BRISTOL, Tenn. — Austin Cindric may not have had the best car all day at Bristol Motor Speedway, but he had it when it counted. Navigating through heavy lapped traffic, Cindric began to pull away from Sam Mayer and Justin Allgaier with his sixth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season in sight.
All of a sudden — caution. Mayer and Allgaier had tangled up racing for second place, setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
AJ Allmendinger, fighting Cindric for the regular-season championship, got a great launch on the restart from the inside lane. He held his ground with Cindric all the way down the backstretch, the two banging doors in Turn 4.
Allmendinger snuck past Cindric in the corner and pulled away down the backstretch and into turns three and four. However, Cindric had one final run off the corner.
Allmendinger and Cindric slapped doors at the line, both spinning into the inside wall and then back up the track, collecting many other cars. The winner? Allmendinger.
Whether it was intentional or not, both drivers seemingly understood each other. The two were fighting for the regular-season points title and it came down to that one position. Cindric needed to win to steal the title from Allmendinger. Otherwise, he would’ve had to finish at least five spots above the 39-year-old veteran.
“I thought we had a really great battle all season long up to this point,” Cindric told NBC Sports. “I maybe shouldn’t have given up the bottom [on the restart]…..AJ [Allmendinger] obviously just drove straight through us. You have that green-white-checkered racing, but man, what a hell of a race. I tried”.
Allmendinger ran top-10 for most of the night but felt he didn’t have a race-winning car.
“We had about a fourth-place car,” Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “[We] got a chance on the bottom, and got in there and slid into Austin trying to throttle up and stay on the bottom.
“I expected to get run into. It happened in the previous corner. It’s frustrating to get hit that hard coming to the checkered, but we’re battling for the win. It’s Bristol baby! This is what it’s all about.
“You don’t want it to come down like that for the regular season, but it’s the way it’s going to be, and I expect it hopefully to happen in Phoenix, as well”.
Allmendinger’s 20 playoff points from Friday (five for the win, 15 for the regular-season championship) tie Cindric at 44 on the season. However, Cindric’s five wins act as a tiebreaker, giving him the No. 1 seed for the Round of 12.
Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Daniel Hemric, Jeb Burton, Harrison Burton, Myatt Snider, Brandon Jones, Riley Herbst, and Jeremy Clements fill the other 10 spots in the Xfinity Series playoffs.
The Round of 12 kicks off on Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The New York Yankees had fallen out of a walk card berth and, tonight, entered a new series, with a new urgency to get back into one of those postseason spots. Tonight the Yankees took on the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium with that goal in mind. Corey Kluber took the mound for the Yankees facing the Indians’ Zach Plesac.
In the first inning, Kluber faced Myles Straw; he flew out to Gallo in left. Brad Zimmer struck out when he couldn’t hold up. Jose Ramirez singled and immediately stole second. Franmil Reyes tapped back to Kluber to end the half. At the bottom, DJ LeMahieu led off with a single up the middle. Anthony Rizzo flew out to right. Aaron Judge singled to left, moving DJ to second base. Giancarlo Stanton hit into a 4-3-6 double play to strand two batters. No score.
Bobby Bradley led the second inning, who reached on an E3 when the hit tipped off Rizzo’s glove. Harold Ramirez flew out to Judge, and Judge fired in getting Bradley out at first. Two outs. Owen Miller flew out to center to end the half. In the bottom, Joey Gallo led off by hitting his 36th home run of the season into the second deck in right. Gleyber Torres ground out to second. Gio Urshela ground out to first. Brett Gardner ground out to third base. New York Yankees 1 Indians 0.
Leading off the third inning was Robert Perez, who singled to center field. A pitch hit Andres Gimenez. Straw with two on and no outs struck out. Zimmer flew out to Judge in right with the runners, not challenging Judge. Jose Ramirez lined out to second, assisted by Kluber to end the half. At the bottom, Kyle Higashioka led off by going down on strikes. LeMahieu popped out to second. Rizzo flew out to right to end the inning. Yankees 1 Indians 0.
