New York Giants: Will Saquon Barkley’s backups return this season?

New York Giants, Wayne Gallman

The New York Giants had a tough time in 2020 at the running back spot. Saquon Barkley went down quickly with an injury, and new signing Devonta Freeman would also end up spending time out injured and ultimately never did much with the team. It took the Giants some time to figure out the running game last year, but they ultimately finished in a better place than they started through the first few weeks.

This season, though, we might not see the same running backs that took most of the snaps this year for the Giants. Wayne Gallman is an unrestricted free agent. So is Alfred Morris, who had the second most rushing yards out of Giants running backs.

Wayne Gallman

2020 was the best year of Wayne Gallman’s career. Going into the season, there were some questions about whether the Giants even needed him. After all, his performance hadn’t been anything exceptional in past seasons and Barkley was starting ahead of him. But then, Barkley went down and everything changed.

With the Giants needing a running back and not finding their man in either Devonta Freeman or Dion Lewis, Gallman stepped up as the option already on the roster. He had 682 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns in 15 games played – 10 of them being starts. That’s a career high, and it’s thanks to Gallman that Daniel Jones didn’t finish as the team’s lead rusher.

The Giants might be interested in bringing Gallman back, but he’s an unrestricted free agent and looks like one of the most likely Giants to leave. His rookie deal is over and coming off the strongest year of his career, the Giants will have to pay him more to keep him around.

It’s unlikely the Giants have to lean on their backup running backs as heavily again this season, when Barkley returns – it’s hard to see them paying up instead of trusting that Barkley won’t be injured and bringing in a cheaper replacement.

Alfred Morris

Alfred Morris was the second leading Giants running back last season. While he didn’t put up the same kind of numbers Gallman did, he added to the team’s efforts with 238 rushing yards in 9 appearances. He’s also an unrestricted free agent this season.

However, unlike Gallman, it looks like there’s a stronger chance we could see Morris in blue again this season.

Morris played out the season on a one year deal and the Giants had to pay him less than they paid Gallman, with a cap hit of only $352k. He’s an older player that will be 33 this season, but that may not be so much of a problem for the Giants assuming Barkley isn’t injured again.

It’s clear that the Giants are better when they can run the ball often and not put all the pressure on Daniel Jones. And we can expect Barkley to take a lot of those snaps. The Giants need backup running backs to relieve the load, not take it over entirely.

Therefore, with Gallman likely to leave and the Giants having no clear number one backup, it looks like a likely outcome to see them bring back Alfred Morris on another small deal while also potentially bringing in a back through a later draft round or free agency to add to the competition.

Knicks rout Wizards but lose Mitchell Robinson to injury

Mitchell Robinson

The New York Knicks caught a break when the Washington Wizards opted to rest their superstar guard Bradley Beal on their Friday night matchup.

The Knicks, as expected, rolled to a 109-91 win and improved to 12-15 in the season. But they also caught a tough break with center Mitchell Robinson going down with a fractured right hand along the way.

Robinson was on pace to a monster performance when the injury happened in the second quarter. He hurt his right hand when his hand collided with Julius Randle’s elbow while going for a rebound. He had 10 points, 14 rebounds, and four steals in 20 minutes before he left.

Robinson will be re-evaluated upon their return in New York, where the Knicks are set to host the Houston Rockets in Madison Square Garden.

Randle bounces back

Even without Robinson in the second half, the Knicks still dominated the game, with Randle flashing his All-Star form and Derrick Rose pushing the pace.

Randle bounced back from a sub-par game against Miami with his fifth 20-point, 15-rebound game of the season, tying Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic. Only Cleveland’s Andre Drummond had more of those games with seven, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Randle paced the Knicks with 24 points, 18 rebounds, and four assists. His three-pointer with 7:27 left in the third quarter quelled a Washington rally, giving New York a six-point breather.

The Knicks were never seriously threatened the rest of the way and led by as many as 25.

Potent bench

The Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley backcourt tandem again provided the spark off the bench.

The Knicks’ second unit outscored the Wizards’ bench, 49-27.

Rose finished with 14 points and a team-high six assists in 20 minutes. He also added four of the Knicks’ 11 steals. Quickley put up 16 points in 22 minutes. New York’s lottery pick Obi Toppin is also starting to get comfortable with Rose as he came away with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.

The Knicks’ defense limited the Wizards to just 38.2 percent shooting from the field.

Russell Westbrook led Washington with a near triple-double (23 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists) but committed five turnovers.

