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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (15-4)
OPEN CAMP: July 26 [url=http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/maliek-collins-jersey]Maliek Collins Jersey[/url] , Foxborough, Massachusetts
LAST YEAR: New England lost twice in its first four games but recovered to win 11 of its final 12 behind MVP season of quarterback Tom Brady. He impressed at age 40, throwing for 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He did so despite reported issues between himself, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft following midseason trade of backup Jimmy Garoppolo to 49ers. Defensive inconsistency was ongoing issue and it caught up with Patriots in Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia. It included surprise benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler, one of several players to sign with new teams during free agency.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: RB Jeremy Hill, RB Sony Michel, QB Danny Etling, DE Adrian Clayborn, WR Jordan Matthews, OT Trent Brown, OL Isaiah Wynn, CB Jason McCourty, DT Danny Shelton,
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Malcolm Butler, CB Johnson Bademosi, RB Dion Lewis, OT Nate Solder, OT Cam Fleming.
CAMP NEEDS: Wide receiver will be hot topic. After sitting out 2017 with torn right ACL, Julian Edelman is suspended for first four games of regular season for violating NFL policy on performance enhancers. Combined with losses of Amendola and Cooks in trades to Dolphins and Rams [url=http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/mike-white-jersey]Mike White Jersey[/url] , respectively, it leaves Chris Hogan (34 catches, 439 yards, five TDs) as top returning wide receiver. Something also must be done to solidify defense that needs more edge rushing and someone to start alongside Stephon Gilmore at cornerback.
EXPECTATIONS: Even with offseason roster changes, Patriots enter camp as team to beat in AFC East. All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski considered retirement in offseason; he and Brady skipped voluntary offseason workouts. But both returned for mandatory minicamps and say they are focused on helping New England reach what would be its fourth Super Bowl in five seasons. One of biggest question marks will be how linebackers coach Brian Flores does in new role as defensive play caller.
BUFFALO BILLS (9-8)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, New York
LAST YEAR: Under first-year coach (Sean McDermott) and GM (Brandon Beane), Buffalo overcame major roster overhaul and midseason quarterback shuffle to win four of last six games and clinch playoff berth to end 17-year postseason drought. Bills snapped longest active streak of missing playoffs in North America’s four major professional sports. At 29, LeSean McCoy was offensive workhorse with 1,138 yards rushing and 448 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Revamped secondary, including first-round pick Tre’Davious White, keyed patchwork defense by finishing tied for sixth in NFL with 18 interceptions.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie QB Josh Allen, QB A.J. McCarron, rookie LB Tremaine Edmunds, DT Star Lotulelei, DE Trent Murphy, CB Vontae Davis, WR Jeremy Kerley, RB Chris Ivory, OLs Russell Bodine and Marshall Newhouse, and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Tyrod Taylor, LT Cordy Glenn, C Eric Wood [url=http://www.washingtonredskinsteamonline.com/charles-mann-jersey]Charles Mann Jersey[/url] , RG Richie Incognito, WR Jordan Matthews, CB E.J. Gaines, LB Preston Brown and FB Mike Tolbert.
CAMP NEEDS: Many center on how quickly new-look offense finds chemistry with new starting quarterback. Two big holes to fill on line and offense lacks established depth at receiver behind Kelvin Benjamin. Plus Buffalo is introducing new philosophy under Daboll. All eyes are on Allen, first-round pick out of Wyoming, and how long it will take to develop behind former Bengals backup McCarron and returning backup Nathan Peterman.
EXPECTATIONS: Defense should be improved entering its second season, and with plenty of reinforcements. Can offense develop threat beyond McCoy, who turned 30 on July 12. Though long-term future looks bright, given young core of talent on roster, early projection is Bills might take step back in Year 2 of McDermott and Beane’s rebuilding process.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (6-10)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Davie, Florida
LAST YEAR: Dolphins regressed in second season under Adam Gase. As rookie coach he led them to 10 wins and playoff berth, but in 2017 Dolphins never recovered from quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s season-ending knee injury in training camp, and deteriorated into wildly inconsistent, undisciplined team. They led to start fourth quarter in only two games and were outscored by 112 points, fourth worst in NFL. Owner Stephen Ross decided to keep organization’s core leadership intact, but Gase and executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum may need turnaround to keep jobs beyond this year.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: S Minkah Fitzpatrick, G Josh Sitton, DE Robert Quinn, WR Danny Amendola, WR Albert Wilson, C Daniel Kilgore, TE Mike Gesicki, RB Frank Gore [url=http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/kyler-fackrell-jersey]Kyler Fackrell Jersey[/url] , RB Kalen Ballage, QB Brock Osweiler.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: DT Ndamukong Suh, WR Jarvis Landry, C Mike Pouncey, G Jermon Bushrod, K Cody Parkey, QB Jay Cutler, QB Matt Moore, TE Julius Thomas, LB Lawrence Timmons.
