New York Giants: Joe Judge has found promising hire for O-line coach

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants begun the offseason with a need to find an offensive line coach, but that need won’t stay around for long. According to a report from Ian Rapoport, the team has found their candidate and is expected to hire Rob Sale for the position. Sale is currently the offensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette, but has career experience at more relevant schools at the college level.

Many Giants fans are already asking the important question – is Sale good for the job? While it’s hard to judge the specifics of a position coach with just publicly available info, since position coaching involves many behind the scenes things such as teaching technique to players, we can look back at Sale’s career history and figure out some things about why the Giants might have hired him.

He was at the University of Alabama from 2007 as a strength and conditioning assistant and offensive analyst, before moving on to take up better roles elsewhere. In 2015, he served as the offensive line coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, one of the strongest teams in the SEC.

Joe Judge, of course, has his own ties to Alabama. He received a good word of recommendation from Nick Saban when he joined the Giants. And players who have played under both head coaches have said there’s some similarities between them.

Judge appears to have carried over some Alabama DNA to the Giants organization, and this hire is bringing in someone else that spent time there and can already work in a similar system. Considering the way things ended with last season’s first O-line coach, Marc Colombo, that better fit should be a big plus for this hiring and gives reason to be optimistic.

NASCAR Cup Series Preview 2021: Richard Petty Motorsports

After ending his Joe Gibbs tenure on a strong note, Erik Jones is ready to reboot his NASCAR Cup Series career in the iconic No. 43.

2021 Richard Petty Motorsports Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Erik Jones 43 Jerry Baxter Armor All/RP Funding/US Air Force/McDonald’s

History

What is now known as RPM began as championship crew chief Ray Evernham’s race team in 2001. The team was originally a merger of three formerly successful teams (Evernham Motorsports, Petty Enterprises, Robert Yates Racing) that had seen their prosperous times end. Today, Richard “The King ” Petty continues to run the operation alongside New York-based millionaire Andrew Murstein. It has been a single-car team since 2016, fielding Petty’s iconic No. 43 car, which was first run by Petty in 1959. After his retirement in 1992, Petty continued to run his team in an ownership role.

Ever since Petty earned his record 200th and final Cup Series win in Daytona’s summer event in 1984 (the first NASCAR race with a sitting U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, in attendance), the No. 43 has endured some hard times, despite some talented names behind the wheel. Bubba Wallace was the most recent entrant, running the past three full seasons after prior occupants included John Andretti, former Cup champion Bobby Labonte, and Aric Almirola. The 43 last went to victory lane in 2014, when Almirola won a rain-shortened race at Daytona. RPM’s last victory in a race that went the distance was when Andretti won at Martinsville in 1999. With Wallace moving on to new endeavors with Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin, Jones comes over after four seasons as Hamlin’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing.

2020 in Review

With Wallace behind the wheel, the 43 car finished 22nd in the final 2020 standings, its best final posting since Almirola came home 17th in 2015. His best finish was a fifth in, once again, the Daytona summer event.

As for Jones, things failed to pan out in Gibbs’ No. 20 Toyota after strong runs at both the Xfinity and Truck levels (winning the 2015 title at the latter level). He failed to win a race after win one in both 2018 and 2019 and his 13 top tens were his worst tally since entering full-time Cup racing in 2017. Despite his regular season struggles, Jones built momentum in the early stages of the playoffs. Over the first six postseason races, Jones earned four finishes amongst the top quartet, including a runner-up tally at Talladega. It allowed him to take 17th place in the final standings, best amongst the non-playoff drivers. He did take home the win at the Busch Clash, the season-opening exhibition at Daytona.

Meet the Driver

Erik Jones

Experience: 5th full season
Career Cup Victories: 2 (last: summer Darlington, 2019)
2020 finish: 17th
Best standings finish: 15th (2018)

Jones knows what it’s like to win on NASCAR’s national levels, having won a pair at the Cup level and 16 at the Xfinity and Truck Series. Though things didn’t work out in Gibbs equipment, Jones is confident he can take lessons from his days in the 20 into his new role at RPM.

