New York Giants: Former Manning backup Alex Tanney retires after 9 years

New York Giants, Javon Leake

The backup quarterbacks don’t make many headlines in the NFL, but former New York Giants backup Alex Tanney is in the news right now for a different reason than usual – retirement. He announced his retirement on Tuesday following a nine year NFL career where he will be most known to Giants fans as being the backup to Eli Manning for a period.

Tanney only managed to get 15 pass attempts across a couple of games during his career. But one of those games saw him fill in during Eli Manning’s final appearance. He also finishes with one touchdown pass during that career.

The backup QB would also add depth to the position for the Giants behind Daniel Jones once the Giants drafted Jones at number four overall. But he would lose out on the backup job after Eli Manning had moved on and the Giants brought in Colt McCoy to compete for the backup job.

Tanney was released from the Giants in September but made it back to the team on the practice squad the following December. As the Giants finished up their season in January, Tanney was one of the players that signed a reserve/future contract with the team – but apparently has decided that retirement is a better option than coming back and going through the grind of competing another year.

While it might seem like Tanney didn’t do much in the NFL, his nine years is impressive enough considering where he came from. The quarterback started off at Monmouth College, a Division III school, and ended up playing in the NFL and backing up a Hall of Fame quarterback. Not the worst outcome to a career by far.

NASCAR: Kyle Busch steals exhibition win in wild Busch Clash finish

A last-lap get-together between Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney allowed Kyle Busch to steal the NASCAR Cup Series’ season-opening exhibition.

Kyle Busch took advantage of chaos on the final lap of the NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Busch Clash exhibition at Daytona International Speedway’s road course on Tuesday night, stealing the opening victory when Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney made contact in the final turn.

Busch was running third in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota when Elliott tried to take the win from his close friend Blaney got together toward the final turn. With the cars ahead of him disabled, the two-time Cup Series champion took full advantage.

First run in 1979, the Busch Clash exhibition is typically considered the unofficial start of the NASCAR season. It is often run the weekend before the Daytona 500, but DIS’ Speedweeks festivities have been condensed to a weak to work with health protocols. The event was run on the speedway’s road course for the first time, nearly six months after the circuit ran a regular-season race for the first time. Criteria for entry into the event constantly changes, though this season’s event welcomed playoff drivers, race winners, stage winners, and pole sitters from on-track qualifying last season.

NASCAR will return to the road course on February 21, one week after Sunday’s main event on the oval (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox), for a points race.

Busch becomes the 11th driver to earn multiple Clash victories, previously winning on the traditional oval in 2012. This victory comes after a disappointing title defense in 2020. Busch won only a single race and failed to appear in the top four of the final standings for the first time since 2014. He also captured a win with new crew chief Ben Beshore, a former JGR engineer who served as Harrison Burton’s pit boss at the Xfinity Series level last year. Beshore was also Busch’s interim crew chief for three races during the 2017 season.

It was nearly deja vu all over against for Elliott, the defending Cup Series champion in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Elliott came in as a popular pick for the Clash title, having won each of the last four races held on a road course (including August’s maiden voyage at Daytona). However, he was forced to start the rear of the field for the 35-lap event, a penalty for making unapproved adjustments to his Chevy. Elliott was previously sent to the rear at the last points event back in Phoenix in November. He’d brush to off to not only win the event, but his first Cup Series championship as well.

Elliott had made his way to third by lap 28 when leader Martin Truex Jr. wrecked in the sixth turn. The No. 9 would assume the lead when leaders Blaney and Denny Hamlin pitted. Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford won the race off pit road, situating him behind Elliott and five others who stayed out. Armed with fresher tires, Blaney took the lead from Elliott with two to go before engaging in a furious final lap. As they came to the frontstretch, Elliott bumped the No. 12, spinning him into the wall. Elliott tried to get back up to speed as Busch approached, but it was no use. As Busch celebrated in front of a limited crowd at the start/finish line, Elliott and Blaney shared a conversation on pit road.

Joey Logano recovered from a pit road penalty to finish third, while Tyler Reddick and William Byron rounded out the top five.

Preparation for the Daytona 500 will continue on Wednesday through single-car qualifying (7 p.m. ET, FS1) that will determine the front row for Sunday. The rest of the starting lineup will be settled through the Bluegreen Vacations Duels on Thursday night.