Franmil Reyes led off the fourth by striking out. Bradley struck out. H. Ramirez singled up the middle. Miller popped out to Rizzo to end the half. Aaron Judge led off the bottom and homered the other way for his 35th of the season. Stanton went down on strikes. Gallo, who homered in the second, flew out to left. Torres stuck out swinging, but the Yankees picked up another run off of Judge’s home run. New York Yankees 2 Indians 0.
The fifth inning was led off by Perez, who worked a walk. Gimenez singled up the middle. Straw with two on and no outs hit into a double play with Perez moving to third. Zimmer ground out to second to end the half stranding Perez at third. Urshela led off the bottom of the fifth by singling up the middle. Gardner went down on three pitches. Higashioka gave one a ride, but it was caught at the right-centerfield wall. LeMahieu ground to first to end the inning. Yankees 2 Indians 0.
Jose Ramirez was at the plate for the sixth inning with Kluber still on the mound and walked. Reyes hit into a double play. Bradley flew out to Gallo to end the half. At the bottom, Rizzo ground out to first. Judge struck out. Stanton tipped back into the catcher’s glove, and that was it for the sixth. Yankees 2 Indians 0.
Harold Ramirez led off the seventh by facing new Yankee pitcher Michael King and went down on strikes. Miller ground out to third. Perez lined out directly to Torres at second. At the bottom, Gallo led off by singling to first. Torres walked. Urshela singled to center field, scoring Joey Gallo for the Yankee’s three run lead. With one in, two on, and no outs, Gardner hit a two-run homer to the short porch at the stadium. Higashioka struck out. LeMahieu ground out to center. Rizzo was out on a slow roller to second. New York Yankees 6 Indians 0.
The eighth inning was led off by Gimenez going down looking. Straw struck out. Zimmer flew out to Gardner, almost having a collision with Gallo. At the bottom, Judge led off by flying out to the warning track in right. Stanton homered into the left-field stands. Then Gallo had a back-to-back home run to right-center into the bullpen. Torres singled to center. Urshela, with still only one out, flew out to center. Gardner walked. Higashioka went down on strikes. New York Yankees 8 and the Cleveland Indians 0.
With the last licks on the line for the Indians in the top of the ninth, the Indian’s best player took to the plate and ground out to Urshela. Reyes flew out to Gallo in left. Yu Chang pinch-hitting for Bradley struck out to give the Yankees the shut out.
The final score was the New York Yankees 8 and the Cleveland Indians 0. The winning pitcher was Corey Kluber, and the loser was Zach Plesac.
Time will tell if the playoffs await, but the New York Liberty ended its season on the right note at Barclays Center on Friday.
This week’s metropolitan endeavor against the Washington basketball team was far more lucrative than the matchup against the football squad.
The New York Liberty ended its regular season on a strong note on Friday night at Barclays Center, topping the Washington Mystics by a 91-80 final. New York (12-20) snapped an eight-game losing streak with their triumph and will now await results from the weekend games. New York needs both Los Angeles and Washington to lose on Sunday to clinch its first playoff berth since 2017. The Mystics (12-19) return to the nation’s capital to battle the Minnesota Lynx (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3) while the Sparks battle the Dallas Wings on the road (5 p.m. ET, NBA TV).
Even if the playoffs aren’t to be, the Liberty set a WNBA record on Friday night, sinking their 317th three-pointer of the season, passing the 2019 Mystics. New York led by as many as 24, withstanding a 29-point effort from Ariel Atkins. Tina Charles, the all-time leading scorer in team history, was held to 10 points in defeat.
ESM has three standouts from the victorious finale…
Sami Whitcomb:Â 13 points, 7 rebounds
Bec Allen:Â 9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
3rd Star: Betnijah Laney
10 points, 11 assists
It was a tough shooting night for Laney (3-of-13 from the field) but served as a facilitator all night with her passing and ability to contribute on double-teams. Laney also continued a growing role as a face of New York basketball by addressing the crowd on Fan Appreciation Night prior to tip-off, thanking them for the season-long support and encouraging them to get loud for the big contest.
The Liberty’s first full-time Brooklyn ledger ended as it began: a Sabrina Ionescu buzzer-beater.
This edition wasn’t as dramatic…her shot clock-beating tally simply created the final 11-point margin…but served as one final crowd-pleaser to end Ionescu’s de facto rookie season on a high note. Ionescu ended the year with double figures in her final 11 games of the year. She also shot at least 50 percent in three of the final four. After the game, the California native and Oregon alumna said that New York was “starting to feel like home for a lot of us”.
