New York Yankees: Corey Kluber makes Yankee history, a no-hitter

Last night in Arlington, Texas, the New York Yankees added a page to their illustrious history. Corey Kluber pitched a no-hitter, for the first for the Yankees since 1999. Kluber added his name to the list of the Yankees’ 12 no-hitters. Adding his name to that of Doc Gooden, David Wells, and the last no-hitter, a perfect game for  David Cone in 1999. It was the 2 time Cy Young Award winner’s first no-hitter in his career. Kluber came one walk from a perfect game. It would be redundant to say he had total command of his pitches and pitched masterfully.

To know more about the righty pitcher, you must know the path that bought him to the New York Yankees. Corey Scott Kluber, nicknamed Klubot, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 10, 1986, to Jim and Ellen Kluber. [2] He played baseball as a child and played for his high school, Coppell, in Coppell, Texas. After high school, he attended Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. While there, he was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2007. [3]

The San Diego Padres took notice and selected Kluber in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. He played so well for the Padres that they used him as a trading piece, going to the Cleveland Indians during 2010. While there, he established himself as a starting pitcher and pitched for the Indians until 2019. During his time there, he was an All-Star 3 times. With an 18–9 win-loss record and a 2.44 ERA, he won a close vote to earn the prestigious American League Cy Young Award’ in 2014.

In April of 2015, he registered his first win of the season with a career-high 18 strikeouts against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 13, 2015. June 2017 was a great month for Kluber; he won the Pitcher of the Month Award, something he replicated in August and again in September, which led to his second Cy Young Award. In 2017 he sported an 18-4 record on the season with an ERA of 2.25.

2018 was another great year for Corey Kluber; he had a 20 game winning season losing just 7 games with an ERA of 2.89. But his fortunes changed in 2019. First, he was hit by a pitch. In May, he was hit by an ugly comebacker. After the game, it was revealed that he sustained a non-displaced fracture of the right ulna, the longer of the two bones in the forearm. He was fitted with a cast and did not return to the major league mound in 2019, although he did make a few minor league starts.

On December 15, 2019, Cleveland traded Kluber and cash considerations to the Texas Rangers for two players. He took to the mound for the first time, with the Rangers making his debut on July 26, 2020; he pitched just one inning, leaving the game with shoulder tightness. It was later diagnosed as a Grade 2 tear of the teres major muscle in the back of his right shoulder. He was shut down for four weeks while undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy. Due to the short season, he never returned to the mound for the Rangers.

On January 27, 2021, Kluber signed a one-year, $11 million contract with the New York Yankees. General Manager Brian Cashman had a history of hiring players that were once great but had been injured. It was a calculated risk for the Yankees with a possible high reward. It seemed like he was hired out of the blue, but that is not true. The Yankees had the inside track to whether they should go after the Cy Young Award winner.

After recovering from his shoulder tear, he rehabbed over the winter with Eric Cressey. The same Cressey that is the New York Yankees head of training. Cashman had watched Kluber closely in the offseason and, upon the advice of Cresseyj and pitching coach Matt Blake, who said he was ready to pitch, hired him. So far, the Yankees are happy with the right-hander; he is healthy and has a great attitude to make his major league comeback.

Today will be his chance to show that he can be the pitcher the Yankees hope he can be. With a good spring training showing, the Yankees are hopeful. Today at 1:05, he will take the Yankees’ mound against Ross Stripling of the Toronto Blue Jays. The game will be televised in Canada and on the YES Network.

For more detailed information, visit my January article on Kluber.

For the play by play for the no-hitter go here

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley could raise RB salary floor, says NFL.com

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants made a controversial decision when they drafted Saquon Barkley number two overall. They basically decided they were building their offense around a running back in today’s passing centered NFL, and committed to likely handing out a huge contract to a running back down the line.

Barkley’s next contract has been a distant problem for the organization for a while, but going into the 2021 season, we’re getting closer to the time when the Giants will need to figure it out.

