Project No. 1 for the Browns as they rebuild this season is the defense

Give the Browns credit for acing the draft (on paper) and refusing to overspend in free agency after a one-win season. Even with such a young roster, Cleveland’s relatively manageable 2017 schedule should allow it to notch more than one win, if not a few more.

Project No. 1 for the Browns as they rebuild this season is the defense, which ranked near the bottom of the league in every statistical category last year. The offense is same song, different verse. The quarterback nightmare continues.

This is the first time in a long time the Giants aren’t sure about their longview at the most important position. Although Manning still has three years left on his contract, he needs to be a lot better in 2017 for them to feel confident about him playing out that contract.

On one hand, that would seem to give Webb plenty of time to be groomed behind Manning. The reality is, in the rapidly-changing NFL, that doesn’t mean he can just redshirt as a rookie.

The Giants signed Geno Smith, formerly a second-round bust of the crosstown Jets, to be the presumed No. 2. The problem is his new team so far has still only seen Smith in recovery mode from the torn ACL he suffered last October. Until he can go without limitations in training camp, Smith can’t be counted on as immediate insurance for Manning.

Although Smith was attracted to the Giants because of their West Coast offense, with which he has some familiarity, he’s still adjusting to a new playbook, same as Webb.

Webb got a crash course in the scheme away from the team facility. He also quickly found a good comfort level during OTAs and minicamp.

Webb can be comfortable, because he’s not going anywhere. Smith should worry, given the fact that team also re-signed last year’s third-stringer, journeyman Josh Johnson. He’s one with the direct experience for McAdoo and behind Manning, and he’s also healthy. Johnson is used to being a willing backup for several teams; Smith isn’t.

they’re still in the same rut they’ve been pretty much all season.

Even with the levity that a win brings, the White Sox clubhouse is in a unique place. Chris Sale left for Boston during the winter, Jose Quintana is on the North Side of Chicago with the Cubs now, and Frazier is headed to the Yankees. Even Holland could be in a new uniform come Aug. 1.

But for now, WWE-crazed Holland is happy to support what’s happening with his new teammates in Chicago and encourage the much-needed levity while the White Sox stumble through the growing pains of a rebuild.

Pirates (vs. Brewers)
Status heading into series: 44-48, 7 back in the NL Central, 8 out of a wild-card spot
The bright side: The Pirates kept their hopes alive with two ninth-inning wins in their three-game series with the Cardinals coming out of the All-Star break, and now they get three games at home against the team that leads the NL Central. A sweep puts them only four games back, and remember, they get Starling Marte — an All-Star in 2016 and two-time Gold Glove outfielder — back on Tuesday from his 80-game suspension from PED use. That’s a pretty big shot in the arm.

On the other hand: If the series against the Brewers goes poorly, they’re still in the same rut they’ve been pretty much all season. And there are opportunity costs that have to be considered. They have pieces that could help other contenders, and a smaller-budget franchise such as the Pirates have to keep that in consideration. We’ve talked about the Andrew McCutchen dilemma, and ace right-hander Gerrit Cole’s name has been bandied about on the trade rumor mill. He could bring back a huge return if the club decides to move him. As for other guys, third baseman David Freese has a team-friendly contract and a .376 on-base percentage, Tony Watson is a lefty free agent-to-be with closing experience (even though he’s struggled) and John Jaso could be a nice left-handed hitter off the bench for a contender (he’s a free agent after the season). broncos_117

Ex-Cavs GM David Griffin reportedly pulls name from Knicks’ front office search

Former Cavaliers GM David Griffin’s next job will likely not be with the Knicks.

Griffin pulled his name from New York’s search for a new GM and president of basketball operations, according to ESPN.

New York is looking for president Phil Jackson’s replacement. Jackson was fired on June 28, days before the start of NBA free agency.

The Knicks’ front office is in a state of disarray and the franchise’s recent offer sheet for Tim Hardaway was a head-scratcher. But Phil Jackson? Oh, he’s doing just fine.

Carter-Williams is an interesting add for the Hornets, if a flawed one. Looking positively, the team has a need at backup point guard, and Carter-Williams is an interesting buy-low candidate in this scheme. He’s long, athletic and quick enough to create plays as a backup.

Defensively, his length creates hindrances for opposing teams, something coach Steve Clifford will like. But for a team that will likely be looking for steadiness from their backup point guard, Carter-Williams’ inconsistency and inefficiency might be somewhat maddening on offense.

Long-term, there’s not a ton of upside for he Hornets here. At a one-year deal for a team that will operate over the cap next year, the Hornets will need to delve back into their exceptions to retain him next offseason as opposed to getting any sort of team control over him via Bird rights. But for one year, it’s a decent risk worth taking at a low cost that won’t hinder them long term. jets_014

Wizards vs. Hawks: Markieff Morris scoffs at Paul Millsap’s strategy to stop team

After the Wizards trounced the Hawks in Game 1 of their NBA playoff series, Washington players complained about the physical nature of the game.

The difference in the game was we were playing basketball and they were playing MMA, Hawks forward Paul Millsap said Sunday.

Well, Millsap better get used to it because the Wizards are planning on bringing it again. Speaking Wednesday during the team’s shootaround, Markieff Morris promised to play physical again, and indicated it’s going to be even worse than the first game.

I guess if that’s MMA, then what we do next might be double MMA, Morris said, via the Washington Post.

While Wall didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, the Washington offense ran through him with 14 assists. He also scored the game-sealing shot, a 21-foot jumper with 47 seconds remaining. Wall’s bucket answered a basket by Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder that brought the Hawks within 101-99. Schroder scored a game-high 29 points and had 11 assists.

Isaiah Thomas had 24 points for the Celtics, but so did backcourt mate Avery Bradley, who was 11 of 19 from the floor while Thomas struggled, going 6 for 17 and just 1 of 1 from 3-point range. Bradley picked up the slack and was a huge reason the Celtics were able to wrestle control of the series.

Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had just 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting and Chicago was minus-11 with Butler on the floor. Butler also went to the free-throw line just once and missed his only attempt.

Game 6: Raptors at Bucks, 7 p.m. ET (Raptors lead series 3-2) — The young Bucks will look to stave off elimination at home to force a Game 7 back in Toronto. Milwaukee has been extremely inconsistent and the offense has not been good since blowing out the Raptors in a Game 3 victory at Bradley Center. The winner of the series will get the well-rested Cavaliers in the second round.

Jimmy Butler posts video to prove he’s taking phone calls

Jimmy Butler gave out his phone number Thursday, asking his critics to contact him directly.

As you can imagine, many people reported reaching a full mailbox when they called the number.

Butler captioned the video with, “taking all calls and y’all thought it was a game!”

The new Timberwolves guard told the fan, “I got a thousand FaceTimes to answer, but I appreciate you calling and I’ll see you soon.”

Will he answer if you call? Probably not — but it’s certainly worth a try.

His best move, by far, was hiring Adam Gase, who clearly was exactly what this team needed when they needed him. One huge move and one far more subtle one from a year earlier paid off big last season: Ndamukong Suh’s contract, and drafting Jay Ajayi in the fifth round. The Dolphins leaped ahead of their AFC East brethren for the honor of Patriots runner-up, which is no small thing.

As unlucky a GM as there was in the NFL last season, thanks to injuries, likely a big reason he survived while the Chargers changed head coaches. Anthony Lynn was a hot prospect, so winning that competition reflects well on Telesco. The foolishness over contracts (Eric Weddle, Joey Bosa) in recent years land in ownership’s lap. He hasn’t done anything egregious enough to demand his firing, so he’s got that going for him.lightning_081

NBA Finals 2017: Draymond Green gets animated in postgame media session

Draymond Green and the Warriors lost Game 4 of the NBA Finals to the Cavaliers Friday night, but Green definitely won the postgame media session.

The Warriors colorful star opened up to reporters about everything from Cleveland residents (“They don’t seem to be the sharpest people”) to his feelings about reporters (“I love y’all. I appreciate y’all.”)

Green’s animated postgame talk was no surprise, given he’d found himself the center of attention in the third quarter, when he appeared to be ejected for his second technical foul of the game. But after huddling, the officials determined that the earlier tech everyone thought had been on Green for arguing a call had actually been assessed on coach Steve Kerr.

Someone asked Green if he noticed the earlier technical hadn’t been called on him.

“Nah, I really don’t pay much attention to anyone in Cleveland, honestly. They don’t seem to be the sharpest people around,” Green told reporters (via the

Cavaliers fans once again heckled Green during the game, chanting “Draymond sucks.” Green threw some shade at those fans.

“Yeah, they make me feel good. They show me how important I am to them,” he said. “They are at home thinking about me. If you come into the game chanting my name, you be at home thinking about me. So shoutout to them for the love.”

Finding perspective for the Astros’ red-hot start to 2017

The Astros, as you know, have been ridiculously good this season.

How good Let’s try to find a bit of perspective. First, the basic numbers. At the moment, the Astros are 41-16, have won 10 games in a row and own a 13.5-game lead in the AL West. Over the weekend, they authored a sweep of the rival Rangers on the road, outscoring Texas 20-7 in the three-game series.

Then there’s Develin, who doesn’t need to run or catch the ball when he’s doing so much fo fill Gronk’s blocking void.

They say it takes a village. The Patriots prefer to pillage a defense, using every personnel hole to their advantage. The Texans were good straight up against the run between the tackles, but had trouble staying with backs laterally and in the open field. Enter Lewis to run and run routes around them.

The Steelers have a hard time covering backs outside, so one might expect the Patriots to use much more of Lewis in that case. The Chiefs have struggled to slow down the power inside, even more so without Derrick Johnson, so that would suggest more of a Blount game.

Because the Steelers or the Chiefs might think that same way as well, that’s exactly when the Patriots will flip the script or add in another wrinkle out of the backfield, such more reverses from Edelman or Amendola.

Doug Baldwin still has not made a Pro Bowl. Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Ricardo Lockette and Tyler Lockett were on the field a relatively small time during their run of contention.steelers_010

Seahawks GM claims team wasn’t ‘malicious’ in hiding Richard Sherman’s injury

Seahawks general manager John Schneider doesn’t believe his team should be punished for how it handled Richard Sherman’s knee injury.

The team reportedly is being investigated by the NFL after coach Pete Carroll revealed on a radio show that his cornerback had been dealing with a significant knee injury. Obviously, it’s against league rules for teams to hide significant injuries from their opponents, so the league is looking into how Seattle handled the situation.

Whaley said he was not privy to the details of the conversation Pegula had with Ryan before he was dismissed. He added that he didn’t need any explanation from Pegula about the decision.

The team promoted offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to be the interim coach for Sunday’s season finale against the Jets, but not even that was Whaley’s decision.

Rex recommended Anthony Lynn be the interim coach, Whaley said Monday.

As for Ryan’s replacement, Whaley did say he would be involved in that process.

I am leading the search, and it is an open search, Whaley said, confirming that a request has been made to interview Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. He added, of course, that Pegula has the final say.

When asked whether team president Russ Brandon would be involved, Whaley said, He’s the president of the organization and needs to be privy to conversations, but he’s not in on the decision-making process.

Whaley was asked several times what exactly it is that he does as the team’s GM. He didn’t really have an answer. Apparently those all come from the team owner. rams_031

Mozeliak is clearly not happy.

I remember not too long ago this huge giant of a man walking into Studio 42. I’d never seen a baseball player look like this, in person. It was Aaron Judge. I was like, “Oh my goodness.” He was stoic, the same guy that we interview after games now when he hits two home runs for the New York Yankees. There are certain guys you never forget. Trout’s No. 1, but those three after that probably also make up my top five.

Mozeliak is clearly not happy. Even though he maintained his always-even speaking tone and cadence, he didn’t try to hide that in his press conference, and the honesty was refreshing. “Everybody’s frustrated,” he said. “This is not meeting our expectations. This is not meeting Mike’s expectations.”

Thing is, the moves he announced Friday don’t figure to do much to impact the on-field product. The Cardinals designated veteran infielder Jhonny Peralta for assignment (making room for Kolten Wong to return from the DL), a move that surprised nobody, considering Peralta is in the last year of his contract, doesn’t have a regular spot in the lineup and is hitting just .204 with a .462 OPS in 21 games this season.

Mozeliak shuffled around the Cardinals’ coaching staff a bit, too, most notably removing Chris Maloney from his job as third-base coach, a move that wasn’t surprising, either.

Lots of bluster, not much in the way of real on-the-field change. The Pirates held the first overall pick in 2011 and spurned the two-way star Hultzen, instead opting to take an established right-handed pitcher from UCLA named Gerrit Cole, who now anchors their rotation.

The real strength of an athlete or a coach comes from the inside out

The mantra stemmed from relationship-building exercises the Falcons participated in last offseason with Navy SEALs. Prior to Super Bowl 51, Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux described the brotherhood as “the love that we have for one another (that) makes us want to play even harder. We don’t want to let each other down.”

In the aftermath of their Super Bowl loss, the Falcons released a video proclaiming the Super Bowl loss “will not define us.” Moawad also has strong faith in Quinn, whom he first met 10 years earlier as a Dolphins assistant when serving as a consultant for then-head coach Nick Saban.

But nobody can truly know whether Atlanta can avoid a massive Super Bowl hangover until the 2017 season is under way.

“The real strength of an athlete or a coach comes from the inside out,” Moawad said. “Our own beliefs are 10 times more powerful than the beliefs of those outside us. The outside beliefs gain their most power when our inside beliefs aren’t strong.

“All the concepts you heard (the Falcons) talking about — how the brotherhood defines everything we do, we live it and breathe it — you better be living and breathing it right now because it’s going to take that brotherhood to move you past that.”

The Cowboys had three players in the top 10 with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott ranked eighth in player sales. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was sixth with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers seventh. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton rounded out the top 10.

The top-selling player on New England’s Super Bowl opponent, the Falcons, was receiver Julio Jones at No. 31.