New York Jets: Grading the pre-bye slate by unit

zach wilson, jets

It’s easy to complain about a 1-4 record, but did the New York Jets actually exceed expectations in the early going?

michael carter, jets

Leaders at the bye week

PassingZach Wilson1,117 yards, 4 TD, 9 INT
RushingMichael Carter165 yards, 2 TD
ReceivingCorey Davis20 receptions, 302 yards, 3 TD
TacklesC.J. Mosley45 tackles
SacksQuinnen Williams3.5 sacks
KickingMatt Ammendola6-of-7 FG (long: 49)
PuntingThomas Morestead47.5 average (17 attempts)
ReturningBraxton Berrios23.3 kick ret., 13.3 punt ret.

Offense: D

The Jets spent the offseason preparing for the arrival of a new quarterback by stocking up on weaponry, but they have yet to yield the desireable results.

The true disappointments have been the Jets’ veteran representatives. Joe Douglas’ acquisitions have yet to truly pan out and make the rookie quarterback and run game (second to last in the league at 74 yards a game despite Michael Carter and Ty Johnson’s relative consistency) feel comfortable in the early going. Interior affairs have been further hindered by the early injury to Mekhi Becton, who is still “a few weeks away” from returning from a dislocated kneecap suffered in Week 1, per head coach Robert Saleh. Despite the early struggles, the Jets seem to have found a keeper in 14th overall pick Alijah Vera-Tucker, the team’s highest-graded blocker according to Pro Football Focus.

Whether it’s fair or not (and it really isn’t), the Jets’ offensive progress…maybe the team as a whole…is going to be judged by the progress of Wilson. The trials and tribulations of working with a new franchise quarterback, especially a rookie, were well expected. Wilson’s nine interceptions are alarming to the naked eye, but several of them would be excused by a well-educated official scorer coming over from baseball. The second overall pick still hasn’t lived up to such billing but has shown occasional flashes of potential and brilliance, particularly in the come-from-behind victory over Tennessee. There’s obviously time to sort that out and the Jets need to make continuous Wilson progress the norm in the post-bye slate.

The Jets could potentially be shooting themselves in the foot and hindering Wilson through curious denials of young weaponry. Nothing more needs to be written about Denzel Mims’ 2021 season…or relative lack thereof…but now Elijah Moore has been sidelined in health. A concussion removed Moore from Week 3’s tilt in Denver and caused him to miss the following week’s aforementioned triumph over Tennessee. But Moore only took 41 percent of snaps in the British-based Week 5 game against Atlanta and was targeted only twice (drawing a sizable pass interference penalty on the latter).

Saleh said it was up to him and his coaching staff to find ways for Moore to contribute to the game plan, partly vowing to work on finding such an insertion during his first post-bye statements on Monday.

“He’s going to continue to get opportunities,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “We just got to find creative ways to get him on the football field and get him in position to go make a play.”

It’s been a long, long time since the Jets have had a homegrown big-play threat, the last consistent such option likely being Santana Moss. They need to figure out their plans for Mims and Moore sooner rather than later, if only to avoid subjecting Wilson to further roster inconsistency.

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Defense: C+

By all accounts, the Jets’ defense was given a de facto redshirt season when prized offseason acquisition and touted pass rush energizer Carl Lawson was lost after a handful of summer snaps. Fellow veteran arrival and presumptive starter Jarrad Davis has also missed his metropolitan debut due to preseason medical woes. Others to miss significant time include Marcus Maye, Ashtyn Davis, and LaMarcus Joyner (who joined Lawson as a season-long departure after a triceps injury in Week 1).

Instead, the unit has buckled down and turned itself into one of the most pleasant, if not hidden, surprises in football.

The progress is prominently on display in the aforementioned pass rush, where John Franklin-Myers, Quinnen Williams, and Foley Fatukasi have built upon breakout campaigns from 2020. The efforts has been further bolstered by the unexpected contributions of Quincy Williams, Quinnen’s older brother and a post-cutdown day find off Jacksonville’s waiver wire. New York currently ranks fourth in pressure rate (28.4 percent) and fifth in quarterback takedown percentage (12.4).

