt Patricia.

Flowers underwent what was described as a minor shoulder procedure at the end of the 2018 postseason. But starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list could be an ominous, unexpected signal of Flowers’ health. The Detroit Free Press was the first outlet to identify the nature of Flowers’ current injury.

Detroit opens training camp on Thursday.

The Lions spent almost all of last season without their prized pass rusher, Ziggy Ansah, who was playing on the one-year franchise tender but battled shoulder issues all year.

Flowers came in to replace Ansah, signing a five-year, $90 million deal to unite with Patricia. Flowers had 57 tackles for the Patriots last season and a career-best 7 1/2 sacks. He has 164 career tackles and 21 sacks in 46 games (37 starts) over four seasons.

–Field Level Media

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Lowry vaults to No. 17 in world rankings

Lowry vaults to No. 17 in world rankings

Winning his first

Lowry vaults to No. 17 in world rankings

Winning his first major at The Open Championship came with a slew of perks for Ireland’s Shane Lowry, including a 16-spot jump to No. 17 in the official world golf rankings Monday.

Lowry began 2019 ranked No. 75. He has steadily risen throughout the year thanks to at win in Abu Dhabi in January and a string of three consecutive top-10 finishes in stroke play events that included the PGA Championship in May. Lowry entered last week ranked 33rd, but earned 100 ranking points for his triumph at Royal Portrush.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood jumped seven spots to No. 13 with his second-place finish at The Open, while Tony Finau moved up five places to No. 12 with his solo third – Finau’s best career finish in a major.

England’s Lee Westwood was unable to mount a Sunday charge, but he did rise 26 spots to No. 52 by tying for fourth with Brooks Koepka, who strengthened his grip on No. 1. It is the highest ranking for Westwood in the two-year revolving points system.

The top five remained unchanged, with No. 2 Dustin Johnson, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, England’s Justin Rose and Tiger Woods following Koepka. McIlroy and Woods missed the cut at The Open. Italy’s Francesco Molinari leapfrogged Bryson DeChambeau for No. 6, followed by Spain’s Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Jets signing former Texans TE Griffin

Report: Jets signing former Texans TE Griffin

The New York

Report: Jets signing former Texans TE Griffin

The New York Jets are signing former Houston Texans tight end Ryan Griffin to fill in for the recently suspended Chris Herndon, NFL Network reported Monday.

Earlier this month, the NFL suspended Herndon for the first four games of the 2019 season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He pleaded guilty in January to a 2018 DWI charge.

Griffin, 29, caught 136 passes for 1,491 yards and seven touchdowns in 77 games (36 starts) with the Texans from 2013-18.

He made a career-high 11 starts in 2018 and caught 24 passes for 305 yards.

Griffin’s six-year run in Houston ended abruptly in May when he was cut by the Texans after getting arrested in Nashville, Tenn., during the NFL draft. Charges of vandalism for breaking a hotel window and public intoxication were later dismissed.

–Field Level Media

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Pittsburgh Steelers training camp primer

Pittsburgh Steelers training camp primer

New faces: CB Steven Nelson,

Pittsburgh Steelers training camp primer

New faces: CB Steven Nelson, LB Mark Barron, LB Devin Bush, WR Donte Moncrief, WR Diontae Johnson, CB Justin Layne, RB Benny Snell

They’re gone: WR Antonio Brown, RB Le’Veon Bell, OT Marcus Gilbert, TE Jesse James, S Morgan Burnett, LB Jon Bostic

2019 snapshot: There’s no getting around it: The Steelers said goodbye to perhaps the best wide receiver (Brown) and the best running back (Bell) of the past five years. That’s difficult to swallow, but was there anything Pittsburgh could have done differently this offseason?

Bell’s departure was inevitable long ago. Letting him walk also wasn’t the worst idea given the dangers of paying running backs big money. Perhaps Brown’s situation could have been resolved, but the disgruntled wideout appeared determined to barge his way out of Pittsburgh, with no regard for collateral damage. How ugly would it be if he were still on the Steelers’ roster?

Pittsburgh never had the leverage to bring back a big return, but it did get two picks for Brown, one of whom (Johnson) should contribute early. The Steelers found another option at receiver in free agency (Moncrief) and worked to upgrade at linebacker and cornerback in both free agency and the draft. After signing Barron and Nelson, they traded up for Bush, who should step right into Ryan Shazier’s old spot in the middle of the defense. Layne brings lots of talent but has time to develop from the bench.

