New York Giants: Joe Judge with no regrets on starting Daniel Jones

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants chose to start Daniel Jones before he was ready against the Cardinals, and the result was a loss which threw them out of first place in the division. This decision has been debated and it’s safe to say that there’s some merit on both sides of the argument. On one hand, Jones wasn’t ready to play again and his lackluster performance played into the team’s loss. On the other hand, the Giants don’t have a backup QB on a similar skill level and would have been forced to start Colt McCoy again if they hadn’t started Jones.

But as for the stance of the team itself, it looks like the important figures surrounding the decision are still confident that they made the right one.

“No, I have no regrets on playing him. We made a calculated decision based on what he could do as a player. We went out there, and as a team, we have to execute better,” head coach Joe Judge told reporters about the decision to start Jones.

Jones played for 90% of the team’s offensive snaps but threw for a season worst 11 completions on 21 attempts. In the passing yards statistic, he also had his second worst performance of the season behind his one in week six against Washington. While he avoided throwing an interception, he also threw for no touchdowns and lost one fumble after being sacked by former Giant Markus Golden.

It remains to be seen what the status of Jones is going into next week’s Sunday night game against the Browns, but with Cleveland having nine wins so far this season, they pose a tough challenge and the Giants will have far better odds of putting up a competitive performance if Jones is healthier than he was against Arizona.

Durant, Irving look good together but Nets’ title hopes still fragile

For the first nine minutes and 27 seconds of the preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Washington Wizards last Sunday night, the world saw a glimpse of the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving potential.

The 119-114 final scoreline in favor of the Nets didn’t tell the whole story.

Worth the long wait

It was a long wait for the Nets, who signed both superstars to separate four-year deals as the culmination of the reclamation project of GM Sean Marks in Brooklyn. But definitely worth it.

Started from the bottom, the Nets have gone a long way, morphing from a team with no cap space into a fringe playoff contender and now a serious title threat in the NBA.

In that glorious stretch in the opening quarter, the long recovery of both Durant and Irving from serious injuries was an afterthought. Irving’s contentious relationship with the media was sidetracked. James Harden was never needed.

Durant dusted off anxious moments and shrugged off nervousness with a baseline dunk for his basket since tearing his Achilles back in June of 2019.

The former MVP was back to his silky-smooth ways scoring 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting, while Irving’s court wizardry produced 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The Nets were in full control with Durant and Irving on the floor. They opened up a 12-point lead, 30-28, that ballooned to as many 26 points.

‘I was anxious, nervous’

It didn’t matter the Wizards tried to come back when Durant went out for good in the third quarter while Irving didn’t see action in the second half. What mattered was they showed it’s really worth the wait.

“I was anxious, nervous. I visualized this moment for so long — nine, 10 months of thinking about how it would be, this next phase of my career,” Durant said postgame. “I felt like I was chomping at the bit, especially once COVID hit because I didn’t see a future — when the season was going to start in the future. I was going through it.

“So to go through this felt solid.”

Durant played a total of 24 minutes and finished with 15 points, three rebounds, three assists, and two blocks.

He looked confident in his first game back.

‘The world missed Durant’

Irving led the Nets with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting despite sitting out the whole second half.

“That’s one of the perks of this position, is you get to coach two incredible players,” said first-time head coach Steve Nash. “Ky was super sharp and Kevin, after such an extensive layoff was very good and close to being incredible.”

“When you have that type of injury,” Nash said of Durant after the game, “it is kind of remarkable he’s at the level he’s at.

“It’s amazing. This is an injury that very few people have conquered, so to speak. It’s beautiful to see him back on the basketball court. I think the world missed him — I certainly did.”

Without Durant and partially Irving (shoulder injury), the Nets were still able to contend for the last playoff spot in the East.

This season, they are expected to contend for the title.

But that will hinge on Durant and Irving’s fragile bodies to hold up for the condensed season.

Bench depth over Harden

James Harden could be their insurance. But if there’s anything their first preseason game revealed aside from the Durant-Irving dominance, the Nets also saw the depth they will potentially miss if the Houston Rockets’ superstar gets his wish.

The Rockets have maintained they do not want the Nets’ complimentary players plus picks, per ESPN report. They may need a third team where the Rockets can get a young star.

But Marks have earlier remarked that the Nets don’t want to mortgage their future for Harden. Durant, on the other hand, denied recruiting Harden.

The Nets, who played without young rising star Caris LeVert due to patella contusion, had four more players in double figures aside from Durant and Irving.