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, but this is just the beginning. I’m so excited for the future of this team,” Ionescu said. “We’ve talked about, that feeling of growth and unity is really what this team’s about and why they put us all together…the fans were amazing…we heard them, felt them, it was electric.”
The Liberty’s Natasha Howard sample size was small thanks to an injury that cost “Flash” most of her debut year in New York. She saved the best for last, scoring 11 points in the first quarter en route to an 11-for-13 performance on the evening. Howard began to resemble her dominant self in the latter stages of the Liberty’s season, shooting 64 percent from the field over her last four games.
New Yorkers were most impressed with Howard’s leadership in the final game. Along with Whitcomb and Laney, Howard was one of those who took charge during a third-quarter timeout called and organized by players when Washington trimmed the Liberty’s 24-point lead. Howard herself admitted she isn’t the loudest motivator, but believed that had to change if the Liberty were to end the season the right way.
“Tonight I was talking a lot…it was time for me to step up to that plate, be more vocal,” she said. “When game time came, we were locked in…our growth came, we called stayed together, fought, and came out with a win.”
Head coach Walt Hopkins described Howard as a “sneaky vocal leader”, one who wanted to lead by example. Concerning the aforementioned timeout, Hopkins was further pleased with his players’ willingness to hold each other accountable.
“They needed to hear from each other,” he said. “I can yell until I’m blue in the face…your teammates, you’re not going to (ignore) your teammates. I was really proud of them.”
Last weekend at a Triller boxing event, we saw the return of former UFC champion Vitor Belfort (26-14). Belfort was making the transition to boxing after his career in MMA that saw him capture UFC titles in two different weight classes.
The Phenom took on former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield. Holyfield stepped up for Oscar De La Hoya who was Belfort’s original opponent. However, after being hospitalized with Covid, De La Hoya was ruled out and Holyfield stepped in.
Holyfield hadn’t been in a ring for over a decade and came into the bout at 58 years old. While Belfort is certainly past his prime, the former UFC champion is still capable of competing with younger guys in combat sports.
This freak show fight ended in the first round. It was clear that Holyfield had the reflexes of someone who was getting ready to turn 60 years old. Belfort overwhelmed him with speed and picked up the TKO win in the boxing exhibition.
Does Belfort have a boxing career ahead of him?
After the victory, Belfort made it clear that he wants to continue boxing now that his MMA career is over. Some people have thrown out the fight with Oscar De La Hoya as a possibility once The Golden Boy has fully recovered.
The former boxing champion has said that he wants to return to the ring by the end of the year. However, I’m not sure he’s going to be itching to fight Belfort after seeing the way Belfort looked in the ring.
Yes, it was against an ancient Evander Holyfield, but Belfort still had good speed and looked comfortable in the boxing ring. Other possibilities that have been thrown out are matches with the Paul brothers. Wouldn’t be shocked at all to see Belfort appear as an option for Jake Paul.
However, I don’t think that’s likely either. One interesting opponent could be Anderson Silva. Silva also appeared on the card knocking out Tito Ortiz in the first round. These two fought for the UFC middleweight title years ago with Silva picking up the knockout win. Perhaps these two could run things back in boxing.
The New York Giants running game hasn’t been anything special this season so far. Saquon Barkley made it back by week 1, but it still remains to be seen if his knee is strong enough to keep up with the NFL game after a long recovery process.
After the first two games, Barkley’s numbers have been anything but impressive. He rushed for 57 yards in the Thursday Night Football loss, but the majority of those yards came on a single big run for 41 yards at once. Outside of that run, Barkley didn’t look like the generational prospect the Giants expected from his college tape and healthy rookie season.
With that being said, not everyone blames Barkley himself for his struggles. The Giants have been cautious in utilizing him, and many have accused the coaching staff of not giving him enough touches or being creative enough in getting him the ball. Those critics include former Panthers receiver Steve Smith, who believes the Giants need to put the ball in Barkley’s hands more before a judgement can be made about his explosiveness.