Pittsburgh also got quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s extension done as he approached a contract year, an inevitable but important move that ensures the Super Bowl window will remain open another few years.

Worth the investment?

At 9.5 wins via PointsBet.com, the Steelers are still expected to be in the mix in the AFC North. How realistic is that future proposition based on the subtractions from the roster? Getting to 8-8 seems a reasonable ask, but 10 wins would be a major achievement for Mike Tomlin’s crew.

Bottom Line: No team in the league lost two more talented players, and Brown and Bell defined Pittsburgh’s offseason, but much of it was out of the Steelers’ hands.

–Field Level Media

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Cleveland Browns training camp primer

Cleveland Browns training camp primer

New faces: WR Odell Beckham Jr., DT Sheldon

Cleveland Browns training camp primer

New faces: WR Odell Beckham Jr., DT Sheldon Richardson, DE Olivier Vernon, RB Kareem Hunt, CB Greedy Williams, S Morgan Burnett, S Eric Murray

They’re gone: G Kevin Zeitler, S Jabrill Peppers, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, QB Tyrod Taylor, LB Jamie Collins, WR Breshad Perriman, TE Darren Fells, OT Desmond Harrison

2019 snapshot: John Dorsey sure isn’t shy about swinging for the fences. With an already impressive roster, the Browns’ GM heaped on more talent this offseason, albeit taking some risks in the process.

How risky those moves prove to be might depend on Dorsey’s first decision, which was to hire Freddie Kitchens as head coach. The former RBs coach and interim offensive coordinator was a somewhat surprising choice, but he provides continuity for second-year QB Baker Mayfield. Now, can Kitchens manage all of Cleveland’s personalities?

Beckham’s talent far outweighs the headaches he creates, and his acquisition could be the single most impactful of the offseason. The compensation (pick Nos. 17 and 95, plus Peppers) was a bargain, and if Beckham and college teammate Jarvis Landry feed off each other, the move will look even better.

Dorsey also added disruption up front by inking Richardson (three years, $37 million) and trading for Vernon, and he nabbed one of the draft’s top cornerbacks in Williams despite losing draft capital in the deal for Beckham.

Trading Zeitler (for Vernon) could hurt the offensive line, but 2018 second-rounder Austin Corbett should be ready to step in at right guard. Trusting Greg Robinson to hold up for a whole season at left tackle is bold, though he performed well in the second half of 2018. Hunt’s addition also was risky, but the payoff could be huge if the Pro Bowl selection can stay on the field.

Worth the investment?

Everyone with a dollar is ready to buy the Browns, but at what cost? They’re no longer a value bet and books are starting to swing the pendulum to reflect the amount of buy-in they’re seeing in Cleveland.

Mayfield remains a decent get in the MVP race, however, at 25-1. Sounds rich, we know, considering his treading into Drew Brees-Matt Ryan territory if the Browns get off to a hot start. That also means he’s presently at value at PointsBet.com. Break it down in the simplest of terms: Quarterbacks win MVP in this league, and if the Browns write the miracle playoff run some think is possible, it’ll be Mayfield playing the role Patrick Mahomes did for the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs.

Bottom Line: It’s hard to argue with adding so much talent. If Kitchens proves to be the right hire, this is a grand slam.

–Field Level Media

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Cincinnati Bengals training camp primer

Cincinnati Bengals training camp primer

New faces: OT Jonah Williams, OG John Miller, CB B.W. Webb, DT

Cincinnati Bengals training camp primer

New faces: OT Jonah Williams, OG John Miller, CB B.W. Webb, DT Kerry Wynn, TE Drew Sample, LB Germaine Pratt

They’re gone: TE Tyler Kroft, LB Vontaze Burfict, DE Michael Johnson, LB Vincent Rey, OT Cedric Ogbuehi

2019 snapshot: One of the league’s most conservative teams, the Bengals went off the rails — by their standards — in not only firing head coach Marvin Lewis but hiring a young, offensive mind from outside the organization in Zac Taylor. Lewis’ tenure probably should have ended much earlier, but the team deserves credit for passing on familiar-but-lackluster options and swinging big with Taylor instead.