Spencer Dinwiddie had 10 points and seven assists. Newcomer Landry Shamet, acquired via Draft Day trade, his 3 of 5 from the outside to finish with 13 points. Taurean Prince and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot each added 11.

Irving breaks media silence

Irving, who skipped the postgame interviews, finally broke his media blackout Monday morning.

The Nets and their star point guard were fined $25,000 each for the media blackout to which he responded with a controversial Instagram:

“I’ve had enough of someone else propaganda… I pray we utilize the ‘fine money’ for the marginalized communities in need, especially seeing where our world is presently… I do not talk to Pawns. My attention is worth more.”

Irving addressed them in his first media session, denying it was directed to NBA writers.

“It’s really just about how I felt about the mistreatment of certain artists when we get to a certain platform of when we make decisions within our lives to have full control and ownership… We want to perform in a secure and protected space,” he said.

He also retracted his earlier statement on Durant’s podcast that he really didn’t see them having a coach.

“Steve’s been amazing,” Irving said Monday. “He kind of commands the respect. I think I’ve got to take back my comments in terms of the head coach back a few months ago. But it’s just like, man, we have such a great synergy. Everyone feels like we’re coaching one another to be better, so I’m grateful for that.”

If their first game together is any indication, the synergy looks great. Credit it to Nash for not having a big ego and having the right temperament to handle the issue that could have otherwise gone south.

While the Nets are off to a good start, their title hopes still hang in the balance of their superstars’ fragile bodies and egos. 

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants: Wide receivers held offense back against Arizona

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants‘ winning streak came to an end on Sunday after a putrid offensive performance against the Arizona Cardinals. New York let up eight sacks and gained only 159 total yards of offense. Daniel Jones played through his hamstring injury and passed for only 127 yards before being pulled for backup Colt McCoy.

All game long, Daniel Jones was struggling to find open receivers to throw to. The Giants’ wide receivers could not separate from coverage on Sunday. They were completely outmatched and they have been for most of this season. The season is far from over, with the Giants only one game out of first place in the NFC East. However, it will be hard for the Giants to slip into the postseason if their receiving corps continues to play at this level.

The 2020 Giants wide receivers

The New York Giants starting wide receivers are Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Golden Tate. Shepard has been with the Giants the longest but has been held back by injuries over the last few seasons. But now, seemingly fully healthy, Shepard has not opened up the offense the way he was expected to.

Golden Tate is in his second season with the New York Giants. He was signed to a lucrative contract last offseason. Since then, Tate has been in the spotlight for a few of the wrong reasons, such as a PED suspension and a public criticism of the Giants’ offense.

Darius Slayton is the Giants’ second-year wide receiver that was expected to have a breakout 2020 season. That has not happened, though, as Slayton has been entirely unreliable this season. In Week 10, Slayton had 5 receptions for 93 yards. He followed that up with a 0 reception performance in Week 11.

Inconsistency and injuries have held the Giants’ receiving corps back in 2020. But what has held them back the most is a simple lack of talent. Yes, Tate, Shepard, and Slayton are talented receiving options. But no, none of those guys are true number one wide receivers that open up an offense and allow the offense to run through them.

In Week 14, the Giants’ wide receivers failed to separate from coverage. According to Next Gen Stats, the league average receiver separation is 2.86 yards. Golden Tate’s average separation in Week 14 was 0.42 yards. Slayton’s average separation was 1.37 yards. Shepard’s average separation was 1.86 yards. The entirety of the Giants’ receiving corps was far below average on Sunday, making things incredibly difficult for quarterback Daniel Jones.

NASCAR: Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing announce founding partners

Monday morning, 23XI racing announced their founding five partners for Bubba Wallace and the No. 23 team for the 2021 season. DoorDash, Columbia Sportswear, and McDonald’s will continue to sponsor Wallace after sponsoring him at Richard Petty Motorsports. McDonald’s will also sponsor Chip Ganassi Racing cars in 2021.

In addition to the three returning sponsors, Dr Pepper and Root Insurance will join the No. 23 team, making the car fully funded for their inaugural season.