While the front office did make the expected move and pick up his fifth year option, there’s plenty of speculation so far about the deal Barkley will eventually get after that option runs out.

He was named to an NFL.com All-Paid Team as the top running back, and it doesn’t look like anyone else at the position is headed for as big a deal. His projected average salary falls between $15M and $17M, which is nothing to scoff at.

Will Barkley get the next big running back deal?

Barkley also recorded 91 receptions in ’18, the most all-time by a rookie running back. Since then, though, Barkley has played just 15 games, and he missed the final 14 games last season. Even so, in those 15 games, he produced 1,535 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns. He’s still been highly productive, but the Giants are surely interested to see how the 24-year-old’s body holds up this upcoming season.

The article predicts that Barkley is the next hope for other top running backs when it comes to raising the salary floor of the position.

The next couple of seasons will likely be the determining factor in whether Barkley gets a groundbreaking deal or not. This fact is even mentioned in the article, as Barkley’s health is listed as his one weakness since coming into the league.

The Giants have obviously put a lot of faith in him by drafting him where they did, but at the end of the day, it’s only worth giving a huge deal to a player that can stay on the field.

The hope for everyone, of course, is that this season is the start of Barkley putting the last couple of injury plagued years behind him.

Braves Figure Out How To Beat The Mets Replacements in 5-4 Loss

The New York Mets were pulling off miracles with their roster depth but had nothing left for the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves. Manager Luis Rojas tried to ride Jacob Barnes for another inning, and Ronald Acuna had none of it. Acuna took his first pitch right over the center field fence to give the Braves a 5-4 walk-off win and avoid the sweep.

The Mets had an opportunity to take the lead in the ninth, but two consecutive popouts stranded Cameron Maybin on third base to end the inning. Rojas had to turn to his bullpen early again after David Peterson struggled in the fifth inning. Peterson began his start with four no-hit innings but allowed three runs and five hits before being lifted in the fifth.

Drew Smith and Miguel Castro delivered scoreless outings, but Aaron Loup ran into issues in the eighth. Loup allowed three consecutive hits and allowed the Braves to tie the game. Luckily, Barnes worked out of the eighth inning jam with help from the defense of James McCann.

Maybin’s Mets Debut

Maybin went from doing nothing with Cubs to making his 2021 debut as the three-hitter for the injured Mets. The lineup only had four hits, and three resulted in runs. Jonathan Villar opened up scoring with a solo home run, Jose Peraza drove in one with an RBI double, and Tomas Nido had another clutch hit with a two-run single to give them a 4-3 lead. Unfortunately, the cracks in their outfield showed as all three outfielders went hitless, and two (Maybin and Lee) recorded three strikeout games. While the offense was not there, Lee made another tremendous catch while patrolling right field.

Even if the Mets found a way to take the lead, Trevor May would have needed to pitch a third consecutive day. If they made it to extra innings, who knows what combination of pitchers would have made it to the mound. Despite the disappointing loss, the Mets left Atlanta with a rare series win and still sit in first place in the NL East. After Thursday’s day off, they will have another opportunity to take another series when they fly to Miami and face the Marlins.

New York Yankees Recap: Corey Kluber has a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers (video)

The New York Yankees faced the Texas Rangers tonight in game three of the four-game set in Arlington Texas. Corey Kluber faced Hyeon-Jong Yang.   No one knew it would be a night for the history books. The Yankees won the game 2-0 with a 101 pitch no-hitter by Corey Kluber and the first away no-hitter for the New York Yankees since 1951.

DJ LeMahieu led off the first inning with a single. Luke Voit hit into a double play for two outs in the inning. Aaron Judge singled to right field. Gio Urshela struck out to end the half. At the bottom against Corey Kluber, Willie Calhoun struck out. Nick Solak went down looking. Nate Lowe went down for a 1-2-3 inning for Kluber. No score.