Other than the coaching change, the Bengals were predictably unflashy. They re-signed a trio of average-at-best players (OT Bobby Hart, LB Preston Brown, TE C.J. Uzomah) to surprisingly lucrative three-year deals (each more than $16 million), then gave similar contracts to Miller and Webb, both of whom were below-average starters with their former teams.

Cincinnati managed to keep a few talented players on short one-year contracts in TE Tyler Eifert ($4 million) and CB Darqueze Dennard ($4.5 million) and released Burfict, which was overdue.

A meat-and-potatoes draft added some nice pieces — including the potential long-term left tackle in Williams — but taking a blocking tight end (Sample) in Round 2 after re-signing two players at the position was awfully rich. Pratt (third round) could break into a mediocre linebacking corps, but he remains raw. It’s also worth wondering if the Bengals should have drafted a quarterback such as Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock, as they might not get a similar chance again soon.

Worth the investment?

Losing rookie tackle Williams to a season-ending injury is a major hit for the MVP chances of running back Joe Mixon and quarterback Andy Dalton, who were well down the board to begin with. In a division defined by defense, not having a blindside protector for Dalton is a big variable to factor into any futures.

That includes the W/L number, which checks in at a modest 6.

Bottom Line: Cincinnati finally made a much-needed coaching overhaul, but the roster doesn’t look much better elsewhere. Plenty of work remains, and getting to 6-10 will not be easy.

–Field Level Media

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Baltimore Ravens training camp primer

Baltimore Ravens training camp primer

New faces: S Earl Thomas

Baltimore Ravens training camp primer

New faces: S Earl Thomas III, RB Mark Ingram II, WR Marquise Brown, OLB Jaylon Ferguson, WR Miles Boykin, OLB Pernell McPhee, OLB Shane Ray, CB Justin Bethel, WR Seth Roberts

They’re gone: LB C.J. Mosley, S Eric Weddle, OLB Terrell Suggs, QB Joe Flacco, OLB Za’Darius Smith, WR John Brown, DT Brent Urban, WR Michael Crabtree, RB Alex Collins

2019 snapshot: Even for a team used to letting talent walk in favor of compensatory picks, the Ravens had to be a little alarmed by how many big names departed this offseason. Obviously Flacco’s departure was inevitable — and he fetched a fourth-round pick despite the Ravens having no leverage — and Weddle was released.

But Baltimore likely didn’t expect Mosely, Suggs and Smith all to leave in free agency. Mosely’s departure was particularly concerning as (along with Weddle) a defensive leader and communicator, and no apparent replacement was added at inside linebacker.

New GM Eric DeCosta countered with the terrific signing of Thomas, who is still near his physical prime at age 30 but also brings the leadership, versatility and ability to disguise that Weddle offered. On the edge, DeCosta didn’t overpay for replacements, instead trying cheap one-year fliers on Ray and McPhee and drafting Ferguson, the NCAA’s all-time sack leader, in Round 3.

On offense, Baltimore made a concerted effort to build around QB Lamar Jackson, promoting Greg Roman to offensive coordinator, re-signing sturdy blocking TE Nick Boyle and adding speed (Brown and Boykin) at wideout. Mark Ingram (three years, $15 million) cost a bit much, but he should be very productive with Jackson drawing so much attention. More competition at center would have been nice, but the O-line remains solid.

Worth the investment?

At 100/1, Lamar Jackson is not a heavy favorite to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award. But considering his short resume as a pro and peers in the same range – including Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack – more than a few dollars are like to land on No. 8 this summer.

Bottom Line: Some of the Ravens’ plans were likely shaken by free agency, but they still managed to build around Jackson, which was priority No. 1.

–Field Level Media

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Detroit Lions training camp primer

Detroit Lions training camp primer

New faces: DE Trey Flowers, CB Justin

Detroit Lions training camp primer

New faces: DE Trey Flowers, CB Justin Coleman, TE Jesse James, WR Danny Amendola, RB C.J. Anderson, TE T.J. Hockenson, LB Jahlani Tavai, CB Rashaan Melvin, WR Jermaine Kearse, G Oday Aboushi, S Will Harris

They’re gone: DE Ezekiel Ansah, G T.J. Lang, S Glover Quin, RB LeGarrette Blount, CB Nevin Lawson, DT Kerry Hyder, FB Nick Bellore, TE Luke Willson, TE Levine Toilolo, TE Michael Roberts

2019 snapshot: The Lions didn’t hold back in free agency, handing massive contracts to Flowers (five years, $90 million) and Coleman (four years, $36 million) plus an ample deal for James (four years, $22.6 million) and a one-year flier on Amendola ($4.5 million). Each could prove to be upgrades, but it’s hard to imagine any outperforming his contract, so there isn’t much upside.