Wallace and team owner Denny Hamlin put out the following statements

“I’m pumped to get the season started. I wish Daytona was tomorrow. We’re heading in the right direction and we’ll be ready when we get to Daytona. As I’ve said before, this is an opportunity of a lifetime for me and there’s no more excuses. We want to go out and win and I know we’ll have everything we need each week to make that happen. To have great partners in DoorDash, McDonald’s, Columbia Sportswear, Dr Pepper and Root Insurance come on board and show their support of me and this team is really cool. I’m excited for what we can do on the track, but at the end of the day, these partnerships and relationships are so much more than that. It’s about how we use our platforms to be better humans and help create a positive change. It’s about what we do Monday through Friday outside of the firesuit and that’s a really special thing for me. Knowing I have their support and this team behind me makes me really excited for this season to see what we can accomplish together.” — Bubba Wallace

“Today is a big day for us at 23XI Racing. To be able to announce the addition of five founding partners who are willing to join us in our first year and who share in our beliefs and values is such a great feeling. We’ve certainly had to make things happen fast to build this new team, and I’m excited to welcome each one of these partners and to get to know them better. I’m fortunate that during my time at Joe Gibbs Racing I’ve been able to have a great mentor and see how Coach, as an owner, is able to service each partner. That’s new for me – learning the owner side while still on the driver side, but I’m in for the long haul and will continue this far beyond my driving years. I’m passionate about this sport and I’m excited to bring new partners to the table and bring back others who have been in our sport in the past.” — Denny Hamlin

 

 

 

New York Bricks: Knicks suffer first loss under Thibodeau

After an impressive preseason debut, the New York Knicks went crashing back to earth following a 99-91 loss to the Detroit Pistons Sunday night. 

The defensive effort was nowhere near Friday night’s level as they fell to as many 15 points early on in this game. 

Shooting woes continue

The Knicks failed to dictate the tempo from the tip-off, with the Pistons setting the tone with their 2-3 zone. But it was a good test for the Knicks, as far as coach Tom Thibodeau is concerned.

“I like the situation we just went through because you’re playing the same team,’’ Thibodeau said. “Usually, you win a game against an opponent, and you play them again based on experiences in playoff basketball, that team comes with an edge. I felt that would happen. It did. I felt we were back on our heels at the start of the game. The start of the game really got us in a hole.’’

The slow start did the Knicks in.

They were able to make only 1 of 6 outside shots in the opening quarter. In contrast, the Pistons’ offense was blazing, sinking five treys, as they raced to a 31-20 start.

Overall, the Knicks only shot 8 of 33 from the three-point region. But it was a slight improvement from their 5 of 23 effort last Friday.

Starter Alec Burks is their best three-point threat by far, going 4 of 8 against the Pistons overall, including 3 of 5 Sunday night.

Rookie wall

Obi Toppin hit the rookie wall in his second preseason game. After energizing the bench last Friday, Toppin was part of the bench on Sunday that allowed the Pistons to break away for good.

Toppin wound up with only four points on 1 of 9 shooting and four rebounds this time.

“I don’t know if he was less active,’’ Thibodeau said of Toppin. “When the ball doesn’t go in for you, it can look that way. There are ups and downs in a season. We have a lot of players who measure everything with how it’s going offensively for them. You can’t do that in this league. There are some nights you shoot the ball better than others. When you don’t shoot it well, you have to have an understanding you can play well by doing other things.’’

The next two games against the Cleveland Cavaliers — the team that passed up on him at No. 5 — will give us the chance to see how he respond from a debacle.

Bench throws the monkey wrench

Toppin wasn’t the only one who struggled. Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Knox combined to shoot 2 of 11 from the field. Reggie Bullock went 1 of 7 from deep.

The Pistons outscored the Knicks’ bench, 60-26, with Sekou Doumbouya exploding for 23 points and five rebounds, while Derrick Rose added 11 points and eight assists.

“Some good and some bad tonight,’’ Thibodeau said of Smith’s play. “He wasn’t on the floor at the start of the game, and that’s what set the tone. [In] the second quarter, we got swallowed up, didn’t make good plays.’’

RJ getting more comfortable

The Knicks showed signs of life in the third quarter, with RJ Barrett and Alec Burks combining for 20 points. The Knicks were able to take a three-point lead momentarily on Julius Randle’s free throws at the two-minute mark, but Doumbouya willed the Pistons to tie the game 75-all. 

After allowing the Pistons to 31 first-quarter points on 11 of 20 field goals, the Knicks managed to limit them to only 68 points on just 37.5 percent shooting the rest of the way.

“I thought we played well in the third quarter. We had one good quarter of basketball,” Thibodeau said. “In the first game, we had 35, 36 minutes of good basketball. So we regressed today. We have to take with us what happened in this game. Look at it, learn from it, and make improvements.

After a horrible 0-6 start in the preseason, Barrett has since shot 17 of 27. He led the Knicks with 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting and, more importantly, went 4 of 5 at the free-throw line.