“You just have to take in the opportunity that it was, what that team did to be successful and try to move on from that and learn from that,” Jones said this week. “A lot of it has just been trying to figure out, on my end, what I can bring to the table over at RPM to try to continue to make them better. A lot of that is just me being really in the trenches with those guys. I feel like I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the shop and we’ve already been on the simulator quite a bit, just trying to get through stuff and learn what I want in a race car.”

One adjustment for Jones will be moving from the elite shop at Gibbs to the single-car setup at RPM. He’s confident that a combination of his own talents and the strides RPM has made over the past few seasons will lead to a successful merger.

“RPM has been doing a lot over the last few years to really strengthen their organization and I think it’s showing in performance, too,” Jones noted. “The trend is going in the right direction and, obviously, we want to keep it going that way this year, keep going to a better points finish, and continue to get more and more competitive on-track. Overall, I think there’s a great opportunity.”

Outlook

Jones believes that RPM is capable of fielding a top 20 car, a title it hasn’t held since Almirola’s aforementioned 2015 efforts. But Jones might be ready to swipe a playoff spot at Daytona or Talladega. The former was the site of his first victory in 2018 and he earned top-five finishes in each visit to Alabama. With both Jones and Petty looking to reintroduce themselves to victory lane, they’re sure to be one of the most intriguing stories of opening events at the World Center of Racing. Jones will first look to defend his Clash title on Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET, FS1), though this edition will be held on the track’s road course.

Geoff Magliocchettis is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Rangers fall short in a defensive struggle against the Islanders

In a hard-fought, defensive-minded game, the New York Rangers came up just a bit short against their cross-town rivals, the New York Islanders by the score of 2-0.

The game was scoreless after two periods but two third-period goals within a span of two minutes spelled doom for the Blueshirts.

Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots on the night in earning his third shutout of the season, two of which have come against the Rangers. He became the first Islanders goaltender to have two shutouts in a season against the Blueshirts.

The Rangers had an excellent chance to score in the third period when Artemi Panarin had a breakaway courtesy of a K’Andre Miller pass but was stopped by Varlamov.

Igor Sheskerkin had 28 saves in the loss.

After the game, Chris Kreider summed up the loss in his Zoom conference by saying: “Any time you lose, it’s frustrating. When you feel like you defended pretty well for the entirety of the night, and you give up 30 seconds or a minute of kind of getting away from your structure and the puck ends up in the back of the net. We have got to play a full 60, no matter who we are playing in our division.”

Head coach David Quinn echoed those sentiments in his post-game Zoom conference. “I didn’t think we played fast enough offensively,” Quinn said. “We really allowed them to stay in their structure, which they are very good at. I thought we had some great chances in the third period and we just couldn’t capitalize.”

The Rangers will host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, in a nationally broadcasted game on NBCSN, The Rangers are in the middle of an eight-game homestand, their longest of the season. This was made possible by several changes to the NHL schedule because of COVID-19.

 

 

 

 

BKFC bet big on Paige VanZant and lost

This past Friday at BKFC 16, Paige VanZant (0-1) made her highly anticipated Bare Knuckle debut. PVZ saw her UFC contract come to a close in 2020 and was one of the most high profiled free agents last year.

Bellator and BKFC battled it out to get her to sign. Ultimately, VanZant made the surprising decision to sign with Bare Knuckle. The deal supposedly pays her ten times more per fight than she was making with the UFC. Worth noting, she was making $40,000 to show, $40,000 to win with the UFC.

The word is that VanZant would be bringing home close to a million dollars per fight with BKFC. Bare Knuckle has been trying to get more mainstream and they saw PVZ as a golden opportunity and they didn’t let it pass them by.

I have to say, I completely agree with their thought process. VanZant has amassed a big following on social media over the past few years. The former UFC fighter has also been featured in Sports Illustrated’s Swim Suit edition.

BKFC saw VanZant as an opportunity to make Bare Knuckle more mainstream. However, it would require PVZ doing well fighting for them. They gave her Britain Hart (2-2) in her debut and it didn’t go well on Friday night.

What’s next after BKFC 16?

I said in my preview that BKFC wasn’t doing VanZant any favors in her first fight. While Hart was just 1-2 in Bare Knuckle, she had eleven professional boxing matches. The girl knows how to throw her hands.