The rest of Detroit’s offseason was about reshaping the offense, as coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was allowed to walk, with Darrell Bevell arriving to replace him. Matt Patricia and Bevell have been adamant about building through the running game, an uncommon approach in today’s NFL, but Hockenson will certainly help the cause. He should contribute from Day 1 as a receiver and blocker, giving Detroit schematic flexibility and options in the run game and off play-action. Anderson should join Kerryon Johnson to form a quality backfield duo.

Even if offensive issues are solved, the defense still has holes. Tavai is the sort of multi-faceted linebacker Patricia loves, but the Lions don’t have any true edge pass rusher (Flowers is best off working inside). Another outside cornerback must step up, especially if Darius Slay’s holdout for a new contract continues. Damon Harrison is also holding out for a new deal, and the Lions’ run defense was a mess before he arrived last year.

Worth the investment?

–The Lions were big spenders in the offseason, but will they be able to cash out in the win column? Oddsmakers aren’t so sure. The consensus over-under win total is 7 after going 6-10 a year ago.

Bottom Line: The Lions added talent and have a clear plan, but a run-first offense and free agent spending sprees rarely breed success in today’s NFL.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Camp holdout still possible for Cowboys’ Elliott

Report: Camp holdout still possible for Cowboys' Elliott

Report: Camp holdout still possible for Cowboys’ Elliott

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has not ruled out a holdout during training camp as the sides explore the possibility of a new contract, NFL Network reported.

“From what I’m told, as recently as yesterday, all options are still on the table,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said on “Good Morning Football.” The fourth-year running back “still has not yet firmly decided whether or not he is going to hold out. If he does not hold out, that means contract talks are going in the right direction or at least he trusts the Cowboys to get a deal done.”

Elliott, who was the fourth overall selection by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL Draft, still has two years remaining on his rookie contract. He will make $3.85 million in the upcoming season, with an option in 2020 for $9.01 million.

The Ohio State product rushed for an NFL-leading 1,434 yards in 2018, and his 95.6 yards per game also led the league. He had six rushing touchdowns and three receiving.

Elliott, 24, has started all 40 games he has played in over the past three seasons, He has rushed for 4,048 yards on 868 carries with 28 touchdowns. He also has 135 receptions for 1,199 yards and six more TDs.

–Field Level Media

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Ex-Maryland coach Durkin assisting at Falcons camp

Ex-Maryland coach Durkin assisting at Falcons camp

DJ Durkin, ousted

Ex-Maryland coach Durkin assisting at Falcons camp

DJ Durkin, ousted as Maryland’s football coach after the death of one of his players, is working as a training camp assistant coach with the Atlanta Falcons.

Durkin was one of four camp-only coaches announced by head coach Dan Quinn, ESPN reported Monday.

Maryland fired Durkin after an investigation into circumstances surrounding tackle Jordan McNair, who fell ill during a practice on May 29, 2018, and later died. Durkin was put on administrative leave on Aug. 11, 2018, following an ESPN report that described the culture in the Terrapins program as “toxic.” He was reinstated in late October and fired the following day amid an uproar.

Last December, Alabama coach Nick Saban brought in Durkin as a short-term consultant for the Crimson Tide.

While he called McNair’s death an “unfortunate situation, of course,” Quinn defended his decision.

“I know DJ firsthand, about what he is as a coach,” Quinn said. “I’ve coached with him. And I know what his character is. We did all of our due diligence of calling everybody at Maryland and had our own follow-up to there. So what I would know is, in the past, we’ve had Ron Wolf come to help me with another set of eyes. Last year, Darrell Bevell coming into the same role.

“I think it’s a huge advantage that you can have somebody of respect and can look at some certain things to help your team in the evaluation.”

Durkin, 41, was an assistant coach at Florida for five seasons. In two of those seasons, Quinn was the defensive coordinator for the Gators.

“It’s not that unusual for me to have people come to be a part of our program and add value to it for a smaller period of time,” Quinn said. “I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again in the future.”