Barrett struggles anew

The Knicks bullied the Wizards inside the paint, 58-42, and they crashed the boards, coming away with 24 second-chance points to Wizards’ seven.

Elfrid Payton was also solid with 12 points on 50 percent shooting in only 23 minutes on the floor.

RJ Barrett continued to struggle with his shot, going 3-for-13 for just eight points. It was the second time in the last three games he failed to score in double digits.

Next man up

With Mitchell expected to miss extended time, the Knicks will count on Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson to hold the fort. Noel and Gibson combined for 10 points and seven rebounds.

“It was probably the best first half of the year for [Mitchell]. Obviously, we know how important he is to the team. And anytime someone gets hurt, you certainly feel for him. But we have to be ready for the next one as you know, the games keep on coming,” Thibodeau said after the game.

“I thought Nerlens stepped in and did a good job in the second half. And that’s the great value of having a guy like Taj on the roster. So the next man up! We have to circle the wagons and be ready to go.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Another close game, another New York Rangers loss

New York Rangers, Kaapo Kakko

In what has been a reoccurring theme, the New York Rangers lost another close game as they fall to the Boston Bruins by the score of 1-0. This marks the third straight loss for the Blueshirts and they were shutout in two of those losses.

As the two teams were playing back-to-back games, this contest became a bit chippy as a handful of fisticuffs broke out in the second period, highlighted by the Rangers Brendan Lemieux and Bruins forward Trent Frederic dropping the gloves.

One of the more telling stats that demonstrate the futility of the Rangers is their inability to score on the power play, going 0 for 6 in the game. This futility was very evident late in the game when the Rangers picked up a power play with just about a minute left in the game when the Bruins Charlie MacAvoy was sent off for delay of the game. The Rangers then pulled goaltender Igor Shesterkin but could not muster a decent attempt at a shot in spite of having a 2-man advantage for that time.

As poor as the Rangers have been on the power-play, the Rangers have been very impressive on the penalty kill, as they have killed off 21 consecutive power-play opportunities by their opponent for the first time since a stretch from Dec. 8 – Dec. 18, 2016.

After the game, Jacob Trouba talked about the frustration of losing so many close games in his post-game Zoom conference. “It’s not good enough to lose games by a goal,” Trouba said. “It’s the NHL, you have gotta win games. You have to find a way to get points, especially in a shortened season. We have got to find a way to win hockey games.”

Head coach David Quinn was asked about the lack of scoring and especially the power-play in his post-game Zoom conference. “We are passing when we should shoot and we shoot when we should pass,” Quinn said. “We just make bad decisions and we are slow. We are not going to go anywhere with the power-play clicking the way it is.”

As the Ranger’s next game on Sunday was postponed due to the Philadelphia Flyers COVID-19 concerns, the Blueshirt’s next scheduled game is on Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INJURY: Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson suffers serious right-hand injury

New York Knicks, Mitchell Robinson

While the New York Knicks were dominating the Washington Wizards on Friday evening, starting center Mitchell Robinson suffered a significant right-hand injury. After exiting the game toward the end of the second quarter, Robinson was seen holding his hand and shaking it, in obvious pain.

The Knicks have confirmed that Robinson suffered a fractured right hand and will be re-evaluated tomorrow in New York.

Prior to going down, Robinson was averaging 8.4 points per game, 3.5 offenses rebounds, and 8.2 total rebounds. He was shooting a career-low .653 from the field but was dominant before being pulled against Washington.

In just the first half, Robinson scored 10 points and recorded 14 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds. An unfortunate turn of events, as Robinson was gaining momentum and positive growth in Tom Thibodeau’s scheme. Fractures can keep players out for weeks, so we will have to see what the doctors say about the injury before determining a timeline for return.

UFC 258 Preview: Kelvin Gastelum – Ian Heinisch

A big matchup in the middleweight division goes down tomorrow night at UFC 258. Former title challenger and Ultimate Fighter winner, Kelvin Gastelum (15-6), will be taking on Ian Heinisch (14-3).

Both men will make the walk at UFC 258 with a ranking by their name. For Ian Heinisch, he’s coming in at 15th. Heinisch was first introduced to the fans on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2018.

The Hurricane earned himself a UFC contract with a knockout victory. From there, he would go on to have two impressive wins inside the octagon. That’s when the UFC gave him Derek Brunson. Brunson was able to show that Heinisch still had a ways to go in his career.

After Heinisch lost to Brunson, he dropped a fight to Omari Akhmedov. Heinisch decided to take some time before his next fight and really focus on his standup. It showed in his last fight when he knocked out Gerald Meerschaert. However, he is taking another big step up in competition at UFC 258.

