New York Giants: A Greatly Improved Offensive Line?

Will the New york Giants consider right tackle, Andrew Thomas, in the 2020 NFL Draft?

The offensive line has been one of the worst areas of the New York Giants in recent years, but that could change in 2020. The team has made a lot of strides for change in the area in the past few years and some of them have worked out – others have not. Will Hernandez returns as a starter, while Nate Solder so far has been considered an expensive bust. But the Giants have brought in multiple players this offseason to improve the position, and that includes fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas.

As a result of their moves, Pro Football Focus believes the Giants are one of the most improved offensive lines in 2020. On the PFF list, the Giants managed to make it to the number five spot, an impressive accomplishment considering the team’s recent history with the O-line.

5. NEW YORK GIANTS

Key Additions: T Andrew Thomas, T Matt Peart, G Shane Lemieux
Key Losses: T Mike Remmers, C Jon Halapio

It was clear the Giants could use an upgrade at the tackle position after last season. Nate Solder and Mike Remmers combined to allow 96 pressures in 2019, more than any other tackle duo in the NFL. While Solder is locked into the left tackle spot given his contract and the inability to move on without incurring $16 million in dead money, right tackle was a spot that clearly could be upgraded. As the top tackle on PFF’s Big Board, Thomas gives them that.

He came into the SEC as a freshman in 2017 and put up a 76.7 pass-blocking grade. To perform like that as a starting tackle in a conference where he was going up against quality talent on the edge week in and week out is impressive. All Thomas did from that point was improve, earning an 80.6 overall grade in 2018 and a 92.7 grade last season for Georgia. Nearly all offensive linemen struggle in their first season in the NFL, but Thomas has as good a chance as anyone in this class to handle the transition well and provide solid play out of the gate for the Giants. That alone is enough to land them on this list.

Thomas isn’t the only player that was praised by PFF, however. As the article brings out, the Giants also added some depth in Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux at the tackle and guard positions. Depth isn’t something the Giants have had on the offensive line for years, and it helps to have alternative options for when injuries or surprise drops in performance happen. After all, the Giants found out last season just how often injuries can come.

Still, the Giants will have to succeed in games before winning everyone over fully on the subject of their line. It’s easy to get excited in the offseason about additions like these, but previous years have proven that it’s impossible to tell just from stats on paper how such additions will pan out in games.

Baker Incident Flies in Face of Giants’ Culture Change

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

When Dave Gettleman took over the reins of general manager of the New York Giants in 2017, we were told the floundering franchise was going to turn over a new leaf and change the culture of the team.

Well, here we are, with a little over two seasons and 24 losses later and nothing has really changed. In fact, things have gotten worse.

DeAndre Baker, a 2019 first round pick of the Giants, who Gettleman moved up at a premium to draft is now at the center of a felony investigation in Florida.

Baker and Seattle Seahawks safety Quinton Dunbar (formerly of the Washington Redskins) are under investigation for armed robbery tonight. From Pro Football Talk:

Baker faces four counts of armed robbery with a firearm and four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. Dunbar faces four counts of armed robbery with a firearm.

The players attended a party at a private residence Wednesday night when an argument ensued, and Baker drew a semi-automatic firearm, according to the arrest affidavit. With Baker directing, Dunbar helped collect more than $11,000 in cash, an $18,000 Rolex watch, a $25,000 Hublot watch, a $17,500 Audemars Piguet watch and other valuables from partygoers.

At one point, Baker ordered another armed man in a red mask to shoot someone who walked into the party. The armed man did not comply. There are conflicting witness statements about whether Dunbar had a gun or not.

The Giants made a conscious (or unconscious) decision to trade back into the first round in 2019 for the Georgia product, who was the first cornerback taken in the draft. The Giants trade their 2019 second round pick, No. 37), their 2019 fourth round pick (#132)  and their 2019 fifth round pick (#142) to the Seahawks for the No. 30th overall selection to take Baker.

With those selections, the Seahawks took OT Greg Little, DB Ugochukwu Amadi and LB Ben Burr-Kirven, three players who they have high hopes for.

Baker was penciled in as a possible corner on the outside for the Giants and now his spot will likely be vied for by Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine and rookie Chris Williamson.

The irony is the Giants, trying to improve their culture and the quality of human beings they bring into the building, have been slapped once again by the hand of fate. Is it bad luck or something deeper?

BREAKING: New York Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker accused of Armed Robbery

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

According to TMZ, a New York Giants player has been accused of armed robbery and an arrest warrant has been issued.