–Field Level Media

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Chicago Bears training camp primer

Chicago Bears training camp primer

New faces: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, CB Buster Skrine, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB

Chicago Bears training camp primer

New faces: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, CB Buster Skrine, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB Mike Davis, RB David Montgomery, WR Riley Ridley, G Ted Larsen

They’re gone: S Adrian Amos, CB Bryce Callahan, RB Jordan Howard, WR Josh Bellamy, G Eric Kush, TE Dion Sims, WR Kevin White, K Cody Parkey

2019 snapshot: Virtually any defense that reaches the heights Chicago’s did in 2018 is bound to regress some, but the Bears might be in for a larger slide than most. It’s not the team’s fault that Vic Fangio is gone, but Chicago could have promoted Ed Donatell to D-coordinator to maintain Fangio’s scheme. Instead, Donatell followed Fangio to Denver, and Chuck Pagano took over the Bears’ D. Pagano has ample talent at his disposal, but his defenses in Indianapolis were disappointing. Chicago also lost talent in the secondary, with Clinton-Dix and Skrine replacing Amos and Callahan, respectively, albeit at friendlier prices.

The Bears put most of their efforts into supplementing the offense, as Davis and Montgomery should be an upgrade to Howard in the backfield, and Patterson and Ridley complement a talented receiving corps. The O-line remains solid, with James Daniels moving to center (Cody Whitehair will bump out to guard) and RT Bobby Massie retained (four years, $32 million), giving quarterback Mitchell Trubisky no excuses.

Chicago’s kicking situation remains concerning, as Parkey was released one year into a big contract, and no obvious replacement emerged in the months that followed. Of the series of offseason additions at kickers, several already have been released, and those who made it through the summer did so despite missing multiple kicks at OTAs and minicamp.

Worth the investment?

–Trubisky started near 100-1 at some books in the MVP derby. Perhaps he’s worthy of that billing, but investors drove him up to 25-1 and even higher before training camp began.

Bottom Line: Without much cap space or a first- or second-round pick, the Bears didn’t have much room to upgrade, but they could have done more to fight defensive regression.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Patriots’ Edelman (thumb) to miss about three weeks

Report: Patriots' Edelman (thumb) to miss about three weeks

New England Patriots

Report: Patriots’ Edelman (thumb) to miss about three weeks

New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman has a finger injury and will be out about three weeks, ESPN reported on Monday.

Over the weekend, Edelman had a brace on his left thumb while working at his youth camp, and whether the thumb was broken wasn’t clear.

The Patriots open training camp later this week in Foxborough, Mass.

With Edelman on the sideline, quarterback Tom Brady will be without his favorite target, having already lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement. He also will be missing receiver Josh Gordon, who is suspended, and offensive weapons Sony Michel and Demaryius Thomas, who are on the physically unable to perform list as camp opens.

“I’m extremely excited for the new year. This is a new team,” Edelman said at his camp, per ESPN. “With training camp coming up, this is kind of like when school is back in session. We had summer break. You get to see all the fellas and this is where you learn your team, learn each other and become accountable for each other, and create a consistency together.

“This is like the beginning shape form of your team, these next few weeks. It’s a crucial point. You put a lot of hard work in during the spring and it’s the next step until you’re playing with other teams. ”

Edelman is entering his 10th NFL season, all with New England. In 2018, he caught 74 passes for 850 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. He served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Edelman had 10 receptions for 141 yards and was named MVP of New England’s 13-3 win against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.

In May, the Patriots finalized a two-year extension worth $21 million with the 33-year-old receiver.

–Field Level Media

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Green Bay Packers training camp primer

Green Bay Packers training camp primer

New faces: OLB Za'Darius Smith, OLB Preston Smith,

Green Bay Packers training camp primer

New faces: OLB Za’Darius Smith, OLB Preston Smith, S Adrian Amos, OL Billy Turner, DE/OLB Rashan Gary, S Darnell Savage, OL Elgton Jenkins, TE Jace Sternberger, TE Michael Roberts

They’re gone: OLB Clay Matthews, WR Randall Cobb, OLB Nick Perry, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, LB Jake Ryan, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Davon House, OL Byron Bell

2019 snapshot: In one of the more active Packers offseasons in recent memory, an interesting dichotomy emerged: The offense was overhauled schematically under a new head coach, but almost all personnel resources were devoted to the defense. Clearly, GM Brian Gutekunst is confident that Matt LaFleur — who has worked on the staffs of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan– can find the right recipe for Aaron Rodgers & Co., as he added just two linemen (Turner and Jenkins) and a mid-round flex tight end (Sternberger) on offense.