In two games, Barrett has led the Knicks in scoring with 20 points per game. His free throw shooting has improved tremendously, hitting 5 of 7 overall so far. Last season, he only shot 61.4 percent from the line.

“It’s (speed of the game) a little slower,” Barrett said. “I’m a little more comfortable. I kind of know what to expect a little bit more.”

Quickley quickly impresses

The Pistons recognized that the Knicks’ Achilles heel is the point guard spot. Every time the Knicks’ point guards try to set the table, the Pistons sent an automatic double or even triple-double coverage at times.

The Knicks’ other rookie Immanuel Quickley made his much-anticipated debut. His lone assist in nine minutes of action came off a triple-double coverage sent to him on top of the arc that led to a wide-open Toppin triple.

Quickley’s debut line was a quiet two points, missing his lone three-point attempt, two rebounds, and an assist. But Thibodeau liked what he saw from the rookie guard out of Kentucky.

“I like him,’’ Thibodeau said. “[He had] some jitters early on. He’s not afraid of competing. We didn’t see him shoot the ball. He’s a knockdown shooter. We like to see more of those. We see him do it in practice all the time. When he raises up to shoot, you think it’s going in.’’

We should see more of Quickley when the Knicks will host the Cavaliers on Wednesday and Friday at the fan-less Madison Square Garden to wrap their preseason schedule. Both games will be aired live on MSG Network at 7:30 p.m. E.T.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Buffalo Bills: Sunday night perfectly defines the Brandon Beane era

Brandon Beane’s extension needed little justification, but his Buffalo Bills were more than happy to oblige on Sunday night.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football last visited Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, New York in November 2007, when the establishment still bore the Ralph Wilson Stadium moniker. This visit was one of the first examples of flexible scheduling, a concept the Peacock network introduced upon their return to NFL broadcasting to gain the most attractive matchups to their slate. A divisional matchup between the Buffalo Bills and New England booted a get-together between Chicago and Seattle, a rematch from the previous year’s postseason.

On most occasions, it’d be an honor for the local Bills, in the midst of a rebuild that wound up taking two decades, to be granted such a privilege. But the ensuing edition wasn’t so much a primetime football game as it was a showcase for the visitors…it was as if the Washington Generals somehow got to host a home game against the Harlem Globetrotters. En route to a perfect regular season, the Patriots cruised to a 56-10 triumph, the only Buffalo relief coming through J.P. Losman’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Roscoe Parrish in the first quarter.

Brandon Beane likely wasn’t too concerned about the Bills’ endeavors. As a member of the Carolina Panthers’ front office, he was likely more concerned about their 31-17 loss in Green Bay earlier that afternoon. Heck, he was probably more upset over his alma mater UNC Wilmington dropping a men’s basketball game against Illinois State. Little did he, or anyone, involved in the Bills organization, know, that it would be another 13 years before NBC’s cameras descended upon The Queen City for another football game…or that Beane himself would play a major part in it.

No flexing was necessary for Orchard Park’s latest Sunday night endeavor, as their Week 14 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers was always destined for an evening kickoff. Social distancing endeavors kept jovial hordes of Bills Mafia loyalists out of the seats, but the on-field intensity more than made up for it, as the Bills took a 26-15 decision from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Buffalo (10-3) has now won the first two games of what’s at least a four-game stretch of nationally televised contests. Their upcoming matchup with Denver was recently chosen to open a Saturday afternoon doubleheader (4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network) and they’ll play their second Monday night game in three weeks on December 28 against New England.

(Photo: Getty)

The impact of winning in prime time hasn’t been lost on the Bills, especially in the hallowed month of December.

“It’s been really tough for us because we have a set amount of time that we can be in the building,” defensive end Jerry Hughes said, per Adam Unger of WKBW-TV. “(Head coach Sean McDermott) and (defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier) have always preached it’s not about how you play football in September, it’s how you play in December.”

Beane’s extension was granted a multi-year extension that will keep him in Western New York for the foreseeable future. Little justification was needed for such a transaction as it was. Under his watch, the Bills have ended many dubious streaks including the lack of Sunday night games in Buffalo and the worst playoff drought in franchise history (17 seasons). Buffalo has also won at least 10 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1998-99. A Miami loss helped them inch closer toward their first division title since 1995.

But, if there were any naysayers who didn’t believe in what Beane had to offer, they were effectively silenced by the time Sunday night’s festivities ended.