“We will never find out if Saquon Barkley is getting his explosiveness back if all you are doing is sitting back and throwing the ball,” Smith told the New York Post.
“They didnâ€™t do a good job of getting him in rhythm â€” and this is a wide receiver talking about getting the running game going. It really limited to see how much explosiveness he had or didnâ€™t have. When you drop and throw the ball as much as they are trying to do, it makes things very difficult to judge.”
Should the Giants use Barkley more?
It looks like the Giants might be taking a cautious approach with Barkley to protect him from the risk of reinjury.
However, the current strategy hasn’t done much to inspire confidence in the running game. A common point brought up about the loss to Washington is that the Giants could have ran the clock out while they had a lead, if they were more confident in their ability to move the ball on the ground.
If the Giants really want to get the expected value out of Barkley, they’ll have to get the ball in his hands more. It’s unknown whether having more touches would improve the running back’s numbers. But with the team 0-2 and public sentiment at a low point, the Giants don’t have very much to lose from trying it out.
After all, focusing on the passing attack just hasn’t worked out two weeks in. Even after having what may be his best game, Daniel Jones was unable to lead the Giants to victory on his own after the running game failed to make much happen.
As if the loss against the Washington Football Team couldnâ€™t get any worse, former New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes confirmed with a team source that the offsides called against Dexter Lawrence in the waning moments of the game was botched.
The Giants, who fell 29-30 to Washington to mark their second consecutive loss to start the 2021 season, are now staring a major deficit in the face. Allowing backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke to post 30 points on a top-10 defense from 2020 is quite problematic. Heinicke finished with 336 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He entered the game with three touchdowns in his career, nearly doubling that against a vulnerable Giants unit.
The Giants shouldâ€™ve never provided kicker Dustin Hopkins with an opportunity to finish off the game, but the offsides called against Lawrence was a mistake, and the Giants will likely be hearing from the league office to tell them as much.
As you can clearly see, Lawrence reacts at the exact moment the long snapper begins his motion, which is entirely legal. Lawrence was, in fact, in an onside position that wouldâ€™ve resulted in a missed field goal attempt from 46 yards, winning the game for the Giants and sending them to a 1-1 record as they prepare to take on the Atlanta Falcons at home next weekend.
Just confirmed with a Giants source that Dexter Lawrence was NOT offsides (coaches film).
The referees missed it and the Giants will get the obligatory phone call from the head of officials saying, sorry we missed it. ðŸ˜¤ðŸ˜¤#TogetherBlue
This controversial decision sparks an entirely new debate regarding the use of technology in the NFL. Ultimately, having a second look at plays like this must be a necessity, especially when it can change the course of a game and affect a result.
From the angle provided, you can clearly see that Lawrence reacts almost simultaneously with the snapping off the ball, but from a horizontal viewpoint, it confirms that he was onside. The umpiring crew missed several calls in this game, including a roughing the passer penalty on Chase Young that was undeserving and a holding call on a touchdown run by Daniel Jones on receiver CJ Board. If the referees get these calls right, the Giants walk away easily with a victory, which is a serious issue for the NFL.
Tomorrow night in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 37, we have a fun matchup in the light heavyweight division. The entertaining and unique Ion Cutelaba (15-6-1, 1 NC) is back as he’s taking on “Brown Bear” Devin Clark (12-5).
Both men are going to be looking to bounce back after their last performances. The last time we saw Clark was almost a year ago when he had his first UFC main event against Anthony Smith.
It was a tough test for Clark who had won two in a row, but hadn’t defeated anyone in the top ten. Smith would go on to submit Clark in the first round. That loss dropped Clark to 6-5 in the UFC.
Standing across from Clark at UFC Vegas 37 will Ion Cutelaba. Cutelaba came to the UFC with an impressive record of 10-1. However, it hasn’t been as smooth sailing for him inside the octagon.
Overall, Cutelaba is 4-5-1 in his ten fights inside the octagon. In his last fight, he started out dominating Dustin Jacoby, but completely gassed which caused him to lose the final two rounds and settle for a draw.
UFC Vegas 37 Prediction
Like with any Cutelaba fight, I’m expecting him to start out very strong tomorrow. I’m very curious to see how the wrestling exchanges will go between these two men. When fresh, I like Cutelaba’s strength and explosions in the first round.
