New York Giants: What To Expect From Training Camp?

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Daniel Jones.

It looks like training camp may be coming soon for the New York Giants – it’s been months at this point that the sporting world, and the country at large, has been impacted by shutdowns and closures, but New York governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that teams based in New York can now hold their training camps.

This, of course, doesn’t affect the Giants. The team plays in New Jersey and has their training facilities there, also. But with the two states sitting in close proximity with one another, it seems that the decision made in New York may carry over soon enough to New Jersey.

When the Giants do get the go-ahead to return to the field, what should fans expect?

Competition in the secondary

There will be competition in multiple areas, as there are during most seasons for a rebuilding team, but the secondary is particularly interesting because there’s a new tossup at the cornerback position. Everyone knows by now that DeAndre Baker is in legal trouble and that no matter the end verdict of the case, it may impact his standing with the team. The Giants may decide that even if Baker isn’t punished by the law, it was irresponsible for him to end up in the situation in the first place.

The legal proceedings may also stretch into training camp, which raises doubts about whether or not Baker would participate while the case is still ongoing. If Baker is absent or in a reduced role because of this, it would leave the number two cornerback spot wide open.

There’s a number of names that would be in the running. Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, and perhaps Julian Love, though the latter is more of a safety than a corner and wouldn’t take the role full time most likely. And with Baker having some poor performances last season, especially in the first half, it’s not entirely out of the question for a replacement player to eclipse him for the starting role given his current problems.

A new offense

Unlike last season, the Giants largely know what they’re getting on offense. At this time last year, the assumption was that Daniel Jones was sitting behind Eli Manning and that Saquon Barkley would be a mainstay of the running game just like he was last season. Sterling Shepard was supposed to be the leading receiver now that Odell Beckham Jr. is in Cleveland, and Darius Slayton was just a promising draft pick.

Instead, Slayton ended up surpassing Shepard when the latter suffered from concussions, Barkley was injured early in the year and took many weeks to get back to his usual form, and Manning only lasted two games before being benched in favor of Jones.

It was a chaotic year last season for the offense, but this time, the Giants have the benefit of a training camp where they know a bit more about who their top personnel are. And this may also be the first season where Daniel Jones is able to play the entire year with a healthy Barkley. The Giants are also bringing in a new tackle in Andrew Thomas, who will have to be integrated into the offensive line quickly, starting with training camp.

Expect the Giants to change up their offensive tactics to suit the players that they expect to be top performers this year – we may just see things more tailored to the young trio of Barkley, Jones, and Slayton rather than the projected lineup of last season which quickly changed.

New York Giants: James Bradberry Will Thrive As Team’s Primary Cornerback

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants‘ secondary has been rebuilt over the last two years. New York has invested plenty of draft capital into their secondary. The team drafted the likes of Julian Love and DeAndre Baker in 2019 and also traded for Jabrill Peppers. In 2020, the investments continued, as the team drafted Xavier McKinney and signed James Bradberry to a lucrative contract.

James Bradberry was the Giants’ biggest splash signing in free agency this year. After four impressive years in Carolina, James earned himself a three-year $43.5M contract with New York. Bradberry was a major acquisition for the Gmen and he will serve as their number one cornerback. But is that a role the 26-year-old will thrive in?

Bradberry As A Number One Cornerback

James Bradberry faced some of the best wide receiver competition in the NFL as a member of the Panthers. The Panthers play in the NFC South which is a division loaded with wide receiver talent. Twice a year, Bradberry matched up against the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas.

The Carolina Panthers used James Bradberry as a true number one cornerback. He typically followed the opposing team’s primary receiving target. In 2019, this was a defensive strategy the Giants did not use. The team’s primary cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, voiced his frustration last season with the role he played on defense. The Giants rarely had Jenkins shadow opposing receivers.

That was the defensive strategy that the Giants took in 2019, but they will likely change that strategy in 2020. Shadowing receivers is what Bradberry is best at and new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham runs a man-heavy scheme. There will be plenty of opportunities for Bradberry to man up on star receivers in 2020.

