New York Giants: 5 Offseason Questions That Remain

We have hit the doldrums ladies and gentlemen. Fans of the New York Giants, much like fans of any other NFL team, can only sit and wait for the next two months. The front office has done the bulk of their job, and whether or not you agree with their agenda, you can’t help but be excited to see a better brand of football coming from our squad in the upcoming season.

By all accounts (including those coming from our defensive players) Saquon Barkley is at least as good as advertised.  Will Hernandez and Nate Solder will elevate our O-line play to no less than ‘average’…a vast improvement over the mostly laughable production by the unit in 2017.

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While we have many good reasons to feel content right now, a sober look at our team should leave you wondering about a few areas of our roster. The NFC is about as stacked as I’ve ever seen since the early 90’s. For the Giants to truly be relevant come January, there are some questions that must be0 answered during training camp come August.

1.) Who will be our starting right tackle?

Until further notice, this is a two man battle between Chad Wheeler and twitter pariah Ereck Flowers. Wheeler came to us after last year’s draft as an undrafted free agent.  As four year starter at USC, Chad ranked high among 2017 tackle prospects as far as physical traits and talent go, but he slipped in the draft due to inconsistent play and his smaller frame. 6’7” is more than ideal height, but he weighs in at 310 lbs. and looks slight for the position.

Given the state of our offense last year, it should surprise no one that Wheeler was pressed into duty during his rookie season at several times and at different positions.  While he should be commended for his versatility and general aptitude, his ceiling as a starter is probably league average at best. He has earned the shot to prove he can be more than that (word is that he’s bulked up this offseason) and hold down the position, but I’m not betting that way.

I believe Ereck Flowers wins the job. Or maybe I should say keeps it since he was immediately inserted into the starting lineup…once he bothered to show up. The 2015 9th overall looks exactly like your starting tackle. 6’6”, 325 lbs. with long arms and quick feet. Too bad his play has been about as consistent as Wi-Fi in Antarctica.

Here’s a peek of what I’m talking about:

https://twitter.com/12upSport/status/985992738977058816

To be fair, the Wi-Fi in Antarctica probably is consistent as long as you’re in the right area.  Maybe Flowers works the same way. At left tackle he was getting no signal, but possibly for him right tackle is like the 1% of the south pole where you get 5 bars.

MY ANSWER: Flowers keeps the job and performs well.

2.) Do we have enough depth at cornerback?

I am actually wondering do we even have two good starters? The Jackrabbit..aka Janoris Jenkins, is coming off an injury plagued 2017 season that included a team enforced suspension. At least we have seen him play at an All-Pro level. The same cannot be said for Eli Apple. The enigmatic cornerback has flashed the elite skills that prompted us to select him with the 10th pick two years ago, but he better known for repeated benchings and disrupting team chemistry.

Behind them, the depth chart gets alarmingly thin. William Gay had a nice career in Pittsburgh, but he is on the wrong side of 33! And behind him there’s Teddy Williams, B.W. Webb, Jeremiah McKinnon, C.J. Goodwin & Chris Lewis-Harris. I’ve said before that you can’t rub a bunch of back-ups together to make a starter, but it feels like that’s exactly what we’re gonna try at nickel CB…sounds like a risky course of action in today’s NFL.

MY ANSWER: We get exposed if Jenkins or Apple get injured. Make that when it happens

3.) Who is our #3 receiver?

Dez Bryant.

Just kidding, but only a little bit. As of this moment, Dez is still waiting for us to call. He is hoping that Cody Lattimer does in New York exactly what he did in Denver…which isn’t much. He underwhelmed for four seasons at mile high, but possesses the tools to be an effective possession/slot receiver. The G-men picked him up rather early in free agency, and right now he’s penciled in at #3, but there is competition for that spot.

Enter Roger Lewis. Coming to us in 2016 as an UFA, Lewis has had a few highlight moments for the G-men.

That was one of the few bright spots of a 2017 season where Lewis was inserted into the starting lineup due to the injury bug, no, injury bazooka hitting the receiver corps. Almost nobody on the Giants offense last year looked good, but Lewis didn’t look bad which is saying something.

After Lattimer & Lewis, we get into a lot of names you have no reason to know. Amba Etta-Tawo has an intriguing skill set, but not much else to speak of in his career.  Ramses Barden also had an intriguing skill set for the record.  The rest of the depth chart excites me as much as Barden did.

If the stars stay healthy, these ‘other guys’ should do fine, but if the injury bazooka comes back we’re in trouble.

MY ANSWER: We sign Dez in mid-August when his price is low…he catches 3 td’s against the Cowboys in week 2. Gets benched by week 6.

4.) Will our defense return to 2016 form?

I almost wanna give any defensive players left from last year a mulligan. Our putrid offense left our defense in the worst possible position incessantly. I’m talking about an offense that averaged 15.4 points per game and a 32% 3rd down conversion rate (both good for 31st in the NFL). That’s hard for any defense to deal with.

But a defense that ranked 27th or lower in the 4 major categories (points, total yards, passing & rushing yards) cannot be blamed solely on poor offensive production, bad coaching, or even locker room revolt.  The eyeball test says that last year many players just weren’t performing for whatever reason.

The coaching staff house cleaning brings us not only a new coordinator in James Bettcher, but a new defensive scheme. I wrote earlier how the return of the 3-4 defense will place more emphasis on our linebackers. Free agent Alec Ogletree and returning vet B.J. Goodson will man the inside, while Olivier Vernon will have to adjust to a stand-up role as an outside backer. Rookie Lorenzo Carter is in line to play on the opposite side and help Vernon pressure opposing QB’s.

A little peek at what we hope Carter will bring to our squad:

I talked earlier about the secondary…and you know I don’t like how thin we look.  Thankfully, I love how thick we look on the D-line. Giants vets Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson will eat up blockers, and free agent Kareem Martin rounds out our starting unit. Martin was a solid 3-4 end in Arizona for the past 4 seasons and should ease the transition for our front 7. This defense needs to hit the ground running to stand a chance in the NFC this year.

MY ANSWER: After a slow start, the defense becomes an above average unit due mostly to the front 7 and Landry Collins.

5.) Does Eli Manning still have it?

There it is. The 100 million dollar question. Can Eli still play? If you ask some people, he never was all that good to begin with. If you ask most people, he’s been bad for at least 2 years…although that does coincide with the tenure of a coach who recently had his keycard taken away.

I’ll put my cards on the table: I believe he still can play at a very high level…but I haven’t really seen it for nearly 2 seasons. I’ve been an Eli fan/supporter since day 1, so it isn’t easy for me to admit that the end is near for my favorite QB. His arm strength is lessened (although not as much as others would have you believe). He can no longer move well enough to be effective behind a porous O-line.

Maybe most alarmingly, his yds per attempt has been trending down for years. In 2011, the 2nd Superbowl win for Eli, he averaged a robust 8.4 yds per attempt. In 2014 it was 7.3 yds per. Last year was his career low at 6.1 yds per attempt.

Despite those and other stats that suggest Eli is done, the Giants brass from top to bottom still see Eli as a championship level QB with years left to play. I can understand their reasoning. He’s as good as it gets at pre-snap at the line of scrimmage getting the G-men in and out of the right plays. Last season proved what kind of leader and teammate he is and how much New York fans truly love him, even when they hate him.

Behind an offensive line that can provide sufficient time and with what on paper looks like the best cast of skill players he’s ever played with, the New York Giants believe there is some magic left in Eli’s 37 year old arm.

MY ANSWER: I think they’re right. Eli enjoys a great statistical season.