Race Notes

  • A common complaint from Tuesday’s event was that mud crept onto the track from the infield. Several cars needed their grilles scrubbed on pit strops to remove the intrusions.

 

  • 23XI Racing, the team founded by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin, unofficially debuted its No. 23 Toyota on Tuesday. Though regular driver Bubba Wallace did not qualify for the Clash, the team welcomed in veteran Ty Dillon for a one-off deal. Dillon finished 18th and will next attempt to race Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota into the 500 on Thursday. The former driver of the No. 13 for defunct Germain Racing will also pilot the 96 at the return to the road course in two weeks.

 

  • Other drivers in new rides included Alex Bowman in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (7th) and Erik Jones in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet (8th). Bowman is taking over the No. 48 for seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson while Jones, defending champion of the Clash, replaces Wallace.

 

  • Busch’s win is the record 10th Clash victory for Joe Gibbs Racing and second in a row after Jones won in the No. 20 Toyota last season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

An exciting defensive line prospect for the New York Giants to target if they lose Dalvin Tomlinson

The strength of the New York Giants is their defense. Undeniably the strongest positional group on New York’s defense is their defensive line. The trio of Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, and Dexter Lawrence dominated in 2020. This group cost numerous assets to put together, but the Giants saw plenty of returns on their investments this past season.

Leonard Williams had a career-year with 11.5 sacks. Dalvin Tomlinson also continued to stand out, racking up 3.5 sacks and 49 combined tackles. Dexter Lawrence was phenomenal in his second year, posting 4 sacks and 53 combined tackles. It will be a major point of emphasis for the Giants to keep this trio together and build the defense around this unit.

However, the Giants are entering a crucial free agency period where they could lose one or two of these defensive linemen. Both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson are free agents. It will be a top priority for the Giants to sign these players to contract extensions. But if one of them walks, it would be a huge blow to the defense and would force them to turn their attentions towards the interior defensive line prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Fortunately, there are some really intriguing defensive line prospects in the middle rounds of this year’s draft class. One exciting prospect to keep an eye on is Alim McNeill out of NC State. McNeill is a sleeper prospect that has begun rising up draft boards in recent weeks. If the Giants lose Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency, Alim McNeill would be the perfect nose tackle replacement to target in the draft.

Alim McNeill stats and highlights

Describe a unicorn. How about a 315-pound nose tackle that can hit 18 miles per hour on a treadmill and rush the passer with great efficiency? That sounds like a unicorn. That also sounds like Alim McNeill. Alim McNeill is a freakishly athletic interior defensive lineman that might somehow fall into the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

McNeill was initially projected as a third or fourth-round draft pick. However, in recent weeks, talent evaluators like Pro Football Focus have begun to hype up McNeill and tout him as a second-round prospect. It is not difficult to see what PFF sees when they praise Alim McNeill.

Nose tackles that can defend the run are common. But nose tackles that can pass-rush are rare. Alim McNeill was proficient at doing both in college. McNeill lined up as a 0-tech in college but was still able to find production as a pass-rusher, which is highly uncommon from that defensive alignment. McNeill’s athleticism comes from his history playing running back in high school. It is shocking how frequently that athleticism shows up on his game tape playing defensive line in college.

Alim McNeill might not be the most technically refined or advanced pass-rusher. But he has elite explosiveness and the ability to barrel through offensive linemen en route to the quarterback. McNeill posted 10 sacks through 32 career games and, according to Pro Football Focus, had a 9.3% pass-rush win rate, far above the draft class average from his position.

McNeill’s run-defense grade via PFF was 92.1 with a 77.5 pass-rushing grade. He has the ability to make plays in both facets of the game. The hope is for the New York Giants to re-sign Dalvin Tomlinson this offseason. But if they are unable to make that happen, drafting Alim McNeill would be quite the backup plan.

Bellator books Patricio Pitbull – Emmanuel Sanchez 2

Patricio Pitbull Freire

Bellator MMA officially announced the date for their final semi-final matchup in their Featherweight Grand Prix. The promotion announced today that Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (31-4) will defend his featherweight championship against Emmanuel Sanchez (20-4) on April 2nd.

