Two more New York Guardians are headed to the NFL

New York Guardians linemen from both sides of the ball are getting the call to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

X apparently marks the spot for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The iconic NFL franchise is set to add two members of the New York Guardians to their roster. New York’s XFL squad announced that offensive lineman Jarron Jones and defensive lineman Cavon Walker received the call from the six-time Super Bowl champions on Wednesday.

Walker’s abbreviated XFL season ended with him as the league’s new sack king, leading the league with 4.5 quarterback takedowns. Three of those sacks came over the last two games, both New York victories. Walker previously partook in NFL preseason action during the summers of 2018 (Chicago) and 2019 (Kansas City). He has accumulated 13 tackles and 2.5 sacks over eight exhibition games. The Maryland alum was chosen in the eighth round of the “front seven” portion of the XFL Draft held last fall.

 

Jones’ New York arrival (first-round pick in the offensive line portion of the draft) was a slight homecoming, as the Notre Dame alum spent portions of the 2017 and 2018 preseasons with the New York Giants. He played both sides of the ball at both South Bend and East Rutherford but stuck to offensive duties with the Guardians. Jones was a starter on the New York offensive line, partaking in all five games.

With their debut season cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, XFL players have been granted permission to agree to terms with NFL squads, though the players remain under contract with their former team until later this spring. Jones and Walker are the second and third players to agree to NFL terms. Cornerback Dravon Askew-Henry signed with the local Giants earlier this week.

The Guardians were 3-2 and locked in a first-place tie in the XFL’s East Division at the time of the season’s cancellation.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: What To Expect From Ryan Connelly in 2020

New York Giants, Giants, NYG, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants are slowly but surely rebuilding their defense. They addressed two major positions of need in free agency, spending big at linebacker and cornerback. But there is still room for improvement in the linebacker corps.

The Giants might add to their linebacker room in the 2020 NFL Draft. Isaiah Simmons is a popular selection for the Giants in mock drafts. However, New York does have another linebacker on the roster that will be thrown into the mix. After missing most of the season with a torn ACL in 2019, Ryan Connelly will return in 2020. But what will his role be, coming off of a season-injury?

An Impressive Start To His Career

The New York Giants drafted inside linebacker Ryan Connelly in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The rookie out of Wisconsin wasted no time impressing coaches and fans, playing his way into the starting lineup in Week 2.

Ryan Connelly played in four games and started three games in 2019. The rookie totaled 10 combined tackles, including 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. On top of that, he flashed his potential in coverage, coming away with 2 interceptions and allowing only 4 receptions on 7 targets (57.1% completion) for a minimal 19 yards (4.8 yards per completion). His coverage skills could complete the Giants’ defense after they signed two run-defending inside linebackers this offseason.

Temper Expectations

A lot of Giants fans have set the bar pretty high for Ryan Connelly heading into his second season. This is unreasonable. Fans will need to temper their expectations as Connelly will basically be playing in his second rookie season. It might be a while before Ryan sees the field.

Ryan Connelly’s current injury status is unknown. His progression has not been reported on in quite some time so he cannot be penned into the starting lineup at this point. Hopefully, Connelly is healing and on track to be ready for the season, but torn ACL’s are no joke and take a long time to recover from. It is possible that Ryan Connelly will not be ready for the start of the 2020 season.

But if Ryan Connelly is ready for the 2020 season, its hard to determine what his role will be. Obviously, Blake Martinez was paid to be the Giants’ starting inside linebacker. Behind him, though, the Giants have David Mayo who started 13 games in 2019. If the Giants do decide to draft Isaiah Simmons next month, that addition would push Connelly even further down the depth chart.

Surely, after an impressive first four games of his rookie season, Ryan Connelly will get an opportunity to see the field next season. But his role will likely be limited since he is essentially still a rookie coming off of a gruesome knee injury.

Report: New York Jets land ILB Patrick Onwuasor

New York Jets, Patrick Onwuasor

The New York Jets have signed ILB Patrick Onwuasor. Onwuasor has started 31 games in the past three years for the Baltimore Ravens. Onwuasor was seemingly the man who would take over for C.J. Mosley when he joined us last offseason. After playing 14 games and only starting 6, it was apparent that Onwuasor is better suited as a situational linebacker. Now he joins the New York Jets and will fit right into Gregg Williams’s defense.