The Buffalo showcase coincided perfectly with Beane’s extension, as several of the general manager’s additions came up huge for the Bills in their win. Enough has been dedicated to his drafting of Josh Allen, who recovered after a slow start to throw for two touchdown passes and 238 yards, whose inclusion in the MVP conversation can no longer be denied. But with Allen off to a slow start, Beane’s more polarizing and lesser-heralded decisions rose to the occasion and allowed the Bills to make a stronger case as to why they belong amongst the NFL’s elite.

At the head of the cause was receiver Stefon Diggs, who paced Buffalo with 130 yards on 10 receptions, adding a touchdown at the onset of the second half. Diggs became the second Bills receiver to reach the triple-digit mark in receptions during a single season, tying the mark Eric Moulds set in 2002. Another Moulds record, the 1,368 yards he earned in 1998, is just over 200 yards from falling.

Diggs, a former postseason legend, was brought in from Minnesota in exchange for a sizable deal that sent over four draft picks, including the 22nd overall selection in last spring’s draft. Taking on Diggs and his sizable contract (he will be nearly a $50 million cap hit over the next four seasons combined) seemed like a risk and could’ve only opened Beane to further criticism when the Vikings added LSU athlete Justin Jefferson with the lost first-round choice. Jefferson appears to be on the fast track toward Rookie of the Year honors, leading first-year catchers in most major receiving categories.

The idea of a trade that benefits both sides, much like Jerry Seinfeld’s claims of a completely “mutual breakup” on his titular sitcom, seemed completely taboo, especially in football circles. But the early returns on Diggs have shown that Beane has somehow pulled it off. Teammates are certainly enjoying and reaping the benefits such an association has to offer.

“Diggs is so special that as I see him play, I just want to rip off my captain’s ‘C’ and throw it on his chest, because he’s a stud, man,” offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said of Diggs, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “He’s been grinding. He’s come in and he just continues to outperform, outshine and prove to us day in and day out that he’s a different guy and he’s our guy.”

To get through a tough opening stretch, Allen said that he turned to Diggs to get things rolling. The 19-yard scoring toss to Diggs was part of a stretch of 11 consecutive completions earned during the third quarter.

“I can say with a lot of confidence, I think I like any match-up with 1-4,” Allen said, referring to Diggs’ uniform number in a report from Cameron Hogwood of Sky Sports. “He’s one of the best, if not the best guy in the league, but I have supreme confidence in him. All he wants to do is help his team win football games. He’s a competitor and we have very similar mindsets. I love the guy. He goes out there and competes his tail off and I’m just super blessed that we traded for him.”

The Buffalo takeover carried on through some of Beane’s other choices that might’ve flown under the radar. Taron Johnson and Levi Wallace, both day three draft-related selections through the fourth round and the rookie free agency process back in 2018, earned crucial interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger. Johnson’s interception may well have changed the course of Bills history, giving them a permanent lead just before halftime. Another Allen touchdown pass went to another day three choice, Gabriel Davis. It was his sixth tally of the year and good for third amongst rookie receivers (behind Jefferson and Chase Claypool of Pittsburgh). Siran Neal (fifth-round, 2018) provided strong coverage when Johnson had to leave the game due to a head injury. Sixth-round rookie Tyler Bass booted two more field goals. Excepting a desperation 61-yarder at the end of the first half against Seattle, he hasn’t missed a triple in nearly two months.

With every selection, every acquisition playing a crucial part of the Bills’ success, it’s no secret that they’re inching toward the NFL’s elite and no secret why it won’t be another 13 years before NBC comes back to 1 Bills Drive. It creates a strong unit and a sense of camaraderie that isn’t present in some of the NFL’s other locales.

Such unity was perhaps best displayed even before the opening kickoff. In the pregame hype, Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster checked into his second job as a TikTok star by dancing on the Bills’ streaking buffalo at midfield, to the delight of the black and yellow nation. The stunt was noticed not only by SmartPhone viewers, but those who bore the emblem on their white helmets.

But the Bills opted to do their talking on the field. Only when the victory was sealed did they dance, doing so after Wallace took the ball away one last time. Wallace’s celebration was anything but solo…he was joined by his teammates, jovial in earning the first Sunday night victory at Bills Stadium since Moulds, Sam Cowart, and Marcellus Wiley took revenge for the Music City Miracle against Tennessee in the 2000 season opener.

“Seeing them dancing on our logo pre-game and seeing all that, that turns you up a little bit,” defender Jordan Poyer said, per Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com. “It kind of gives you a little second itch to come out and play with some extra fire. We were hyped up on the sideline, we had a big win. And we were just having fun.”