The Giants have a difficult schedule to play in 2020. New York will go up against numerous high-powered offenses with superstar receivers for Bradberry to shadow. Some of the receivers James Bradberry will have to match up against include: Allen Robinson, Robert Woods, Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, AJ Green, DJ Metcalf, DeAndre Hopkins, and Odell Beckham Jr. James Bradberry and the Giants’ secondary will have their hands full in 2020. But in a new defensive scheme with improved talent, the unit should manage to cause some trouble for opposing offenses.

New York Mets: Can Yoenis Cespedes make the transition to full-time DH? What do the numbers say?

New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes

For years, people have assumed that a player can make the transition from playing to field to occupying the designated hitter (DH) spot seamlessly. Some ballplayers have said over the years that it isn’t as easy as it sounds, as they have grown used to wear a glove and defend their position for a lifetime. For the New York Mets, if there is a universal DH this year (and if there is a season, of course) one has to wonder, who are the candidates to DH? Can they make the “conversion”?

Let’s talk specifically about Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets signed him to play the outfield, and four a couple of years, he did. He wasn’t particularly bad, but he wasn’t good out there. That, and the fact that he hasn’t played the outfield in nearly two years because of ankle and heel injuries make him a natural candidate to occupy the DH position.

Will his timing be affected by the change? Only time and sample size will tell, but according to Tim Healy of Newsday, here are his numbers from the DH spot:

AB: 338

Hits: 97

HR: 18

RBI: 60

BA: .287

OBP: .328

SLG: .524

OPS: .851

Given the fact that he has a career slash line of .274/.328/.498, we can say that the Mets’ 2015 hero has been comfortable while hitting and not fielding. He has even shown increased power as his slugging percentage indicates, but the sample size isn’t very large.

The Mets have weapons and options

The most likely scenario is that Yoenis Cespedes isn’t the everyday designated hitter of the New York Mets, but he figures to see most of his playing time there. However, the team does have some other pieces that make sense in the position, the most notable case being JD Davis.

Like Cespedes, Davis is a bat-first, no-glove player that is best deployed at the DH spot. Robinson Cano will likely see a start or two per week in the DH position too, given the fact that the Mets will also want to keep his leg muscles well-rested.

Pete Alonso could be spared every once in a while with a DH start, and Dominic Smith’s bat can also be used in the position. There are several paths, but right now, if Cespedes is healthy and in a groove, the Mets should use him at their DH most nights.

Obscure All-Stars to Play for the New York Mets: Adrian Gonzalez

Adrian Gonzalez is the third New York Met from 2018 who joined the team while on their last legs. He started as the Opening Day first baseman but did not even make it to the All-Star break with the Mets.

Gonzalez was traded to the Atlanta Braves following the 2017 season after injuries, and Cody Bellinger took his first base job with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After his release from the Braves, he signed with the Mets on a one-year deal. At 36-years old, he was past his prime, but the Mets were hoping to find some success with his bat.

Fast Start, Fast Finish

The back injuries were catching up to Gonzalez. His power numbers dipped as his slugging percentage dipped over 100 points from 2015 through 2017. The batting average and on-base percentage fell with it as teams stopped viewing Gonzalez as a threat.

He had a tremendous first ten games with the Mets, hitting .296/.406/.444 with a home run and eight RBIs through 27 at-bats. Gonzalez fell off drastically after with a slash line of .225/.277/.359. It was clear there was not much left in his tank as a 3-for-27 slide led to his release on June 10.

In typical Mets fashion, they could not squeeze another good year out of an aging veteran past his prime. Gonzalez never officially retired, but at 38, his career is done. It was a terrific career with 317 homers, five All-Star appearances, and a trophy case full of awards.

MLB: Players Union expecting an economic proposal on Tuesday

The MLB and team owners are expected to send an economic proposal to the Players Union on Tuesday for review.

Players and owners have conflicting thoughts about how the players should be paid. Players want prorated salaries, meaning they get paid for as long as the season is. If the season is 81 games, then players get half their salary.

However, the owners want to do some sort of a 50-50 revenue split with the players. It sounds great, but the snag is that there won’t be a ton of revenue in 2020. The majority of the revenue will come from TV deals.