Gleyber Torres off the Covid list hit a single to right. Miguel Andujar hit into a double play. Brett Gardner ground out to first to end the half. At the bottom against Kluber, Adolis Garcia led off the bottom by striking out. Joey Gallo popped out to Gardner in the center. Khris Davis ground out for another 1-2-3 inning for Kluber. No score.

Kyle Higashioka led off the third inning by grounding out. Ryan LaMarre ground out but immediately grabbed his hamstring. DJ LeMahieu ground out as the Yankees went down in order and apparently had another injured player. Isiah Kiner-Falefa led off the bottom by flying out to Wade. Charlie Culberson walked. Jose Trevino struck out. Willie Calhoun flew out to LeMahieu to end the inning with no score.

Luke Voit led off the fourth, and he struck out swinging. Aaron Judge ground out to short. Gio Urshela ground out for Yang’s eight Yankee put down in a row. At the bottom Nick Solak by striking out. Lowe flew out to Wade in far-right. Garcia skied one to center field for another quick inning for Kluber. No score.

Gleyber Torres led off the fifth inning by walking. Miguel Andujar hit into another double play for the Yankees’ 45th double play of the season. Bret Gardner flew out to center. Joey Gallo took to the place in the bottom of the fifth and went down looking for Kluber’s sixth strikeout of the game. Davis was a struck-out victim number seven. Kiner-Falefa ground out for another 1-2-3 inning for Kluber. No score.

Kyle Higashioka in the sixth walked to start the inning. Tyler Wade had an RBI triple to the right-field wall driving in Higashioka for the Yankees’ first run of the game. LeMahieu had a sac fly to far left, scoring Wade from third. Voit walked. Judge faced the new pitcher Brett Martin, and he struck out swinging. Urshela struck out but the New York Yankees picked up two runs in the inning. At the bottom of the sixth, Kluber kept the Rangers scoreless.

The seventh for the New York Yankees was scoreless. At the bottom, Gallo ground out. Davis ground out to Urshela.  Kiner-Falefa flew out to Wade in right field. Corey Kluber was just three outs away from a no-hitter. New York Yankees 2, Rangers 0.

Voit led off the ninth and went down swinging. Judge flew out to center. Urshela flew out to center. At the bottom, for the first time in 2021, a Yankees pitcher took to the mound to pitch a complete game for the Yankees and a possible no-hitter. Culberson ground out to second. David Dahl pinch-hitting for Trevino flew out to Wade in right. With only one out for no-hitter, Kluber faced Calhoun, who ground out for the no-hitter for Corey Kluber; it was a game for the history books.

Final score New York Yankees 2 and the Texas Rangers 0. The no-hitter win went to Corey Kluber, and the loser was Hyeon-Jong Yang.

 

 

 

Yankees’ Corey Kluber makes history books with insane performance against Rangers

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

For just the 11th time in New York Yankees history, a starting pitcher recorded a no-hitter in a regular-season contest. Two-time Cy Young award-winning pitcher, Corey Kluber, went nine innings without giving up a hit and was just one walk away from a perfect game.

Kluber, who missed virtually the entire 2020 season and pitched just 35.2 innings in 2019, has already surpassed that mark with 41.1 innings this season, hosting a 2.86 ERA after blanking Texas in one of the most outstanding performances of the year.

The Yankees needed Kluber and no more for victory:

While the Yankees extracted the win with just two runs on the board, they didn’t need much more to get the job done, as Kluber showed up with elite-level pitching, missing on only a few pitches. With four wins on the season, he has already established himself as a sure-fire number two behind Gerrit Cole, something the Yankees lacked in previous years.

If Kluber can continue to dominate, Yankees will have a fantastic starting rotation during the elimination series in postseason play, and with Luis Severino expected to return within the next few months, we should be extremely optimistic regarding the future of this team on defense.

While the offense still needs to rejuvenate and produce more consistent performances, there’s no time for negativity. Kluber only needed 101 pitches to get the job done, throwing 71 strikes. He was bailed out a few times toward the end by his teammates but managed to battle back the jitters and energy that ultimately accompanies throwing a no-hitter.