Baker along with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar are both facing four counts of armed robbery. Apparently, the two players were partying in Florida on May 13 when things turned sour. Baker reportedly drew a semi-automatic firearm on a party guest, amid a disturbance and argument. Baker began robbing the guest at the party, taking their watches and valuables.

Per TMZ:

Nothing has been proven yet, but more details will follow.

New York Giants: 3 offensive breakout candidates for the 2020 season

The New York Giants‘ offense is primed for a breakout season in 2020. After two years with head coach Pat Shurmur running the offense, New York is taking a different approach in 2020. The Gmen hired Joe Judge as their next head coach and he assembled a phenomenal coaching staff. Judge made a splash on offense, hiring former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as the team’s next offensive coordinator. With a new scheme in place, who on the Giants’ roster is primed for a breakout season in 2020?

Darius Slayton

Some might argue that Darius Slayton already broke out in his rookie 2019 season. But I will argue that Slayton has an opportunity to take his game to the next level in 2020. Darius saw his role increase week by week in the 2019 offensive game plan. In 2020, with a more reliable coordinator in Jason Garrett, Slayton will be featured in a prominent role.

Darius Slayton finished his rookie season with 48 receptions on 84 targets, totaling 740 yards and an impressive 8 touchdowns. Slayton’s knack for finding the end zone makes him a playmaking threat in the Giants’ new offense. Jason Garrett’s offense typically relies on an outside receiving threat, such as Dez Bryant and Michael Gallup. At 6-1, 190 pounds, Slayton can effectively fill that role.

Evan Engram

Evan Engram is another player that fans could argue has already had a breakout season. But has he really? Sure, Engram was dominant in his rookie season, totaling 722 yards and 6 touchdowns. But, in that season, Engram received 155 targets because, believe it or not, he was the only player on offense that could stay healthy. This was during that dreaded 3-13 2017 season that saw Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard all miss significant time with injuries.

Since then, Engram has not looked the same. He is now known amongst the Giants fan base as the super talented player that cannot stay healthy. He has yet to play 16 games in a season and has seen his total games played decrease each year. Evan Engram hit a real low point in 2019, playing in 8 games and starting only 6 of them.

But once again, the arrival of Jason Garrett bodes well for Evan’s future. Garrett loves utilizing the tight end position. Giants fans should know this better than anyone, after watching Jason Witten tear our defense apart for over a decade. Hopefully, Garrett can utilize Engram in a similar fashion and make him a staple in the Giants’ offense. Witten once received 147 targets in a season, so maybe an increased number of targets will lead to increased efficiency and production from Evan Engram in his fourth season.

Kaden Smith

So what if I am wrong and 2020 is not the year that Evan Engram finally plays 16 games and breaks out? Well, then, expect to see backup tight end Kaden Smith have a breakout season.

Kaden Smith was one of Daniel Jones’s favorite targets towards the end of the 2019 season. He was given the opportunity to start in the final 6 weeks of the 2019 season and was impressive, hauling in 30 receptions for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns to end the year.

One could argue that Smith is actually a better fit in Jason Garrett’s offense. Kaden is known as a solid blocker from the tight end position and has a playing style more similar to Jason Witten than Evan Engram does. Engram will be used in a more versatile role, but Smith could end up being a mini-Witten of sorts. He has that big strong body, he is durable, and he can block as well as he can catch. Even if Evan Engram stays healthy this season, there is a good chance that Kaden Smith’s compatibility in Garrett’s offense leads him into a breakout 2020 season.

How Giants’ Joe Judge and Ravens’ Jon Harbaugh Approached Their First Drafts and Why It Matters

New York Giants, Joe Judge

Head coaches are selected from factors such as philosophy, the ability to hire excellent staff, and strong leadership. Once in a while, these coveted strengths are found in special teams coaches, including New York Giants coach Joe Judge and the last special teams coach to make the leap, Baltimore Ravens’ current head coach John Harbaugh. Let’s examine their first forays into the NFL draft as head coaches.

 

  1. QUARTERBACKS AND OFFENSIVE TACKLES

 

The two coaches both had to face their first NFL drafts as unproven head coaches, and their approach couldn’t be more different. In 2008, the Ravens were not comfortable with who they had under center. In 2007, starter Kyle Boller only started 12 games and threw a paltry nine touchdowns. The Ravens spent their first-round selection (pick #18) on Joe Flacco, a quarterback from the University of Delaware. Flacco has gone on to bring home a Super Bowl.

The New York Giants already began 2020 with a quarterback in Daniel Jones, but like the Ravens, they knew the importance of shoring up the offense by drafting offensive tackle Andrew Thomas from Georgia. Judge and the Giants continued to bolster the offensive line taking Matt Peart (third round/pick #99).

