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NFL morning after: This is the Reggie Bush we’ve been waiting for

Reggie Bush, Major Wright AP

It’s been eight years now, so you can be forgiven if you’ve forgotten, but there was a time when Reggie Bush wasn’t just expected to be a good NFL player, wasn’t even expected to be a great NFL player, but was expected to be a transcendent NFL player. When Bush was running wild at USC in 2005, people talked about him like he was going to be some combination of Barry Sanders and Gale Sayers in the NFL, a player who had the talent to be the NFL’s best running back, the NFL’s best slot receiver and the NFL’s best kick returner, all in one package.

It didn’t happen, for a variety of reasons ranging from the fact that the team that drafted Bush, the Saints, really didn’t need him to be an every-down running back, to the fact that it was basically impossible for anyone to live up to the kinds of expectations that were on Bush coming out of college.

But what has happened in this, Bush’s eighth NFL season and first with the Lions, is that we’re finally getting the Reggie Bush we’ve been waiting for. The Lions have the right offense to take advantage of Bush’s skills, both as a runner and as a receiver, to get him the ball in space and to let him cut and spin and start and stop and hurdle and sprint to the end zone.

Bush did all of that and more on Sunday against the Bears, a game that might have been the best of his NFL career. Bush had 18 carries for 139 yards and added four catches for 34 yards, but those numbers don’t do justice to how electrifying he was. Bush’s 37-yard touchdown, on which he took a handoff up the middle, ran past defensive end Cornelius Washington before bouncing to the outside, hurdled safety Major Wright and then outraced cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman to the end zone was one of the most beautiful plays of this NFL season.

The Lions have made Bush their featured back in the running game and are giving him plenty of opportunities to carry the ball, and they’re also throwing him a lot of passes, not just out of the backfield but lined up as a slot receiver. Opposing defenses give so much respect to Lions receiver Calvin Johnson that Bush isn’t going to see many eight-man fronts, and he’s going to have a lot of room to make plays all season. Bush has only played two and a half games so far because he missed half of Week Two and all of Week Three with a knee injury, and durability will have to be a concern for Bush in Detroit, just as durability is a concern for any running back who gets the kind of workload the Lions are giving Bush. But if he can stay healthy the rest of the way, he has the potential to lead the league in yards from scrimmage, and lead the Lions to the playoffs.

Bush was my favorite player in any game on Sunday. Here are my other thoughts from Sunday’s games:

The Jets need to do more pushups. With all the Jets’ penalties last week, Rex Ryan implemented a new policy that whenever anyone committed a penalty in practice, everyone had to do pushups. It didn’t work. The Jets committed 10 more penalties on Sunday. Through four games this season, the Jets have committed 44 penalties, putting them on pace to commit 176 this year. The all-time NFL record is 163 penalties in a season, set by the Raiders two years ago.

Chip Kelly needs to be Chip Kelly. The reason I was so excited about Kelly leaving Oregon to coach the Eagles was that we had never seen a coach like Kelly in the NFL before. But while the Eagles’ fast-paced offense is fun to watch, for the most part I see Kelly coaching in Philadelphia like he did in college. At Oregon, Kelly wasn’t afraid to go for it on fourth down from anywhere on the field. But on Sunday in Denver, when the Eagles had a fourth-and-6 at Denver’s 37-yard line while trailing 21-13, Kelly took a delay of game penalty and then punted. Why not go for it? You’re playing the best team in the NFL on the road. You’re going to need to take some chances to pull the upset. I didn’t see the Eagles taking many chances on Sunday, when they punted four times, attempted three field goals and never went for it on fourth down despite trailing all game. Although the Eagles went for it on fourth-and-1 and got the first down on their first drive of the season, in the opening Monday night at Washington, Kelly has gone for it on fourth down just once since that very first drive. It’s disappointing to see Kelly turn into a conventional, risk-averse NFL coach.

Sean Lee is that rarest of creatures, an underrated Cowboy. Usually players on America’s Team are overhyped, but if anything Lee, a linebacker in his fourth year in Dallas, doesn’t get enough hype. Lee’s 2012 season was cut short by a toe injury after six games, but this year Lee is looking healthy and faster than ever, as he displayed on his 52-yard interception return for a touchdown. Lee did get beaten in coverage on a touchdown by Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, but that play aside he’s having a strong season, and if he stays healthy he’ll make his first Pro Bowl.