The last pitcher to throw a no-hitter in a Yankee uniform was David Cone, who is currently a broadcaster for YES network.

Wednesday will undoubtedly go down in history books, and Kluber’s performance is exactly what he needed to re-establish himself as one of the best starters in baseball. It has been quite some time since he’s been considered as such, but he’s right on track to gaining back the respect he deserves.

Tom Thibodeau: Knicks’ RJ Barrett is going to be a special player

The sigh of relief quickly turned into excitement when the buzzer sounded at The Garden on Sunday, signaling New York Knicks return to the playoffs after seven dreadful seasons.

RJ Barrett’s 22 points were enough to withstand the Boston Celtics stringers’ late charge to pull off their 41st win of the season. A 20-win jump from last season in which Barrett got snubbed from the All-Rookie Team.

The sophomore wing responded with a giant stride that helped the Knicks’ playoff drive this season.

“It’s great to have brought Knicks fans what they want, brought them back to the playoffs,” Barret said after the Knicks’ regular-season finale.

Julius Randle takes much of the credit for being the engine of this surprising Knicks team, and rightfully so. But beneath his wing is Barrett, who followed his lead and learned to spread his own wings.

There was trepidation that he’d turn into a bust after an uneven rookie season. But Barrett used that as motivation.

He returned this season determined to prove his doubters wrong.

The 2019 NBA Draft was widely believed to yield two superstars on top — Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. Barrett wasn’t even a consensus choice behind the two rookie studs. But Knicks’ GM Scott Perry had a feeling that Barrett is cut in the same cloth and shunned offers to trade down.

Barrett is proving Perry right.

The former Duke star has outraced his more illustrious Draft classmates — Williamson and Morant — in reaching the playoffs.

“This is something I envisioned. This is something I wanted to do,” Barrett said. “I’ve always said I’m a winner. I had a feeling that I’ll be a part of a multiple playoff team.”

All signs point toward that direction. There’s confidence around the league that the Knicks can sustain this newfound success with a new culture in place, synergy in the organization, and large cap space.

Barrett’s rapid improvement is one of the big reasons why the Knicks are ahead of their timeline.

Barrett didn’t miss a game and placed second in the league in minutes played next to Randle. He finished the regular season averaging 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in joining Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and Williamson as the only NBA players under 21 who have achieved that feat. But what stood out was his outside shot that was deemed as his weakness even in college.

With the help of his long-time trainer Drew Hanlen, he widened his stance and corrected his hand position and shooting motion.

The result was an unbelievable 8-percent jump in his three-point shooting clip. Barrett is now shooting 40.1 percent of his 3s. He just became the third player aged 20 and under in the NBA history who has shot over 40 percent of his 3s with at least 125 3-pointers. The other two on the list are Bradley Beal and Mike Miller.

Barrett has complemented Randle well as a solid catch-and-shoot threat. He’s one of the five Knicks’ players shooting at least 40 percent from 3.

“When you look at a guy like RJ Barrett, and he’s only 20 years old, and the way he’s playing and the way he’s growing, I think he’s going to be a special player in this league,” Tom Thibodeau said on Tuesday at the Breakfast Club.

Barrett has drawn comparisons to Thibodeau’s former player Jimmy Butler, who blossomed into one of the league’s stars. But unlike Butler, who was a late bloomer, Barrett has been afforded with opportunity right away. And he’s not shying away from the challenge.

Barrett’s mental makeup is a big part of his major turnaround.

“I had an opportunity to coach with coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) with the Team USA. And when I got hired, I talked to him and learned about RJ,” Thibodeau revealed.

“Everything that he told me about him has been true. His commitment to the team. His commitment to work — how he wanted to learn, how he wanted to grow. Usually, when you get those types of guys, and he’s a gym rat, those guys always get better. He’s driven to succeed.”