Entering 2019, Kelvin Gastelum was looked at as one of the best middleweights in the UFC. He was actually set to take on Robert Whittaker for the title before Whittaker had to be out for a significant amount of time. Gastelum ended up fighting Israel Adesanya for the interim title.

While Adesanya won, Gastelum looked very good and gave Izzy the fight of his life. However, after that fight, Gastelum has lost back-to-back fights. He’s in desperate need of a win tomorrow to avoid his fourth straight loss in the UFC.

UFC 258 Prediction

This matchup at UFC 258 is truly a crossroads matchup. In this fight, Gastelum will either get back on track or Heinisch will continue to ascend in the middleweight division. This fight has big implications for the division.

For Kelvin Gastelum, I think he needs to keep the fight at range tomorrow night. When Gastelum is on, we’ve seen him show off incredible striking and footwork. His boxing is extremely crisp when he’s on. He also has dynamite in his hands.

Heinisch needs to mix things up tomorrow to be successful. He needs to really work the low leg kicks and mix in some takedown attempts to keep Gastelum guessing. If Heinisch is able to take Gastelum down, he needs to keep wrestling him to win at UFC 258.

While many people are down on Kelvin Gastelum, I still believe he can be one of the best in the world. I think he’s going to have that turnaround performance he needs tomorrow. I’m expecting him to be sharp and land what’s needed to end his UFC losing streak.

Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum by Unanimous Decision

UFC: Bobby Green – Jim Miller called off

UFC 258 has lost it’s second main card fight this week. The promotion announced this evening that the lightweight matchup between Bobby Green (27-11-1) and Jim Miller (32-15, 1 NC) has been called off.

As mentioned, this is the second main card fight to be scrapped this week for UFC 258. Earlier in the week, the highly anticipated bantamweight clash between Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera was called off. That fight was scrapped due to a positive COVID test.

There were some signs of doubts for this matchup that developed earlier today. 23 of the 24 scheduled fighters made the walk to the scale earlier today with very few issues. However, Bobby Green was the last one to weigh-in for UFC 258.

This fight between Miller and Green was put together just a few weeks ago and it appeared that Green had trouble cutting weight. Ultimately when Green stepped on the scale, he weighed in at 156 pounds and the fight was on.

However, questions started forming when Green and Miller didn’t appear for the post weigh-in staredowns. Dana White announced that Bobby Green had collapsed in the back and doctors were taking a look at him. The UFC 258 matchup was then in serious danger.

What’s next for the UFC?

A couple of hours after that incident, the UFC announced that Green was not cleared to fight. The fight has been called off after Green collapsed backstage after an extremely difficult weight cut.

Again, I feel like the short-notice nature of this fight played a role in the weight cut. However, we don’t and probably won’t know what exactly happened. At this time, there has not been any word on if the UFC will try to remake this fight.

With Green and Miller off the main card, Ricky Simon (17-3) and Brian Kelleher (22-11) has been promoted to the UFC 258 main card. This fight should be very entertaining and is a solid choice to replace the Miller-Green matchup.

UFC 258 Preview: Belal Muhammad – Dhiego Lima

One of the fights that’s flying under the radar at UFC 258 is the welterweight matchup between Belal Muhammad (17-3) and Dhiego Lima (15-7). Muhammad will make the walk tomorrow night ranked 13th in the UFC‘s welterweight rankings.

When this fight was originally booked, I have to say that I was a bit surprised. Sure, Dhiego Lima has won three in a row, but I figured Belal Muhammad would get a ranked opponent. However, that was not the case.

Muhammad is 8-2 in his last ten fights in the UFC after losing his debut. He’s got very good wrestling and he mixes that with some unorthodox but effective boxing. In his last three wins, Muhammad has shown off just how good he can be when he gets his hands on you.

He’s faced three good strikers in a row, but nobody had an answer for the wrestling of Muhammad. The only guys who have defeated Muhammad have been Geoff Neal, Vicente Luque, and Alan Jouban. All three have great striking and could defend the takedown.

The blueprint is there at UFC 258 for Dhiego Lima. The Ultimate Fighter runner-up comes into this contest on a three-fight win streak. However, this is the first action for Lima since late 2019.

Between injuries and a COVID cancellation, it’s been some time since we’ve seen Lima compete. Lima has very good power in his hands and his striking is very good. However, this fight is going to come down to his grappling defense.

UFC 258 Prediction

When sizing up this matchup at UFC 258, you have to look at the styles of these two welterweights. When you do that, it’s pretty easy to see what the game plan will be for both of these fighters.