This matchup had already been predetermined with the Grand Prix bracket, however, we finally have a date for this matchup. This title fight will headline Bellator‘s first event back in 2021.

The winner of this matchup will carry the featherweight title into the Grand Prix finale to face AJ McKee. These two men have history and they faced off back in 2018 at Bellator 209.

That night, Patricio Pitbull successfully defended his featherweight title by winning a unanimous decision. Pitbull hasn’t lost inside the Bellator cage since 2016 when he lost to Benson Henderson due to a leg injury.

If you want to take out that loss, nobody has defeated Pitbull since Daniel Straus did it in 2015. Pitbull is widely considered to be the best fighter that Bellator has ever had and his two world championships show off his greatness. However, he’s in for a tough matchup on April 2nd.

Bellator Featherweight Title Fight

There are so many things that Emmanuel Sanchez has going for him heading into Bellator 255. First and foremost, he’s incredible tough and durable. He’s not going to back away and be intimidated by the challenge of facing Patricio Pitbull.

Another thing that he has going for him is that he already has experience facing Pitbull. Yes, he lost the first fight by decision. However, it’s usually easier for the loser of the first fight to prepare for the rematch than the winner.

Nobody is going to be expecting Sanchez to walk out of Bellator 255 the featherweight champion. That’s another big advantage for the challenger. All of the pressure in this fight is on Patricio Pitbull.

Pitbull is the defending champion and he’s expected to win to setup the superfight with AJ McKee. McKee already did his part and now Pitbull has to take care of business. There is zero pressure on the shoulders of Sanchez. This should be a fantastic matchup on April 2nd.

Bellator officially books title fight between Juan Archuleta and Sergio Pettis

Juan Archuleta

Bellator MMA made a ton of announcements this afternoon. Starting with the big news that the promotion was moving over to Showtime. Then we got the news of the light heavyweight Grand Prix.

Another major announcement for Bellator was the announcement of the bantamweight title fight. The promotion announced today that Juan Archuleta (25-2) would be making his first title defense against Sergio Pettis (20-5).

The two best bantamweights that Bellator has to offer will go head-to-head on May 7th. As mentioned, Archuleta will be making the first defense of his bantamweight title. Archuleta won the title against Patchy Mix back in September.

The Spaniard is one of the best fighters that the promotion has to offer. However, a world championship had always evaded him. That changed back at Bellator 246 when he took on Patchy Mix.

The fight was far from easy for Juan Archuleta. Patchy Mix got the best of the fight early on, however, Archuleta was just biting his time. After Mix slowed down in the championship rounds, that’s where Archuleta took over. He won by decision and finally won his Bellator title.

Bellator Bantamweight Title

Standing across the cage from Archuleta is going to be Sergio Pettis. Pettis has been around for a long time, but he has never had a world championship opportunity until now. However, he’s come close on a number of occasions.

Pettis really got going in the UFC much like his brother, Anthony Pettis. Sergio Pettis holds wins over some of the best flyweights in the UFC like Joseph Benavidez and Brandon Moreno. However, upon the move to Bellator, Pettis has stuck to the bantamweight division.

Pettis has won both of his fights so far in Bellator which sets up this title fight against Archuleta. This is a tremendous matchup and one that fight fans should be excited for. Will Archuleta continue his reign or will Sergio Pettis finally realize his dream of becoming a world champion? This should be a good one.

Bellator announces move to Showtime and Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

Bellator MMA has been relatively quiet since the calendar moved over to 2021. However, they’ve been making big moves behind the scenes that would further the promotion’s vision in 2021.

Today, Bellator announced that they have agreed to a deal with Showtime and Showtime will now become the exclusive home for their events. Just last year, Bellator announced they had a deal with CBS Sports Network, but the Viacom promotion is shifting gears.

Showtime decided to get involved and both sides agreed that it would be best to move the promotion to Showtime. Bellator will also be moving their events back to Friday nights after a brief stint on Thursdays.

In addition to announcing the new deal with Showtime, Scott Coker announced some exciting news in terms of the light heavyweight division. By far, the light heavyweight division is the best that Bellator has to offer.

They made some huge signings in the last year and they are ready to capitalize. Coker announced today that Bellator would be starting a Light Heavyweight Grand Prix that will start on April 9th.

Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

The Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix will kick off on April 9th. In the first quarter final matchup, Corey Anderson (14-5) will be taking on Bellator newcomer, Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (18-5-1).

Also on April 9th in the main event of the evening, Ryan Bader (27-6) will be taking on Lyoto Machida (26-10). Bader is the Bellator heavyweight champion and just lost his light heavyweight title last year to Vadim Nemkov (12-2).

Of course, the matchup everyone wanted to see takes place on April 16th. Yoel Romero (13-5) and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6) will battle it out. However, despite the hype behind this matchup, it will not serve as the main event on April 16th.

Instead, that honor will belong to the Bellator Light Heavyweight champion, Vadim Nemkov. Nemkov will be competing in the tournament and defending his title against Phil Davis (22-5, 1 NC). An absolutely stacked field and fight fans should be very excited about this Grand Prix.

New York Yankees Analysis: Yankee pitching rotation now and in the postseason

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

For the New York Yankees, this whole offseason has been about re-signing DJ LeMahieu. And to answer the statement, it’s the pitching stupid; the Yankees have also, once they signed LeMahieu, addressed the pitching situation big time. The Yankees have big-time pitching depth, but they want the best possible rotation to win them the division and carry them through the postseason. Last season they did not have that, which is why they cleaned the house.

The Yankees first signed two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Then shortly after that, they traded with the Pittsburgh Pirates for starter Jameson Taillon. They also added a big arm to the bullpen with Darren O’Day’s hiring, one of the best relievers out there, one that was 4-1 last season with a tiny 1.01 ERA.

Getting back to the depth, they have Domingo German coming back for a year’s suspension. In 2019 before he was forced to leave the team, he was 18-4, being the best New York Yankee starter. Later in the season, they will also have the returning Luis Severino, who is coming back from Tommy John Surgery. Beyond that, they have Jordan Montgomery, and of course, the Yankee ace Gerrit Cole. In the wings are Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Michael King.

As it stands now, the starting rotation on April 1 will be Gerrit Cole, then Corey Kluber, following him will be Jameson Taillon. The fourth and fifth spots on the rotation are less clear. It will probably be Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery or the other way around. What could change this is how each of these pitchers pitches in spring training. If Domingo German is dominating, you will see him move up the latter.

Kluber: Has barely pitched since 2018 due to various injuries. Soft-tissue injuries are concerning, but he’s ready for the season and impressed scouts at his showcase. Taillon: Says he completely changed his mechanics, and his arm feels better after his second Tommy John surgery. He will probably have some workload adjustments, but theoretically would be geared toward having him ready for October. The New York Yankees, in general, will have to be careful with all the starters as they gear up for a 162 game season and still be fresh enough for a postseason run.

Germán: Healthy (as far as we’re aware, and he’s been posting workout videos on Instagram) but hasn’t pitched in an MLB game since September 2019. He pitched well that season, but still somewhat unclear what his overall ceiling is as a starter. Severino: Expected back late summer. That can give him time to settle into the MLB flow again, but I think he might have the most challenging path to the postseason, if for no other reason than having the time to gear up and get his pitching strength back.

As far as a rotation for the postseason, guessing that is a fool’s game. It will all amount to who pitches best during the regular season and who is hot at the end of the season. For instance, if Cole ends September 18-5 and Kluber ends up 20-4 and is more desirable at the end of the season. The Yankees will have some big questions to answer for that game 1 starter. That may seem unthinkable now, but the Yankees will go with their best pitcher in the end.

 

 

The New York Mets are reportedly interested in third baseman Justin Turner

The New York Mets showed the world that they are here to compete with the Trevor May and James McCann signings and the Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco trade. Yes, they failed to acquire their top targets, George Springer, Trevor Bauer or JT Realmuto, but they managed to improve an already good core and are now considered favorites in the NL East.

And the fact that the Mets couldn’t secure any of those three names means that they have the funds to go after one of the few remaining difference-makers in the market, which is third baseman Justin Turner.

Turner and the Mets have obvious history. When the organization got rid of him, he worked on his swing and exploded with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Mets interested in free-agent 3B Justin Turner, but parties not matching up on years/dollars, sources tell The Athletic. NYM also not sure what J.D. Davis might bring in a trade. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio intrigued by Turner as well. Dodgers (2-year deal?) remain best bet,” was the report of Ken Rosenthal.