Jets management wasted no time in rewarding Franklin-Myers’ efforts through a four-year contract extension armed with $30 million in guaranteed money. Saleh has described the attack, particularly the defensive line as the “heartbeat” of the Jets’ defense.

A makeshift secondary, which may soon have to prep for life after Maye, has done its part in not only assisting the pass rush (Saleh has described the group as doing “a phenomenal job giving them the time to get home”), but also in their traditional duties: thanks to strong openings from draft weekend Saturday acquisitions like Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II, and Brandin Echols, the Jets have managed to hold a pace and maintain a pulse of sorts in all five of their games so far. They’ve allowed scoring on only 45 percent of their possessions (seventh-best in football), a ledger that includes only four passing scores (lowest such tally in the NFL). Those percentages are particularly impressive when considering that defensive possessions start from just beyond the opponents’ 34-yard line, the worst average starting field position in football.

The Jets’ biggest defensive sin thus far has been their inability to force turnovers. They’ve earned four fumbled takeaways, including two against the Falcons in London, but are currently the only team in the NFL that has yet to record an interception this season.

Special Teams: C+

If anything, the Jets appear to have found peace in their kicking situation. Matt Ammendola’s kicks (6-of-7 to date) haven’t exactly come in clutch situations but at least the Jets have found long-sought reliability at kicker that’s been lacking since Jason Myers absconded to Seattle after the 2018 season. Ammendola also deserves credit for his ability to fill in as a punter during the Week 1 opener, one that saw him average nearly 50 yards a boot when drafted leg Braden Mann went down with an injury. Former New Orleans staple Thomas Morestead has filled in respectably, as his 47.5 average ranks 10th amongst punters with at least 15 attempts.

The Jets have also maintained strong marks in a return game headlined by Johnson, Braxton Berrios, and Tevin Coleman. Berrios has placed the Jets fourth in punt return average (13.3 on an admittedly low four attempts) while the group has united to be third in kickoffs (26.3). Coverage, alas, hasn’t been as consistent: the Jets have allowed an average of 21 yards on kickoffs (16th in the league) and 10.8 on punts (29th).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Run it back with a twist in the East: Thibodeau likes Knicks depth, flexibility

julius randle, kemba walker, knicks

The New York Knicks have improved. But so is the rest of the East.

Miami Heat picked up what they perceive as their missing link in Kyle Lowry, a championship-savvy point guard. Chicago Bulls have added more ammunition to the pair of Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic with DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball. Boston Celtics have regrouped with a defensive-minded new coach in Ime Udoka and brought veteran Al Horford back. Championship-level coach Rick Carlisle rejoined the Indiana Pacers, and he is hoping to coach a healthy lineup to the postseason.

These are the reasons why the oddsmakers, general managers, and naysayers do not see the Knicks duplicating their fourth seed run in the East despite adding four-time All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier.

But it is hard to bet against a Tom Thibodeau-coached team.

In his second year as the Knicks head coach, Thibodeau is ready to add more layers to their evolving identity that he hopes would be harder for the opponents to peel away.

“So much of what you do is based on the personnel that you have. So, I think it’s important to understand the value of shots. The important thing is to be efficient and what gives you the best chance to win,” Thibodeau said after Monday’s practice.

During their undefeated run in the preseason, Thibodeau rolled out a more dynamic offense that averaged 41 three-point attempts per game, sixth in the NBA, but still a dozen attempts behind league-leader Golden State. Nevertheless, it’s still quite a big jump from last season when the Knicks finished 27th in three-point attempts with 30 per game. Despite that uptick in three-point attempts, the Knicks remained their top-three accuracy (38.4 percent).

Walker and Fournier accounted for 10.7 attempts, while mainstays RJ Barrett (6.3) and Julius Randle (6.0) continue to lead the team.

In that small sample size in the preseason, the Knicks had a top-two offense (113.4 offensive rating) and a top-10 defense (101.5 defensive rating).