For Dhiego Lima, he has to keep the fight standing. If he can keep this purely a striking match, he has a great chance to pickup the upset win tomorrow night. However, if he can’t keep Muhammad off of him, it’s going to be a long night.

Belal Muhammad needs to do the exact same thing he’s done in his last three UFC fights. Throw some unorthodox shots and chain those into takedown attempts. Work the clinch along the fence and get this fight to the ground.

In reality, I don’t see Lima having anything for Belal Muhammad. The only way I see Lima winning is by landing a big shot as Muhammad shoots in. If that doesn’t happen, expected Muhammad to impose his will and walk away with another unanimous decision.

Prediction: Belal Muhammad by Unanimous Decision

Mets’ pitcher Marcus Stroman talks about Jacob deGrom’s mechanics

New York Yankees, Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman has been an incredibly successful pitcher in his career. He has a 3.76 ERA and a 3.64 FIP in more than 800 innings in the bigs, and with an excellent 58.6 ground ball percentage. The New York Mets traded for him in 2019, and after sitting the 2020 season due to COVID concerns, he is ready to help the rotation in 2021.

He is known for his drive to improve. He is constantly studying the game and its best pitchers. Luckily for him, arguably the best hurler in the game, Jacob deGrom, is his teammate in the Mets.

It’s only natural, then, that Stroman is trying to model some things after his highly decorated teammate.

During an interview with Rob Friedman, the famous “Pitching Ninja” on Twitter, Stroman explained that he’s been picking deGrom’s brain and has watched him in bullpen sessions.

“I’m excited to be around him. I literally go out and just watch his bullpens like a little kid,” Stroman said. “I sit right behind him in his bullpens. He lets me sit there, chill, ask him questions. He’s the man, bro. He’s so low key, but he’s the man and he’s always open to helping and always just wants you to be your best as well.

The Mets’ starters understand the value of pitching mechanics

“I’ll go into a bullpen and pick his mind. To be honest, people don’t understand but I have a lot of little tweaks I’m going to be coming out with this year that deGrom inspired, whether it be maybe where my foot position is on the mound or where my hand pump is or what it is that deGrom’s thinking about when he has his hand pump or when he lifts his leg. I’ve incorporated a lot of things that he’s doing that have helped me stay more compact and more stable and fluid in my delivery.”

The Mets’ starter knows, however, that deGrom sets the bar high when it comes to performance. And this is originated from flawless mechanics.

“DeGrom’s got the best mechanics, I tell anybody, and a lot of it’s his body, how much of an athlete he is. A lot of it is also physical and what he was born with,” Stroman said. “I think deGrom has the best hip disassociation out of any pitcher or anybody in the league, and you can’t replicate. This is why you can’t say ‘Oh, go have deGrom’s mechanics.’ Nobody can have that. His hip disassociation, his ability to open up his hips on his stride length and keep his top half still loaded back is f—ing incredible. You can’t teach that.”

The New York Mets are “not done” yet, according to acting GM

New York Mets

So far in the offseason, the New York Mets have replaced cátcher Wilson Ramos with James McCann, inked relievers Trevor May and Aaron Loup, traded for shortstop Francisco Lindor and starter Carlos Carrasco and Joey Lucchesi, signed free agent center fielder Albert Almora and infielder Jonathan Villar, brought back pitcher Marcus Stroman by extending a qualifying offer, and signed lots of depth pieces with upside.

Yet, according to assistant general manager Zack Scott (currently the “acting” GM), the New York Mets aren’t done. They still want to make other upgrades to the roster with spring training just a few days away.

“We’re not done. We want to do some other things,” Scott said to several media outlets via Zoom. The executive, who confessed that he hasn’t gotten a chance to meet Mets owner Steve Cohen or president Sandy Alderson because of the pandemic, said the team still wants to do other things, specifically starting pitching.

Rushing into extension talks with Michael Conforto or Francisco Lindor isn’t one of them, though. “There should be plenty of time to talk through” potential extensions with them, he stated.

The Mets’ plans at third base

The Mets have been having conversations lately with the Chicago Cubs about a potential trade for third baseman Kris Bryant. They have also been linked to A’s star Matt Chapman. The impression is that they want to upgrade from JD Davis at all costs in the hot corner. However, Scott denied that was the case.

“We’re fully comfortable going into the season with J.D. Davis playing an important role,” he said, according to The Athletic’s Tim Britton.