Turner would improve the Mets’ lineup, but is he absolutely necessary?

Of course, Turner would represent another above-average bat for an already great Mets lineup. He had a .307/.400/.460 line with a .376 wOBA and a 140 wRC+ in 2020 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his .292/.369/.469 and career line and 130 wRC+ would fit in nicely anywhere.

The Mets are doing everything they can to replace JD Davis, who was a disappointment in 2020 with a .247/.371/.389 line and a 116 wRC+. However, it may not be fair to completely dismiss him, as he was still an above-average offensive performer and has the potential to bounce back with hitting coach Chili Davis available to help him.

The New York Mets signed Jonathan Villar on Tuesday, but he isn’t expected to be an everyday player. Turner, in the hypothetical case they are able to sign him, should be.

Yankees projected as the AL East division winners by PECOTA, well ahead the Rays

New York Yankees, NYY, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton

After rather quiet months in October, November, and December, the New York Yankees went to work and started shaping their 2021 roster once they re-signed second baseman DJ LeMahieu. That gave them an idea of how much money they could spend in upgrading the starting rotation and the bullpen.

Now, after adding starters like Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon and reliever Darren O’Day, the New York Yankees cemented their place as the favorites to win the division title in the American League East.

Last season didn’t go smoothly for the Yankees, as they finished seven games behind the Tampa Bay Rays and then lost to them again in the Division Series.

Now, Tampa lost two crucial starters in Charlie Morton and Blake Snell and even though they also made some additions, they appear to be behind the Yankees, at least on paper, prior to the 2021 campaign.

PECOTA likes the 2021 Yankees

Baseball Prospectus’ projections system, PECOTA, seems to agree with that notion, and has the Yankees as the clear favorites to take the division this time around.

PECOTA’s full 162-game projections has the Yankees with an average of 97.4 wins and 64.6 losses. Tampa is at 86.4 wins and 75.6 losses, while the Toronto Blue Jays, a much improved team that added All-Stars Marcus Semien and George Springer, among others, are at 84.9 wins in the simulation.

In fourth place are the Boston Red Sox with 80 wins, and the Baltimore Orioles once are last with 66.3 wins and 95.7 losses.

Even though the Yankees lost starters Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ, not to mention relievers Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and Jonathan Holder, they are still expected to come out on top.

New York teams fared pretty well on PECOTA’s projections. The New York Mets are the favorites to win the NL East by about 10 games, just like the Yankees.

If the projections are true, the Yankees should win the AL East division quite comfortably in 2021. Will they?

Jimmie Rivera – Pedro Munhoz is off UFC 258; fight to be pushed back

A highly anticipated matchup is off of this weekend’s UFC 258 main card. MMA Fighting was the first to report that the bantamweight matchup between Pedro Munhoz (18-5, 1 NC) and Jimmie Rivera (23-4) has been called off.

The UFC has not come out with a statement, but MMA Fighting is reporting that a positive COVID test has cancelled the fight. The tentative plan is for the promotion to push back the fight to the Fight Night on February 27th.

UFC 258 isn’t the most stacked card for a PPV and losing this bantamweight matchup is a pretty big hit. The lightweight matchup between Jim Miller and Bobby Green is getting promoted to the PPV main card.

Jimmie Rivera was looking to pickup his second consecutive win on Saturday night. Rivera has always been known as one of the best in the UFC, however, every time he’s approached a title shot, he’s stumbled.

His three losses with the promotion have come against Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling, and Marlon Moraes. This matchup at UFC 258 was actually a rematch from a fight back in 2015. Rivera defeated Munhoz by split decision that night.

UFC redemption for Munhoz

Pedro Munhoz has lost twice in a row and he was looking to bounce back this weekend. UFC 258 was his opportunity to settle the score with Jimmie Rivera and it was his opportunity to end his current losing streak.

Munhoz rose to the top of the UFC’s bantamweight division after he knocked out former champion, Cody Garbrandt. However, he would then go on to lose decisions to Aljamain Sterling and Frankie Edgar which shuffled him back.

By all indications, there should be no issues with this fight taking place in two weeks. Of course, that has yet to be confirmed by the UFC. I was personally really looking forward to this one. Hopefully fight fans will get to see this one sooner than later.