By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and Milwaukee entered the past few days with an opportunity to make a statement, and the Bucks did just that. On Sunday, the Bucks narrowly defeated the Brooklyn Nets. As an encore, Milwaukee turned a deficit into a lead thanks to a fourth-quarter rally to complete a two-game sweep of Brooklyn. Paired with Milwaukee’s back-to-back sweep of the 76ers in late April, these wins have to instill confidence in Giannis Antetokounmpo and company heading into the postseason. Milwaukee has moved to with a game-and-a-half of the Nets in the Eastern Conference standings, with both chasing the Conference-leading 76ers heading into the final week-plus of the regular season.
In the NFL, Quinnen Williams, a foundation piece for the rebuilding New York Jets, will miss the next 8-to-10 weeks with a broken foot. Williams finally delivered on the promise that made him the third overall selection in 2019 during the 2020 season, proving to be effective against the run and as a pass rusher. Given the timing of the injury, there is a reason for optimism for Williams’s status for Week 1, but any setback could doom the third-year pro to starting the season on the sidelines. Williams facing a shortened off-season or missing any stretch of regular-season games is a potentially massive setback for a Jets franchise amid a strong off-season.
Right tackle Alejandro Villaneuva, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, agreed to a two-year deal to join the Baltimore Ravens. Villaneuva takes the spot vacated by Baltimore’s pre-draft trade of Orlando Brown Jr., and he will fill a massive void in the trenches for the Ravens. Though Villaneuva is an odd fit scheme-wise for Baltimore, given the team’s run-first offense and his strength as a pass blocker, the veteran will be more than capable of adjusting to life protecting Lamar Jackson. Plus, considering the terms of the deal (two years, $14 million), it represents a massive bargain for Baltimore.
In a surprise move of sorts, given his pedigree, the Dallas Cowboys opted to decline the fifth-year option on Leighton Vander Esch, setting the talented yet injury-prone linebacker up to hit free agency at season’s end. Despite battling injury in 2020, Vander Esch proved to be a force as a pass rusher, though his production in the run game and coverage have cratered since superstar-level production as a rookie in 2018. Dallas selected Micah Parsons in the first round on Thursday, who should help to erase some of Vander Esch’s failings against the run. Cornerback remains an issue for the Cowboys, but Dallas’s linebacking corps is shaping up to be an exciting collection of talent with Parsons, fellow rookie Jabril Cox, Vander Esch, and Jaylon Smith.
Moving to Major League Baseball, arguably the game’s best pitcher, Jacob deGrom of the Mets, was scratched from his start last night due to tightness in his side/back. A preliminary MRI didn’t reveal serious injury, though deGrom will likely be shut down for the foreseeable future, with a stint on the injured list a possibility. Despite a rough start offensively, the Mets are only a half-game behind the division-leading Phillies in the hotly-contested NL East. An extended absence for deGrom would prove challenging for the team to overcome without a serious turnaround from the team’s struggling lineup.
Brewers slugger Christian Yelich made his return to the team’s lineup recently after missing multiple games with a back issue. Unfortunately, the cause for celebration was short-lived, as Yelich was placed on the injured list on Tuesday with a reaggravation of the injury. Yelich has been limited to ten games this season and combined with the injured list stint for ace Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee is facing an uphill battle to remain in contention in the NL Central. The Brewers have dropped three straight games to fall out of first place in the division entering Wednesday, trailing the white-hot St. Louis Cardinals.