Meanwhile VanZant was always known more for her kicks than her punches when it came to striking in the UFC. Now, VanZant is the better athlete and she’s more explosive which is why I ultimately picked her to win in a razor close fight.

On Friday night, we saw VanZant show off that explosiveness in the fifth round. However, at that point it was a little too late. Britain Hart completely flustered PVZ for the first four rounds at BKFC 16.

Her pure boxing skills gave VanZant trouble and as a result, all three judges awarded Hart the first four rounds on the cards. The only round that VanZant ended up winning was the fifth and final round.

Had VanZant won, BKFC would have likely given her a shot against Bec Rawlings (3-0). Rawlings is the BKFC flyweight champion and she has history with VanZant. PVZ defeated Rawlings back in the UFC so that could’ve led to a big rematch in Bare Knuckle.

However, it was not meant to be. Now, BKFC has to figure out what to do with VanZant next. A likely scenario could be an immediate rematch with Hart or they give her a gimme fight to get her in the win column. Either way, Friday night didn’t go as planned for VanZant or Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.

New York Giants: Kyle Pitts not the only tight end draft choice to consider

New York Giants, Brevin Jordan

The New York Giants are focusing on improving their offense this offseason. Heading into the 2020 regular season, fans were fairly optimistic about the future of the Giants’ offense. There was a lot of excitement surrounding players such as Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, and Evan Engram.

Unfortunately, Barkley tore his ACL in Week 2 and missed most of the season. Darius Slayton struggled to stand out consistently and seems to have fallen into a secondary wide receiver role. Tight end Evan Engram was expected to have a big breakout season. This was the first year where Evan Engram was able to stay healthy and play in all sixteen games. Unfortunately, Engram did not break through the ceiling as most fans expected him to.

Evan’s role expanded significantly in 2020. He was often the first read and primary target in Jason Garrett’s play calls. Engram was targeted 109 times this season. He only found the end zone twice this year, though, and had a total of 11 drops on the year. Six passes that targeted Engram were intercepted this year and he lost a fumble.

Evan Engram was a bad-play magnet this past season. Of course, he still flashed his potential with some incredible performances, like in Week 12 against the Bengals where he totaled 129 receiving yards. But fans are frustrated with the Giants’ offensive ineptitude and aggravated with Evan Engram’s inconsistent and sometimes damaging performances. This has led many fans and analysts alike to mock stud UF tight end, Kyle Pitts, to the Giants with the eleventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

But how likely is it that the Giants actually draft a tight end in the first round and cast Evan Engram aside? It might not be a realistic possibility, though it would be one exciting draft selection. However, there are a couple of other tight end options that the Giants might consider further in the second or third rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Pat Freiermuth

If it were not for Kyle Pitts’s breakout 2020 season, it is highly likely that Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth would have been the top-ranked tight end on the 2021 NFL Draft board. Couple Pitts’s breakout with Freiermuth’s injury-riddled 2020 season, and now analysts are looking at the Penn State product as a second-round lock.

The ceiling is high for Pat Freiermuth. He has drawn comparisons to legendary tight end Rob Gronkowski. Pat even sports the nickname “Baby Gronk” for his violent playing style in college and menacing physical demeanor. In 2018 and 2019, Freiermuth scored a combined total of 15 touchdowns. He was a scoring machine in those seasons and was continuing his career with another impressive season in 2020 before it was cut short.

Probably Pat Freiermuth’s biggest red flag is his injury history. Pat injured his shoulder four games into the 2020 season. The injury required surgery and he missed the rest of the season. This injury has hurt Freiermuth’s draft stock. But this injury and draft stock tumble could make Pat Freiermuth an option for the Giants in the second round.

Brevin Jordan

Another tight end option that could be a target for the Giants in the third or fourth round is Brevin Jordan from Miami. Brevin Jordan is an athletic tight end that is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Jordan has speed and agility that makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers in man coverage.

Brevin Jordan is another player that had a breakout 2020 season. This past year, Brevin established himself as a true offensive weapon for Miami. The U’s tight end racked up 576 yards and 7 touchdowns on 38 receptions through eight games this season.