However, I’m terrified by his gas tank and that’s why I’m having a hard time seeing him winning at UFC Vegas 37. If all fights were just one five minute round, Cutelaba might be one of the better light heavyweights in the promotion.
However, the moment a fight goes into the second round, I’m worried about his cardio. For Devin Clark, this fight is going to be about surviving and draining the gas tank of Cutelaba. If Clark can make Cutelaba work in the first round, I really like him over the course of three.
I’m expecting big shots and takedown attempts from Cutelaba for the first half of the fight. However, I think Clark will start to take over and win some valuable points on the scorecards ultimately leading to a close decision victory at UFC Vegas 37.
Both of these men have been two of the top welterweights in the UFC for a long time. Also, both men have significant fan followings despite having very different personalities. Ariel Helwani awarded Wonderboy with the NMF title that stands for the “Nicest Mofo”.
Meanwhile, the UFC actually created a BMF title that Masvidal won in his fight with Nate Diaz. These two hold two artificial belts that perfectly exemplifies the type of people and fighters they are.
Another thing that brings these two top welterweights together is their history. Masvidal and Thompson fought each other back in 2017 at UFC 217. That night, Wonderboy was able to pick up the unanimous decision victory.
Since then, both men have had success and stumbled inside the octagon. At this point, both men are coming off losses and they are needing opponents. Wonderboy took the time to call out Masvidal yesterday in the most Wonderboy fashion ever.
Stephen Thompson took to Twitter yesterday and mentioned that Masvidal is a different animal now opposed to when he first fought him. With that in mind, he wants the UFC to run things back between the two men.
This is also a fight that Masvidal has stated that he’s wanted to run back. Both men need an opponent and Masvidal has been trying to get booked for the end of the year. This past weekend, Masvidal said he was targeting either December or January for his UFC return.
Personally, I think it’s a fantastic matchup. I know that originally Masvidal wanted the UFC to book him against Leon Edwards. However, it doesn’t appear that Edwards is interested in taking a fight that’s not for the welterweight title.
With that fight off the table, Masvidal needs an opponent and Wonderboy fits the bill. At this time, there’s no word on if the promotion is leaning in this direction, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see this one booked.
The New York Yankees start a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians tonight at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, with a loss to the Orioles last night, have fallen out of a wild card berth; every game is so crucial to the Yankees while Cleveland’s postseason hopes have been dashed.
The Indians started their road trip by taking two out of three from the Twins but have lost seven of their last ten games. But that doesn’t mean the Yankees will have an easy time of it with the Indians. Jose Ramirez leads the Indians with 33 homers, and this season has gone 5 for 13 against the Yankees. Still, the Yankees lead their season play against the Indians, winning 3 of 4 games back in April.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they are not playing as they did during their 13 game winning streak. The Yankees are 4-6 in their last ten games and are coming off a loss to the lowly Baltimore Orioles. For Giancarlo Stanton’s part, he is an Indians killer with a .308 average off of them. This series will be the second time that the Indians will face their ex-two-time Cy Young winner Kluber. In their matchup in April, Kluber struck out 11 Indians in his win. Luckily for the Yankees, they will not be facing Shane Bieber, who is out with a bad shoulder.
Tonight, September 17, 7:05 pm EDT
In the first game, the Indians will have to face their old Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber. Kluber was with the Indians for nine years, racking up a record of 98-58 and an ERA of 3.06. This will be Kluber’s fourth start since coming off the IL for a strained shoulder. Unfortunately for the Yankees, in his first three starts, he gave up 11 earned runs. However, he does have the Yankee’s only no-hitter this season. He is 4-3 with an ERA of 4.02 and 72 strikeouts.
Kluber will be facing the Indian’s Zach Plesac, who is 10-5 with an ERA of 4.45 and 88 strikeouts. The Yankees did not face Plesac when they faced them in April. He is coming off a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers when he gave up three runs over six innings. Both DJ LeMahieu and Gary Sanchez have batting averages of .333 against him in the past.