It’s the kind of game that Thibodeau wants the Knicks to achieve — strong on both ends of the ball.

“I’ve had teams that were in the top five in offense, and it was because they played to their strengths,” Thibodeau said.

“Derrick, for example, has always been a great downhill player. He’s always been in the paint and strong in the restricted area. He’s always shot well from the corners. Jimmy Butler was a guy who drew fouls and got to the line a lot, and there’s great value in free throws. There’s great value in layups.”

That is the reason why his Chicago and Minnesota teams were not too keen on attempting many three-pointers.

But towards the end of his tenure in Minnesota, Thibodeau showed glimpses of his evolving offense. In his first season with the Timberwolves, they ranked last in the league in three-point attempts with only 21 per game. By the time he was fired in January 2019, the Timberwolves had jumped to 23rd with 28.5 three-point shots per game.

Thibodeau has always admired the Golden State Warriors championship teams who revolutionized the game by manipulating and bending opposing team’s defense with their high-octane offense that extends as far as the logo. And on the other end, their stout defense was anchored by small-ball center Draymond Green and ran to perfection by Steve Kerr’s lead assistant Ron Adams, who was part of Thibodeau’s coaching staff in Chicago.

“When they made the commitment to defense, they went to an entirely different level,” Thibodeau said in a 2017 preseason game in China against the Warriors. “Not only were they great on offense, they were also great on defense. That’s what makes them so special. With all the success they’ve had, they’ve remained very hungry.”

Four years later, after an unsuccessful run to emulate that with the Timberwolves, he’s starting to replicate the Warriors’ bold strategy — perhaps not in style but substance — with a young Knicks team he inherited last season.

Thibodeau stumbled on an untapped strength in their preseason finale against the Washington Wizards, resembling the small-ball Warriors, who pushed the pace and played with space and a scrambling defense.

A six-minute stretch of small ball lineup featuring a Randle-Obi Toppin frontcourt fueled the Knicks’ comeback win against the Wizards, producing 29 points on the back of 5 for 8 shooting from deep and a spirited defense that only allowed 14 points.

Toppin’s growth will only make Thibodeau bolder in deploying that lineup in stretches against teams with slower pivot men.

Thibodeau added veterans like how the Warriors surrounded their then young core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Green with Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston, and David West.

“That’s what makes [Warriors] who they are; [they’re] all unselfish,” Thibodeau said. “They’re all hard playing. They’re all high character. The new guys come in and become part of the culture,” Thibodeau said in 2017.

In New York, he did the reverse. The Knicks’ young core became part of Thibodeau’s culture, learning the ropes from his most trusted veterans Rose and Taj Gibson.

That was further solidified during Thibodeau’s visit to the Warriors’ practices when he was exiled from coaching. He saw how Kerr married old-school tenacity with outright fun, the new age of coaching that connects well to the younger generation of players.

“Every year, you want to learn and grow. Every time I step away from the game, I try to visit different teams,” Thibodeau told Stephen A. Smith last May. “It can be in any industry. It’s about leadership. Players are getting younger. I’m getting older. So I looked for ways that I can continue relating to players.”

Throughout the training camp, Fournier, Rose, and other players testified how Thibodeau has changed from a creature of habit to loosening up a bit at practice.

That was not the only thing he learned during his coaching sabbatical.

Learning new load management methods from Doc Rivers during his visit to Los Angeles when the latter was still the Clippers’ coach, Thibodeau has managed his top players’ health well. Randle and Barrett, who led the league in minutes last season, withstood the rigors of a cramped 72-game schedule without breaking down. Barrett played all 72 games. Randle only missed one game.

“There’s a lot that goes into it (load management). You know, it’s easy to pick up a box score and say this guy played 38 minutes. And oftentimes, that guy played 38 minutes because the other wing played 38 minutes. You’re matching guys up. And then no one sees what you’re doing in practice. Do you have contact or what are you doing in practice,” Thibodeau explained.