Barrett is just starting to scratch his potential. According to Hanlen, Barrett’s next step in his learning curve is to develop a three-point shot off the dribble.

But more than his rapidly developing outside shooting, Thibodeau sees the overall value of Barrett as his true gift.

“He’s put a lot of time into his game. It’s an all-around game that he develops. He drives the ball, pick and roll, he makes plays. Defensively, he really challenges shots; he rebounds the ball. So he’s a complete player, an all-around player. I think he’s got a huge upside,” Thibodeau said.

With Randle expected to draw much of the Atlanta Hawks’ attention on defense, Barrett has the chance to become this playoff’s breakout star.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

The New York Giants’ secondary is loaded with talent entering the 2021 season

New York Giants, James Bradberry, logan ryan

The New York Giants defense was one of the league’s best in the 2020 season. Entering 2021, the Giants’ defense has only gotten better. The Giants defense allowed only 22.3 points per game last season, giving them a top-ten unit. Yet, New York still went into the offseason and added even more talent to their defense.

The Giants’ secondary was the strength of the team last year. Cornerback James Bradberry looked like a blanket on the field, consistently shutting down opposing receivers. New York also enjoyed a dynamic safety tandem of Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan. However, there were a couple of holes in the Giants’ secondary.

Opposite of Bradberry, New York had a revolving door at their second outside cornerback position. Corey Ballentine, Ryan Lewis, and ultimately Isaac Yiadom saw plenty of reps as the starter. The Giants recognized that position as a weakness and went out to fix it this offseason. Along with a new CB2 in Adoree’ Jackson, the Giants also added depth at cornerback and created an interesting competition at slot cornerback. The New York Giants have loaded their secondary with talent heading into 2020.

The Giants’ talented secondary

James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, and Jabrill Peppers were the stars of the Giants’ secondary in 2020. They also enjoyed the presence of a quality utility player in Julian Love. Xavier McKinney was also impressive at the end of the season coming off of an injury that kept him sidelined for the majority of his rookie season. Take all of this talent, now combine it with plenty more.

Adoree’ Jackson enters the Giants’ lineup as their new CB2. Jackson will allow the Giants to transition back into their more man-press-heavy coverage scheme. Since 2018, Adoree Jackson has the fourth-highest coverage grade when lined up outside according to Pro Football Focus with a grade of 85.6. The Giants got a bonafide CB1 (when healthy) to play CB2 for them on the outside.

Darnay Holmes was an impressive rookie slot cornerback who did not allow a touchdown in coverage during the 2020 season. He will compete alongside new rookie Aaron Robinson out of UCF in the slot. A-Rob is physical and should see a good amount of playing time inside along with Holmes.

Then, of course, Xavier McKinney is entering his sophomore season. Xavier flashed great potential at the end of the 2020 season and will see plenty of playing time in 2021. He could have a major breakout covering the back end of the Giants’ defense.

On top of these talented starting-level players, the Giants added a lot of quality depth to their secondary. Isaac Yiadom started 10 games last year and will be a solid depth piece at cornerback. The Giants also added Rodarius Williams at the back end of the 2021 NFL Draft, another physical man-to-man corner.

The New York Giants took one of their strongest units and made it even stronger in the 2021 offseason. It was hard enough for opposing quarterbacks to move the football against the New York Pass Defense in 2021. The New York Giants’ talent-loaded secondary is going to make Sundays even more challenging for opposing quarterbacks in 2021.

UFC books Clay Guida – Mark O. Madsen

One of the more popular fighters in the UFC has his next date and he has a big challenge in front of him. Today, we learned that Clay “The Carpenter” Guida (36-20) is going to be taking on the undefeated Mark O. Madsen (10-0).

The matchup will take place at a UFC Fight Night on August 21st. The news was first reported by Danish outlet ViaRitzau and later confirmed by MMA Fighting. Guida will be trying to make it two in a row on August 21st.