On defense, Gutekunst backed up the Brinks truck (combined $118 million over four years) for the Smiths (unrelated) to replace Matthews and Perry (both released) on the edge. He also took mega-talent Rashan Gary — who could line up all over the place in Mike Pettine’s defense — with the 12th overall pick in the draft and made major investments at safety in Amos (four years, $37 million) and Savage (trade up to 21st overall). That gives Pettine plenty of toys to play with in a shape-shifting defense, but it all must come together.

Glowing offseason reports about wide receiver Marquez-Valdes Scantling soothed concerns about a young group of skill-position players, but it was still surprising to see no wideout drafted. Sternberger is ready to contribute as a receiver right away, but he’ll have to fight Jimmy Graham for snaps. Of course, how Rodgers takes to LaFleur’s offense will supersede all else.

Worth the investment?

–Not even the most optimistic Packers backers can be certain of the direction this team will take amid a major offseason change. But Aaron Rodgers, when healthy, is bound to get you to .500. Could he have 12 wins in him? The win/loss over-under line consensus is 9.5.

Bottom Line: Green Bay was probably too aggressive in spots, and a few holes remain. But if LaFleur unleashes Rodgers, this team will be back in Super Bowl contention.

–Field Level Media

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Minnesota Vikings training camp primer

Minnesota Vikings training camp primer

New faces: G Josh Kline, DT Shamar

Minnesota Vikings training camp primer

New faces: G Josh Kline, DT Shamar Stephen, C Garrett Bradbury, TE Irv Smith Jr., RB Alexander Mattison, G Dru Samia

They’re gone: DT Sheldon Richardson, RB Latavius Murray, OT Mike Remmers, S Andrew Sendejo, C Nick Easton, S George Iloka, QB Trevor Siemian, CB/PR Marcus Sherels

2019 snapshot: Priority No. 1 for Minnesota was to get the offense back on track, with a clear emphasis on coaching and the offensive line.

Gary Kubiak arrived to assist offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and the duo should be good for QB Kirk Cousins. Perhaps more important, Bradbury (first round) and Kline (free agency) will help shore up the interior and get the outside-zone running game going, opening up a wealth of play-action designs. With Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neil — who impressed as a raw rookie in 2018 — on the outside, the front five should be strong enough.

The rest of the Vikings’ offseason was about balancing salaries within a small window of cap room, but the results were mixed. The departures of Murray, Remmers, Sendejo and Easton were expected, but Richardson (who got three years and $37 million in Cleveland) might have been a better investment than LB Anthony Barr, who was retained for five years, $67.5 million, especially when considering positional value.

Likewise, TE Kyle Rudolph’s extension (four years, $36 million) seemed far too rich. Rudolph isn’t much more than average as a receiver or a blocker, and Smith appeared to be the obvious long-term starter. On the bright side, Minnesota got Everson Griffen to accept a pay cut and extended Adam Thielen at a reasonable price (four years, $64.2 million), a nice reward for an undrafted, homegrown talent.

Worth the investment?

–At 50-1, Kirk Cousins might look like a bargain buy for a playoff team. His poor showings in big games – and vs. teams with winning records – would seem to tell another story. Cousins could be a good bet if he puts up great numbers for a division winner, but his reputation will not be easily overcome.

Bottom Line: The deals for Barr and Rudolph felt like luxuries, but the Vikings improved up front without destroying their cap. Not bad.

–Field Level Media

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Buffalo Bills training camp primer

Buffalo Bills training camp primer

New faces: C Mitch Morse, DT Ed Oliver, WR

Buffalo Bills training camp primer

New faces: C Mitch Morse, DT Ed Oliver, WR John Brown, WR Cole Beasley, OL Cody Ford, OG Spencer Long, OG Quinton Spain, OT Ty Nsekhe, OT LaAdrian Waddle, TE Tyler Kroft, TE Lee Smith, TE Dawson Knox, RB T.J. Yeldon, RB Frank Gore, RB Devin Singletary, CB Kevin Johnson, CB E.J. Gaines, WR Andre Roberts

They’re gone: DT Kyle Williams, TE Charles Clay, OG John Miller, OT Jordan Mills, WR Deonte Thompson

2019 snapshot: Mostly patient a year ago, the Bills went crazy in free agency this offseason, adding both quality and quantity with all kinds of deals.