With the athleticism that Brevin possesses, he could line up in a variety of alignments in the NFL. Jordan could be used in a wide receiver role, being more of a versatile tight end than the likes of Pat Freiermuth, who projects as an in-line tight end. This versatility, though, could be a reason for the Giants to pass up on Brevin Jordan.

Brevin Jordan is a weapon, which the Giants need. But he might be a weapon a little too similar to the one they currently have at his position. Evan Engram is very much an athletic, matchup-nightmare tight end, like Brevin Jordan. Having two players with the same playing style might not be effective (especially when fans have soured on Engram’s playing style). But if the Giants move on from Engram but like this style of tight end, Brevin Jordan is an exciting mid-round option to consider.

NASCAR Cup Series Preview 2021: Wood Brothers Racing

Matt DiBenedetto’s immediate NASCAR future is secure. But such temporary stability could set the tone for the rest of his NASCAR career.

2021 Wood Brothers Racing Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Matt DiBenedetto 21 Greg Erwin Motorcraft/Menards/Quick Lane

History

Founded by brothers Leonard and the late Glen, Wood Brothers Racing has been a NASCAR Cup Series staple since the 1950s. Though the team has yet to secure an elusive championship, some of auto racing’s most illustrious, most accomplished names have piloted their trademark No. 21 Ford. Winners with the Woods include Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, David Pearson, Neil Bonnett, and Dale Jarrett. The team has accrued 99 NASCAR Cup Series victories, the last coming with Ryan Blaney in 2017. Among that tally is five wins at the Daytona 500, with the most recent in that slot being Trevor Bayne’s upset win in the 2011 edition. Only Petty Enterprises and Hendrick Motorsports have won more. Though the team has struggled in modern times, Blaney and current driver Matt DiBenedetto have brought them back into contention. Blaney’s victory, earned at Pocono, was the first Wood win at a non-superspeedway race since 2001 (Elliott Sadler at Bristol) while DiBenedetto was the first non-Blaney driver to earn double-digit top tens finishes (11) since Michael Waltrip in 1996. The team now holds a technical alliance with Team Penske, where Blaney currently drives the No. 12 Ford.

2020 in Review

Taking over the No. 21 from a retiring Paul Menard, DiBenedetto continued his successful climb through the cutthroat world of the Cup Series after placing the No. 95 Toyota at defunct Leavine Family Racing in the top ten seven times during the 2019 campaign. The 11 top tens were a career-best for the driver affectionately referred to as “Matty D”, who posted runner-up finishes in both Las Vegas events, as well as a third at Kentucky. Though a win proved elusive once more, DiBenedetto reached the NASCAR playoffs for the first time in his career, allowing him to come home 13th in the final standings…yet another career-best. DiBenedetto is still seeking his first NASCAR victory, though he did the All-Star Open at Bristol over the summer to gain entry into the exhibition’s main event. He nearly earned that victory at Talladega’s fall event, but Denny Hamlin stole the trophy while DiBenedetto’s runner-up finish was erased due to a controversial penalty (driving below the yellow line) relegating him to 21st.

Though his playoff showing ended rather quickly, DiBenedetto was signed to a one-year extension by the Woods, though he will vacate the ride next season to make room for Penske developmental driver and defending Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric.

Meet the Driver

Matt DiBenedetto

Experience: 7th season
Career Cup Victories: 0
2020 finish: 13th
Best standings finish: 13th (2020)

It’s not surprising that DiBenedetto has gained a strong following during his NASCAR career. Rarely granted opportunities in strong equipment..save for seven races in Joe Gibbs’ Nationwide (now Xfinity) program in 2009-10…DiBenedetto has made the most of his chances in underfunded rides. He was responsible for defunct BK Racing’s best finish (6th at Bristol in 2016) and currently owns the lone top-ten Go Fas Racing’s No. 32 has achieved at a non-superspeedway (8th at Indianapolis in 2017). During the 2019 Bristol summer race, the victorious Hamlin said he was “sorry” for passing DiBenedetto’s No. 95 with 12 laps to go.

DiBenedetto has said the the confidence built over the past few seasons has offset the uncertainty looming after 2021.