New York Yankees Flashback: Homer Heroes, and an Olympics One

New York Yankees

Runs were scored in eight different half innings during the New York Yankees’ home-standing 9-5 win over Oakland on May 28, 2017, but it really all came down to Aaron Judge‘s third-inning, two-out grand slam. Michael Pineda and Andrew Triggs each went six in this one, with the unfortunate A’s righty having surrendered just one earned run (and five unearned ones) thanks to errors by left fielder Matt Joyce and catcher Josh Phegley.

On this day in 1934, Lou Gehrig hit two homers, the second back-to-back with Babe Ruth in the seventh inning in a 13-9 win over the St. Louis Browns. It was the last time the two megastars would go yard in consecutive at bats.

The New York Yankees have one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. Keep up with breaking news, broken bats, and daily updates on your favorite team! Sign up to our free newsletter to get premium Yankees content straight to your email.

After starting his career 0-for-12, Willie Mays homered off Warren Spahn for his first big-league hit in a 4-1 loss to the Braves on this day in 1951.

Lefthander Bob Kuzava (1923), who went 23-20 for the Yankees from 1951 through 1954, is the most noteworthy Yankee player born on May 28. Righty reliever Cory Wade (1983) and All-American Olympic hero Jim Thorpe (1888), who played football and baseball professionally, doing the latter with the Giants from 1913 through 1918, were also born this day.

New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka’s Tweet is Sweet in Victory

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka pitched a sparkler for the Yankees in Yankee Stadium on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels and afterwards sent out this celebratory tweet:

According to the translation, it says:

“I was able to win the sixth victory of the season against the Angels of today! It was quite cold and windy, but in a tough situation, I was able to win this series Katsuchi.”

Tanaka had an especially strong outing against a tough Angels team on Sunday—his best in nearly a month—going six innings, giving up one run—a homer to Andrelton Simmons in the sixth inning—and lowering his ERA from 4.95 to 4.62.

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Tanaka “owned Ohtani and the Angels” on Sunday, as Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. Ohtani was 0-3 against Tanaka with two strikeouts and a walk. According to Mandy Bell of MLB.com:

“Ohtani remains hitless in his career against Tanaka, who faced him during his final season in Japan. The then-18-year-old Ohtani went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts, one walk and one hit by pitch against Tanaka.”

Tanaka’s tweet celebrates the victory and the series win, but you have to wonder if there the win wasn’t just that much sweeter for besting Ohtani, and Mike Trout, too.

Trout went 0-4 against Tanaka with two strikeouts.  Quite a feat for Tanaka after Trout posted a 5-5 game on Saturday—a career high for a guy who specializes in career highs!

Tanaka has frustrated Yankee fans with his inconsistency—performing like the ace he can be, as he did against Angels in both meetings against them this season, but also performing well below that level as he did against the Boston Red Sox in two meetings against them in ’18.

But for now, Yankee fans can join Tanaka in celebrating his win and hope he takes the momentum from it into his next start. The Yankees need Tanaka to perform as he did today against the Angels if they hope to make it to the next level this season.

 

 

Who Will Return Kicks For The New York Giants In 2018?

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants have toyed with the idea of using star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to return punts in specific situations, as seen in the 2016 before he went down with a broken ankle in ’17.

The primary kick returner has been Dwayne Harris for the past several years, but the signing of Cody Lattimer could present a solid option for the Giants to return kicks. His immense speed and big body could be essential in grinding out a few extra yards to put the offense in better field position.

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Another interesting option would be undrafted free agent Jawill Davis. Davis has shown flashes of speed and agility during the offseason, which could present him with an opportunity to return kicks. He is fighting for a wide receiver spot that may not be available with Roger Lewis and Lattimer primed to take on bigger roles on the offense (the latter more-so).

Davis is known for his stellar route running abilities and vision. He recorded several impressive catches during rookie mini-camp and OTAs. His best bet to earn a roster spot will be to make an impression on special teams and prove that he can help in more ways than just as a being a receiver.

Will Barkley play a role on special teams?

Rookie running back Saquon Barkley stated that he’s more than just a running back before the beginning of OTAs, and it raises the question: Will the Giants utilize Barkley as a kick returner?

The likely answer is, no. But, his abilities as a return man can’t be overlooked – just take a look at this highlight play against Ohio State.

The primary reason the Giants ‘wouldn’t’ use Barkley as a return man would be to ensure he stays healthy. The NFL is contemplating wiping kick returns from the game due to an increase in concussions, which should be a telling sign as to why using your best player to return kicks might be a bad idea.

Who do ‘you’ think will return kicks for the Giants in 2018?

New York Mets Series Preview: Atlanta Braves (5/28-5-30)

New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard

The New York Mets just finished a rough four game series against the Milwaukee Brewers where they lost three out of four. They have a quick turnaround as they play four games in three days against the first place Atlanta Braves. The Braves just lost two out of three against the Boston Red Sox, but roughed up Chris Sale for six runs. They have dominated the Mets this season, taking five out of six games.

Probable Pitching Matchups

(5/28, 1:10 PM) Jacob deGrom (4-0, 1.54 ERA) vs. Max Fried (0-2, 6.00 ERA)

(5/28, 7:10 PM) TBD (Likely P.J. Conlon) vs. Brandon McCarthy (5-2, 4.67 ERA)

(5/29, 7:35 PM) Steven Matz (2-3, 3.80 ERA) vs. TBD

(5/30, 7:35 PM) Noah Syndergaard (4-1, 3.06 ERA) vs. Julio Teheran (4-2, 4.20 ERA)

Steamrolled by the Brew Crew

The series against the Brewers was brutal to say the least. The Mets had the lead in all four game but only managed to win one because their pitching faltered. One of the encouraging signs is that their offense finally seemed to wake up from the slump they had been in over the last couple of weeks. The fight they showed against a dominant Brewers bullpen and hopefully they can bring their offense to Atlanta.

The Mets pitching seemed just fine after allowing four runs in the first two games of the series, but collapsed in the last two games. They allowed 25 runs over two games after outside of Zack Wheeler, they entire staff looked lost. Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald became victims of tough luck and Jason Vargas and Chris Flexen continued to look like they do not belong on a big league roster. If the Mets want to keep themselves in the division race their pitching desperately needs to wake up.

The Braves Are For Real

The Braves are a young team full of talent and have not slowed down at all this season. Ozzie Albies has blossomed quicker than expected and leads the team with 14 home runs. Nick Markakis has also continued to be one of the most underrated players in baseball and is tied for second in baseball with a .340 average. Of course, the Met killer, Freddie Freeman is still doing what he normally does in the middle of that Braves lineup.

The Braves received a little bit of a scare as their top prospect, Ronald Acuna Jr. injured his left knee trying to run out a ground ball. He fell as he ran through the base and tripped but was able to make it off the field without any help. His status for this series remains unknown as the Braves await the MRI results. The injury could have been worse as his knee buckled as he crossed the base. The rookie was hitting .265 with five home runs and 13 RBIs.

Matchups to Lookout For

Asdrubal Cabrera vs. Julio Teheran: 9-26 (.310) 3 Doubles, 2 Walks, 6 Strikeouts

Nick Markakis vs. Noah Syndergaard: 6-15 (.400) 1 Double, 1 Walk, 3 Strikeouts

Wilmer Flores vs. Julio Teheran: 3-21 (.143) 1 Home Run, 3 Walks, 3 Strikeouts

Tyler Flowers vs. Steven Matz 2-10 (.200) 1 Double, 3 Strikeouts

Interesting Stats

Asdrubal Cabrera at Sun Trust Park: 14-42 (.333) 2 Home Runs, 5 Doubles

Nick Markakis in High Leverage Situations: 397-1311 (.303) 25 Home Runs, .381 OBP