Thibodeau, a master in game planning and meticulous in details, said on Monday that he maps the season once the schedule comes out, identifying when the team takes a day or days off during the course of a long season. The hard practices have become short, and walkthroughs have become common, especially when the team is on the road.

Taking a page out of Warriors’ template, Thibodeau pushed for more shooting. Walker and Fournier bring that to the team on top of their playmaking abilities. Rookies Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride also have that in their arsenal aside from their reputation as stout defenders in college.

The Knicks have employed the famed 100 shooting drill in finding players who can shoot and are mentally tough. Pete Mickael, a former Knicks reserve back in the 2000s who worked under Thibodeau in Minnesota as a scout, saw that drill for the first time in a Timberwolves practice in 2017.

“It’s kind of a workout after practice where guys shoot 100 three-pointers from different areas on the court while they are always moving. I’ve seen it where it [was done] full court, as a group of guys at the same time, and also seen it where guys taking turns to take the 100 shots. So there are different versions of it,” Mickeal told Empire Sports Media.

Utah Jazz, where current Knicks assistant general manager Walt Perrin came from, have been using that 100 shooting drill to evaluate prospects. Perrin said it was a drill that former Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey brought with him from San Antonio.

Vrenz Bleijenbergh, who is now playing in Spain after going undrafted last June, told Empire Sports Media that he did the drill after his Knicks workout. But he’d also seen different versions of the drill with all the teams he visited during his pre-draft workouts.

“I think the Knicks [100 drill] was my worse shooting [display], and it was like around 60. Mostly, I was around 70,” Bleijenbergh said.

The 100 shooting drill plus the addition of a four-point line in the Knicks’ practice facility and the Noah Basketball shot tracking system have boosted the Knicks’ three-point shooting stock.

“So, whatever the strengths of your teams are, you want to try to take advantage of that. The game has changed, so there’s been a lot more of a premium put on shooting, but I think the biggest thing is just understanding the value of shots, and we’re trying to get there,” Thibodeau said. “So, I think the more shooting we add, the better it is for us.”

As the real games begin Wednesday night against Boston Celtics, Thibodeau already has a baseline to his rejigged lineup’s limitless potential.

The Knicks have the continuity, flexibility, and synergy to thrive in the regular season. The playoffs will be another story.

But unlike last year, when their offense got stalled in long stretches and relied heavily on the predictable Randle isolation plays, they now have multiple players who can shoot and make plays. They have assembled a deep lineup that can withstand any potential injury hit. Thibodeau can dig deep up to his 12th, 13th man in the roster in case of emergency.

“His first year was establishing the culture. But once he gets the players that he needs, the Knicks will be a lot better. Look for him to stamp his signature on the team and find ways to win,” Mickeal said. “That’s the greatness of Tom Thibodeau. He’s a winner and has dedicated himself to studying the game.”

The most valuable NBA franchise (according to Forbes) will enter the new season as one of the most stable organizations in the league, something that has been unheard of in New York for the longest while.

They have all the ingredients for sustainable success — a winning coach and a combination of a talented young core, tradeable team-friendly contracts, and a deep war chest of assets. They have six first-rounders and nine second-round picks across the subsequent four drafts that they could dangle in a big swing for a superstar in a mid-season trade.

So, even if the rest of the East has gotten better, the Knicks are poised for another playoff run and have set themselves up for a bright future.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants: Andrew Thomas and C.J. Board placed on IR list

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

Injuries have been a major factor for the New York Giants this season, and that trend is continuing as two more players are added to the injured reserve. That duo of players includes one of the pivotal starters on the offensive line, second year tackle Andrew Thomas.

Thomas has been placed on the injured reserve along with C.J. Board, and according to league rules will miss a minimum of three games before being eligible to return to the active roster.

C.J. Board, on the other hand, won’t have a chance to return this season. His injury, a broken arm, is longer term in scope and won’t be healed soon enough to make a comeback.

Thomas should come back this season, but that doesn’t mean the foot injury that he’s dealing with is a light one. The injury was sustained to the same foot that Thomas had surgery on in the offseason, and it’s possible that this season’s injury is connected to the previous one.