Saturday, September 18, 1:05 pm EDT
In the Saturday matinee, the Indians will face pitching sensation Luis Gil, a righty with a 1-0 record, an ERA of 2.88, and 32 strikeouts in 5 games. In his first three starts in August, he didn’t give up an earned run. But there have been a few cracks in the armor in his last two starts giving up eight runs over the two games. He is coming off a win against the Twins in his previous outing. However, none of the Indians have seen him pitch.
Gil will ace Aaron Civale, a righty that is 10-4 with an ERA of 3.76 and 85 strikeouts in 17 starts. He is coming off two losses in a row, one to Milwaukee and one against Minnesota. He also lost his game with the Yankees back in April when he gave up three runs. Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres have Civale’s number hitting .400 and .333 off of him, respectively. But don’t sell Kye Higashioka short; he has one hit off of him in 2 at-bats.
Sunday, September 19, 1:05 pm EDT
The New York Yankee ace Gerrit Cole will take the mound in the matinee game on Sunday. Cole is 15-7 with an ERA of 2.75 and 224 strikeouts, the 3rd most in baseball, but with two fewer games pitched than the two leaders.Â He is coming off his 15th win of the season against the Orioles when he gave up one run in five innings of work. None of the Indians have hit well off of Cole. Jose Ramirez, in 10 at-bats, has a .200 average. Cole won his first outing over the Indians, going seven innings of 3 hit ball.
Cole will face the Indians’ Eli Morgan, a righty that is 2-7 with an elevated 6.03 ERA with 70 strikeouts. Morgan has lost his last two starts against the Brewers and Red Sox, giving up eight runs. Not a single Yankee player has seen him pitch, except in videos.
Notes: Tonight’s game will be on WPIX and its affiliates in the New York area and Bally Sports Great Lakes. Saturday will be on the YES Network in addition to Bally Sports Great Lakes and MLBN out of market. Sunday will be on the YES Network and Bally.
After this three-game series with the Indians, the Yankees will host the Minnesota Twins for a three-game series at Yankee Stadium before going on their last road trip of the season with the Red Sox at Fenway and the Blue Jays at Rogers Center.
For all the talk about the New York Jets’ perpetual search for a franchise quarterback, metropolitan football has been equally bereft of a homegrown big-play receiver.
It has been nearly 15 seasons since a receiver that originally began his career with the Jets reached four digits in yardage (Jerricho Cotchery in 2007). The Jets have had some offensive teases since then: Robby Anderson was a diamond in the rough of the undrafted, but the Adam Gase era caused him to “lose his love” for the game. Day three Quincy Enunwa came close but saw his metropolitan career eaten away by injury.
Denzel Mims was supposed to end that streak during 2020’s virtual draft. Brought in from the offensive Valhalla that is Baylor, Mims’ arrival was the sweetest of consolation prizes: the Jets passed on several elite receiving talents to draft offensive line anchor Mekhi Becton. While the offensive line required undeniable assistance, it left the Sam Darnold era without the talents of a high-profile receiver. Jamison Crowder had done well in the slot but Darnold’s top options by conventional means consisted of first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and antiques from New England (Chris Hogan).
When Mims fell into their lap at 59th overall, Joe Douglas appeared to have pulled off an Ocean’s-style heist: he not only got Darnold his protection but topped it off with weaponry, a potent talent that contributed 28 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards to Waco’s gridiron cause.Â His name is frequently mentioned in the offensive chapters of the Bears’ record books, appearing alongside collegiate legends like K.D Cannon, Corey Coleman, Tevin Reese, Terrance Williams, and Kendall Wright. That group brought Baylor football to unprecedented modern heights: Mims’ senior squad, for example, went to Sugar Bowl and finished 13th in the final Associated Press poll, the program’s best showing since 1960.
Through the Waco experience, Mims knew what it was like to prop up one historically downtrodden green football franchise. Many expected him to do so with another up north. Alas, Mims has instead become the latest victim of whatever gridiron demon has refused to loosen the grip it has held on the Jets for the last five decades.
True to metropolitan form, Mims’ professional career was beset by factors behind his control. Issues with each of his hamstrings kept him out of training camp activities already handicapped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such ailments cost Mims nearly half of his 2021 season but he left an impact in his limited time: his 357 yards were good for fourth on the woebegone 2020 Jets despite his early absence with 106 of that haul tallied after the catch. The 15.5 yards earned per catch was seventh amongst rookie receivers with 20 catches.