“We’re ready as a team,” DiBenedetto said in preparation for Daytona. “The first bit of last year I don’t think we were ready to win because we had a lot to learn, we had a lot to learn about each other, and then it finally clicked like I was talking about and then I felt like we were ready…The best car doesn’t always win, so I think we are ready to put ourselves in position consistently to win and I think that’s how it’s gonna come for us and I feel like this year is definitely our year.”

Adding to DiBenedetto’s confidence is his strong finish to 2020. Had the Talladega runner-up posting remained, his average finish over the last seven races would’ve been 9.1.

Outlook

The time appears to be now for DiBenedetto. It might be a crushing hit for the No. 21 that one of the Bristol events has been bestowed the unpredictability of dirt, but there’s enough momentum with his team to get things rolling on a more consistent basis. It’s great that DiBenedetto worked his way into the playoffs last year (the second time a WBR vehicle made it), but he may need to both earn that elusive victory and advance a playoff round to maintain the decent equipment he’s working with. Since the No. 21 is being turned over to Cindric next year, this season serves as a de facto 36-race elevator pitch for Matty D.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

 

What’s next for Diego Ferreira after UFC Vegas 18 loss?

One of the more intriguing matchups this past weekend at UFC Vegas 18 was the lightweight battle between Diego Ferreira (17-3) and Beneil Dariush (20-4-1). Both men carried winning streaks into the cage of at least five on Saturday night.

These two had previously met back at UFC 179 in 2014. That night, Dariush was able to pickup the unanimous decision victory. After that initial fight, Ferreira would go on to lose to Dustin Poirier.

However, after that loss to Poirier, Ferreira won six straight fights heading into Saturday’s rematch. That winning streak found him ranked tenth in the UFC‘s lightweight rankings. A lot of money was coming in on Ferreira prior to Saturday night.

However, the fight would go very similarly to the first matchup. While Ferreira did have some success in the fight, he was mainly neutralized by Beneil Dariush. Dariush used his superior grappling to get timely takedowns which bagged him the rounds that he needed.

After three rounds, the two went to the scorecards at UFC Vegas 18. While it seemed clear to most that Dariush won the fight, the judges were split. However, ultimately the right call was made and Dariush picked up his second victory over Diego Ferreira.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 18?

As mentioned, this loss at UFC Vegas 18 snapped a six-fight win streak for Diego Ferreira. Despite the winning streak, there had been one knock on Ferreira over the last six years and that was his activity level.

Ferreira’s loss to Dustin Poirier came back in 2015. Since the start of 2016, Ferreira has only competed in the UFC seven times which means he’s barely averaging more than one fight per year. Ferreira has dealt with injuries, but he needs to become more active.

He just turned 36 years old and if he has any title aspirations in the UFC’s lightweight division, he needs to get more active. From here, the promotion has a couple of options, but I believe they’ll match him up with someone in the top 15.

Two options for Ferreira would be Kevin Lee (18-6) and Gregor Gillespie (13-1). Both of these contenders rank outside the top ten, but they are still in the top 15. Both are also coming off of losses just like Ferreira. I believe the UFC could matchup Ferreira with either of these contenders and it’d make for a great fight.

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Offensive line

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

No matter who plays quarterback for the New York Jets in 2021, they’re going to need someone blocking for them.

The Position: Offensive Line
On the Roster: Greg Van Roten, Conor McDermott, Connor McGovern, Jimmy Murray, Mekhi Becton, Cameron Clark, Chuma Edoga, George Fant, Alex Lewis
Free Agents: Pat Elflein, Josh Andrews
Reserve/Future: N/A

If Joe Douglas made one thing clear upon taking the New York Jets’ general manager spot, it was that he was going to work on an offensive line that Mike Maccagnan mostly neglected.

Save for choosing Chuma Edoga with what became the final day two pick of his tenure, Maccagan avoided building the line with his early selections. Prior to Maccagan using one of his final picks on Chuma Edoga in 2019’s third round, Brian Winters was the last blocker chosen within the draft’s first three sessions in 2013. The last premiere choices were the legendary D’Brickashaw Ferguson/Nick Mangold haul during the 2006 selections.