The second year left tackle, who has been much improved this season, was playing a key role for the offensive line before being taken out by injury.

His starting presence was a major factor during a season where the Giants have been notoriously thin along the offensive line.

The team was rushing to add depth to the position group during training camp, but that goal was hardly accomplished and more blows were dealt to the Giants after the season started. Injuries to Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux left the Giants banged up on the O-line even before Thomas’ injury, but the situation is now worse than before as another starter is out.

The Giants have had reasonable success this season improvising and coming up with on-the-fly solutions for this part of the roster. With a starting tackle out for at least three weeks, it seems like they’ll have to keep that trend up.

UFC booking potential title eliminator between Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia

The UFC has finalized a matchup for January that could prove to be a title eliminator in the women’s flyweight division. MMA.Idea was the first to report that the promotion has finalized a matchup between Katlyn Chookagian (16-4) and Jennifer Maia (19-7-1).

The matchup will take place at UFC 270 which is scheduled for January 15th. This is actually a rematch from UFC 244 in November of 2019. That night, Chookagian was able to get the best of Maia by winning a decision.

Since that defeat to Chookagian, Maia has gone 2-1 with her lone loss coming against the UFC champion, Valentina Shevchenko. Last August, Maia was presented a golden opportunity to fight Joanne Calderwood.

Calderwood was given a title shot, but due to an injury to Shevchenko, the fight was pushed back. Wanting to stay active, Calderwood asked the UFC for another fight. The promotion called Jennifer Maia and gave her the fight.

Maia was able to submit Calderwood in the first round to take away her UFC title shot. She would go on to lose to Shevchenko, but she bounced back against Jessica Eye back in July. Now, she’ll try to avenge her loss to Chookagian.

Second UFC title shot for Blonde Fighter?

Katlyn Chookagian is in a very tough spot in the flyweight division. I think most people would say that it’s clear that she’s the third best flyweight in the UFC. However, there’s a sizeable gap between her and the top two which makes her hard to push as a contender.

Since the start of 2019, Chookagian is 5-2 inside the octagon. She’s defeated Maia, Calderwood, Antonina Shevchenko, Cynthia Calvillo, and Viviane Araujo. However, sprinkled in between those wins are stoppage defeats at the hands of Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade.

Never the less, given the lack of challengers to Valentina Shevchenko’s brilliance, Chookagian is knocking on the door of another title shot. She’s won back-to-back fights since losing to Jessica Andrade on Fight Island last year.

If she’s able to defeat Jennifer Maia at UFC 270, her three consecutive wins might be enough to warrant another shot at the champion. Either way, this is a huge matchup for the landscape of 125 pounds.

New York Yankees top 10’s: Records that likely will never be broken

New York Yankees, Mariano Rivera

In the newest installment of my top 10 series, I examine New York Yankee and other baseball records that will likely never be broken. My other series examines top 10 pitchers, top 10 first baseman, and top ten Yankee moments in history among many other top tens. But today, we examine some of the outstanding players with outstanding records that will be very hard to break.

  1. The only player to be installed in the Hall of Fame, unanomously!

If Derek Jeter couldn’t be elected to the Hall of Fame, unanimously, it’s hard to believe anyone ever will be. But Mariano Rivera did it, and he did it in his first year of eligibility. Rivera is most often considered the best reliever of all time. Rivera, in his career, all with the New York Yankees he closed 1,115 games with 652 saves. That figure is 51 more saves than Trevor Hoffman, his closest contender.

2. With 2,632 consecutive games played, it’s a record that will not be duplicated!

This is a different time and a game that is played differently; players are constantly injured and given days off to rest. Cal Ripken’s feat is almost unbelievable. In 1995 Ripkin surpassed the Yankees Iron Horse Lou Gehrig’s 2,131 consecutive games played

3. The only perfect game in the postseason!

Don Larsen is the holder of a record that will likely not be broken. He is the only pitcher to have a perfect game in the World Series. The feat was completed in game 5 of the 1956 classic. Not only that, but there has never been a no-hitter in World Series history. Furthermore,Larsen’s record is one of the only two no-hitters in postseason history; the other was by Roy Halliday in 2010.