The Ravens wouldn’t draft a tackle until Oniel Cousins from UTEP in the third round (pick #99). Cousins was waived in 2010 after playing both the guard and tackle positions in very limited capacities for the Ravens. They also drafted David Hale (fourth round/pick #133) another OT late in the draft. He played eighteen games before being cut in the 2010 preseason.

The Giants already spent elsewhere (including Solder, Zeitler, and Tate), so bolstering the offensive line in the draft was necessary to stay under the cap and give Jones some added protection.

 

  1. THE PERCEIVED VALUE OF RUNNING BACKS

 

The second round of the 2008 draft would also prove interesting for the Ravens, and while not comparable directly with Judge the Raven’s pick would showcase their similarity with the current Giants front office. They used their second pick (#55) on running back Ray Rice. The Ravens would release Rice in 2014 while on suspension for domestic violence. Prior to his released, he amassed 3 Pro-Bowl selections, 37 touchdowns, and over 6,000 rushing yards.

This selection is undoubtedly reflective of Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman and his staff after selecting Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the 2018 draft. In just two seasons, Barkley has tallied one Pro-Bowl selection and 2,300 rushing yards. Both front offices believed in the value of running backs and what they bring to the offense. Whether or not Barkley’s value continues to satisfy the Giants’ front office and coaching staff remains to be seen, but the current evidence certainly suggests he’s doing his part to keep the offense running.

 

  1. DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO THE LINEBACKER PROBLEM

 

In the third round, the Ravens selected Tavares Gooden, a linebacker from Miami. Gooden struggled to stay healthy and was released in 2011. Judge refrained from drafting a linebacker so early in the draft, but the Giants already used some of their financial capital in March when they signed Blake Martinez, a proven linebacker, to a three-year 30 million dollar contract. Judge still valued drafting a linebacker and took Cam Brown late (sixth round/pick #183). The Ravens felt more confident than the Giants in taking a linebacker in the draft, but both organizations still nabbed one. At the same time, the Giants ultimately placed more value on a proven commodity in Martinez.

 

  1. SAFELY DRAFTING SAFETIES

 

Harbaugh used two picks in 2008 on safeties. Tom Zbikowski from Notre Dame (third round/pick #86) and Haruki Nakamura from Cincinnati (sixth round/pick #206) were both expected to be real contributors. Zbikowski played 56 games for the Ravens, including 14 games as a starter. Nakamura was a solid player but never became a standout before signing with the Panthers in 2012.

The Giants did its best to improve the secondary by drafting safety Xavier McKinney (round two/pick #36) from Alabama. He was First Team All-SEC in 2019 and recorded 82 tackles as a senior.

 

  1. TAKEAWAYS

 

There are a few takeaways from comparing the two drafts. It’s incredibly clear that the draft is impossible to get right. Most of the picks the Ravens were counting on didn’t last more than a few years. And Ray Rice may have had impeccable NFL stats, but his domestic violence charges made him rightfully impossible to keep. The only success story the Ravens had was Joe Flacco, but if you can hit on a quarterback, you’ve had a successful draft. What happens with this 2020 Giants draft is impossible to declare at this point.

Both coaches, though clearly placed value on offensive tackles, linebackers, and safeties, whether in the draft of free agency. They both clearly wanted to invest in protecting the quarterback, supporting the defensive linemen, and bulking up the pass coverage. These three things have been an anemic deficiency in the Giants scheme for years. Hopefully, Judge and Gettleman solved this problem through the 2020 draft, but only time will tell.

Aaron Judge won’t be ready until “summertime”

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman said in an interview on Thursday that Aaron Judge won’t be ready to play until “summertime.”

Judge injured himself in September while diving for a ball in right field. He sustained a cracked rib and a collapsed lung. Although in pain, Judge trained like usual in the off-season and didn’t think much of the pain until he arrived in Tampa. After a period of uncertainty, they found the injuries shortly before the league was shut-down.

It’s good news that the Yankees haven’t had to play games without Judge. If the season started as planned, he would’ve missed at least half the season. Now, it’s looking like he could be ready on Opening Day if it happens in July as talks have indicated.

The injuries that have happened to Aaron Judge over the past few seasons have started to become quite concerning. He’s been hurt for an extended time three times now in less than two years. Recurring injuries have the potential to slow development.

And it’s especially crucial for Judge to stay healthy because he came up later than a lot of players. He’s 28 already, and really in his prime now. Losing more and more time to injuries in his prime could be very costly in his career.

Hopefully, Judge will be healthy and ready to go if/when the season starts. He’s such an essential piece to the Yankees on both sides of the ball. Losing a guy like him will certainly affect the team, especially in a shortened season.

 

New York Mets: Pete Alonso explains how he balanced chase for rookie home run record with playoff run

The New York Mets finished the 2019 season with a 86-76 record, good for third place in the National League East division but seven games away from a spot in the postseason. Despite that, they were actually in a playoff run for the entire month of August and most of September.

While the Mets tried to make October baseball, first baseman Pete Alonso was on a record-breaking home run pace. He ended up smashing the previous mark for a rookie, finishing with 53.

This week, the reigning Rookie of the Year explained, in the Cookie Club (cited by SNY) that he pressed for a week after hitting number 51, and that it wasn’t easy to balance his chase for the record with the Mets’ playoff hunt.

“I think it really set in after I hit number 40 in Kansas City, where it’s like — I’m gonna say it — ‘holy sh-t, I’ve got a chance at this.’ But I can’t try and do it, because we’re in a playoff run. if there’s a guy on second (base), I gotta try and get a base hit and move him over. I can’t just try and hit homers. I gotta be a good hitter first.

The Mets’ team player

“Chasing a personal accolade and chasing a playoff berth, I feel like those are two totally opposite — it’s a conflict of interest. Because one thing is very, very personal, and the other thing is extremely team-related. And for me, I tried the best I could to be just a great team player, and I feel like just staying within myself helped me get that chance to hit 52 and 53.”

With the New York Mets already out of playoff contention, Alonso hit his 53rd home run in the final weekend of the season against the Atlanta Braves. That was enough to overcome Aaron Judge’s 52 round-trippers in 2017.

After his dominant power display last season, the Mets’ young slugger is poised to terrorize opposing pitchers for years to come.

New York Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman remains “optimistic” there will be baseball in 2020

While the coronavirus pandemic is still in full force, public health officials, MLB and the players’ association remain in negotiations to see if baseball can return for an abbreviated season, and the respective details. Will we see the New York Yankees in 2020? Only time will tell, but right now, the sides are discussing the beginning of spring training in June and the regular season around July 4th.

One of the hottest topics being discussed right now is player compensation. MLB and the union clearly have to come to an agreement, and the negotiations are already getting ugly. However, the New York Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman remains hopeful that a solution is in the horizon.

“I can’t promise anything, but am I optimistic?” Cashman said Thursday morning, cited by NJ.com. “I’m optimistic.”
The Yankees’ GM was speaking on a charity video call from his Connecticut home. The call benefitted, per NJ.com, the nonprofit Family Centers, which aims to financially help Fairfield County residents hit by the consequences of the COVID-19 shutdown.

“I am optimistic,” he said. “I don’t represent the players and the (players’) association. Obviously there’s a lot of hurdles that everyone’s trying to navigate here, and certainly trying to find common ground appropriately with the Players Association is one of those things and obviously the commissioner of baseball and his team are having honest, frank conversations and negotiations … I’m optimistic that where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Will the Yankees play in 2020?

Players are already starting to complain about having to play under a significant pay cut, especially if they aren’t confident that the spread of the virus has been stopped.

“We all in this country are trying to find a way to get up and running,” Cashman said. “So, you see how that manifests itself in, whether it’s the local restaurants changing how they go about doing their business … in most cases have been (offering) takeout so far and how they repackage themselves and remake themselves.

The Yankees’ leader added, “We’ve all found ways to adjust and make adjustments. So, obviously, as we continue, this great country continue to navigate. With this COVID(-19) experience moving forward, it’s incumbent upon all of us to find a way. I trust that all leadership will find a way within our industry, just like everybody’s trying to do in their own respective industries as well.”

The New York Yankees are expecting big things from Jordan Montgomery

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

The New York Yankees rotation, thankfully, has it all. It has Gerrit Cole, the star in his prime; it has James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, the talented veterans looking to rebound and return to their highest performance level; and it has J.A. Happ, the experienced southpaw in the twilight of his career. It has young, unproven guns in Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia, as well.

However, there is a unique element, different than the rest: Jordan Montgomery, a talented lefty in the prime of his career looking to show his best stuff after a lengthy injury layoff. He actually returned last year, but only for a handful of innings. With the Yankees boasting so many arms for 2021 and beyond (let’s remember that, in 2021, both Luis Severino and Domingo German will be part of the rotation, with the former presumably at full speed and without restrictions) Montgomery needs to perform so he can be a part of the New York Yankees’ future.

