New York Giants co-owner John Mara says this roster can make the playoffs

New York Giants, John Mara

The New York Giants have made some improvements this offseason. Regardless of what you think of his deal, they’re bringing back their top pass rusher Leonard Williams and also added a receiver who could very well finish inside the top 10, in Kenny Golladay. And, on top of those big moves this free agency period, they also added further help on both sides of the ball with the addition of Adoree’ Jackson at corner and Kyle Rudolph at tight end.

But is their active offseason enough to get them into the playoffs? The Giants came close in 2020 in Joe Judge’s first season, but it took a lot of luck for them to stay in the race until the end. They shouldn’t expect the same luck this year, but co-owner John Mara is confident that they can get in based on the merits of their roster.

Mara makes playoff claim… And interesting claims about Daniel Jones

“I think our roster is good enough to make the playoffs,” Mara told the New York Post on Sunday. He happened to be in the mood of making bold predictions because he also claimed that the team can win a Super Bowl with Daniel Jones. And, if they put the right pieces around him, that Jones can go on to win multiple titles like his predecessor Eli Manning.

The Giants will also, hopefully, have Saquon Barkley for the entire year this time around. It’s not a stretch to say they could make the jump over their nearest rivals and win the division this year, considering how close they came last year with talent missing from multiple key positions and their main playmaker out a couple games into the season.

And if there’s one way to show Joe Judge is for real, it would be a playoff appearance already.

The one thing the Giants have to be careful of at this point, though, is assuming they’re already at the top because of their offseason performance. The last few times the Giants have been hyped up based on a good offseason, after all, things collapsed on the field quickly.

This time around, it may just be the new management in town that leads things into going a different way.

The UFC to send Jon Jones offer to fight Francis Ngannou this week

UFC, Jon Jones

Last night at UFC 260, Francis Ngannou (16-3) became the heavyweight champion of the world. To do that, he knocked out the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history, Stipe Miocic (20-4).

Ngannou showed incredible improvement and poise as he knocked out the former champion in the second round. After the fight was over, immediately people started talking about the potential matchup with Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC).

Jones is widely considered to be the greatest fighter of all time. He’s currently been transforming his body as he prepares for the heavyweight division. It’s been understood for weeks that Jones would take on the winner.

However, Dana White through some cloudiness into that last night. White suggested that the UFC could pivot to a fight with Derrick Lewis. Lewis is considered to be the top contender that sits in the heavyweight division.

Of course, this didn’t sit well with Jones. The UFC President said last night that if Jones prices himself out of the fight, it’s another way of him basically saying he doesn’t want the fight. Jones was not thrilled with the comments.

UFC to submit an offer this week

Around this same time nearly a year ago, we faced a similar position. Jones was interested in moving up to the UFC’s heavyweight division to take on Ngannou in a one-off superfight.

However, after the UFC failed to up the offer to Jones and a public spat ensued. Jones even publicly asked the promotion to release him due to the poor financial negotiations.

The former UFC light heavyweight champion vacated his title in the fall as he prepared to move to heavyweight. It seemed like the fences had been mended between Jones and the UFC up until last night.

That’s when the narrative seemed to change out of no where with White’s comments. Jones said on Twitter this afternoon that the UFC is going to be coming to him with an offer this week to fight Ngannou.

If the fight meets Jones’ expectations, we are likely going to see Jones get booked against the new heavyweight champion. However, if there’s any snag whatsoever, I would expect a quick pivot to the UFC and Derrick Lewis (25-7, 1 NC) will get the shot.

What are the New York Giants’ biggest needs leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft?

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Jon Halapio, Mike Remmers

The New York Giants just crushed the 2021 NFL free agency period. The Giants landed the top wide receiver on the market in Kenny Golladay. They added an extra playmaker in veteran tight end, Kyle Rudolph. They also signed Adoree’ Jackson, a high-potential cornerback that could push their secondary to be one of the best in the league.

The Giants signed some talented players to fill some major needs on their roster. Now, with the 2021 NFL Draft just a month away, what are the biggest needs that the Giants will look to address in April?

Biggest needs on the Giants’ roster post-free agency

Offensive line

The Giants’ offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL in 2020. The Giants’ pass-block win rate in 2020, according to ESPN, ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win-rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. The Giants prioritized upgrading Daniel Jones’s weapons, however, maybe more than anything, they still need to fix the offensive line in front of him.