CAMP NEEDS: Dolphins will count on two players with no NFL experience to assume significant roles. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan, their most promising rookie in 2017, is back after knee injury in first exhibition game ended his season. Fitzpatrick is expected to make immediate impact after being taken with 11th overall pick in April. Most of all, Gase needs to keep Tannehill healthy as quarterback comes back from two serious injuries to left knee since December 2016.
EXPECTATIONS: Tannehill became starter as rookie in 2012 and has still never taken postseason snap, and there’s plenty of reason to doubt that will change this year. While he returns, Dolphins bid adieu to three players with Pro Bowl resume Brandin Cooks has been traded twice in the past 13 months despite being one of the NFL’s most productive receivers over the past three years, so the Rams’ new top target knows he probably shouldn’t get completely comfortable in Los Angeles.
He’s still grateful to be joining another talented team with a shot at another Super Bowl – and perhaps he can still find a long-term future at home in California, too.
”It would be an extreme blessing to be here for a long haul, coming in here to be with a special group of guys,” Cooks said Thursday at the Rams’ training complex. ”At the end of the day, it’s not something I’m pressing. I just want to come in here and be the best that I can be.”
Los Angeles coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead praised Cooks’ character and talent when they formally welcomed him to the defending NFC West champions, who had the NFL’s highest-scoring offense last year.
They’ve been interested in acquiring Cooks since before his first trade from New Orleans to New England last March. After Cooks posted another 1,000-yard season and reached the Super Bowl with New England, the Rams finally got him Monday.
”I’m hard-pressed to remember a player that’s got so many positive things said about him from different people he’s been exposed to,” McVay said. ”You’re talking about a special person and a special player. Clearly he’s going to be a big part of our offense [url=http://www.chicagobearsteamonline.com/zach-miller-jersey]Zach Miller Jersey[/url] , being able to play our `X’ receiver (position) and do a variety of things.”
Cooks’ ability as a deep threat makes him a strong replacement for Sammy Watkins, who was acquired by the Rams last season after they failed to get Cooks. Watkins parlayed his single season in McVay’s high-powered passing game into a lavish free-agent deal with Kansas City.
Cooks also can be a free agent next year, but the Rams were willing to take the risk because they’re determined to build a Super Bowl contender with the payroll space available while Jared Goff is still in his rookie contract.
”Simply put, 2018 is important,” Snead said. ”We definitely want to repeat as NFC (West) champions, but … a lot of the players we’ve acquired are young and have evolved to be in the prime of their careers, and we would love to take advantage of that over not just `18, but `19, `20, `21 and moving forward.”
The Rams’ trades for Watkins and Cooks have left them without a pick in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, but Snead doesn’t sound terribly worried about the potential loss of organizational depth.
The Rams would rather have Cooks, who has already put together three seasons that were more productive than anything Watkins has done in the same four-year stretch. Cooks also is still three months younger than Cooper Kupp, who just finished an impressive rookie season for the Rams.
Cooks’ 1,082 yards receiving with the Patriots last season were 11th-most in the NFL. He was seventh in the league with 1,173 yards in 2016 during his final season with New Orleans, and he is one of just three active players with 1,000 yards and at least five touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.
Cooks had the benefit of catching passes from Drew Brees and Tom Brady. He already seems confident in Goff’s ability to provide him with similar service.
Cooks did have to playfully bat down one rumor that had already excited Rams fans: Although he has met Goff several times, and although they share the same agent, they haven’t already had throwing sessions before the trade.
There’s plenty of time for that now.
”I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to be able to grow with a young guy,” Cooks said. ”I’m young myself, so to be able to start that rapport this offseason is going to be extremely huge. I look forward to getting to work right away.”
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