Once Douglas got to work in the late stages of summer 2019, he quickly let everyone know that the Jets were under management by getting to work on the line. He sent a late draft pick to Baltimore to bring in Alex Lewis and convinced Carolina mainstay Ryan Kalil to delay his retirement. While the results have been mixed…the Kalil experiment blew up and Lewis has been in and out of the starting lineup…Douglas had a plan to build the offense up.

He kept things up last season, as Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant joined the team through free agency. During his first draft, Douglas bypassed name-brand receivers like Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson to take Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton. The veterans struggled, but Douglas appears to have chosen a keeper in Becton, who served as a rare silver lining during his debut campaign. Douglas didn’t stop there, taking Charlotte football’s longest-tenured player Cameron Clarke with the last of three fourth-round picks.

Becton appears to be a long-term asset in New York, but many of the deals have opt-outs after a single year. In fact, the only free agent in the entire 2020 free agency class with a dedication beyond last season is Connor McGovern. Some cap saving moves…the release of George Fant would save the team over $5 million, for example…may lead the Jets to a complete retooling of their blocking for the second straight season…with the exception of Becton at the blind side, of course.

Questions plague the Jets’ quarterback situation, as many question whether Sam Darnold will get a fourth year in the franchise thrower role. But no matter who’s throwing, the quarterback’s endeavors will be meaningless if he has no protection. There’s a long way to go to finish building the wall.

Free Agents-to-be 

G Josh Andrews

Andrews was a career-long depth man who earned a Super Bowl ring with Douglas while serving on Philadelphia’s practice squad. He was initially part of the final training camp cuts, but he returned to partake in all but one game. He even started four, including the final three when Van Roten went down, the first starts of his career.

G Pat Elflein 

Bid farewell from Minnesota in November, Elflein was a bit of a peace offering for Adam Gase when the departed head coach Adam Gase butted heads. Since Lewis has been a rare consistent prescience in the Jets’ blocking corps, it’s likely that Elflein will likely ship off in search of new opportunities.

Will They Draft?

It’s a very strong possibility. Douglas knows the importance of picking a lineman and likely won’t hesitate to use an early pick to find either an immediate contributor or a depth option that could raise the heat on any returnees. If the Jets resolve their quarterback situation prior to the draft, many have pegged Oregon standout Penei Sewell to at No. 2. Sewell skipped the entire 2020 campaign but his breakthrough sophomore showing a season prior will not be soon forgotten. But with Sewell lining in the same blindspot as Becton, the Jets will likely seek help on the right side. Thus, choosing Texas’ Sam Cosmi or the versatile Rashawn Slater of Northwestern with the Seattle pick at No. 23 or their regularly scheduled second-round choice at No. 34 seems a lot more realistic.

Veteran Possibilities

G Joe Thuney, New England

Lewis has been serviceable at left guard, but if Thuney presents himself, the Jets would likely be in the running. The Jets targeted Thuney during the last free agency period, but the Patriots put the franchise tag on him. It’s likely that Thuney is going to look for some long-term stability this time around, and the Jets certainly have the cap space to afford such a premier blocking talent.

G Brandon Scherff, Washington

Over the past few tumultuous seasons of Washington football, Scherff has been a rare consistent silver lining…when he plays, that is. The four-time Pro Bowler hasn’t played a full season since his sophomore season back in 2016 but has been a dominant prescience in the nation’s capital. Bringing him in would be the true definition of a high-risk/high-reward situation.

T Daryl Williams, Buffalo

Signed to a relatively cheap one-year deal as a depth option, Williams came up big for the Bills when injuries hit their blocking corps, namely Cody Ford. He partook in over 95 percent of Buffalo’s offensive snaps and became a generally reliable piece alongside fellow free agent Jon Feliciano on the right side. A former All-Pro, Williams will likely seek a bigger contract this time around, but he can be looked upon as not only a solid contributor but as a provider of veteran guidance the Jets desperately need.