Kiko Alonso leads the league in interceptions. Alonso, the Bills’ second-round draft pick out of Oregon this year, came into Sunday’s game with two interceptions on the season and added two more of Joe Flacco in Sunday’s win over the Ravens. He now has four, tied with Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib and Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner for the most of any player in the NFL through four weeks. In addition to his interceptions, Alonso has been a tackling machine. The Bills look like they got a keeper. Alonso’s college coach Chip Kelly should have drafted Alonso in Philadelphia — the Eagles need all the help on defense they can get.

As usual, the Super Bowl hosts stink. The Super Bowl will be played in New Jersey at the end of this season, and we won’t be having any talk about a team playing a Super Bowl on its home field, as the Giants are 0-4 and the Jets are an ugly 2-2. This is probably more a coincidence than anything else, but the Super Bowl host team almost always has a lousy season. No Super Bowl host team has even made the playoffs since Tampa Bay in 2000, and not only has no team ever played in the Super Bowl on its own home field, but no team has ever even reached the conference championship in a postseason when the Super Bowl was on that team’s home field. The Cardinals host next season’s Super Bowl, the 49ers the year after that and the Texans the year after that. Sorry to fans in Arizona, San Francisco and Houston, but you can probably pencil in a disappointing season for your teams when the Super Bowl is coming to town.

Adrian Peterson breaks long runs like no one else, ever. Peterson’s 60-yard touchdown on Sunday was his 12th touchdown of 60 yards or more. No one else in NFL history has had even 10 touchdown runs of 60 or more yards. Jim Brown, who had nine 60-yard touchdown runs, is second in NFL history.

Peyton Manning is amazing. I know I said earlier that Bush was my favorite player in the NFL on Sunday, but I should probably add that I could say that about Manning every Sunday. Manning completed 28 of 34 passes for 327 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles, and he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. His 16 touchdown passes are the most ever for any quarterback four weeks into the season. The Broncos have scored 179 points through four games, putting them on pace for 716 points this season, which would obliterate the 2007 Patriots’ NFL record of 589. This may be Manning’s best year yet — an amazing thing to say about a guy who has four league MVP awards.

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Aqib Talib deliberately grabbed Corey Brown’s facemask

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Several years ago, the NFL got rid of the distinction between major and minor facemask fouls, with all penalties for grabbing and pulling the bars on the front of the helmet becoming 15-yard personal fouls.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s accidental or intentional; the penalty is the same. When it comes to determining discipline, however, evidence that the foul was flagrant and intentional should influence the league office.

Regarding Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib’s decision to grab and pull and twist the facemask of Panthers receiver Corey Brown in the first half of Super Bowl 50, it’s clear that the conduct was flagrant and intentional — because Talib has admitted it.

“It was B.S. flags,” Talib said regarding a pair of personal fouls called on him in the first half, via NESN.com.  “One was on our sidelines [for taunting] — the guy [Brown] was talking on our sideline. One I just did on purpose, and I just had to show him. It’s probably going to be a fine. But, hey, we’re world champs.”

Talib added that he was aware, given Carolina’s field position at the time, that the penalty wouldn’t result in a major loss of field position.

“My teammates knew what it was,” Talib said. “He was on the three-yard line. [With] a personal foul, he was on the one-and-a-half-yard line, so it is what it is.”

What it usually is will be a fine of $8,681 for a first offense. But Talib’s candor, coupled with a one-game suspension during the season for poking Colts tight end Dwayne Allen in the eye, could result in an enhanced penalty, and possibly a suspension.

At a time when the NFL is more sensitive than ever to player safety, Talib has admitted to a deliberate and calculated violation of a rule directly aimed at avoiding potentially serious neck injuries. Under the circumstances, and in light of Talib’s history, he may end up with something stiffer than the NFL’s equivalent of a parking ticket.

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DeMarcus Ware explains why Cam Newton didn’t run more

Zz04NGVhMTc1ZWM2MTg0NWEwNGRhMjk1MTBlMGIxNDM1NA== AP

By standards applicable to other quarterbacks, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn’t have a horrible night in Super Bowl 50. By Newton’s standards, he did.

The goal, as Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware explained on Monday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, was to make the Panthers one dimensional by taking away their ability to run the ball. But that doesn’t account for the lack of scrambles from Newton, who was sacked six times and repeatedly fought to throw the ball away.

“He had to get the ball down the field,” Ware said of Newton’s decision to take off sparingly, “he had to score points.”

Ware added the Broncos defense was able to get inside Newton’s head. Physically, they also were able to match him.

“It’s hard to beat us with his feet because we have a lot of fast guys like me and Von [Miller] and [Derek] Wolfe and Malik [Jackson],” Ware said. “And we made sure we kept the pocket tight so he couldn’t get out and run.”

Speaking of Jackson, Ware emphasized the importance of not letting him get away in free agency.