4. With 1,406 stolen bases, who will break that record?

Ricky Henderson, a former Yankee, played for several teams in his career. He was such a dangerous base stealer that pitchers knew he would try to steal almost every time he took base. Yet, in his remarkable entire career, he was caught stealing only 335 times. Strangely he doesn’t hold the same record for the postseason, that belongs to Kenny Lofton.

5. Who can beat Barry Bonds 762 home runs?

It’s hard to know who took steroids in the steroid era, but the fact is that most of those players were talented enough to play just as well out of the enhancement. It’s hard to tell how Barry Bond’s career would have turned out, but over his 22 years of major league play, he racked up 762 home runs. It has to be pointed out that he may only have used enhancing drugs in a couple of those years. The next closest to his record is Hank Aaron’s 755 accomplished in one more year of play.

6. Most pitching wins in a single season

In the modern era in 1904, the New York Yankee’s Jack Chesbro started 41 games in that single season, for a record that still stands today. Today there are 162 games in a season; in 1904 there were only 154 games. That means that Chesbro pitched all season long on 3.5 days of rest. No team would ever allow a pitcher to pitch regularly on less than five days’ rest, which is a reason that Chesbor’s name will be in the history book for a long time.

7. The most career hits 4,256

Pete Rose has more career hits than any player to play the game. The number he achieved is just 67 hits higher the the second place leader who was centerfielder, Ty Cob. To put it into perspective, Pete Rose’s record is 791 more hits than the 20 year career of Derek Jeter. Pete Rose would be a shoe in for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for his betting on baseball. He has been banned for life. Many believe the ban should be lifted.

8. Most Career Postseason innings pitched

The winningest postseason pitcher in modern times is Andy Pettitte, he also has pitched the most innings in the postseason, a record that still stands today. Pettitte was19–10 with a 3.83 ERA and 173 strikeouts in the postseasons from 1995 to 2005. He has five World Series wins to his name.

9. The most career Postseason hits

The unlikely record to be broken is postseason hits, that belongs to Derek Jeter. He has 180 hits in the post season.

10. Who owns the most World Series rings?

The undisputed owner of the most World Series rings is Yogi Berra, Berra got rings for 10 World Series wins. Berra played for the Yankees from 1946-1965. In his remarkable career he was a 16 time MVP candidate winning the Award three times. Only Barry Bonds has more MVP wins.

Obviously, I could have picked dozens of other records, but these ten are among my favorites. Others are the most hits in a single season, 262, Ichiro Suzuki. Most complete games, 749, Cy Young. The longest hitting streak, 56 games, Joe DiMaggio. Most career World Series home runs, 18, Mickey Mantle, and the list goes on and on. For more wonderful baseball records, go here

Knicks’ RJ Barrett explains why he could be in for a big Year 3

new york knicks, rj barrett

The New York Knicks might be staring their next star player right in the face with RJ Barrett. Barrett is entering his third season in the NBA with two years left on his contract after the upcoming season. The Knicks have a team option for the 2022–23 campaign and a qualifying offer at $14.3 million for the season after. Luckily, the team has Barrett locked up for the long term, and they also have the financial flexibility to extend him if he reaches his potential.

Barrett has taken a tremendous step forward on both sides of the ball, averaging 17.6 points, 3.0 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and shooting 44% from the field this past season at 20-years-old. He also connected on 40% of his three-point attempts, marking an 8% uptick in efficiency.

The young Canadian-born player believes this new season will present him an opportunity to take another behemoth step forward, and it starts with comfort in Tom Thibodeau’s system.

“I feel like I have just a little bit more experience, I would say, just a little more comfortable being out there on the floor,” Barrett said about how his game has changed since this time last year. “More comfortable knowing also playing for Thibs where my shots are going to come from, who I’m going to guard, what I’m going to do. Just because my first couple years, I was under a couple different coaches.”