Outlook

A poor offensive line can sink even the most potent of offenses. Look no further than what happened to the Kansas City Chiefs during Sunday’s Super Bowl festivities. With Eric Fisher out, Patrick Mahomes was left running for his life constantly thanks to a relentless Tampa Bay rush ordered by Todd Bowles. The onslaught undoubtedly played a factor in the Chiefs’ eventual 31-9 defeat. New York, of course, is miles further from returning to the Super Bowl, so far away that the journey is probably going to take several years. The process should with building up the blocking. Draft Becton was a good start, and it certainly seems like the Louisville product is here to stay. But there’s a long, long way to go when it comes to protecting the quarterback on a reliable basis. Not matter who’s under center, the Jets need to bolster the wall in front of him. Douglas has gotten off to a good start in filling this dire need. Further change is undoubtedly coming, but whether it’s through the draft or free agency remains to be seen.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Will Michael Johnson get cut after UFC Vegas 18 loss?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 18, Michael Johnson (19-17) took on Clay Guida (36-20) on the main card. This matchup was a highly anticipated clash between two veterans with a ton of experience inside the octagon.

For Michael Johnson, he believed his career was on the line at UFC Vegas 18. In pre-fight interviews, Johnson alluded to the fact that he was on a three-fight losing streak heading into Saturday.

With the promotion making recent cuts, Johnson knew he needed a win to keep his spot with the promotion. When the opening round started, Johnson came out strong. His shots had good pop on them and his speed looked better than it had in previous fights.

Simply put, Johnson looked prepared for UFC Vegas 18. However, after controlling the first part of the first round, Johnson was caught with some big right hands from Clay Guida. They seemed to bother his left eye and that was really where the fight turned for Johnson.

After his opening round success, the rest of the fight was controlled by Clay Guida. The Carpenter’s pressure was relentless and Johnson couldn’t get any space to work. In the end, all three judges gave all three rounds to Guida. Michael Johnson suffered his fourth straight loss in the UFC on Saturday.

Will the UFC cut Michael Johnson?

I mentioned this in my preview of UFC Vegas 18, but Michael Johnson has had a career that just makes you shake your head. The high points of his career alone would lead you to believe he’s one of the best lightweights in the world.

Johnson defeated Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza by decision. He also holds a knockout win over Dustin Poirier who is widely considered to be the best lightweight on the planet not named Khabib Nurmagomedov.

However, outside of those wins, it’s been a lot of disappointment for Michael Johnson in the UFC. A ton of fights were lost in which he should have easily won. With the talent and raw skills Johnson has, he should be much better than 19-17.

The harsh reality is I think this is where Johnson’s UFC run ends. Johnson is getting ready to turn 35 and with four straight losses, I’m expecting the promotion to release him after his loss to Clay Guida.

Now, with Johnson’s history, I would expect another promotion to pick him up rather quickly. However, given the way the UFC is operating as of late, I think Michael Johnson will be getting his walking papers. Time will tell if that comes to fruition.

MLB reportedly finalizing revised Grapefruit League schedule, placing teams in separate “pods”

There are only nine days left until pitchers and catchers report to start warming up those arms in preparation for the 2021 MLB spring training. After the delayed start last season due to COVID-19 and an ugly spat between the league and the players’ union, the expectation this time is that spring training goes as planned, with enhanced safety protocols.

As it turns out, and as several reporters explained on Monday morning, MLB is in the process of finalizing a revised Grapefruit League schedule. The intention of this is to minimize the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak as much as possible.

Teams will be placed in separate pods on East and West coasts of Florida, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The West coast teams in Florida will play 28 games, while the East coast teams in the state will play 24 games and four additional intrasquad matchups to make up for the missing four games.

MLB is trying to start with the right foot

If the MLB revised spring training schedule ends up happening, the New York Yankees would play lots of games against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Detroit Tigers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and other East coast teams, as Bryan Hoch explains.

MLB owners recently approached the MLB players association with a plan to play 154 games and a delayed start of the season (in late April) but the union turned it down, even though it included pay for the whole 162 games.

After the players rejected the proposal, MLB released a statement that confirmed the season is going to start as originally planned.

“We are moving forward and instructing our Clubs to report for an on-time start to Spring Training and the Championship Season, subject to reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols,” the statement read.

Will MLB achieve its objective of completing the 2021 season without any complications due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?