New York lost its best offensive lineman, Kevin Zeitler, as a cap casualty this offseason. They signed veteran guard Zach Fulton, but he is not considered a long-term answer as a starting guard. The Giants have their left tackle of the future in Andrew Thomas. They feel comfortable with Nick Gates at center. But both offensive guard positions and right tackle are question marks. The Giants need to build this offensive line through the 2021 NFL Draft.

Defensive tackle

While New York managed to add a lot of talent this offseason, they did also lose a crucial piece of their defense. Dalvin Tomlinson walked in free agency, signing with the Minnesota Vikings, leaving a hole on the Giants’ defensive line. Tomlinson was one of the Giants’ best defenders over the past four years. Now, they will need to replace the four-year starter.

The 2021 NFL Draft features a few mid-round defensive tackle prospects that the Giants could target. The defensive line has been one of the biggest strengths on the Giants’ defense over the past few years. Much of the pressure that New York generated in 2020 came from the interior of their defensive line. While Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams will return in 2021, their third starting down-lineman has yet to be determined.

Depth

The Giants addressed most of their biggest weaknesses in free agency. They found a new starting outside cornerback and added a top receiving weapon to the offense. The offensive line is still a work in progress, but so is the rest of the roster. The Giants need to add more depth to their roster.

The signing of Adoree’ Jackson was exciting and could be huge for New York’s defense. But Adoree’ is a player that has dealt with significant injuries in the past. Many starters on the Giants roster have dealt with significant injuries, like wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golladay. The Giants need to prepare for the worst and build out the bottom of their roster in the 2021 NFL Draft. New York needs more talented depth pieces at nearly every position.

In 2020, the Giants saw their depth pieces play increased roles on the defensive side of the ball. Late-round draft picks Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown ended up seeing significant playing time last season as the Giants dealt with numerous injuries at edge rusher. The Giants were fortunate enough to have depth at that position. New York needs to make sure they have sufficient depth at other positions in 2021.

New York Yankees: Aaron Boone sets starting rotation for first six games

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

Prior to Sunday’s penultimate Spring Training game, New York Yankees‘ manager Aaron Boone set the starting rotation for the team’s first six games of 2021.

As announced previously, Gerrit Cole will take the ball on Opening Day against Toronto. He’ll take on the newly added Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Blue Jays in a matinee game featured on ESPN along with YES Network. Cole pitched last on Friday and will go into Opening Day on six days rest.

For game two against the Blue Jays, Corey Kluber will get the ball for his Yankee debut. Kluber pitched on Sunday in Spring Training, giving up two earned runs in 3.1 innings. Saturday’s game with the Blue Jays is scheduled for a 1:05 pm first pitch.

In Sunday’s series finale with Toronto, the Yankees will send out Domingo German for his first start in nearly a year and a half. Due to domestic allegations, German missed the entire 2020 season under a suspension and will look to pick up where he left off in 2019. German has pitched nine scoreless innings this spring and will have one final tune-up on Monday for his start against the Blue Jays.

Beginning the series with the Baltimore Orioles, it’ll be Jordan Montgomery getting his first start of the 2021 season. Montgomery pitched to a 5.11 ERA last season in 10 starts but has looked sharp this spring with a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings. He’ll be the only lefty in the rotation, as he won the final rotation spot over Deivi Garcia, who’s headed to AAA.

In Tuesday’s game versus the Orioles, the ball lands back in Gerrit Cole’s hands. Because Opening Day is scheduled for Thursday, Cole will have full rest prior to his start against Baltimore. However, if Opening Day were to be postponed, the rotation would need adjusting.

Pitching in the finale against the Orioles will be Jameson Taillon. Being that he’s coming back from Tommy John surgery, Boone wanted to give Taillon a little bit more conditioning before sending him out for his first start. Taillon pitched to a 1.08 ERA this spring.

Starters past the series with the Orioles haven’t been announced, but it’s expected it’ll be Corey Kluber opening on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Montgomery, Diaz Struggle in New York Mets 10-2 Loss to the Marlins

The New York Mets had to decide Mike Montgomery‘s future, and his outing against the Miami Marlins did not help. Montgomery needed 60 pitches to get through 2.2 innings, where he allowed five runs on six hits. The fish wasted no time in the first inning when they opened up an early 4-0 and sent nine batters to the plate.