If this keeps up, the true fun hasn’t even begun yet. 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Is Kevin Holland the UFC’s next star?

Kevin Holland

This past weekend at UFC 256, Kevin Holland (21-5) took on Jacare Souza (26-9, 1 NC) on the PPV main card. It was a big step up for Holland who was looking to finish off 2020 having gone 5-0 inside the octagon.

Holland was originally supposed to face Jack Hermansson a couple of weeks ago. However, he tested positive for COVID and the UFC moved him back to face Jacare. I personally thought that Jacare would be able to get him down and give him problems in their fight.

At UFC 256, the opening moments looked like I was going to be right. Jacare was able to catch a low kick from Holland in the opening seconds and take him down. Once on the ground, Jacare was supposed to have a massive advantage.

One of the things that makes Holland so marketable is his talking inside the octagon. Jacare had him down and blasted him with a couple of massive shots. To those shots, Holland said to Jacare, “Those are great Jacare. I had a dream about this!”

To that, Jacare smiled back at Holland. However, he wasn’t smiling for very long. From his back, Holland whipped a right hand that hit Jacare on the forehead. The shot dazed Jacare and Holland got up and blasted him with a few additional shots to close the show.

The UFC’s next star?

Kevin Holland has put himself on the map here in 2020. The great thing for the UFC is the guy is extremely marketable. He has an incredibly fun fighting style and the guy knows how to sell himself.

Not only is he entertaining while inside the octagon, he puts on a complete show from the walkout to the fight. At UFC 256 he was rapping to the security guard as they walked to the cage. Then proceeded to dance with Jacare before the fight started.

Kevin Holland is knocking on the door of stardom at the moment. The guy just has that it factor about him. He has everything you want in a fighter that you want to market and he’s down to fight anyone at anytime.

After he defeated Jacare, he called out Khamzat Chimaev for a fight this Saturday night. Of course that fight won’t happen, but you have to love the energy from Kevin Holland. I’m very excited to see what 2021 has in store for the UFC middleweight.

Five relievers that make sense for the New York Yankees

New York Yankees, Archie Bradley

The New York Yankees‘ relief corps aren’t what they used to be. The 2018 and 2019 teams fielded “super bullpens”, filled with quality arms that gave manager Aaron Boone several weapons at the time of navigating through the last innings of a ballgame. Dellin Betances was around, Tommy Kahnle was healthy and effective, Adam Ottavino was lights-out, and arms like Jonathan Holder and Luis Cessa were decent. Zack Britton, Chad Green, and Aroldis Chapman were always reliable.

Now, only the last three names offer some semblance of reliability these days. Boone had to abuse their arms in this year’s postseason run, and it showed. They were outlasted by a deeper Rays team that had quietly assembled a fantastic bullpen.

These days, Betances is with another organization, Holder was non-tendered, Ottavino can’t be relied upon, and Kahnle is an injured free agent. Cessa is still around, but not quite on Britton, Chapman, and Green’s level.

The Yankees should consider these signings

It’s clear that the New York Yankees could use a few bullpen reinforcements. These five free agents might make sense:

  • Archie Bradley: The right-hander flamethrower could bring reliability and power to the bullpen. He has closing and high-leverage experience and is coming off a 2.95 ERA (2.59 FIP) in 18.1 innings with the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Brad Hand: Arguably the reliever that could make the most sense for the Yankees besides Bradley. Hand is still in his prime, at 30, and a proven star. He’s a lefty with a career 2.96 ERA in 386.2 frames as a reliever, with a phenomenal 11.38 K/9.
  • Blake Treinen: He had one of the most dominant relief seasons in history with the Oakland A’s in 2018, with a 0.78 ERA, a 1.82 FIP, and 11.20 K/9 in 80.1 innings. A bad 2019 landed him in the Dodgers this season, where he was respectable (3.86 ERA, 3.15 FIP) in 25.2 frames.
  • Andrew Chafin: He’s not a flashy name, but he’s a lefty that can get batters from both hands out. He’s a low-cost target who could pay big dividends and bring stability to a unit that badly needs it. Oh, and he misses bats, too: he has a 9.54 K/9 in his career.
  • Ryne Stanek: The 29-year old had a bad 2020 (7.20 ERA, 7.29 FIP) but was excellent in 2018 (2.98 ERA, 10.99 K/9 in 66.1 innings) and good in 2019 (3.97 ERA, 10.40 K/9 in 77.0 innings.) He is a nice project that shouldn’t cost the Yankees too much money.