If there was any fighter that personifies the statement that age is just a number it’s Clay Guida. The Carpenter is getting ready to turn 40 years old at the end of the year, but there are no signs of him slowing down.

In his last UFC appearance, Guida took on former Ultimate Fighter runner-up Michael Johnson. Guida looked great and used his suffocating pace and style to smother Michael Johnson and win a decision.

That decision win snapped a two-fight losing streak for Guida. Guida is 4-3 in his last seven UFC matchups, but one of those is against the current lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira.

The Olympian in the UFC

Mark O. Madsen will be making his third appearance in the UFC. This will be his first fight since UFC 248 when he took on Austin Hubbard. Madsen broke his jaw in that contest which is why we haven’t seen The Olympian in some time.

Madsen is one of the most decorated wrestlers to have ever competed in the UFC. He’s a three-time Olympian and he won a silver medal. The lightweight is hoping that he can capture a UFC title to go along with his Olympic medal.

Due to his commitment to the Olympics, Madsen sidelined his MMA career in 2014 after starting 2-0. He competed in the 2016 Summer games before resuming his MMA career. In 2018 he returned and he hasn’t looked back since.

This will be his biggest test thus far. Guida has been in there with the very best the UFC has to offer and his style is incredibly difficult to deal with. This should be a fun one on August 21st.

Thibodeau addresses Knicks’ Elf-ant in the room; Ntilikina as Trae stopper?

Tom Thibodeau may bury struggling Elfrid Payton on the bench during crucial moments of the game, but he will never throw his beleaguered starting point guard under the bus.

The New York Knicks have reached this far, with Thibodeau sticking to his guns with Payton as a starter. But Payton’s role had been reduced to token starts for the Knicks during the home stretch, with his favorite point guard Derrick Rose taking a larger role off the bench.

“The depth of our team is one of our strengths. There are things that Elfrid provides for us that are big assets to our team — his size, his defense,” Thibodeau said on his zoom call with reporters on Wednesday. Those are important factors. And then you look at it in totality. How does the team function?”

The Knicks have won 16 of their last 20 games despite Payton’s offensive woes. Payton hasn’t breached the 20-minute barrier since April 28. His confidence took a hit with only a total of six points in their final six games. He shot at an atrocious 3-for-19 from the floor during that ugly stretch.

“As is the case with most players, there will be ups and downs. You don’t have to shoot well to play well. Just go out there and give us what you can. And every game is different,” said Thibodeau of Payton.

“The thing that I love about our team is if someone’s not doing good, another guy steps in, and if he’s doing good, everyone is cheering for that guy. The most important thing is the team winning. That’s where I want the focus to lie,” he added.

Thibodeau was able to hide Payton’s deficiencies with Rose closing out games and Alec Burks getting back in the groove.

Rose and Burks will figure heavily in the rotation as Thibodeau will rely on their playoff experience. The veteran backcourt duo has a combined 63 playoff games under their belts.

“The things that you can do well, focus on those things. The things that you don’t do well, you stay away from those things. Play with your strengths and cover your weaknesses and do that as a team. And if you do that as a team, the team will have success and that’s what we’re focused on,” Thibodeau said.

Aside from Rose and Burks, Thibodeau may reach deep in his pocket in his bid to slow down Trae Young, who averaged 24.7 points and 12.0 assists in three games against the Knicks this season. Thibodeau admitted he’s been contemplating a lot about utilizing Frank Ntilikina, who’s been out of the rotation for most of the season.

“Frank has been sort of that role as a defensive stopper. He adds great value to our team,” Thibodeau said.

“What you guys don’t see is — he and Kevin Knox and a bunch of other guys who are not in the rotation — how hard they work in practice. We value practice greatly. They’re providing a lot to our team. And whatever their strengths are, we’re gonna try to take advantage of that. And we want them to continue to improve, and that’s an important part of what we’re doing here. All our players are critical.”

If Ntilikina manages to sneak into the rotation, it will be interesting to see how Thibodeau will spread out the minutes.