Per Britton, Scott said the Mets also hired Jeremy Barnes to be their director of player development initiatives. “Barnes had been a hitting coordinator for the Astros system. He’ll team with new farm director Kevin Howard to overhaul the Mets’ player development,” the writer explained.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Five stories to watch

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series gets underway on Friday night in Daytona. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming season.

The 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck makes its return on Friday night, as Daytona International Speedway will host the NextEra Energy 250 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

ESM has five things you need to know about the 2021 circuit…

Young Sheldon

Known for his exploits on short tracks, 23-year-old Sheldon Creed rose to the occasion in the playoffs, ruining the party for seasonal favorites like teammates Zane Smith and Brett Moffitt. Creed, driver of the driving the No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado for GMS Racing, finished no worse than 12th in any of the seven postseason events, coming home in the first couple in four of them. His trademark aggressiveness from his ARCA days, which included the 2018 championship, wore thin during his first year in Trucks, but he cleaned up his style to take home another championship. He’ll seek to become the series’ first repeat champion since fellow finalist Matt Crafton (2013-14).

Having worked with GMS since 2018, Creed is an elder statesman of sorts with the organization that has placed a driver in the top three of the standings in every year since 2016. GMS will also welcome back Smith in the No. 21 and Tyler Ankrum in the No. 26. Raphael Lessard, the first French Canadian winner of a NASCAR national series event at Talladega last fall, joins the No. 24 truck, while rookie Chase Purdy takes over the 23 from Moffitt, the 2018 Truck champion who will drive for Niece Motorsports this season.

KB’s Boys

To the naked eye, Kyle Busch Motorsports enjoyed another successful season. The team won five races (including three from Busch himself) but the team failed to place a car in the top three of the final standings for the second straight year. That seems like heavy expectations, but they did so in each of the previous five seasons.

Busch’s Toyota Tundras appear set to return with a vengeance with a new full-time lineup. Fresh off a full season in the Cup Series, John Hunter Nemechek will take over the No. 4 from Lessard. The son of NASCAR staple “Front Row Joe”, Nemechek has eight Truck Series wins under his belt and earned 15 finishes in the top 20 in mid-tier equipment at Front Row Motorsports on the Cup circuit. Chandler Smith will join the full-time circuit in the No. 18 after displaying major promise over parts of two seasons. Smith earned a runner-up posting in his third career  Trucks event in 2019 and he would earn top fives in all but one of his final six races last season. Busch and Joe Gibbs project Brandon Jones are set to share the No. 51 Tundra with names to be determined.

Hailie’s Comet 

The Truck Series has seen its share of regular female drivers, including Jennifer Jo Cobb (who has run her race team for over a decade) and Natalie Decker (fifth-place finisher in last year’s Daytona opener). But there has been a fair amount of hype behind the 19-year-old Deegan, who will make her full-time Truck Series debut in a Ford F-150 owned by NASCAR veteran David Gilliland.

Deegan has had her share of ignominious moments away from the track, but there is no denying her talent on it. She earned three victories over two years in what is now the ARCA Menards Series West and placed third in the regular ARCA standings in 2020, earning Rookie of the Year honors (17 top ten finishes in 20 races) and a third-place finish in the standings. The daughter of former X Games star Brian Deegan made her Trucks debut last fall at Kansas, coming in at a respectable 16th in her first race. She will compete for Rookie of the Year honors against Smith, Purdy, Carson Hocevar, and Kris Wright.

Green Flags and Sam

Unfortunately for 17-year-old Sam Mayer, his first R-rated movie in the theater was erased due to the ongoing health crisis. But it’s safe to say that he picked up a far more attractive consolation prize in the Camping World Truck Series.

Mayer not only won 11 races on the various levels of ARCA last season, but took the Truck Series by storm in GMS equipment. Three races after earning his first career top five at Gateway, Mayer took home the win at Bristol in August. He’ll return to the circuit this year with Henderson Motorsports, sharing the No. 75 Silverado with Parker Kligerman. Mayer will also run a part-time Xfinity Series slate with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s race team, which will become a full-time ride in 2022.

Austin’s Powers

Kevin Harvick’s dominant run for naught at the Cup level wasn’t the only jaw-dropping season rendered null-and-void by the playoffs last season. Austin Hill, fresh off the momentum of winning three of the final eight races in 2019, finished no worse than 12th in all but one of the first 16 races of last season. However, engine woes at the penultimate race of the season at Martinsville kept him on the outside of the final four going into Phoenix, relegating him to a sixth-place finish the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota. It’ll also be interesting to see if his Xfinity Series output increases in HRE’s No. 61, as he earned his first career top five in the car at Kansas last season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags