New York Giants: Defense Gets A Boost With Josh Mauro Return

The New York Giants have a banged up defense. Defensive end Olivier Vernon is out with a high ankle sprain currently, and cornerback Eli Apple has been out since the second game of the season with a groin injury. Before the season even started, Josh Mauro was out at defensive end because of a four game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Those aren’t the only injuries.

The list is pretty long for this point in the season, but one of these players will make a comeback soon in the week five game against the Panthers. That player is Josh Mauro, who has yet to play a snap for the Giants after following defensive coordinator James Bettcher from the Arizona Cardinals, where he played for the first years of his career after being released from the Steelers, the team he originally signed for as an undrafted free agent.

Let’s take a look at what Mauro has done up until this point, when he’ll likely make his debut with the Giants. He only played five games as a rookie, but despite his undrafted status, he found success quickly and played in 14 games during 2015, registering 15 tackles during that span.

The next year, he would play in one more game than he did in 2015 and started in 13 of them, with 24 tackles. Those numbers made him one of the top defensive line players on the entire team, representing a surprising growth for a player that had been released from the Steelers only a couple of years prior.

Mauro had 13 games and 15 tackles in 2017 and signed a two-year contract that same year, but was released anyway and signed with the Giants this March. He was the favorite to start at the left defensive end spot, but unfortunately, his suspension kept him out for the first games of the season and rookie B.J. Hill started in his place.

There will likely be a competition at the position, but with the defensive line not performing as well as it should have against New Orelans, there will likely be changes. One of those changes will probably be Mauro reaching the starting lineup and giving Giants fans a taste of what their new signing can do. Hopefully, it will be enough to help out a line that still lacks the help of Olivier Vernon, five weeks into the season.

Giants: Eli Manning Or Pat Shurmur At Fault For Offensive Struggles?

New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning drops back to pass, the pocket is clean and his receivers are just breaking into their routes, but the PTSD ridden signal caller decides to get rid of the ball early, dumping it off to Saquon Barkley underneath.

If you look closer, Odell Beckham Jr., the $19 million per-year receiver, is about to bolt toward the sideline and enter free space, but the ball has already left Manning’s hand, and Barkley has only picked up three-yards. Manning looks down to the ground and shrugs his shoulders as if he didn’t see Beckham streaking into open space.

Has the immense amount of pressure gotten to Manning over the past few years? Have the offensive line woes finally caused him to crumble when it matters most?

He looks scared, if not expecting to have a face full of defensive lineman at any moment, but the line held up on that play, and it went to waste.

From this angle it seems as if head coach Pat Shurmur is off the hook. His quarterback is not waiting for the play to develop, and in turn it’s causing way too many three-and-outs. This isn’t the same signal caller he once had with Minnesota…not a player that can use his legs to escape the pocket or throw on the run with tacklers draped at his feet. This is Manning, a once precision passer with risk taking abilities. He seems to be a shell of what the two-time Super Bowl winner once was, and it seems far more mental than physical.

If you teach a dog to be friendly, why would you expect it to suddenly start attacking people?

Years of hits, pressure, and duress have led to a nimble quarterback; a player that is expecting to be under constraint the very second he touches the ball. Of course he’s going to be terrified, he’s had Ereck Flowers as his left tackle for three years now. Manning can still put some zip on a pass and find a receiver for a completion, but his mental abilities are shot.

Shurmur’s system works, we saw that with Case Keenum, an undrafted quarterback that finished the 2017 season with 3,547 passing yards and 22 total touchdowns. These numbers marked the highest in his entire career, and he topped it off with a completion percentage of 67.6. He had just seven interceptions. This is what Shurmur can do for a quarterback…one that he can mold at least. Manning is an old horse with old habits, there’s nothing Shurmur can do to help him become the passer he wants him to be. That’s why the offense is struggling to a degree that nobody thought was imaginable after the Ben McAdoo era.

 

New York Giants’ Will Hernandez Tops Guard Rankings

Going into week 5 with a 1-3 record surely wasn’t how the New York Giants expected their season to start off, but there has been several silver linings.

It seems as if nearly every draft pick from 2018 has paid off dividends – Saquon Barkley has been an absolute stud, defensive lineman B.J. Hill has been the Giants’ best pass-rusher, quarterback Kyle Lauletta has shown poise in limited action, but the most impressive has been offensive lineman Will Hernandez.

The UTEP product has steadily improved every week thus far in the season, earning the best grades out of any guard with at least 25 snaps in week 4.

There are 32 teams that have 64 starting guards in the NFL…Hernandez was ranked the top one in just four games (for the week). Despite the Giants’ struggles on the field, the new regime surely started off with a bang in their very first draft.

“Giants rookie guard Will Hernandez had himself another strong game yesterday despite the loss,” Ruggiero of PFF wrote. “Hernandez finished with a 79.2 overall grade which was the highest on the Giants offense and the highest overall among guards with a minimum of 25 snaps in week 4. On top of this, Hernandez finished with the 2nd best pass blocking grade among guards in week 4 with a 88.8. On top of this, he finished with a 100% pass blocking efficiency which was tied for 1st along with allowing 0 QB pressures in 45 pass blocking snaps.”

Breaking Down The New York Knicks Pre-Season Opening Victory

Alright, nobody panic (insert Steve Carell office gif), it’s only one game and it’s the pre-season. But, man is it good to have New York Knicks basketball back. When I say “back,” I mean just watching basketball. It’s going to take a few years until the Knicks are hopefully back back. However, I don’t know if we will agree with that statement come mid-season when the Knicks are 12-30, so let’s be optimistic.

Looking into the New York Knick’s first pre-season game:

Besides kicking off the Fizdale era with a 124-121 OT win over the Wizards, last night gave us some glimpses into the future of what Knicks basketball could look like. We’ll kick things off with the starting lineup, Burke, Hardaway, Knox, Thomas and Kanter was what we all figured. Burke has earned that spot and deserves, yet another chance, to be a starting point guard in the league. He displayed some smooth ball-handling and ability to create while knocking down a few jumpers.

Burke’s mid-range is his bread-and-butter, which Fizdale loves. Burke did miss a lot of reads on offense which needs to be addressed. However, Burke is not the long-term solution, Frank is. Burke will be playing for a contract, so expect him to have a decent year, then it’s Frank’s team.

Next, our first-round draft pick, Kevin Knox. Knox ended up with a double-double, 13 points, 10 boards. He already looked like he’s been in the league for 2-3 years. Knox look comfortable and I saw similarities to Celtics’ Jayson Tatum. Just from his first game, Knox can easily average 20 points a game this season. And that was with his 3-point shot not falling in the first half.

There’s so much to go into for the first pre-season game, so we’ll try to hit the main points.  Of course, everyone played. Some of the players we were most excited to see, besides Knox, was 2nd-round pick Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, Noah Vonleh, Allonzo Trier, Emmanuel Mudiay and Damyean Dotson, to name a few.

One of the most intriguing players Knicks fans wanted to see was Emmanuel Mudiay. It was reported over the off-season Fizdale really likes his game. We were hoping Fiz can bring out the potential in Mudiay, but last night we saw the complete opposite. Mudiay doesn’t do much on the court. He can’t shoot, he can’t get to the hoop, and he can’t create. It was the pre-season opener for crying out loud, but he needs to show something, otherwise that trade will be another bust.

Our 2nd-round pick, Mitchell Robinson is going to be good. I love his athletic ability and his size. He needs to put on some muscle, but besides that, put the rock in the air and say “Go get it Mitchell.” Robinson has what it takes to be a tremendous two-way player. The one series he had the lob dunk then came down on defense and had a block. That’s what Fiz needs to build on. Also, Fizdale loves his toughness and how he didn’t back down to that punk Markieff Morris. Both were trash talking all game, but our rookie didn’t let him get the best of him. Let’s just hope he isn’t a hot head, but he kept his cool last night regardless.

As for the rest of the crew, Frank didn’t play as much as he should have. He was aggressive, but needs to take his shot more. Frank is our future point guard, but his offensive game needs to continue developing. Damyean Dotson came alive at the end of the game. However, we’ve seen that story before. Do it in the season Dotson, and be consistent. Noah Vonleh could be good and a valuable asset down the stretch. He has size and the ability create and muscle people. Vonleh will be one he border for making the team, so he’ll need to step it up.

Finally, Allonzo Trier. Besides Robinson being a possible steal, Trier could also be another one. He has the capabilities to be a valuable offensive stud off the bench, which was on display last night. When Trier was in the zone last night, he was shakin-n-bakin and showed what he could bring to the team, offensive promise.

Overall, we should be excited from what we saw last night. It was only one game in the pre-season, but there was a lot of good things that were seen from our draft picks and younger players. There were also numerous things to build on. We don’t expect the Knicks to be a playoff team, but as long as we’re taking a step forward instead of back, Knicks fans should be optimistic about the future.

New York Giants: Improvements Can’t Wait Forever

New York Giants, Pat Shurmur

The New York Giants can’t wait forever to improve. On one hand, you could argue that the season is relatively new and that there’s still plenty of time to turn things around. On the other hand, there’s still a finite number of weeks and a limited amount of time for that potential turnaround to happen. After four games, the Giants have a 1-3 record and scored less than 20 points in their outing against the New Orleans Saints.

It will take them two wins at this point just to get back to a .500 winning percentage, and while it’s true that it’s early in the season, falling behind like this at the start isn’t the way to make it into the playoffs. Especially when you can’t expect to win the division and make it in automatically.

“We’ve just got to play our way back into it. That’s the world that we live in as coaches and players. We have all the things we need to do better,” said head coach Pat Shurmur, mentioning that the Giants are one game back. No team in the NFC East has more than two wins at this point, but that doesn’t mean anything if the Giants aren’t good enough to capitalize on it.

The rest of the division won’t be like this for the entire season, and if the Giants don’t catch up before other teams start racking up wins, they’ll find themselves out of the race for the playoffs completely. There’s still time to improve, but those improvements can’t take forever to happen. With each loss, the margin for error grows even smaller. A team can’t afford to lose later on, if they’ve already piled up the losses in the early season.

And through the first four weeks, the Giants have three of them. It’s true that things aren’t over, as Shurmur stated earlier in the season, but that won’t be true for too much longer if the same results continue.

Let’s hope for real changes. Things like giving Saquon Barkley the ball more, and trying different routes with Odell Beckham Jr. to finally allow him to score a touchdown. Because right now, the belief that the Giants can keep doing what they’re doing and play their way back into winning the division is optimistic but unrealistic at best.

The needed improvements need to happen as soon as the next game, because if the team starts 1-4, three games under .500, the idea of some turnaround to reach the playoffs will be nothing more than a fantasy. Hot streaks are hard to maintain, and it’s time to stop imagining that the Giants will turn the corner, only lose a few more times this season, and stumble into the playoffs with a record like 10-6 or 9-7.

Here’s How The New York Giants’ Offense Can Improve

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants amassed a dismal 320 yards of total offense in their week 4 loss to the New Orleans Saints. The opposition earned 389 yards, with 170 coming on the ground. The Giants had just 65 yards on the ground, 45 of which came off of Saquon Barkley’s 10 total carries.

So, what can we derive from these statistics right off the bat? Well, Big Blue didn’t run the ball enough. When they did it resulted in success, and it took time off the clock, which is what you need to do when facing off against one of the league’s most explosive offenses.

If you take away a -7 yard carry from Barkley, he managed 5.9 yards per attempt. That’s more than half way to a first down for every touch, and head coach Pat Shurmur decided that utilizing arguably his most efficient weapon wasn’t a good idea. After the game, Shurmur admitted he wished he could have given Barkley more touches…too little, too late, coach.

When you keep the ball on the ground, you keep the clock moving and the defense honest. Instead, the Saints played a soft zone coverage which kept the Giants’ receivers infront of them to avoid any deep completions. This is what happens when your quarterback can’t escape the pocket and open up the game in other ways. The recipe for defeating the Giants is to simply put pressure on Manning and enjoy the ensuing three-and-outs.

How can the Giants change their offense to open up the passing game?

Let’s start off with the obvious. Throw more deep passes. You have to extend the field to give the receivers a chance to make a play. When you get into the habit of throwing the ball for short completions, it gives the defense the advantage by allowing them to keep more players at the line of scrimmage. Manning has been overwhelmed by pressure this season, and ultimately, it has resulted in Giants losses.

Shurmur needs to stick to the ground game and use the No. 2 overall pick in the draft early and often. It will give the offense more ability in the passing game and open up the play-action, which everybody knows is Manning’s strength.

The game-plan for the Giants this season should be as follows:

1.) Run the ball on first down

2.) Run the ball on second down or play-action

3.) Throw the ball on third-down

4.) REPEAT

This simple plan uses up clock and forces defenses to honer the run game. Barkley is one play away from a huge run at any moment, why not enjoy that probability?

EXTRA: 

PITCH THE BALL ON RUNNING PLAYS…Barkley is one of the most elusive players in the league, let him use his skill-set efficiently.

 

New York Yankees: 2018 Wildcard Preview

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The 2018 New York Yankees regular season has come to an end and it was certainly one to remember. The team finished in 2nd place in the AL East with a record of 100-62, an impressive campaign for rookie manager Aaron Boone.

The team broke several records, most notably the record for most home-runs by a team in a single season with 267. This came from all across the board as well with the Yankees amassing at least 20 HR’s of production from each position on the field.

We saw absolutely stellar campaigns from many players from rookies Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, slugger Giancarlo Stanton, ace Luis Severino, and the majority of the bullpen. There were many story-lines written for the team during the regular season but as any Yankee season goes, the regular season success is never enough. On Wednesday October 3rd , the Yanks will face off in the Bronx in a one-game elimination playoff matchup against the Oakland Athletics.

The Athletics come into the playoffs as arguably the hottest team in baseball. Midway through June the team had a 34-36 record looking like another disappointing year, before the team ripped off a stretch of a 63-29 record the rest of the way. The team is headlined by their star studded slugger Khris Davis, who finished the season with 48 HR and 123 RBI, along with a compliment of talented infielders in Matt Chapman and Jed Lowrie, who both boasted .800+ OPS and 20+ HR’s.

The team’s dominant offense is complimented by one of the all-time seasons in the history of the game by close Blake Treinen who became the first pitcher in the history of baseball to finish a season with at least 30 saves, 100 K’s and an ERA under 1.00.

The Yanks will indeed have a lot to deal with against this Athletics team but also have some big factors on their side going into the game. The consistency of Miguel Andujar, who put up a .297 BA, 25 HR, and 97 RBI and DH Giancarlo Stanton, who added 38 HR and 100 RBI himself were some standouts in the lineup to name a few. The team had a historically dominant offense with six players finishing with an OPS above .800 (Judge, Andujar, Stanton, Hicks, Didi, and Gleyber).

This was complimented by a stellar season from Yankees ace Luis Severino, finishing the year with a 19-8 record, 3.39 ERA and 220K and a bullpen that was not too shabby either, featuring two pitchers (Betances and Chapman) boasting K/9 of 15.00 or higher. The Yanks will make their decision either today or tomorrow in regards to who will start the game, but will have plenty of good choices between Severino, Tanaka, and J.A. Happ.

On the Oakland side, they do not have many great choices in their starting rotation so many expect it to be a bullpen game on their side. One thing is for certain if the Yanks are going to win they are going to need to get the production out of the players mentioned to beat a talented Oakland bunch. Expect plenty of runs and fireworks in the Bronx on Wednesday night, as the Yanks will play for a chance at a date with the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.

New York Giants: 3 Painful Observations From Week 4 Loss

New York Giants quarterback, Eli Manning.

The New York Giants suffered a deafening loss to the New Orleans Saints by a score of 33-18, and while the score indicated the defense played poorly, it was actually the offense that forced their hand.

In the first half, the Giants’ defense managed to contain the Saints to four field goals on four red-zone trips. Most of which were at the hands of the offense who couldn’t gain any momentum and struggled to give the defense decent field position on punts.

Here are three concerning observations in regard to the New York Giants’ overall team:

1.) The offensive line

Despite pouring $15 million into left tackle Nate Solder and another $5 million on right guard Patrick Omameh, the Giants’ offensive line has seemed to remain dismal. The right side has struggled to pick up stunts and lock down their man, and center John Greco had a tough game after a solid performance against Houston.

But, the issue that I have perceived is the lack of ability from quarterback Eli Manning. Now, there’s no doubt that Manning can still succeed under the right circumstances, but the Giants are far and away from what he requires. At this point, the offense is better managed by a semi-mobile quarterback that can use his legs to extend plays. If Big Blue falls to a 1-6 record, I would like to see rookie QB Kyle Lauletta get a shot at the starting job.

Back to the line – next offseason the Giants must allocated more resources whether it be draft picks or cap-space towards a solid right tackle. While Chad Wheeler seems to be holding up a bit better than Ereck Flowers, his presence is not elite, maybe not even average. Omameh has been better, but communication on the right side seems to be holding the entire line back.

2.) The pass rush

Is it concerning to think that rookie DL B.J. Hill has been the Giants’ most effective pass-rusher this season? Considering they have Lorenzo Carter, Connor Barwin, and Alec Ogletree, it’s tough to imagine that the supposed interior lineman would be the team’s best rusher to date. Now, we know that Olivier Vernon will ultimately return and offer immense value against the pass and run, but at this rate it will have been four weeks before he even touches the field on game-day – that’s a quarter of the season.

Against the Saints, the Giants recorded just one sack and two quarterback hits. That’s unacceptable against a team that thrives off of Drew Brees’ arm.

3.) The play calling

If I were to tell you that the Giants didn’t take a single shot more than 20 yards down field against the Saints, what would you think? The Saints have one of the league’s worst secondaries, and after the game, Ken Crowley, a cornerback for New Orleans, stated that several deep balls were missed by Manning.

Teams have beaten the gold and white by simply throwing the ball deep and exposing their single high-safety look. The Giants couldn’t even manage to get one pass down field…why? Because they put so much pressure on Manning, which is the recipe for success against the Giants, that they ultimately only needed to play soft zone coverage the entire game to pull off a win.

Head coach Pat Shurmur needs to get more creative with his play calling and stick to the run game. Saquon Barkley had only 10 rushes, but he picked up 44 yards on the ground averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Running the ball on first down gives the offense some breathing room, and we didn’t see much of that in an embarrassing loss to the Saints at home.

 

Big Ten: The Biggest Winners And Losers From Week Five

The fifth weekend of college football is over, with less upsets this week but still some interesting results. The Big Ten especially had an exciting weekend, with the result of the Ohio State versus Penn State game causing a shakeup in the polls as Ohio State moved into the top three, and Penn State fell out of the top ten entirely and most likely out of the race for the Big Ten East.

Who emerged as the winners, and who emerged as the losers on Saturday?

Winner: Ohio State Buckeyes

There’s a very real chance that Ohio State finishes the regular season undefeated. The toughest opponents on their schedule at this point are Michigan and Michigan State, but it looks like they can run everyone else over easily. Upsets happen, but one shouldn’t just assume that a top three team will be upset because it’s technically in the realm of possibility.

No, it looks like the Buckeyes will either take a loss against one of the Michigan teams, or play for the Big Ten title with an undefeated record. They’re listed here as winners because they just got past the hardest game on their schedule, even if it took some bizarre missed tackles and a similarly ridiculous playcall near the end of the game to let them take the lead. Still, despite the Penn State team collapsing, the Buckeyes earned the win.

Now, they just have to get through the rest of the season with an even bigger target on their back. Can they do it? It would have sounded unlikely at the start of the season, but with the way Dwayne Haskins Jr. is playing in his first season as a starter, it’s not so bold of a prediction anymore.

Loser: Scott Frost And Nebraska Fans

This once great program can’t catch a break. Nebraska has started the season with no wins and four losses, the latest one coming at the hands of Purdue. Some predicted that the 0-3 start would make the Huskers come out with something to prove, leading them to a division win against an opponent that has shown up with mixed performances and close losses this season. This game, though, wasn’t as close as the other ones featuring Purdue this season.

The Nebraska defense still isn’t much better. They allowed 42 points, giving Purdue their best offensive performance of the entire season. It’s not the way that Scott Frost wanted things to start off in his first year as Nebraska’s head coach, and it certainly won’t help the Cornhuskers in recruiting. It doesn’t matter that this is a rebuilding year and that the team wasn’t expected to win.

While they weren’t expected to be good, an 0-4 start is worse than anyone but the most pessimistic of fans imagined. It’s going to severely hurt the confidence in head coach Scott Frost, and while he’s still supported by the fans for now, none of the hype that existed before the season is still there. The hype is what went away first. How long will it be before the locker room is lost, or the rest of the confidence held by the fans?

The answers to those questions depend on when Nebraska picks up win number one.

Loser: Good Playcalling

Penn State called an interesting play on their last possession of the game against Ohio State, which ended with a turnover own downs. To call the play interesting, however, is really sugarcoating it. Let’s tell it like it is. It was a bizarre call, and it helped the Buckeyes win the game. In the end, it came down to one play to continue the drive with a chance to win the game by kicking a field goal.

And instead of going for literally any other option, the staff called a play to send Miles Sanders right up the middle, where he would be stopped far short of the first down marker. The same Miles Sanders that had less than 50 yards for the entire game.

“We knew they were going to make their linebackers jump when we moved Miles, and they weren’t going to be set in position, and it was going to give us a chance to get a hole up the middle and crease them,” said Trace McSorley, in an attempt to explain the thought process behind the play. “We weren’t able to pick up a twist, and a guy got in the backfield and made a play.”

Look on any fan forum of choice, and you can find plenty of confusion about this playcall not just from Penn State fans, but from fans around the country. That’s why this is the second thing in the loser’s section. It’s fitting because in this case, it might have lost Penn State the game.