During preseason play, RJ enjoyed 31.2 minutes of action over four games. He logged a 43% field goal hit rate and shot 48% from three-point range, attempting 6.25 per game, which would mark a career-high. He also contributed 4.25 rebounds and 0.75 blocks per game.

If RJ can continue building upon his three-point efficiency, he will find himself even closer to his first All-Star appearance, but he needs to create more opportunities on his own instead of being a spot-up shooter. Using his athleticism and strength driving to the basket is one way for him to maximize his skill set, aside from playing aggressive and tantalizing defense.

Ultimately, Barrett has the potential to be a premium-level player, which is why many floated the idea of trading him in a blockbuster deal for Damian Lillard this past off-season. However, the Knicks have big plans for their young guard, and it starts with helping take the organization to the next level after establishing a benchmark of success during the 2020–21 season.

Barrett’s teammate Derrick Rose has wise words for the young guard, stating:

 â€œHe could be as great as he wants to be.”

What’s next for Aspen Ladd after UFC Vegas 40?

aspen ladd, mma

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 40, we saw a showdown in the women’s featherweight division. Top bantamweight contender Aspen Ladd (9-2) moved up to featherweight to take on striker Norma Dumont (7-1).

Ladd was supposed to compete back at UFC Vegas 39 in the bantamweight division, but couldn’t make weight. After having a significant layoff due to injury, the weight cut in her return bout proved to be too much. Ladd was removed from the card.

When Holly Holm fell out of the main event against Dumont, the UFC asked Ladd to move up in weight to fight Dumont. Ladd gladly accepted and many were interested to see how she would look in a weight class she’s likely better suited for.

She’s always been looked at as one of the brighter prospects in the UFC, but making 135 pounds has been a struggle for her. Given the state of the featherweight division, this was actually a golden opportunity for Ladd to build some momentum in a new home.

However, the fight didn’t go her way at all. Ladd spent most of the fight on the outside with Dumont picking her apart. There was a lot of tentativeness and non-aggressiveness from Ladd which ultimately cost her the fight at UFC Vegas 40.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 40?

Ladd picked things up towards the end of the fight, but she still walked away losing a decision. There was a lot of controversy surrounding her coaches. Ladd was getting criticized by her coaches in between rounds for not being aggressive and not really fighting.

The criticism from her coaches was completely warranted. We’ve seen Ladd take her coaches feedback before and immediately apply it. Her coaches were trying to get her fired up at UFC Vegas 40, but by the time Ladd got going, it was a bit too late.

So the question becomes, what’s next for Ladd? Well, if she would’ve won, I really liked her at 145 pounds. The UFC needs a new challenger for Amanda Nunes, and Ladd could have made for a compelling challenger.

However, after that performance, she’s likely heading back to 135 pounds. That is perfectly fine as long as she can show the UFC that the weight won’t be an issue. If she can make 135 pounds, I think a good next fight for her would be former title challenger Sara McMann (12-6)

UFC Match Maker: Donald Cerrone – Jim Miller 2

Donald Cerrone

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 40, Jim Miller (33-16, 1 NC) made the walk that he’s made many times before. Miller walked to the octagon for the 38th time in his career with the promotion and he was looking to snap a two-fight losing streak.

Standing across from Miller was Erick Gonzalez (14-6). Just seconds into the second round, Miller completely flattened Gonzalez with a massive left hand. Miller got the knockout victory which was his first KO/TKO victory since 2016.

It’s been an incredible career for Miller in the UFC. The 38 year old has been in there with some of the best that the sport has to offer and he’s remained competitive even this late in his career.

Given the career that he’s had, many start to wonder what’s next. His win at UFC Vegas 40 showed that he’s still got plenty left in the tank, but it’s hard to match make fighters like Jim Miller. That is unless there’s a fighter that just lines up perfectly given the circumstances.

Will the UFC run back Cowboy and Miller?

When thinking about the next fight for Jim Miller, there was one fight that immediately jumped out at me. That is a rematch with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-16, 2 NC). Like Miller, Cerrone is one of the most tenured fighters in the UFC.