“The game is won in the trenches,” Ware said. “And just him, Derek Wolfe, . . . [those] two guys if you’re doing 3-4 or 4-3 they’re dominant and they make plays especially with [nose tackle] Sylvester [Williams] in the middle. I mean, all of those guys just giving them kudos. That’s the reason why we’ve been able to do so much.”

The salary cap will prevent the Broncos from doing as much as they’d like when it comes to keeping free agency, and Jackson could be one of the ones who gets away — especially as other teams become willing to pay a premium in order to both bring a Super Bowl champion to town and to partially dismantle the most recent champion.

To hear the full spot from Ware, check out the podcast from Monday’s edition of PFT Live, the first one that launched at 6:00 a.m. ET.

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111.9 million Super Bowl viewers

Zz03MWExMGJiNjg3MjQyYTFhNjA2MGYxMDZhYTA0MTgzNw== AP

Last year, a record 114.4 million viewers on average enjoyed Super Bowl XLIX, between the Patriots and Seahawks. This year, the numbers were down because the game was less compelling, but the audience was still gigantic.

According to CBS, an average of 111.9 million watched the game, with a peak of 115.5 million between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. ET.

As big as the Super Bowl audience has become, the question that comes up every year for me is this: What is everyone else in the country doing at that time?

FOX has the game next year in Houston, and after that NBC in Minnesota. The size of the audiences will be driven largely by the size of the markets represented in the game and the perceived (and actual) competitiveness of the game.

While Sunday night’s game wasn’t a shootout, tension permeated most of the game, with a nagging sense that the Panthers eventually were going to find the gas pedal and win the game easily.

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Tom Coughlin: Not coaching “a very difficult thing”

Tom Coughlin AP

For the first time since 2004, Tom Coughlin isn’t going to be preparing a team for September.

Coughlin was replaced as the Giants’ head coach by Ben McAdoo after a second straight 6-10 season and brief dalliances with the 49ers and Eagles didn’t lead anywhere. During a Monday appearance on FOX News, Coughlin talked about how he’s dealing with the change in circumstances.

“It’s a very difficult thing, I don’t care who you are, or how long you’ve been doing it. I’ve been doing it a long time, so you get yourself into the rhythm,” Coughlin said, via NJ.com. “Your whole life, the calendar of your life is based on football, about the seasons, whether it’s in-season or out of season. You have a schedule that you follow. So there’s some adjusting for me to make.”

One adjustment Coughlin isn’t making is considering the change in schedule a permanent one. He said he doesn’t like the retired and that he’s “way to young” for that label.

When they parted ways, the Giants talked about wanting Coughlin remain with the team he coached to two Super Bowl titles in a different position. Co-owner John Mara repeated that desire during Super Bowl week in San Francisco, but it doesn’t appear that anything immediate is in the works.

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Aqib Talib calls Levi’s Stadium turf “terrible”

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The 49ers have had repeated issues with the quality of the sod at Levi’s Field. On Sunday, the NFL’s first stint as the caretaker of the gridiron at Santa Clara encountered difficulties, too.

The footing on the field was terrible,” Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib said, via the Associated Press. “San Fran has to play eight games on that field so they better do something to get it fixed. It was terrible.”

Talib apparently hasn’t been paying attention to the home team’s troubles with the turf. Because the troubles have been persistent for the team. The league has had troubles, too. And now the 49ers get the turf back, indefinitely.

Not everyone complained about the field, including the guy who won the game’s MVP award.

“I had to change my cleats,” Broncos linebacker Von Miller said. “It was a great field. We came out here [Saturday] and it was fast. As the game went on, I just needed a little more support. I was able to get the detachable [spikes] and real quick change them.”

Players from both teams seemed to slip on the field. Panthers coach Ron Rivera, however, went out of his way to say the field wasn’t a problem.

“We didn’t have any issues with the field,” Rivera said, via the Associated Press. “Both teams played on the same field. As far as I’m concerned, for me to be able to blame the field is kind of a cop out. The truth of the matter is we both played on the surface. The surface was outstanding.”

Outstanding is an overstatement, but Rivera surely wants to say nothing that would create the impression he is making excuses for the outcome of the game. His refusal to make excuses provides the league with an excuse it doesn’t merit, because the field wasn’t nearly as good as it should have been, raising yet again the question of why the NFL fails far too often to ensure that players get the absolute best and safest surfaces.

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Saints cut Jahri Evans

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints released six-time Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans Monday.

Evans was due $3 million if he was still on the roster on Wednesday. He was set to make $4.9 million in 2016.

Evans, 32, has been with the Saints since 2006 and started all 153 games he played. He took a pay cut after the 2014 season, his sixth straight Pro Bowl season. He started 11 games in 2015.

Evans joins Riley Cooper and William Moore as notable cuts on the first day teams can make roster transactions. The Saints also cut wide receiver Seantavius Jones, linebacker David Hawthorne and linebacker Ramon Humber.

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Disturbing details in Manziel-Crowley affidavit

Johnny Manziel AP

The affidavit filed by Johnny Manziel’s ex-girlfriend as part of the protective order she’s received from him contains some disturbing details.

NBC 5 in Dallas posted the affidavit Monday. In it, Coleen Crowley said she told a parking valet she feared for her life and later had to threaten Manziel with a knife to get him to leave her apartment.

A police helicopter began searching for Manziel early on the morning of Jan. 30 after Crowley banged on a neighbor’s door and screamed to another for help. Crowley said Manziel had been physical with her, grabbing by the hair to throw her in the car and hitting her in the ear with an open hand. Crowley said that’s when she struck Manziel back and also said she still could not hear out of her ear days later.

Crowley said she was also restrained by Manziel against a hotel door and that Manziel threatened to kill them both.

Dallas Police opened a criminal investigation into the matter last week, and an NFL investigation is ongoing. The Browns have not been able to reach Manziel and plan to release him next month.

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Falcons drop Justin Durant, William Moore

Zz1jMjkxZjg5N2NkYmZkOWE4NmFkMzBmMDZhN2JkYjI0Yw== AP

On Monday, teams can begin cutting players. The Falcons have dumped a pair of them.

Gone are linebacker Justin Durant (pictured) and safety William Moore. The team announced the moves on Monday.

“We want to thank both of these guys for their commitment and work ethic,” coach Dan Quinn said. “They battled through injuries to give everything they had for their teammates this season and I will always be appreciative of that.”

As to Durant, the Falcons avoid his base salary of $1.75 million for 2016. The team will take a cap charge of $833,000. Regarding Moore,the Falcons avoid his base salary of $4.5 million, but they take a cap charge of $3.3 million, the remainder of the $8.25 million signing bonus he received in 2013.

Durant was a second-round pick of the Jaguars in 2007; he signed last year with the Falcons. Atlanta drafted Moore in the second round of the 2009 draft.

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Making sense of Cam Newton’s abrupt departure

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Much can be said about the demeanor of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton at his post-Super Bowl press conference, and reasonable minds may differ as to whether it was a sign of immaturity or evidence of his passionate desire to win.

Here’s an area where the answer is more clear. As noted last night on Twitter and throughout Monday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, the video of the press conference suggests that Newton bolted not because of any questions asked by the reporter but because he could hear someone from the Broncos crowing about the victory. Via the Denver Post, it was Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr.

So while Newton arguably should have been less sullen when talking about the game, the tone and content of his answers and the decision to get up and leave are really two different things.

Besides, if Newton’s reaction means that Newton will become even more determined to get back to the Super Bowl and win it, Panthers fans will be very happy about the outcome a year from now.

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Falcons hire Collier as personnel director

KANSAS CITY, MO - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Joel Collier of the Kansas City Chiefs poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons have hired Joel Collier as their director of player personnel.

Collier’s addition comes as part of a restructuring of the personnel department, though general manager Thomas Dimitroff was retained. Former director of player personnel Lionel Vital left the team last month, and former general managers Ruston Webster and Phil Emery were hired.

Collier was assistant general manager with the Chiefs from 2009-13 and previously was an assistant coach with the Dolphins and Patriots. His father, Joe Collier, is a former head coach of the Bills and defensive coordinator with the Broncos and Patriots.

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Peyton Manning likely didn’t want to take attention from teammates

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After the Super Bowl, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning supplied the same message about his future every time he spoke. He’s waiting on the recommendation of Tony Dungy, who advised against an emotional decision.

It’s clear, then, that the emotional decision would have been to retire.

There’s another benefit that comes from waiting. By not announcing his intentions on Sunday night, Manning didn’t take attention away from his teammates and coaches.

During a pregame interview with Bill Cowher, which had been taped at some point before Sunday, Manning became emotional when talking about the importance of being known as a good teammate. And but for one slip after a 2005 playoff loss in which he said, after explaining that he’s trying to be a good teammate, the team had problems with protection, Peyton has always been an impeccable teammate.

If he knows he’s retiring, his decision to keep the decision to himself becomes a genuinely selfless act, allowing the aftermath of the win to be all about the team and not all about Peyton.