BREAKING: Yoel Romero is heading to Bellator

Bellator MMA has made another big signing. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani has reported that the promotion has agreed to a multi-fight deal with The Soldier of God, Yoel Romero (13-5). Romero will be competing at light heavyweight.

This news came out of no where this morning. A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that the UFC had cut Romero. Romero still had a few fights left on his deal and his last fight had been for the middleweight title.

However, the UFC is going to be making some serious roster cuts between now and the end of the year. After he was released, Bellator came out and said that they were not interested in bringing in Yoel Romero. 

I believed that this was a big mistake because Romero is still one of the best fighters in the world. However, it appears that the promotion had a change of heart over the last week.

After initially saying that they wouldn’t be interested, Bellator changed their tune late last week. They began negotiating with Romero and they came to a deal. The Soldier of God is officially heading for Bellator’s light heavyweight division.

Romero in Bellator

Yoel Romero is the third addition to Bellator’s light heavyweight division in 2020 of fighters who were under contract with the UFC. Corey Anderson parted ways with the UFC despite having fights left on his deal to sign with Bellator.

Last week, Anthony Johnson parted ways with the UFC with fights left on his deal and signed with Bellator. Now, Romero is doing the same thing. While the UFC was comfortable letting these guys go, they’ve bulstered the light heavyweight division of the competition.

I’m extremely interested in seeing Romero compete at light heavyweight. For years, Romero has struggled to get down to 185 pounds. I’ve always been curious to see how he would do when he didn’t have to cut weight.

We are going to get to see that in Bellator. It’s a big move for the promotion and the right move. I’m glad they decided to reevaluate the situation and go after Romero after initially saying they would not.

The New York Jets are proving Jamal Adams right after latest loss

New York Jets, Jamal Adams

In their latest defeat, the most one-sided in the Adam Gase era, the New York Jets fulfilled their former star’s most damning declaration.

Sue Bird, Alysha Clark, Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart, and the rest of the defending WNBA champions were nowhere to be found in the spectator-free settings of Lumen Field on Sunday late afternoon. Yet, the New York Jets were forced to deal with a new brand of Seattle Storm.

Metropolitan football fans, especially those of the green variety, are no doubt used to gridiron disappointment at this time of the year, but the visit to the Emerald City set new standards for futility. In a day and age of glorified offense, the Jets put a grand total of 13 yards over the final 30 minutes. Had the Seahawks not mercifully pulled their starters in the game’s latter stages, that number could’ve well been in the red, as 28 of those yards came on a meaningless final drive. The ensuing final deficit of 40-3 was also the worst loss overseen by Adam Gase in his two years at the helm. Gase’s tenure has seen its share of unique achievements, albeit ones the Jets never wanted to see fulfilled. Seattle, for example, dealt the Jets (0-13) their 13th consecutive loss, a landmark even Rich Kotite’s doomed bunch managed to avoid.

The quaddrennial matchup with the Seahawks also carried the subplot of the Jets’ reunion with Jamal Adams, who spares no opportunity to talk about just how dreary things got for him as rare beacon of hope in the New York football realm. Adams made the game memorable with his own bit of history, as a first-half sack of Sam Darnold allowed him to take hold of the NFL’s single-season record for sacks by a defensive back (8.5), a record he came tantalizingly close to in his final season in green. Adams was even able to make up for a dropped interception that could’ve led to a touchdown in the first half, a mishap long forgotten when all was said and done.

The historic takedown was part of a showcase for former Jets in the Pacific Northwest, as Damon Harrison, Jason Myers, and Brandon Shell all played major roles in the victory. Even former franchise quarterback Geno Smith came in to complete 4-of-5 passes for 33 yards against a beleaguered Jets defense after Russell Wilson beat them for four touchdown passes.

Adams has spared no opportunity to speak negatively about his time of New York, but was congenial to his former comrades after the final seconds ticked away. He notable shared a hug with Gase, who told the safety to “go get one”, referring to a Super Bowl, according to Adams himself.

“(Gase) told me to go get one. He was talking about a Super Bowl,” Adams said of the exchange, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “A lot of the guys came up to us and I don’t want to blow our guys’ heads up or myself, which I’m not, but they were just saying that we have a great team. And we’ve always believed in that. But he just congratulated me, wished me well, told me to stay healthy.”

Seattle (9-4) currently holds the top NFC wild-card spot and is engaged in a battle with the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC West division title. It’s a stark contrast to his seasons in green, where playoff opportunities were often closed before Halloween, but Adams nonetheless had some friendly words toward his former employers in his postgame statements.