Morse isn’t worth the largest contract in NFL history for a center (four years, $44.5 million), but GM Brandon Beane found bargains on the O-line in Nsekhe (two years, $10 million), Spain (one year, $2 million) and Waddle (one year, $2 million). After jumping up in Round 2 to nab Ford — who could play tackle or guard — the Bills should have a much improved front five with four new starters.

Buffalo found QB Josh Allen more weapons in Brown, Beasley, Kroft and Knox, a third-rounder with athletic upside. Each were reasonable investments, especially because they’ll help determine just how quickly Allen is progressing. Answers were also added to replace the aging LeSean McCoy, with Singletary (third round) drafted and Gore and Yeldon added in free agency.

Despite extending contract-year DE Jerry Hughes, the Bills didn’t add an edge rusher to complement him, which they might regret unless Shaq Lawson takes a major step. On the bright side, though, they managed to get Oliver at No. 9 overall. Not nearly the polished pass rusher Aaron Donald was coming out of Pitt, Oliver nonetheless has similar athletic gifts and will be disruptive (if not a finisher) from Day 1.

Worth the investment?

–Two years removed from a 9-7 campaign and a playoff appearance, the Bills are certainly capable of going over seven wins. But Allen must develop as a passer, making this a bit of a risky play.

–Only one team, the 2008 Dolphins, has taken the AFC East from the New England Patriots since 2003, and that was with Tom Brady missing virtually all season. Even at +700, the Bills’ odds to win their first division title since 1995 probably aren’t worth taking.

Bottom line: The spending spree looked a little wild, but the Bills structured contracts smartly and didn’t take on much risk. They also managed to address most major holes, with plenty of upside in the draft class.

–Field Level Media

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp primer

Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp primer

New faces: DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Deone Bucannon, OLB Shaquil Barrett, LB Devin

Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp primer

New faces: DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Deone Bucannon, OLB Shaquil Barrett, LB Devin White, WR Breshad Perriman, QB Blaine Gabbert, P Bradley Pinion, CB Sean Bunting, CB Jamel Dean, K Matt Gay

They’re gone: DT Gerald McCoy, LB Kwon Alexander, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Adam Humphries, CB Brent Grimes, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, DE Vinny Curry

2019 snapshot: A disappointing team in an extremely difficult division, the Bucs might have made their biggest upgrades this offseason in the coaching staff.

Replacing Dirk Koetter is Bruce Arians, fresh off a one-year retirement. He brought many of the key pieces from his successful staff in Arizona, including D-coordinator Todd Bowles, offensive minds Harold Goodwin and Byron Leftwich, and special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.

Elsewhere, GM Jason Licht’s approach raised more question marks. LT Donovan Smith’s extension (three years, $41.3 million) was reasonable in an out-of-control O-line market, as was letting Alexander depart for San Francisco at a ridiculous price (four years, $54 million). But while White (fifth overall pick) should thrive in place of Alexander, he represented an exorbitant investment at a position of marginal value, while the Bucs spent fewer resources on the edge. Barrett was a bargain, but there are few other dangerous rushers after Jason Pierre-Paul’s neck injury.

Releasing McCoy and signing Suh while saving $3.75 million seems like a win, but Suh isn’t necessarily the better player, and he’s certainly not the leader McCoy was. Licht also invested heavily at both kicker (Gay) — a few years after his disastrous trade-up for Roberto Aguayo — and punter (Pinion), positions that rarely justify any sort of significant price tag or draft capital.

Worth the investment?

–The Bucs went 5-11 last season and shouldn’t be any worse, so going over their 6.5 over/under win total is certainly achievable, as long as Jameis Winston clicks with Arians.

–Speaking of Winston, his MVP odds (+10000) are tied for 37th-best in the NFL, behind several wideouts and even defensive players. Given Arians’ history — he helped Carson Palmer finish as an MVP runner-up in 2015 — that could be one of the best longshots on the board.

Bottom line: Bringing in Arians gives Winston his best shot at success, but it’s hard to get on board with the rest of what Licht did. The GM’s job could well depend on this season.