Montgomery had the upper hand over Jerry Blevins to become the second lefty in the bullpen. With Blevins’s scoreless outing on Saturday, he might have a new life to make the roster. The defense behind him did not provide much help, but the Mets have to decide their plan going forward, and Montgomery can opt-out if he disagrees with it.

The relievers that followed Montgomery did not provide and resistance for the Marlins hitters. Jeurys Familia and Miguel Castro both allowed runs in their one inning outings. Edwin Diaz struggled the most with four hits and three runs allowed but did strikeout three. Surprisingly, Dellin Betances was the one reliever who recorded a 1-2-3 inning.

The Mets’ offense was quiet against Marlins starter Daniel Castano. Brandon Nimmo provided the only run off Castano with his third-inning home run. It was only Nimmo’s second hit against a lefty this spring, and consistent hitting against southpaws can move him from a platoon option to an everyday player. Michael Conforto also hit Castano well with two hits, including a double. Wilfredo Tovar provided the second run with his home run in the ninth inning.

On Monday, the Mets play at 12:05 p.m. ET against the St. Louis Cardinals. Taijuan Walker (1-0, 3.00 ERA) faces off against veteran Adam Wainwright (0-0, 1.83 ERA) from Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

New York Yankees Recap: Corey Kluber fails in Yankee loss to the Phillies

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees were in Clearwater, Florida, today taking on the Philadelphia Phillies. Corey Kluber started for the Yankees and Zack Wheeler for the Phillies. It was 84 degrees and cloudy at game time. The Yankees lost the game 6-2.

Zack Wheeler took to the mound to face DJ LeMahieu. DJ ground out to second. Gleyber Torres walked on eight pitches. Aaron Hicks was called out on strikes. Jay Bruce in for Luke Voit that is having knee surgery, but his at-bat couldn’t be completed at Gleyber Torres was caught stealing second base for the final out of the half. Corey Kluber took the mound at the bottom facing Andrew McCutchen; McCutchen singled to short. Rhys Hoskins flew out, and Bryce Harper struck out, Bohm walked, Gregorious ground out to end the inning.

Jay Bruce led off the top of the second; he doubled to centerfield. Clint Frazier ground out to second, Gary Sanchez struck out. Mike Tauchman struck out on Wheeler’s eight-pitch of the at-bat. Segura faced Kluber at the bottom and walked. Miller struck out, and Herrera struck out swinging. Knapp flew out to Aaron Hicks for the final out of the inning. No score.

Austin Wells led off the third for the Yankees; he was called out on strikes. Wade ground out to Gregorius, and DJ ground out to end the half. At the bottom, McCutchen struck out, Hoskins singled, and Harper walked for two on and no outs. Bohm singled to load the bases. Gregorius was hit by a pitch driving in Hoskins as Kluber lacked control. Segura had a sac fly that scored Harper. Miller walked, reloading the bases, and Kluber was pulled from the game in favor of Brooks Kriske. Herrera ground out, leaving the bases filled with Phillies. Phillies 2 Yankees 0.

Vince Velasquez took over the pitching for the Phillies at the fourth. Gleyber Torres struck out, Aaron Hicks flew out to right, and Bruce struck out as Phillies’ pitching confused the Yankee hitters. The New York Yankees brought Kluber back out at the bottom to build up his pitch count. This was his last game of the spring, and the Yankees would like to see him get up to 80-85 pitches. In a puzzling move, they only allowed him to face two batters, Knapp flew out, and McCutchen stuck out, then replaced him with Nick Nelson. Hoskins struck swinging for the final out.

Frazier led off the fifth; he singled with a line drive to center. Sanchez struck out swinging, Frazier stole second and took third on a Philly throwing error. LaMarre had a sac fly scoring Frazier and getting the Yankees on the board. Austin Wells singled, LeMahieu flew out to end the inning, but the Yankees picked up a run Phillies 2 Yankees 1. Bryce Harper against Nelson ground out to short. Bohm doubled. Gregorius ground out to second. Maton running for Harper moved to third. Segura ground out to strand Maton at third. Phillies 2 Yankees 1.

With David Hale on the mound, Gleyber Torres struck out swinging. Hicks ground out to second. Bruce walked, and Frazier ground out to end the half. Aroldis Chapman took the bottom of the sixth inning. Miller struck out swinging on a 96 mph Chapman fastball. Herrera flew out to left. Knap ground out to short to end the inning. It was a nice bounce-back for Chapman after giving up 3 runs to the Orioles. Phillies 2 Yankees 1.