Will Payton’s minutes get further reduced, or will Ntilikina cut into rookie Immanuel Quickley’s playing time?

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Chicago Bears: Top 5 things to be excited about for the 2021 season

Ladies and gentlemen, after what seems like an eternity we have arrived. The offseason is entering rookie training camps, and OTA’s are around the corner. After what I can call an absolute home run of a draft, the Chicago Bears have created a ton of buzz about the 2021 season. Statistically, however, the Bears have the 3rd toughest schedule, according to CBS Sports, with a collective opponent 2020 win rate of .550. The schedule appears to be designed with rookie quarterback Justin Fields in mind, as those crafty heads up at NFL HQ slated a majority of the Bears primetime match-ups towards the latter half of the season. You know, just in case Head Coach Matt Nagy pulls the plug on the Dalton experience and throws Fields into the mix.

With all this being said, this season is shaping up to define the direction of the franchise for the next 3-4 years. I don’t foresee the Bears marching into Sofi Stadium in early February, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a plethora of people and developments to watch this season. From returning talents like James Daniel and Eddie Goldman to the continuing development of Darnell Mooney and David Montgomery. This season is sure to excite any fan. Here are the top 5 things to be excited about as a Bears fan heading into the 2021 NFL season. 

#5: The boys are back in town – Linemen win games

When burgeoning talent DT Eddie Goldman announced his decision to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season, it felt like being hit by a truck. I imagine that’s what opposing Centers and Guards felt as he tore through offensive lines with ease in 2019. I understand the decision though the game is just that – a game. Personal health and family safety will always be more important. I can only hope Goldman picks up where he left off, completing a key tandem with Akiem Hicks anchoring our rush defense.

Another returner this season is pro-bowl OL utilityman, James Daniel. This one gets me excited. After suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in week 5, Bers fans saw a carousel of line-men attempting to stabilize the front 5. Surprising breakout performances by former practice squad members Alex bars and Sam Mustipher indicate the front three interior linemen positions have both depth and talent on the roster. Daniels’ return also signals a much-needed return to stability. 

Bears GM Ryan Pace clearly made improving the Offensive Line a top priority in the off-season. Bringing in Elijah Wilkinson in Free Agency, re-signing Germain Ifedi, and trading up in the second round to steal Oklahoma State stud Teven Jenkins, while selecting Missouri big man Larry Borom in the 6th. Charles Leno and Bobbie Massie will not be returning to Chicago this season. Honestly, I’m not all that upset about it.

Jenkins will most likely get the starting nod at the left tackle spot. This leaves the Right tackle spot an area for competition. Offensive life coach Juan Castillo told reporters that “Larry Borom will compete with Germain Ifedi at RT, but Ifedi will line up at RT to start the season.” That leaves the rest of us wondering if Daniels lines up at center as he did in 2019, or at guard allowing Sam Mustipher to continue his hot play. Regardless of the endless possibilities on the interior offensive line, it looks stacked. David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen (also returning from injury) are sure to eat up the run game with James Daniel’s return to the line.

#4: This is Desai’s world, we’re just living in it 

There’s a new defensive sheriff in town, and his name is Sean Desai. A branch off the ole’ Vic Fangio tree, Sean Desai is a defensive secondary scheme savant. I love Chuck Pagano, an amazing man with an amazing story. But his secondary schemes did not play well to the secondary talent acquired under the Fangio years. After the 2018 Bears Defense dominated the league, the 2019 & 2020 Bears rewarded fans with a step back in just about every metric.

Under Desai, I strongly think the Bears defense is in store for a return to form. Desai is not only an actual professor, holding a Ph.D. from Temple University and teaching classes at Lake Forrest College, but he also schools offenses with his secondary schemes. Doc Desai’s ability to educate and communicate with players lead to his glowing review from DB Prince Amukamara. As Chicago Bears reporter with the Chicago Tribune, Brad Biggs reports, “Amukamara credits Desai for the first pick-six of his career.”