The two men first fought way back in 2014 with Cerrone scoring a big time finish. That win was one of eight straight for Cerrone which led to his first shot at UFC gold. Cowboy, like Miller, has had a long and historic career.

That said, things haven’t been smooth for Cowboy. After making another run at a title shot, Cowboy hit a brick wall once he reached the top of the lightweight division. Cerrone finds himself on a 0-5, 1 NC streak in his last six fights.

He’s asked the UFC for one more fight at lightweight and the promotion is willing to do it. However, they haven’t been able to match him up. Well, I think Miller just became the perfect candidate and he told Ariel Helwani yesterday that he would be down.

I think we are going to see this fight get booked for early in 2022. These two legends should battle again and it will be a fun one for fight fans.

Sound Off: Do you want to see the rematch between Cowboy and Jim Miller?

Yankees’ Hal Steinbrenner praises Aaron Boone’s “baseball acumen”

New York Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner

The New York Yankees had to take a few days to analyze his future and his fit with the organization, but ultimately, they decided to bring back manager Aaron Boone on a deal that expires after the 2024 season. For three more campaigns (he has a club option for 2025), at least, the Bombers are committed financially to Boone.

Will they honor their commitment and maintain him in the position for the three years? That will be dictated largely by the results he can get, but owner Hal Steinbrenner showed a lot of faith in the 2003 postseason hero as a player and skipper since 2018.

“As a team and as an organization, we must grow, evolve and improve,” Steinbrenner said, according to NJ Advance Media. “We need to get better. Period.”

The Yankees finished the 2021 season tied with the Boston Red Sox for the Wild Card in the American League, but lost the Wild Card game against their archrivals. Boone has been at the helm for four campaigns, with the 2019 American League Championship Series the furthest he has advanced.

The Yankees’ manager has the backing of the owner

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Boone himself are expected to take questions from the media on Tuesday afternoon.

“We have a person and manager in Aaron Boone who possesses the baseball acumen and widespread respect in our clubhouse to continue to guide us forward,” Steinbrenner said.

“I know Aaron fully embraces our expectations of success, and I look forward to drawing on his intelligence, instincts and leadership in pursuit of our next World Series championship.”

The Yankees opted not to retain the now former third base coach Phil Nevin (a close friend of Boone) and hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pillitere. The team hasn’t announced their respective replacements yet.

New York Yankees make big decision on Aaron Boone’s future

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

The New York Yankees made a big decision with manager Aaron Boone’s future on Tuesday morning, electing to sign him to a three-year contract through the 2024 season with a club option for 2025.

According to the Yankees’ PR:

The New York Yankees today announced that they have re-signed Manager Aaron Boone to a three-year contract through the 2024 season with a club option for 2025.

It seems as if management believes that Boone was the right man to lead them into the future, despite his shortcomings the past few years, including a Wild Card defeat to the Boston Red Sox this past season. At 48-years-old, Boone has compiled a 328–218 managerial record, and while he’s led them to postseason opportunities in each of his first four seasons, he hasn’t been able to reach the World Series.

Most fans would feel some sort of hatred toward this decision, despite him averaging 98 wins per season over the past four years. Boone ranks ninth in the Yankees’ all-time list for career managerial wins, but he will have an opportunity to push past some of the more well-known names from the past.

“We have a person and manager in Aaron Boone who possesses the baseball acumen and widespread respect in our clubhouse to continue to guide us forward,” said Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. “As a team and as an organization, we must grow, evolve and improve.  We need to get better.  Period.  I know Aaron fully embraces our expectations of success, and I look forward to drawing on his intelligence, instincts and leadership in pursuit of our next World Series championship.”

The Yankees have a lot to do this upcoming off-season, including filling the shortstop position with a free agent acquisition. The unfortunate Gleyber Torres experiment failed, and the starting pitching rotation fell apart midway through the season, so the Steinbrenner’s will have to be prepared to spend some money in hopes of improving the team once again.