Archie Bradley started the seventh against Gary Sanchez, who stuck out and was 0-3 for the day. LaMarre singled, and Josh Breaux struck out, and LaMarre was caught stealing to end the half. Luis Cessa was out for the bottom; he stuck out Quinn. Duran singled. Vierling ground into a forceout. Maton doubled Vierling scored. Luis Garcia doubled driving in Maton. Stot singled driving in Garcia. Miller struck out, but the Phillies picked up 3 runs. Phillies 5 Yankees 1.

The top of the eighth saw Tyler Wade leading off for the Yankees; he doubled. Wade went to third on a passed ball. Hoy Jun Park struck out. Armando Alvarez struck out, and Milone struck out, wasting Wade’s double. At the bottom prospect, Luis Medina took over the pitching for the Yankees. Medina ground out Marchan. Rojas ground out, and Quinn walked and stole second. Duran singled driving in Quinn but was called out at second. Phillies 6 Yankees 1.

With last licks on the line for the New York Yankees, Thairo Estrada led off homering to far left-center. Estevan Florial flew out. Max McDowell was called out on strikes and LaMarre struck out ending the game. The final score was Phillies 6 and the Yankees 2. The winning pitcher was Zack Wheeler and the loser Corey Kluber.

Report: Knicks assistant Mike Woodson nearing deal to coach Indiana University

New york Knicks, Mike Woodson

You know the New York Knicks are headed in the right direction when their coaching staff is in demand.

Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant and assistant Kenny Payne have both begged off from college coaching opportunities with the University of Utah and DePaul. But Mike Woodson could not turn his back from his alma mater.

Woodson is expected to accept an offer to coach Indiana University, according to multiple reports.

Indy Star was the first to report the news.

The reported deal will make Woodson the Hoosiers head coach for the next six years, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau made it clear that the Knicks organization will not stand in the way for his assistant coaches to leave the team for head coaching opportunities in the NCAA.

Thibodeau expressed confidence that they can survive a mid-season exodus.

“I’m very pleased with our staff. We have a great teaching staff,” Thibodeau said. “We have a number of guys who could step up.”

Woodson, who turned 63 last March 24, has no prior coaching experience in college, but he’s bringing more than two decades of NBA coaching experience.

Woodson was the Knicks’ 12th overall pick in the 1980 Draft. He played 11 seasons in the NBA as a journeyman. After hanging up his sneakers, he embarked on a coaching career that started in Milwaukee in 1996. He worked as an assistant coach for 10 years, winning an NBA championship under Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown in Detroit.

Woodson got his first head coaching break in Atlanta. He coached the Hawks from 2006-2010, improving each season and leading them to the playoffs three times.

He drifted back to being an assistant before taking over the Knicks job when Mike D’Antoni resigned in 2012. Woodson was the last Knicks head coach to have led the team to the playoffs in 2013. He was fired the following year after the Knicks narrowly missed the playoffs due to a spate of injuries.

Woodson later joined the Los Angeles Clippers as an assistant before resigning in 2018. He joined Thibodeau’s coaching staff after being one of the finalists for the job.

Woodson compiled a 315-365 (.463) record in the NBA as head coach.

The Hoosiers will bring Woodson home since he played under legendary coach Bob Knight at IU from 1976-80.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Rangers Rally Falls Short in David Quinn’s return

ryan strome, rangers

A slow start doomed the New York Rangers as they fell 5-4 to the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon. After falling behind by four goals early in the third period, the Rangers rallied in the third but fell just short in the comeback.

Colin Blackwell scored the first two goals in the Ranger’s comeback. Alexis Lafreniere also scored as Chris Kreider added a power-play goal to bring the Rangers within one. Adam Fox had two assists in the game.

Tom Wilson scored twice, and Alex Ovechkin added his 10th goal in his past nine games to lead Washington to their third straight win, and 10 out of their last 11.

The returning head coach did not inspire the New York Rangers

David Quinn returned to coach the Rangers at Washington Capitals after missing the past six games while in NHL COVID-19 protocol.

“I was told I was going to be OK,” said Quinn, who has an underlying health condition due to hemophilia. “It wasn’t going to be anything that was going to create more of an issue for me. But anytime you get COVID, basically, the way things have gone, you’re always a little bit worried. But I never really got sick at all and I was very fortunate to have a very mild reaction to it.”

Quinn’s return appears to have had little impact on the Rangers as the Capitals jumped out to a 4-0 lead before a third-period rally closed the gap.