“At the end of the day, I don’t have any hate towards, not even just Gase, toward the organization,” Adams said in another report from Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “Everybody just had different views. We had to move different. We had to take a different leap. Obviously the trade happened and I’m happy to be here. I wish those guys nothing but the best, I really do. I mean that. I know a lot of Jets fans don’t really think I’m coming from the heart, but I really am. I’m thankful for my time over there because I don’t take it for granted.”

Adams’ kind words and well wishes to the Jets at the conclusion of an interconference shellacking could be closure of sorts for a Jets team that had some trouble moving on the early going (the departed Gregg Williams’ claim that Adams would get “bored” in Seattle seems particularly silly). But Sunday’s game showed more or less proved one of Adams’ most damning comments about the Jets correct.

“They do not want to win.” 

It was clear long before Sunday’s kickoff that Adams had the last laugh in the exchange between the two sides, if only because Adams has a chance to play for a Super Bowl while the Jets have been reshuffling their draft board since late September. But, in their futility, the Jets were given a macabre silver lining: the final hours of the woebegone 2020 season gave them a chance to not only conduct free research and development for 2021 and beyond, but they had a chance to play with relative reckless abandon. Free from the relative “burden” of playoff positioning, the Jets could use whatever means necessary to get a win. Sure, it would anger the cult of the No. 1 pick, a fanatical gathering dedicated to losing for the greater good of the ongoing “endeavor for Trevor (Lawrence)”, but former Jets boss Herm Edwards said it best when he declared “you play to win the game”.

Wins themselves, as the Jets have proven time and time again, might be a little too much to ask for at this point in time with the Jets, but they’ve shown they’re capable of strong efforts. This was a team that was, after all, one poorly-timed blitz away from more or less removing the Las Vegas Raiders from the playoff conversation as little as a weekend ago. Fight and resiliency should’ve been words ingrained in the locker room, etched into whiteboards through the facility.

Alas for New York, those qualities never came during their stay at Lumen Field. A week after Ty Johnson and Josh Adams united for 178 yards on the ground against Las Vegas (the Jets’ best rushing game in over two calendar years), Gase resumed his tradition of giving carries to a 37-year-old Frank Gore while the game was still manageable. As the Seahawks’ lead inflated, the Jets had opportunities to cut into their deficit, but opted for Sergio Castillo field goals instead (Castillo’s 1-for-4 day only adding to the Jets’ plight). Granted one last opportunity to escape from Seattle with a touchdown on the final drive, mostly overseen by the Seahawks’ defensive understudies, the Jets opted to instead run the clock out.

All of this has been overseen by Gase, whose New York ledger drops to 7-22, good for a .241 win percentage that’s better than only Kotite amongst Jets coaches who earned at least one full year at the helm. Gase remains on the New York sidelines, outlasting not only several of his NFL contemporaries, but also outlasting accomplished veterans like Le’Veon Bell, Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Pierre Desir, and Williams.

Does that sound like a team that’s trying to win games?

Again, no one was expecting a green miracle from the Jets, but the lackadaisical manner in how they’re conducting themselves is troubling from many standpoints. They could, for example, gain clarity on their 2021 run game through Johnson and Adams, but opt instead to give things off to Gore, whose retirement approaches. There are certainly players who are bucking the trend of inactivity…SportsCenter Top 10 mainstay Marcus Maye and backfield invader Folorunso Fatikasi are certainly doing their part…but the Jets are corrupting both their present and future through their modern struggles. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the top overall pick, be it Lawrence, Justin Fields, or an unknown third party.

But the best thing the Jets can do over these last few weeks is glean as many positives as they can before the year lets out while gaining clarity for their future. They’re proving Adams’ propehcy correct. At this point, the Jets look like a team that’s given up on the idea of winning not just in the present, but in the future as well. That needs to change, not even to prove that Adams wrong…that shouldn’t be anywhere near their list of concerns. It’s a matter of personal pride, a desire to change the course of this star-crossed franchise moving forward. That all starts with hanging your head high, going all out in the most dire of situations. The Jets are there, but couldn’t be lower as the season draws to a close.

The Jets seem well-destined to join the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns in the unholy brotherhood of 16-game imperfection. At this point, sympathy can be garnered. They’re overmatched and ready to make changes. The least they can do is make it look like they’re trying to avoid such a fate.

The only scary part for Adams? He and the Seahawks need some help from the Jets. New York’s trek of futility carries on next weekend against another contending foe, battling none other than the Rams at SoFi Stadium next Sunday afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags