New York Giants: Defensive Breakout Player Of The Year

The New York Giants will be testing out several undrafted free agents over the course of OTAs, as NFL level talent will surely indicate their potential at the professional level.

Several names that weren’t called on draft night but managed to weasel their way onto the Giants’ roster are, Grant Haley (Penn State) and Aaron Davis (Georgia). Both players were cornerbacks at their respective colleges, but failed to earn a spot on an NFL team’s draft board. They were forced to settle as UDFAs, and the Giants pounced on both immediately.

The Giants are taking a very risky approach by depending on undrafted talent in the secondary, but general manager Dave Gettleman has been known to leave the secondary a bit thin in favor of building through the trenches.

The New York Giants have a new crop of rookies and a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. You won’t want to miss out on any breaking news stories, updates, or every-day activities! Sign up for FREE to receive premium content delivered straight to your email.

The breakout player:

The Giants have given wayward corner, Eli Apple, a second chance at life. His meltdown in 2017, which included ‘anonymous’ coach and player bashings, lack of effort, and locker room madness, led many to believe he would not enjoy another snap in New York.

The new regime provided him with a final opportunity to redeem himself, and Apple seems to be taking his game to the next level. During pre-draft workouts, Apple blanketed his assignments in coverage and showed a tenacity that has been absent from his game since entering the league.

The fans seem to have his back and are willing to offer him one last opportunity, but don’t get things twisted, he’s certainly on a tight leash. The former No. 10 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft displayed a dark side of himself last season, as his mother battled brain surgery and his step-father (his biggest influence) was suddenly exiled from his life.

https://twitter.com/Hayes_Hair13/status/881706091440205825

Here’s a clip from 2017 where Apple makes a stellar play. You can see how Apple’s speed is arguably his biggest strength, as he closes in on the Steelers receiver very quickly, completing an impressive interception. From the get-go, Apple trails the receiver, giving the quarterback a sense of security, but Apple knows he can catch up at any point. As soon as the ball leaves Big Ben’s hand, Apple turns on the jets and undercuts the route. That’s the potential of the young corner, which is something he has showed sparingly over the course of his two-year career.

Apple has struggled mightily with turning his head to defend the ball, which is a major flaw in his skillset as a cornerback. His biggest weakness was exploited early and often in the 2017 season. This issue led to Apple being demoralized throughout last year, ultimately leading to a downward spiral that resulted in a clash with star safety Landon Collins.

In 2018, Apple will have a fresh start with a renewed friendship with his fellow teammates. With a new culture behind him and coaching staff, Apple has all of the support he needs to develop into a solid corner in the NFL.

New York Giants’ Offseason Plan Shows Faith In Rising Quarterback

In these slow weeks leading up to training camp, New York Giants fans won’t have much to do other than evaluate our off-season moves and hope for a brighter season come fall.  Many will celebrate the drafting of Saquon Barkley at #2 overall, the very definition of a win now move that when combined with a rebuilt offensive line makes our offense look like a top flight unit in 2018.

Yet, there will be many who spend a lot of time wondering if we made a mistake passing on a QB in an NFL draft that set a record with 4 signal callers selected in the first 10 picks. Those fans can’t be blamed…I was/am extremely high on Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen and they both were available to us since Cleveland just couldn’t help being Cleveland by drafting Baker Mayfield.

Here’s a little trivia that might those fans feel better…wanna guess who pushed Mayfield out of his starting job at Texas Tech? New York Giants 2nd year QB Davis Webb, that’s who.

The New York Giants have a new crop of rookies and a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. You won’t want to miss out on any breaking news stories, updates, or every-day activities! Sign up for FREE to receive premium content delivered straight to your email.

Everything about our off-season tells me that Gettleman and the brass not only believe in Eli, but they also believe in Davis Webb. Not only as a future starter, but as our immediate backup, ready to step in and pilot a loaded offense. Before we get into Webb as a player, let’s break down management’s belief logically.

The Giants not only passed on a QB in round 1, they didn’t bring in a seasoned veteran to push Webb for the backup spot (Alex Tanney is about as ‘seasoned’ as Wonder bread). Eli is an ironman, but I doubt Gettleman would gamble his job by going into the season without a viable backup.

He knows their value. During his five-year tenure in Carolina, Cam Newton was always backed up by Derek Anderson, who led the Browns to a 10-6 record back in ’07 and has filled in nicely whenever needed. After taking a close look at Davis Webb’s practice and college tape, Gettleman must like what he sees enough to feel comfortable with Webb starting in the unlikely event Eli gets injured.

Let’s take a look at some Webb tape:

You can see from that highlight reel that Webb is a classic pocket passer. Standing 6’5” and weighing in at 229lbs., Webb displays impressive arm strength, good pocket movement, and strong accuracy. Per Mike Mayock on NFL.com, “Davis Webb’s got a live arm. He drops it in the bucket. Moves well enough, quick release, big arm.” His senior year at Cal, where he replaced Jared Goff, was by far his most impressive, throwing for nearly 4,300 yds & 37 td’s in only 12 games. Those physical traits and his senior year performance are what promted the Giants to select him with the 23rd pick of the 3rd round in last year’s draft.

As is true with most any young QB, based on what we saw in college there are aspects of his game that need improvement. Although he is highly intelligent, he needs to speed up his decision making and improve at reading defenses pre-snap. During the play, at times he stares down receivers and/or doesn’t ‘look-off’ safties, resulting in more contested passes from savvy defensive backs. His footwork can be better too…balls sail on him if he doesn’t keep his feet in rhythm.

By all accounts, he improved in all these areas during practice last season. As he didn’t play in the regular season last year, here are a few clips of him training just to give you an idea of how he looks:

Arm strength?

Footwork?

Accuracy?

Of course, these videos really don’t tell us much. If your QB doesn’t look like a hall of famer practicing against air, then you really don’t have a QB. There’s no way to know for sure how Davis Webb will fare once the bullets are flying. The hope is that the team surrounding our starter is good enough that he doesn’t have to be an MVP on day 1.

But I wanna offer a final thought for those who still wish we went QB in round 1: Whether or not you agree with our off-season agenda, you must admit it was masterfully executed. The organization seems to be making the right decisions lately, so I’ll put my trust in Davis Webb because the New York Giants already have.

New York Yankees Flashback: Bad Benitez Tears Into Tino

New York Yankees
An ugly event occurred in the Bronx on May 19, 1998, as (at the time) Orioles reliever Armando Benitez drilled Tino Martinez in the back for the crime of being the on-deck batter after Bernie Williams humiliated him by blasting an upper-deck, game-changing three-run homer in a 9-5 New York Yankees victory.
The O’s, behind lefty Doug Johns, had jumped to a 5-1 lead over David Cone and the Yanks on Harold Baines‘s three rbi’s. But seventh-inning rbi hits by Paul O’Neill and Tim Raines off Sidney Ponson tightened things a bit, and Ponson, Alan Mills, Norm Charlton, and Benitez failed to stop the Bombers in the eighth.
Stadium rage was somewhat mollified when Tim Raines followed Benitez’s cowardly throw by blasting a two-run shot off ex-Yankee Bobby Munoz to close the scoring.
Yankee May 19 birthdays feature 10-year Yankee infielder Gil McDougald (1928), one of the fold who played for the Bronx-based team only. Gil was the 1951 AL Rookie of the Year, and stroked 112 homers with 576 rbi’s and 45 stolen bases for the Yanks from 1951-1960.
Also, fan favorite and three-time Yankee catcher Rick Cerone (1954) arrived in the Bronx to replace the late Thurman Munson in a November 1979 trade with Toronto. Rick contributed 31 dingers and 203 rbi’s overall to the New York cause. His 14-tater, 85-rbi 1980 season was his best. From fan fave to fan pariah Ed Whitson (1954), whose time with the Bombers in 1985 and 1986 was worse than his 15-10 record would seem to indicate.

The Break Down: Can Ereck Flowers Be A Solid Right Tackle?

New York Giants, Ereck Flowers

Former New York Giants left tackle and incoming right tackle, Ereck Flowers, has finally made an appearance to the Giants’ facilities. After weeks of avoiding interaction with the team, Flowers hired super-agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to mend the broken relationship between the organization and his client.

The consensus is that Flowers will begin the season as the starting right tackle, but that’s only if Chad Wheeler can’t overtake him for the job. There will certainly be competition on the horizon at RT, but let’s take a look at how successful Flowers can be on the opposite side of the line.

The New York Giants have a new crop of rookies and a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. You won’t want to miss out on any breaking news stories, updates, or every-day activities! Sign up for FREE to receive premium content delivered straight to your email.

In 2017, Flowers struggled mightily, while he did go a stretch without giving up a sack or pressure. His inconsistency is what ultimately landed him in the dog house, and his giving up in week 17 with Bobby Hart only added to the spiraling of his career. The Giants snagged former Patriots’ LT Nate Solder during the offseason, supplanting Flowers as Eli Manning’s blind-side protector.

According to star safety Landon Collins, Flowers was upset that the Giants replaced him, which was the reason he avoided voluntary workouts. Despite the fact that head coach Pat Shurmur called Flowers to inform him of the signing and that he would be moved to right tackle, the struggling lineman found a way to make his situation worse.

Let’s break down whether he can be successful at right tackle, or not:

https://twitter.com/telbreezy305/status/996054560882950144

In this clip, you can see that Flowers is completely overwhelmed by Ezekiel Ansah from the get-go. This play shows a lack of strength and balance from Flowers, which will not differ on the right side of the line. Being overpowered and ran through isn’t solved by simply moving to the right side. He will need to improve his strength and balance before being considered an average tackle in the NFL.

When I asked Brian Baldinger if Flowers can make the transition, here’s what he said:

According to the former professional lineman, Flowers will certainly have a difficult time adjusting to the new technique, and we shouldn’t put all of our chips in on the forth-year player. There’s one big  issue: We don’t have much of a choice but to believe in Flowers, unless Wheeler can prove he’s capable of holding down the fort.

Despite the move to right tackle, we can still analyze his lack of talent at LT to break down his current skill-set. In this clip, Flowers attempts to get inside of Ansah’s pads, but his powerful swipe completely obliterates Flowers’ attempt and leaves him in the dust. This is a serious issue, as he doesn’t step forward and seal the edge, but rather backs up and lazily throws out and arm and is overwhelmed immediately.

The biggest priority for Flowers this offseason will be improving his balance. An offensive lineman needs to be upright and balanced, which ultimately allows them to contain an incoming edge rusher.

Here’s an example of Rams LT Andrew Whitworth. Watch as his body remains straight as an arrow but his legs move to mirror the defensive end. That’s a perfect display of ability and technique. His lateral movement and balance allow him to stay with the rusher and contain him throughout the play.

If Flowers cannot improve his lateral movement and footwork, he will never be a starting quality offensive lineman in the NFL.

New York Mets Injury Report: May 20

Another round of New York Mets are landing on the DL, leading to more roster call-ups. The once deep Mets outfield is slowly becoming depleted.

Depleted Outfield

Juan Lagares (hyperextended left big toe and torn plantar plate) has landed on the 10-day DL after he suffered the injury after making a play during the Toronto Blue Jays series. Lagares will undergo surgery and is out for the rest of the season. He was the best defensive outfielder on the team and was having a great start to his season by batting .339. The Mets signed Ezequiel Carrera to a minor league deal in case the Mets need another outfielder.

Yoenis Cespedes (right hip flexor strain) was placed on the 10-day DL about a week ago. Cespedes spent the last few weeks visibly playing through pain and the Mets decided it was time to give him a break. He should be able to return by the end of the month and will hopefully be 100% again. The Mets called up Phillip Evans to take his place on the 25-man roster.

Hansel Robles (sprained right knee) was placed on the 10-day DL about a week and a half ago. The Mets do not have a timeframe for Robles to return but will likely keep him out as long as they can. He had allowed runs in more than half of the games he pitched in this season.

Lingering Injuries

Todd Frazier (left hamstring strain) does not expect to return soon. Frazier originally hoped that he would spend the minimum amount of time on the DL but his hamstring is not fully recovered. He hopes to go on a rehab assignment soon and return by the end of the month. Wilmer Flores has done a good job replacing him in the lineup and the Mets signed Christian Colon as a reinforcement for future injuries.

Anthony Swarzak (oblique) has resumed long tossing but is not quite ready to go on a mound yet. Swarzak has been out since the beginning of April after only pitching in two games. Swarzak was put on the 60-day DL and cannot be activated until the end of May. The Mets hope to have him back in early June.

David Wright (back, shoulder) is going to visit a doctor at the end of May which will decide whether or not he resumes baseball activities. The 35-year old captain is still fighting for his career but the odds are stacked against him to make a comeback. Whether you are frustrated with Wright or not, we are all pulling for him to make a return to the big leagues, even if it is for just one game.

Kevin Plawecki (hand) looks to begin a rehab assignment within the next few days. After fracturing his hand, the Mets catching position has been a revolving door. Plawecki hopes to return by the end of May and will give the Mets two respectable catchers on their roster.

T.J. Rivera (elbow) will be out until July the earliest as he is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Travis d’Arnaud and Rafael Montero also underwent Tommy John Surgery and will continue to be sidelined for the season.

Sonny Gray Could Use a Sunny Day for the New York Yankees in Kansas City

The Yankees will have Sonny Gray on the mound today for the final game of the series against the Kansas City Royals.  Gray has been a disappointment in ’18 and fans hope he can turn it around against the Royals today in Kauffman Stadium.  

Sheryl Ring of Fangraphs writes that Gray may be the one Yankee pitcher who doesn’t thrive throwing fewer fastballs under the current Yankee pitching philosophy.  Larry Rothschild, the Yankees pitching coach, challenges conventional thinking about pitching by advising Yankee pitchers to rely less on the fastball to get hitters out.

Rothschild told Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated in July of ‘17:

“Fastballs get hit,” Rothschild said. “It’s amazing to me to see guys throwing in the upper 90s and they get hit. I don’t know how these guys do it. That’s how good major league hitters are. They have adjusted to velocity. To hit upper 90s, you have to gear up for upper 90s. So hitters are going up there to gear up for velocity. And when they do that, they can hit it no matter how hard you throw.”

As a result, Rothschild believes pitchers should rely on their other pitches to throw hitters off-balance; instead of pitching off their fastball, Verducci points out,Yankee pitchers predominantly pitch off their slider, which they throw a league high 25% of the time.

Ring says of Gray’s use of his secondary pitches:

“So far in 2018, Gray’s using his fastball and sinker less than 50% of the time combined, the first time he’s ever done that. He’s throwing his so-called “secondary” pitches at a career-high rate. The results, as noted, have been subpar.

Obviously, there are factors beyond mere pitch mix that can contribute to a poor month. In Gray’s case, however, it seems quite possible that moving away from the fastball has harmed a kind of important equilibrium that was present in his game.”

As Adler points out, Gray was never a pitcher to “grip it and rip it.”  He is an instinctual pitcher, who lets the game come to him, then looks to his repertoire of pitches as to how he wants to attack hitters.

Certainly, as Ring points out above, Gray’s performances have mostly been “subpar.”  He has a 2-3 record in eight games and is currently pitching to a 6.39 ERA. In his last outing versus the Oakland Athletics he went five innings with nine hits, five runs, 2 home runs, three walks and two strikeouts.

Randy Miller of NJ.com has said that last season Gray was “mediocre,” but in ’18 he’s been “awful,” and quotes a scout who said of Gray:

“I just don’t think he’s got that kind of stuff that’s elite,” the scout said. “He’s a guy that’s going to give you five or six innings and give up three to five runs. He’s just that kind of guy.”

Gray takes the mound today surrounded by questions. Is he a victim of the Yankee pitching philosophy? Is he overthinking, as he has been accused of doing? Does he just not have elite stuff to compete with?

Yankee fans will be rooting for Gray to find some answers today against the Royals.