The Rangers went 4-2-0 during Quinn’s absence with Hartford Kris Knoblauch, who served as an assistant during Sunday’s game. Assistant coach David Oliver remains in COVID-19 protocol.

After the game in his post-game Zoom conference, Quinn talked about an issue that has followed the Rangers for a couple of years: too much passing and not enough shooting. In what Quinn described as the “inability to shoot”, following a trend from last season in which the Rangers averaged 31.1 shots on goal per game, good for only 20th place in the NHL.

The Rangers return home Tuesday night to host the Capitals with a 7:00 p.m. puck drop.

 

 

UFC targeting Dustin Poirier – Conor McGregor 3 for July

Arguably the biggest money fight for the UFC in 2021 is close to being finalized. Dana White said last night in his post-fight press conference that the promotion is targeting UFC 264 on July 10th for the trilogy between Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) and Conor McGregor (22-5).

Today, Poirier seemingly confirmed the date on Twitter saying, “July 10th.” The promotion has been working on booking the trilogy fight as it’s the fight that both men want after their second fight at UFC 257.

Both men hold a knockout win over the other and there’s no bigger fight to make. Dana White said this week that Poirier turned down a shot at the vacant UFC lightweight title in order to pursue the McGregor trilogy.

In terms of a business decision, that was definitely the right move. Originally, the promotion wanted to do the trilogy in May, but there were some negotiation hurdles. We know appear to be clearing those hurdles and it looks like were getting close to UFC 264 being official.

UFC 264: Poirier – McGregor 3

White also said last night that the promotion has high hopes that UFC 264 would be in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile arena. Last night might have been the final UFC PPV that was held inside the APEX.

Starting with UFC 261, the promotion is wanting to have PPVs in front of full audiences. Time will tell how feasible that is with other venues and locations. We know the next two events are already booked to have full audiences.

If the UFC does return to Las Vegas in July with a full crowd, they are doing it with the biggest fight possible. Despite the loss in the rematch, Conor McGregor is still the biggest star in the sport.

With Khabib Nurmagomedov retired, Dustin Poirier is the best lightweight in the UFC. This is a much bigger fight than the title fight in May between Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveira. I would expect this fight to be the biggest PPV buy rate of 2021.

Yankees News: Positive Justin Wilson injury update, Jay Bruce expresses excitement about making team

new york yankees, justin wilson

The New York Yankees are heading into the regular season with a few injuries under their belt. Things could’ve been worse, but they did lose relief pitcher Zack Britton and Justin Wilson — Wilson is fighting to get back to normal before the start of the season on April 1.

Wilson has recently begun throwing off the mound, having a successful session over the weekend.

“I got all the way to 90 feet and felt really normal,’’ said Wilson. He also mentioned he’s at about 75-80% of his program.

The Yankees desperately need Wilson to be back to normal as soon as possible, especially with Britton expected to be out for another few weeks. Wilson was solid for the New York Mets in 2020, earning a 3.66 ERA over 19.2 innings.

“I’m not sure it’s set in stone either way,’’ Wilson said. “I know they’ve got a few things they want to see on their checklist.”

Luckily, the Yankees are slowly getting healthier in the pitching department but did lose starting first baseman, Luke Voit, to a partially torn meniscus. He will be out for a minimum of three weeks but recently underwent surgery to correct the issue. Manager Aaron Boone had stated it was better to get the injury out-of-the-way now than play through it and potentially make it more serious.

Jay Bruce on making the Yankees active roster:

Due to Voit suffering the meniscus injury, slugger Jay Bruce made the roster in his absence. Bruce could fill the first base spot in his absence, despite being a traditional right fielder.

“I’m extremely excited to make the team,’’ Bruce said. “Luke’s injury is disheartening for everyone. … He is a big part of the team. My goal is not to come here and replace Luke Voit. It’s to be Jay Bruce and help this team, just like I planned when I signed here.”

Bruce is traditionally a double-digit home-run hitter throughout his career, so he can supplement the loss of Luke in a minor way. After starting off the spring strong, Bruce fell back down to earth, finishing with a .194 average, two homers, and three RBIs. With more live-action, I believe his stat line will flatten out, but just until Voit makes his return in a few weeks.

“I didn’t post a great stat line in spring training, but I refuse to think three extra hits would’ve changed anyone’s mind about a roster decision,’’ Bruce said. “The feedback was good the whole time.”