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Bengals sign veteran CB Chykie Brown

Washington Redskins v New York Giants Getty Images

The Bengals have signed veteran cornerback Chykie Brown.

Brown was out of the NFL last season but has 54 games of experience with the Ravens and Giants from 2011-14. He played in every game when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in the 2012 season.

He went to the Giants via waivers in 2014 and was cut by the Giants prior to the start of the 2015 season.

The Bengals also signed offensive tackle Darryl Baldwin, who was with the Ravens as an undrafted rookie last season. Baldwin is a developmental prospect who was a defensive end at Ohio State before the arrival of 2016 NFL Draft prospect Noah Spence, among others, pushed him to the offensive side of the ball.

Baldwin played one preseason game with the Ravens before being placed on the non-football illness list and eventually waived by the Ravens before the regular season.

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Eagles release Riley Cooper

Riley Cooper AP

The Eagles announced the release of wide receiver Riley Cooper on Monday.

Cooper was due to make $4.5 million in 2016. He’d signed a five-year deal worth a guaranteed $8 million prior to the 2014 season. He’ll still count for $2.4 million against the cap in 2016.

Cooper caught 21 passses and two for touchdowns last season after having caught 102 passes and scored 11 touchdowns over the 2013-14 seasons. With those declining numbers, Chip Kelly gone and the Eagles having drafted Nelson Algholor in the first round last year, the move is not surprising.

Monday marked the first day teams could cut players who’d finished the 2015 season on an active roster. Cooper, 28, immediately becomes a free agent and does not have to wait for the start of the new league year in March to seek out a new team.

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Chris Harris Jr: Signing extension with Broncos was “greatest decision of my life.”

Denver Broncos’ Chris Harris Jr. (25) smiles with fans after the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. The Broncos won 24-10. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) AP

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. knew he was potentially leaving money on the table when he signed a five-year extension with the team in December 2014 instead of waiting for free agency.

But Harris says that decision to take a “pay cut” and remain with the Broncos was one of the best choices he’s ever made.

“Taking that pay cut, man, was the greatest decision of my life,” Harris said while basking in the glow of the Broncos 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. “To be here and be a Super Bowl champion… man, I probably would have been on the Titans or the Raiders. There’s no telling what team I would have been on, but to here with this great organization. I know (John) Elway is always going to keep a great team here and I just always put my faith in them and my group. I can’t ask for a better group to play with and I’m just thankful for everybody.”

“It was very tough, but I wanted to win,” he continued. “I knew I’d probably for the Titans or Raiders, somebody sorry, but I decided to stay and play with this great group. And the great thing about it is we’re going to be here for a while. We’ve got the same core that’s locked in for a while and it’s going to be scary for the teams to come.”

Harris played with a left shoulder injury throughout the playoffs that made it difficult to be as aggressive as normal.

“It was pretty bad. I was lying to y’all,” Harris said with a laugh about the injury. “…Any hit, my arm just went dead.”

Harris said he doesn’t believe he’ll need surgery but that he needs to get it reevaluated to make sure. He feels he should be good with rest and back in about a month.

“Just to grind through these playoffs, it was a very hard playoffs for me. Was never healthy. To put in that extra work every day to even just come out and play really with my injury you’re supposed to go on (injured reserve), but I fought through it and it makes it feel even more special because I had to play with pain this whole postseason. A lot of pain, and to be able to get this win playing through that makes me even more grateful.”

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Browns announce eight staff additions

Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson, right, laughs as he answers questions during a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Berea, Ohio. Jackson has experience as a head coach, knows the AFC North and has fixed quarterbacks. Jackson, who waited four years for his second crack at leading an NFL team, has been hired as Cleveland's next coach, the struggling franchise's eighth since 1999 and sixth since 2008. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is on the left. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) AP

The Browns officially announced eight additions to Hue Jackson’s first coaching staff Monday.

Former NFL players Johnny Holland and Rock Cartwright are among the previously reported additions. Louie Cioffi returns as defensive backs coach after serving the last two years under new Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton in Tennessee and previously under Horton with the Browns in 2013.

Also named to the staff were Ken Delgado, assistant defensive line coach; Cannon Matthews, assistant defensive backs coach; Robert Nunn, defensive line coach; Eric Sanders, defensive quality control coach; and Ryan Slowik, outside linebackers coach.

Holland will coach inside linebackers, while Cartwright will be the offensive quality control coach.

“Johnny Holland is a seasoned, veteran coach,” Jackson said in a statement. “He played in this league and has had success as a player and a coach. He is a very passionate demanding teacher. I know without any question he is going to get the best out of our linebackers.”

Nunn was the defensive line coach with the Giants the last six seasons.

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