How does he fit?

Onwuasor is a unique inside linebacker. He’s good against the run but a very below average coverage guy. He shines when he blitzes. Last season he had 3.0 sacks, 5 TFLs, and 6 QB Hits. He is a very good situational guy. Where Hewitt, Burgess, and Cashman can be depth pieces to fill in for Willamson and Mosley if they go down again, Onwuasor can be used in a multitude of scenarios.

Onwuasor can provide an inside pass rush, and that ability is something the Jets could use. Jordan Jenkins and Jamal Adams were their lead pass rushers last year. Jamal is a phenomenal player, so he often takes up double teams when he blitzes. Now Onwuasor can come in, in those situations, and capitalize off those double teams with a stable inside pass rush that could see him produce solid numbers. He is definitely a unique signing, but he will likely be a guy Gregg Williams has a lot of fun with this upcoming season.

What’s Next For Defense?

The Jets still need to improve their edge rush. Although they resigned Jordan Jenkins and will likely pick at least one edge rusher, the spot still could use a few more guys. Vinny Curry is a guy the Jets have targeted to bring a situational edge presence. The Jets could also still target Jadeveon Clowney, but it seems unlikely.

As for inside linebacker, the Jets are now loaded with talent. Mosley is the number one guy, Willamson is a talented number two. Burgess and Hewitt showed flashes of real production last year, and Cashman was a solid special teamer. With that said, Williamson would save the Jets some money if he was cut or traded, although he’s a fan favorite, with so much depth at inside linebacker, you have to wonder if his days are numbered. 

What do the New York Mets have behind the top five healthy starters?

Simeon Woods-Richardson

As Noah Syndergaard goes down with Tommy John surgery, the New York Mets need to move on and find solutions to re-arrange their starting pitching depth. After all, Thor is slated to miss the next 14-18 months of action with the procedure and rehab. That represents a huge blow to the team’s playoff hopes.

Right now, five healthy starters sit atop the Mets’ depth chart. Jacob deGrom, 2018 and 2018 NL Cy Young award winner, is the ace. Marcus Stroman will follow him, Rick Porcello will likely follow him, and Steven Matz and Michael Wacha complete the group.

As of right now, the New York Mets are an injury away from disaster in their rotation. If someone in that group were to get hurt, the team would have to pencil a name with which it won’t feel entirely comfortable, for one reason or another.

Here is a glimpse of what the Mets have after the top five pitchers in the rotation:

David Peterson: Manager Luis Rojas referred to Peterson as the Mets’ seventh starter, which means that, after Thor’s injury, he would be the preferred option to enter the rotation if something were to happen to one of the top five remaining hurlers.

Peterson is a lefty that already had a good season in Double-A and showed up to spring training throwing harder. He is now sitting in the mid 90s. If he dominates Triple-A, a call to Queens will be in the horizon for him.

Walker Lockett: Lockett is out of options and is now an alternative to make the Mets. He doesn’t have a high ceiling but could develop into a backend starter if given the opportunity.

Erasmo Ramirez: The spring training invitee was dealing before play was halted: he threw eight innings of a 1.13 ERA, with 10 strikeouts and only five hits allowed. He has plenty of big league experience and is nice insurance.

Stephen Gonsalves: He was claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins in the winter. He is slated to start the season in Triple-A, if there is a season of course.

Corey Oswalt: Oswalt was once among the first pitchers in line for a rotation spot last year, but despite his minor league success, he hasn’t been able to translate it to the majors so far. He had a good spring, with only one run conceded in eight frames. He struck out six with no free passes.

Franklyn Kilomé: A Tommy John survivor, Kilome could contribute this season, but it isn’t likely. 2021 seems like a more appropriate ETA.

Pedro Payano: The New York Mets signed Payano to a minor league contract in December. He posted mediocre numbers in Triple-A and the bigs (5.73 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, and 17/15 K/BB ratio in 22 innings.)

Kevin Smith: Another talented lefty that needs Triple-A success to be considered as an option for this year.

New York Yankees Player Profiles: Chad Green, Boone’s ace in the hole!

New York Yankees, Chad Green

The New York Yankees are lucky that Howard and Sheena Green had two baby boys on May 24, 1991. One of them was Chad Green, his middle name is Keith, and he has a twin brother named Chase. He also has a sister Lynsie, and an older brother, Blake. Chase also played baseball in college. Chad was born in Greenville, South Carolina, but moved to Illinois with his family. Green played in Little League and continued his interest in baseball at Effingham, Illinois, high school where he was selected All-Conference, and in the senior year he made All-State.

Chad at age 19 was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 37th round of the draft but decided to attend the University of Louisville, where he played baseball for the Louisville Cardinals. He left college with the university record for the lowest ERA at 2.38. This was followed by him being selected in the eleventh round of the 2013 draft by the Detroit Tigers. He made his professional debut that year with the GCL Tigers, and after two games, was promoted to the Lakeland Flying Tigers, where he finished the year with a 3-0 record and a 3.63 ERA in 17.1 innings pitched. He continued on to the Whitecaps and Seawolves.

In December of 2015, the Tigers traded Luis Cessa and Green to the New York Yankees for Justin Wilson. He started the 2016 season with Scranton Wilkes/Barre.
The Yankees promoted Green to the major leagues on May 14, 2016. He made his major league debut on May 16. After being called up as a reliever, the Yankees shifted Green to the rotation. After four starts, the Yankees shut down Green for the season
after he suffered a sprained elbow ligament. He again started the 2017 season with The RailRiders but was quickly called up in May, Green ended the season with a 5–0 record, 1.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 69 innings as a reliever. He was 8-3 in 2018.

Green started the 2019 season struggling for the Yankees and was sent down to Scranton to figure things out. Since coming back, he was used as a reliever a few times, but his main job is that of an opener for the Yankees. This need was caused by the injured Luis Severino and other injured starting pitchers, to the point, they didn’t have a five-man rotation.

The opener was popular and successful with the Tampa Rays. The opener role is to start a game but only pitch an inning or two in a role similar to a closer. Then the bullpen finishes the rest of the game. The Yankees have also been successful with this opener format winning 11 of 12 starts with Chad Green as the primary opener with great success. He has appeared in 41 games allowing only 25 earned runs. He has two saves as a reliever and a season 4.69 ERA but an ERA as an opener of just 2.53.

New York Yankee Field Manager Aaron Boone prizes Green as he can use him in so many ways.  As I pointed out earlier he can be used as a starter/opener if Boone chooses to do so or someone in the normal rotation is ill or injured.  He can use him as a middle or short reliever, and can even use him to close games if necessary.  Last season he ended with an ERA of 4.17 over 69 innings pitched and he saved two games on the season.  This shortened spring training he pitched in only four games, but with an excellent 2.25 ERA.  He has great mental toughness and doesn’t get shook.  Because of his pitching versatility, he is Aaron Boone’s ace in the hole.

Chad is now 28 years old, he stands 6’3″, he weighs 210 pounds. He was married to his long time girlfriend wife Jenna in 2014. He is very private about this life. He has a dog but there is no news about offspring. Both he and his wife love traveling.  It is reported that he lives in the New York area.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.

New York Mets: Why Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery doesn’t violate coronavirus rules

New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard

New York Mets‘ starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard will undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery tomorrow in Florida. Yesterday, it was announced by the team that the hurler is dealing with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right (pitching) elbow. The procedure will keep him sidelined for the whole 2020 season, if it is ever played, and part of the 2021 one.

The news of the surgery has caused controversy, given that because of the coronavirus outbreak, states are canceling non-essential surgeries. Some may view elbow reconstruction as such.

New York is banning non-essential surgeries, and Florida, the state in which the procedure will be performed, is taking a similar approach. So, legally, where do Thor and the New York Mets stand?

The Mets are safe

The Mets’ are not violating any rules according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. He explains that per an industry source, the pitcher and team were told Thor “has an acutely torn UCL with acute compression of the ulnar nerve. Syndergaard and the team were told, according to the source, the condition fits the essential surgery guidelines.”

Puma goes on to write that on its website, “HSS Florida says it offers outpatient orthopedic care — including diagnostic services — ambulatory surgery, rehabilitation and sports performance programs.”

The usual rehab time for Tommy John surgery is between 14 and 18 months. That means the Mets’ pitcher, who was having a very good spring training and was truly in the shape of his life, won’t see the field until at least June 2021. It’s also possible that his absence extends after the All-Star break next year.

Thor is slated to be a free agent after the 2021 season. He was looking to rebound in 2020 prior to receiving the news of his elbow injury, as he had an uncharacteristically high 4.28 ERA last season.

Report: Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez destined for first base or DH role?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

Gary Sanchez is a polarizing player, at both ends of the argument. He can be extremely productive and efficient at the plate and behind it, but the New York Yankees still haven’t found a way to mitigate injury concerns and help his consistency.

Injuries and productivity have been the bane of Sanchez’s existence with the Yanks. His development has been a give and take, seeing one category improve while another decreases. For example, in 2018, he logged 18 homers but committed only six total errors. In 2019, Sanchez smashed 34 homers but recorded 15 errors. He also saw his fielding percentages decrease in the same time frame while his power production increased.

It’s difficult to predict where his career will take him and if he will very develop into a well-rounded catcher. It’s challenging to find a catcher capable of doing it all at any level, so expecting that from Sanchez might be overzealous. However, he has the potential and ability, which is why it can be frustrating to watch.

According to NJ.com, who interviews an anonymous scout, Sanchez could be destined for a first base or DH role:

“I know why Sanchez is catching different this year. The Yankees are trying to alleviate stress on his back and everything else by dropping him down on one knee. I get it. He’s been hurt a lot. But watching Sanchez catch like this, I’m thinking, ‘The only guy who was very successful catching like that was Tony Pena.’

“It’s easy to see why the Yankees are worried about Sanchez’s health. He’s a thick-bodied guy who uses his legs to hit home runs and to hit in general, and the more and more stress that you have bent over for eight or nine innings, it takes a tool on your whole body. And that affects your bat.

“One knee or not, Sanchez is the same guy for me behind the plate. If I’m a pitcher, I’d hate throwing to him because of balls in the dirt. I was there the night this spring when he had four or five passed balls. They charged him with one, but we know it was four or five, and fans were booing him.

“He misses a lot of balls in the dirt in the season, too. A lot. That affects you if you’re a pitcher. With Sanchez, if you throw to the glove all the time, you’re fine. But if you’re a split guy like (Masahiro) Tanaka and you’re supposed to throw the ball in the dirt, Sanchez isn’t going to get to it. Now all of a sudden you’ve got veteran guys who leave a split up in the zone because they’re afraid to throw breaking balls in the dirt with men in scoring position because Sanchez can’t block it.

This breakdown makes complete sense, as he’s allowed 41 passed balls over the last three seasons. Last season he endured seven, which was statistically lower than the previous two years, but he saw other categories declined in the process. As mentioned above, his total errors shot up, and fielding percentage decreased (.992 –> .982). In addition, his caught stealing percentage plummeted to 23%, allowing 36 stolen bases. That’s a 7% increase from 2018 and an additional eight stolen bases.

Those stolen bases can be the difference in winning and losing a game. Factor in all of the adverse fluctuations in Sanchez’s abilities at the plate, and you can make the argument injuries are taking a significant toll on him. Hopefully, utilizing a new stance this year can change everything.

New York Giants: How would Isaiah Simmons transform the defense?

The New York Giants need an influx of talent at the tackle position in the upcoming NFL Draft, but general manager Dave Gettleman is a firm believer in taking the best player available, which ultimately could be star defender Isaiah Simmons at 4th overall.

Simmons is one of the more polarizing prospects entering the draft. In essence, his ability to line up as a traditional linebacker in off-ball coverage and against the run is exciting for a defense that hasn’t had a diverse linebacker in years. Simmons represents an overhaul of a dead philosophy, forgoing investing a top pick in a linebacker who can solidify the middle of the defense.

However, Simmons represents much more than just a linebacker. His lankiness and speed allow him to defend in coverage against slot vertical receivers who are trying to beat the defense deep. Currently, the Giants have Julian Love and Grant Haley as suitable slot options, but Simmons could slide into that role as well. It’s not often you find a linebacker who can also play mid-high safety and slot cornerback.

Are the New York Giants setting their defense up for Isaiah Simmons?

One telling signing this offseason was Blake Martinez, who led the NFL at the linebacker position with 155 combined tackles. He’s a patient linebacker who cleans up plays well but struggled in coverage significantly at times.

Simmons seems to be the perfect fit alongside Martinez, as he can also play the run well but also shift around and keep the offense guessing. This duo could be unique, which is the only way I can justify signing Martinez. His deal isn’t significant at three-year, $30 million, but there were other options available that might have made more sense. Even pairing Ryan Connelly with Simmons might have been the more efficient move.

However, we can expect Martinez to fill a specific cleanup role. If the Giants do pass on Simmons, it will be interesting to see how the mitigate the lack of a coverage linebacker. Connelly is good but still unproven.

New York Giants: Dave Gettleman Praised By James Bradberry

New York Giants, James Bradberry

New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman is far from the most popular one the Giants have had, as shown by the calls for his firing this offseason that fell on deaf ears – but there’s still multiple figures within the organization that will stand by him and his skills. Apparently, one of those people that supports Gettleman is one of the latest free agent signings of the Giants, former Panthers cornerback James Bradberry, who was originally drafted by Gettleman in Carolina.

He had some decent things to say about Gettleman recently, while speaking to Jim Rome on Monday about his reasons for coming to the Giants over other suitors.

“I just felt like New York was a better fit for me. I knew Mr. Gettleman and I knew what type of organization he’s trying to build over there. I knew some of the players over there as well and they had nothing but good things to say about the organization,” Bradberry said, speaking about picking the Giants over the Lions.

It contradicts the theory that has gone around in rumors this offseason that players and staff don’t want to work or play for Gettleman – the narrative has died down as of more recently, but previously in the offseason seemed like the prevailing one around the General Manager, and was one of the multiple reasons a lot of the fanbase has pushed for his firing.

Then again, there’s no telling if Bradberry’s opinion is shared by most of the outside free agents the Giants may target in the future – while Bradberry has never played for the Giants, he does have experience with Gettleman in the past from Carolina, where he’s had success as a player on Gettleman’s roster.

This leaves one specific question without an answer. Has the narrative of Dave Gettleman being poor at attracting talent been broken by now, or is this just a case of Bradberry being fond of the General Manager that brought him into the league?

Favorite Under the Radar Mets: T.J. Rivera

How many times do you see a .304 career hitter out of baseball after two seasons? That was the case with former New York Mets, T.J. Rivera, who had a real underdog story to get himself to the big leagues in the first place. He was a local kid, born in the Bronx, who ground through the minors to get to the show.

Rivera spent six seasons in the Mets minor league system but had a .321 career average in the minors. He hit at every stop along his way through the minors. Rivera was a pure contact hitter who only had one season where he put up double-digit home runs. He was much like Jeff McNeil, did not walk frequently but consistently put the ball in play.

Instant Fit

Rivera made his Major League debut in 2017 and was thrown right into the Mets wild card hunt. He started shaky but took off during the final month of the season. He hit .358/.378/.552 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. The hot streak was strong enough to earn him the start at second base against in the wild card game. Rivera recorded one of the four hits in the Madison Bumgarner shutout.

His throwing had become a significant issue in 2017, which caused him to get Tommy John Surgery. He hit .290 on the season before the Mets had to shut him down. He missed all off 2018, except for some rehab games, but he expected to return for 2019. Rivera, unfortunately, suffered a setback during 2019’s Spring Training, and the Mets immediately released him in what was a surprising move considering his hitting ability.

He latched on with the Nationals and then ended up in independent ball with the Long Island Ducks. Rivera played in two different winter leagues, which earned him a chance to make the Phillies roster. Rivera had a quick bat, and he had power in it when he decided to display it. Despite the home run boom in baseball, Rivera is still a line-drive hitter, and it will be interesting to see if his second journey to the big leagues is as successful as his first one.