Of course, he has several things going in his favor. He is young at 27 years old, not to mention controllable – he is a free agent after the 2023 season – and talented. In 2017, his first and so far last full, healthy season, he had a 3.88 ERA in 155.1 frames, with a healthy 2.82 K/BB ratio.

The Yankees’ rotation stabilizer

The Yankees, in Montgomery, have a high-floor starter who may not have the highest of ceilings, but is talented enough to be a sub-4.00 ERA performer for the duration of his controllable years. He looked good in the two appearances he had last year in September and in the abbreviated 2020 spring training.

Montgomery will, most likely, be part of the future Yankees, given that Tanaka, Paxton and (presumably) Happ’s contracts will expire after the 2020 season.

So far, Aaron Boone has shown faith in his lefty arm. “He has been good all spring,’’ he said in March. “From his bullpens, to uptick in velocity, he was really good. The way he was able to finish, too. … The curveball was good and the changeup was really good.’’

The increase in velocity is a great sign for the left-hander, and it will help him improve his fastball, which is actually one of his worst offerings.

“He’s got some good weapons and he knows how to use them,’’ one AL scout said according to the New York Post.

“And he doesn’t seem afraid out there. I think watching CC [Sabathia] and some of the other veterans when he came up helped him.’’

“He only threw [four] innings when he came back last year, but he had good command this spring,’’ he said.

MLB News/Rumors: The ramifications of no baseball season, find out here

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

The ramifications of no baseball season could be devasting to the New York Yankees and all of baseball, not to mention the disappointment of baseball fans everywhere.  As you may know, the MLB/MLBPA negotiations have hit a snag and are dragging on.   The problem with not coming to an early agreement is that the time is ticking to be able to have a meaningful baseball season.

The season included in the latest MLB plan is to be about 82 games with an expanded postseason.  With each passing day, the number of games will become less and less to the point that a credible season will no longer be able to be played.  On Monday, Commissioner Manfred presented the plan to the owners of the 30 major league teams and was swiftly accepted.  On Tuesday, the plan was presented to the Players Association, where it is still sitting.

It appears that the health and safety of the players and the proposal to reduce player pay with a revenue-sharing agreement has put the whole plan on hold.  Several players have made their feelings known.  Ex-Yankee Mark Teixiriera said that the players union should accept the plan for the good of the fans and all of baseball.  Other players like Trevor Bauer and pitcher Blake Snell and let their distaste of the plan known.

If the sides cannot come together and compromise, the result will be no season at all.  No season would have wide implications.  Number one, the players would receive no pay, and they would lose what could have been a career season out of their career.  A year of play that can never be replaced.  For players that will become free agents at the end of the year, it will have a huge impact.  The owners who will suffer millions upon millions of revenue will likely not be in the mood to put out large sums of monies on free agents.  Greatly reducing the player’s value.  Those reductions in value could affect their earning power for years to come.

The biggest impact will be with the fans.  Right, when the country is down from the coronavirus, the fans need to experience the hope that sports bring to the table.  For baseball itself, fans will be lost to what some see as a bunch of millionaires and billionaires fighting over money compared to the good of the game and its loyal fans.  Sure die-hard fans may wait seasons for baseball to return; others will be put off by the player’s indifference to the fans and be lost forever.  No season will have ramifications beyond this season and for many seasons to come.

Teixeira said it’s better to get paid pennies on the dollar and provide hope to the Americans who want baseball than it is to hold fast and lose the season altogether.  YES Network’s Michael Kay gave a stern warning to the owners and players:

“I’m going to give everybody a little bit of a warning,” Kay said Tuesday on his ESPN radio show. “This week is going to be all negative. This week is going to be a situation where everything you hear is gonna be doom and gloom, there’s not going to be any baseball. Players aren’t going to budge, owners aren’t going to budge.

“There’s going to be into a public hissy match, which I think is so terrible for the sport. It’s a terrible look especially with people dying. Over 80,000 Americans are dead because of COVID-19. There are so many people that are unemployed. The last thing people that are struggling want to hear is billionaires fighting with millionaires, but it’s gonna be hard to control that.”

Forget the fans and the disagreement with what is on the table at the moment, the economic effects of losing an entire MLB season will be felt by both the players and the owners for many years to come.  The owners will have to cut payroll and increase ticket prices.  They won’t have any money and, that will affect a player’s future contracts and the ability to negotiate player salaries for up and coming players that are low earners now.  It’s the domino effect, no season will cause the first domino to fall, and that effect will continue for years.

The owners and players alike have to think of all the MLB ramifications and come to a compromise that can be swallowed by all parties so that a baseball season in 2020 can be a reality.  Now is not the time to dig in your heals as the baseball clock keeps ticking.