–Field Level Media

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Carolina Panthers training camp primer

Carolina Panthers training camp primer

New faces: C Matt Paradis, DT Gerald McCoy, DE/OLB Bruce Irvin,

Carolina Panthers training camp primer

New faces: C Matt Paradis, DT Gerald McCoy, DE/OLB Bruce Irvin, WR Chris Hogan, DE/OLB Brian Burns, OT Greg Little, QB Will Grier

They’re gone: C Ryan Kalil, DE Julius Peppers, LB Thomas Davis, WR Devin Funchess, OT Matt Kalil, OT Chris Clark, S Mike Adams

2019 snapshot: A year after changing ownership, the Panthers faced significant turnover brought on by a number of different factors. Franchise icons in Ryan Kalil and Peppers retired, while a third (Davis) was allowed to walk in free agency.

Paradis should be a nice replacement for Kalil — as long as his surgically repaired ankle holds up — and McCoy will help replace some of Peppers’ leadership while Burns and Irvin try to rev up the edge rush. The unit will look different for another reason as well, with Ron Rivera and D-coordinator Eric Washington employing more 3-4 looks.

In addition to Paradis up front, the Panthers added Little (second round), retained Daryl Williams on a friendly deal (one year, $6 million) and released Matt Kalil. Little is raw and has had his motor questioned, while Williams has struggled to stay healthy, but between the pair and Taylor Moton, the tackle position should be OK.

That’s important because Cam Newton is still working his way back from shoulder surgery, though he progressed to throwing a regulation football during OTAs. Grier’s selection raised concerns about Newton, but all signs point to the former MVP being ready for the regular season. Before he was hurt in 2018, he thrived under new O-coordinator Norv Turner, so optimism is warranted if Newton is indeed healthy.

Worth the investment?

–Newton’s injury overshadowed how excellent the Panthers were when he was fully healthy last season. The possibility that Carolina returns to that form makes the over on a 7.5-win total extremely enticing.

–Even if Newton is fully healthy, what are the odds he’ll return to his 2015 MVP form? Bovada has them at +4000, on par with two Rams (Jared Goff and Aaron Donald), which feels a bit risky.

Bottom line: Carolina did well to address its biggest holes, though most of its moves still carried risk. The Panthers could thrive if everything clicks as planned.

–Field Level Media

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New Orleans Saints training camp primer

New Orleans Saints training camp primer

New faces: TE

New Orleans Saints training camp primer

New faces: TE Jared Cook, C Nick Easton, DT Malcom Brown, RB Latavius Murray, DT Mario Edwards, C Erik McCoy, S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, CB/PR Marcus Sherels

They’re gone: C Max Unger, RB Mark Ingram, DE Alex Okafor, TE Benjamin Watson, S Kurt Coleman, LB Manti Te’o

2019 snapshot: After years of borrowing against the future to upgrade the present, the Saints certainly weren’t going to stop this offseason, not with Drew Brees at age 40 and the team still firmly on the doorstep of another Super Bowl appearance. For most other teams, that would be irresponsible roster management, but it’s hard to fault the Saints for trying to maximize the window to win a championship.

In free agency, New Orleans nabbed Cook, the sort of receiving tight end Brees hasn’t had since Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle. They also added a possible replacement for Unger in Easton, found insurance for injured DT Sheldon Rankins by signing Brown and Edwards, and replaced the departed Ingram with a slightly cheaper deal for Murray. New Orleans also retained Teddy Bridgewater for just $7.25 million, keeping alive the possibility he could be Brees’ successor.

Absent their first-round pick because of last year’s trade-up for Marcus Davenport, the Saints traded up again this year for McCoy (second round) and Gardner-Johnson (fourth), leaving little else in their draft class. McCoy will battle Easton for the job to replace Unger.

New Orleans still has work to do, as Michael Thomas needs an extension entering the final year of his rookie deal. On the plus side, the Saints found room for a Cameron Jordan extension (three years, $52.5 million).

Worth the investment?

–Only the Patriots (11) have a higher over/under than the Saints (10.5). New Orleans could still hit, but 11 wins is a high bar for any team to reach.

–It’s remarkable that Brees, a 12-time Pro Bowler in 18 seasons, still has not won an MVP award. He has the fourth-best odds this season (+1000), but his decline down the stretch last season makes that a risky play.

Our Take: They’ll eventually have to pay off all their debts, but the Saints set themselves up for a run at Super Bowl LIV.

–Field Level Media

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