Look, I still believe Eddie Jackson is a top 5 safety in the NFL. I hope he lives up to his reputation this year under a defense that will be built on the backs of the Bears secondary. Losing Kyle Fuller may throw a wrench in Desai’s plan, but young products like Jaylon Johnson and Kendel Vildor will continue to establish themselves as dominant forces. In a schedule that features quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Russell Willson, and more. A staunch pass defense will be a necessity if the Bears hope to see success. 

#3: From cubs into Bears – Offensive Prospects 

The 2021 Chicago Bears roster is full of 2nd and 3rd years players poised to become household names.

David Montgomery went on a tear ending the season, with over 100 yards in three out of six games. Finishing the 2020 season with just a hair over 1000 yards, I am confident we will see another 1k yard season in 2021. I’m putting my money around 1400. Expect Monty to continue his elite ability to break open-field tackles. His vision is one of the best in the league and I can’t wait to see him put defenses on notice. 

Darnell Mooney What another mid-round steal for Ryan Pace. This kid is fast, has elite hands, and is first among rookie WR’s in broken tackles according to PFF. Any rookie that buys a Juggs machine with his first paycheck then proceeds on to drop only one pass after being targeted 98 times in a season is good in my book.  His speed and route running abilities will be a feature of this offense as Justin Fields establishes himself as QB1. Mooney has a knack for burning nickel corners and getting behind safeties. Fields has a knack at throwing incredibly accurate deep balls. Let’s hope Jalen Ramsey can keep up this time. 

Anthony Miller — This one is a controversial take, a bit spicy if you will. Miller has every tool needed to be an elite slot in the NFL. He just hasn’t taken the next step. With his career on the line, I think he has every reason to do it this year. There’s valid concern around Miller’s maturity. After his late-game ejection against the Saints, many called for the Bears to ship him off during the season. I think it was a wise decision by the front office to keep Miller on staff. As wide receiver coach Mike Furrey stated, “There’s a small increment in improvement so he’s done great, he’s been in our rooms, no issues.” Drafting speedy slot Dazz Newsome also sends a blunt message to Anthony Miller, saying “we have a replacement, let us know when we need to put him in.”

#2: The Packers? What is going on over there? 

How does it feel to have talent surrounding a big question mark under center? That’s what being a Bears fan has felt like for the past three decades. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t want to play in Green Bay, and I don’t blame him. The team is refusing to let him walk, and I don’t blame them. Regardless of what happens, I have to admit this has all been extremely amusing. If Blake Bortles becomes QB1 for the Green Bay Packers, this will be one fun show to watch.  

#1.5: Getting to see live football again

My first live Chicago Bears game was in the 2015 preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs. We got blown out. But seeing Cutler, Jefferies, and Howard live was amazing. It’ll feel even more amazing to see Justin Fields and this talented unit out on the field again. There’s nothing quite like being at a Football game. I can’t wait to go back. 

#1: Fiel- I mean the Rookies. 

Pace’s trade with the New York Giants to move up to pick #11 and snag Justin Fields was the shot of adrenaline the Bears fanbase needed. After two consecutive years of letdowns, it seems like the Front Office has finally started listening to the fans. This was Ryan Pace’s best draft as GM. No contest. Pace was able to steal early-round talent late in the draft with picks like Khalil Herbert, Thomas Graham Jr., and Dazz Newsome. He filled needs in the Offensive Line with Maulers like Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom.

I’m stoked to see Justin Fields on Soldier Field. Also, these UDFA’s are fantastic as well. Charles Snowden, an early-round talent, went undrafted. The 6’7”, 240 lb monster of a man is listed early as a defensive lineman. To all the rookies, if you ever end up reading this. Take a breath. Welcome to the greatest city on Earth. Congratulations, and get ready to play some Bears football. 

Altogether, buckle up Bears fans. Though we may not win a ton of games, this team is poised to turn heads. I haven’t been this excited about a season since, well, honestly I can’t remember!