Mims’ mini-emergence didn’t stop the Jets’ new powers that be on the coaching staff from revamping the receiver’s cabinet. They added Corey Davis and Keelan Cole through free agency and used another second-round pick on Elijah Moore. The emergence of the newcomers shifted Mims into the background during training camp and his role has been furthered reduced in the infantile stages of the regular season.
By now, anyone with a passing interest in Jets football knows that Mims partook in only three snaps of the Jets’ opening weekend loss in Carolina. Mims carried on the theme of taking advantage of making the most of whatever scraps were offered to him: his 40-yard reception in the fourth quarter set up the Jets’ final touchdown of a 19-14 final.
I loved the composure Zach Wilson displayed on the Denzel Mims completion:
– Advances through progressions – Steps up to evade pressure – Lofts a dime overtop the defense – Embraces contact after the throw
Asked about the brewing controversy as the Jets prepare for Sunday’s home opener against New England (1 p.m. ET, CBS), head coach Robert Saleh addressed the Mims restriction. He first blamed the Jets’ stagnant pace in the first half but a far more blunt reveal awaited.
“In that first half, (there were) a lot of three-and-outs, a lot of short drives…Because of it, those (starting) receivers were able to play,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “You roll with your top three guys and if they need a break, thatâ€™s where the other guys step in.”
“Mims (has) been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, heâ€™s got to know, when youâ€™re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and youâ€™ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh continued. “If the Z, the F or, the X needs a break, youâ€™re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”
Saleh continued to insist that the timing of the game was the primary reason behind Mims’ de facto benching, but his comments suggested something slightly more troubling: Mims simply hasn’t earned extended opportunities.
To that end…there’s little issue.
After the sad circus atmosphere of the Gase era, one no doubt exacerbated assistants like Gregg Williams, Jets fans yearned for accountability from the team’s new boss. Todd Bowles, reborn in Tampa Bay, was beloved by his players but his stoic to a fault personality ran its course. Gase spent half of his public comments insisting that he wasn’t verbally sparring with the franchise’s more renowned faces.
Now, a new coach comes armed with a quotable promise: All Gas, No Brake. If a player isn’t living up to those requirements, it stands to reason that the offender will not earn prime opportunities. It just so happens that a well-invested, supposedly indispensable part of the eternal rebuild’s latest chapter is the subject this time around.
Isn’t this form of accountability that Jets fans wanted and yearned for?
It’s fair for frustration to linger, especially when one looks back at the post-Mims draft board: Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn and Washington rusher Antonio Gibson were among those chosen in the immediate ten picks after him. Mims’ situation is definitely worth monitoring for the rest of the season. But the Jets have far greater, immediate issues to worry about.
If the Jets’ biggest issue was a receiver at an early crossroads in Week 2, they would be very, very lucky. Alas, that’s not the New York way. There are far bigger issues to worry about at this point in time, including how the offensive line is going to tread water until Mekhi Becton comes back…and the group is already reeling from a performance that saw them let up six sacks with Becton in town. The Jets’ defensive issues are also broadly on display through a lack of experience in the secondary, and those issues don’t even account for the vital financial decision looming around Marcus Maye’s future.
The soothing about this situation is that there’s plenty of time for Mims to restabilize his infantile NFL career and his attitude has never been a problem. He’s had every reason to curse the football gods for his current predicament…a chance to prove himself during training camp was partially erased by a bout with food poisoning…but he’s been ready to embrace all opportunities presented to him.
“You always got to battle each and every day no matter where you’re at,” Mims said during camp, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “You can be starting at X or (be the) number one receiver, you gotta battle each and every day because you slack and someone else can come take your spot.”
“I just got to focus on my job and just continue to be myself and focus on my craft so I can get better. If you worry, you won’t get (any) better.”
The apparent experiment in discipline isn’t to say that Saleh and his staff are infallible. If anything, this further shortens a metropolitan honeymoon that’s never lengthy. The pressure particularly rises on offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who must find forge a role for a pricey, talented target.
But this is nowhere near the Jets’ largest issue. If only, many inside and outside the organization likely believe, that was the case.