So, the players and owners need to find some sort of a middle-ground. Both sides are showing a strong interest in playing, and most doctors and elected officials think it’s safe enough. On Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that teams could resume practices in preparation for a season.

Last week, the MLB sent a safety proposal to the Players Union, and there doesn’t seem to be many hang-ups there. Players know that they may have to make a few sacrifices and that the season will look different, but are all in if they can figure out the economics.

If everything is figured out, an 82 or so game schedule would be played. There would be three 10-team divisions with all regular-season games played within the division. Home ballparks would be used, and a universal DH would be implemented. The postseason would likely expand to 14-teams, but it’s not clear how seeding would work.

Hopefully, the sides can get everything straightened out, and we can see a 2020 season.

Can the New York Jets rely on Pierre Desir as their top corner in 2020?

New York Jets, Pierre Desir

Can the New York Jets rely on Pierre Desir in 2020 as their top cornerback?

The New York Jets are undoubtedly taking an interesting approach with their cornerbacks unit, featuring new signing Pierre Desir, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, as one of their primary options. At 29 years old, Desir is a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He played football in Division II with Washburn, where he eventually earned himself a fourth-round selection (127th overall) in the 2014 draft by the Cleveland Browns.

Desir is a quality corner that has played inconsistently throughout his career. In 2019, he earned a 64.9% completion rate against and allowed five touchdowns. He also logged a 13.8 missed tackle rate, showing off a significant decrease in tackling efficiency and coverage ability. He tends to have more success as an off-ball man cover corner. He can get tossed around at the line of scrimmage due to a lack of strength and hand fighting, but he is decent in mirroring opposing wide receivers and sticking with them on their breaks. His lack of strength is supplemented by good athleticism and play speed, but I wouldn’t categorize him as a top corner on any given team.

He signed a one-year deal with the Jets, likely a “prove it” contract to earn a long-term extension in 2021. Over the last six seasons, he has spent time with the Browns, Chargers, Seahawks, and then a more consistent home with the Colts.

His best game to date comes against the Houston Texans in the 2019 AFC Wild Card game, which the Colts won 21-7. He covered top wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, all night, limiting him to 37 yards on five receptions. The longest catch was a 13-yard reception in the fourth quarter, with the Colts enjoying a healthy lead and shutting down one of the league’s most prolific pass-catchers likely aided in the Jets deciding to sign him. He has the ability to play above his weight class; he doesn’t have the consistency to match up weekly and dominate against top WRs.

Nonetheless, the Jets needed another corner they can rely on after the Trumaine Johnson debacle. Currently, they have Desir, Bless Austin, Quincy Wilson, Arthur Maulet, Brian Poole, Nate Hairston, and Bryce hall as their corners available. This unit is extremely thin on paper, as Austin showed promise in 2019 as a rookie, but expecting him to feature as a top-two corner is optimistic.

Hall, on the other hand, suffered a significant injury last season with Virginia, limiting his reps and production. He has the potential to develop into a starting corner, but I wouldn’t guarantee anything during his rookie season.

I would be stunned if the Jets didn’t land a veteran corner to aid this unit, as sticking with their current grouping could be problematic during the 2020 season.

New York Giants add another familiar face for Joe Judge to help the offense succeed

New York Giants, Joe Judge

The New York Giants and Joe Judge clearly like their Alabama coaches:

It is not abnormal for head coaches to bring in familiar faces to help them in their quest for success. That has been no different for Joe Judge, recently hired by the New York Giants to lead their team after the firing of Pat Shurmur in 2019.

Judge has added multiple coaches he has personal experience with from Alabama and New England. The latest addition by the Giants is Nick Williams, who is joining Big Blue as their offensive quality control coach. He featured as a special teams assistant with Alabama from 2009 to 2011. He also was their wide receiver coach from 2009 through 2012. Since then, he has been acting as a wide receivers coach for southern Illinois.

He is the sixth member of Judge’s coaching staff that has connections with the Crimson Tide and Nick saban.

Burton burns, who will act as their running backs coach, spent 10 years with Alabama, and has glowing reviews from players like Mark Ingram. Freddie kitchens, who spent time in the 90s with Alabama, will cement himself as the tight ends coach for the Giants, having previously acted as a head coach for the Cleveland Browns last season.

Inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer played at Alabama and was a graduate assistant in the 90s. He acted as the director of player development for two years from 2010 to 2012. Jody Wright will be a defensive assistant for the Giants, as he spent close to 10 years with Alabama. Lastly, Amos Jones, who will be the Giants’ assistant coach for special projects and situations, played safety and running back to the Crimson Tide. He also featured as a special teams coordinator in the early 90s.

Ultimately, Alabama utilizes heavy NFL schemes at the collegiate level, allowing coaches and players to transition easily over to the NFL. Having familiar faces around the building and experienced ones in Jason Garrett will help Judge get a grasp of things in an efficient manner. His detailed approach and discipline mentality will be essential in establishing a new culture and hopefully bringing success to the team in the near future.

NASCAR: Chase Elliott reflects on costly Charlotte flaw

NASCAR contender Chase Elliott has lived up to the prestige of his family name, but bad luck on the track has stifled his true potential.

Over the past week, Chase Elliott’s NASCAR Cup Series endeavors have been the “My Plans vs. 2020” meme personified.

Elliott and his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet are on solid ground. He and his team sit fourth in the Cup standings and he has earned four top tens over the first seven races of the 2020 season. Elliott himself has turned himself into an icon of modern NASCAR. The son of 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill, the 24-year-old Elliott has lived up to the hype to the tune of a NASCAR Xfinity Series title and six Cup Series victories. Playoff appearances have come in each of Elliott’s four full-time Cup seasons.

But this week has been a cruel reminder that there could’ve been so much more.

NASCAR’s healthy dose of races, holding two per week in the early stages of its return from the COVID-19 pause, has provided nothing but heartbreak for Elliott thus far. The No. 9 had a healthy lead toward the end of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but a late caution (brought out by Elliott’s own teammate William Byron) with two laps to go, brought the field together. Offered the chance for service on pit road, Elliott opted to come down with a handful of the other lead-lap cars.

Forced to restart on the cusp of the top ten, Elliott rallied back to finish third (which was later upgraded to second after another teammate, Jimmie Johnson, was disqualified after failing postrace inspection). But it was of no consolation to the pride of Dawsonville, Georgia. Brad Keselowski took home his first win of the season after staying out.

“You just make the best decision you can based on the information you have,” a somber Elliott said after the race. “When you’re leading the race like that, people behind you are going to do the exact opposite of what you do. That was the situation we were put in. (Crew chief Alan Gustafson) made the decision, we stuck with it, and it didn’t work out.”

The move comes less than a week after the racing deities denied Elliott another victory with a heartbreaking blow. He had a chance to win the Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway last Wednesday, but contact with Kyle Busch put his Chevy into the wall while chasing down leader Denny Hamlin on the final lap of green flag racing. Though Elliott displayed his middle finger to Busch after the wreck and members of his crew confronted Busch afterward, the No. 9 driver took responsibility for the incident. 

Bad luck is hardly new in Elliott’s garage. Several other victories have been snatched from his grip through circumstances beyond his control. Just last season, he was denied a spot in the “championship four” (NASCAR’s equivalent of the Final Four with four drivers racing for a championship at the last race of the season) after two crashes and a mechanical issue in the three-race round beforehand.

“We’ve had some tough losses in my career, for however many years I’ve been doing this, five, six years, unfortunately. It is what it is,” Elliott said in an attempt to take the disappointment in stride. “I hate it for both myself and my team, our sponsors, the whole nine yards, unfortunate.”

“(We’ll) just try again. That’s all you can do. I mean, there is really no other option. I can’t rewind time. There’s no other choice.”

If there’s any consolation, bittersweet as it may be, it’s that runner-up finishes are disappointments to the No. 9 team rather than goals to aspire to. His competitors have recognized Elliott’s skill and know that he’s going to be a threat to the very end.

He’s been through some tough ones already,” Johnson said in another call. “He does a nice job of getting away and letting the frustrating things that happen roll off his shoulders. He is a younger guy, but he is an old soul.”

“He’s been around racing his whole life. He’s watched his dad go through stuff. He’s lived and experienced a lot on his own right. He’ll just come back more motivated and hungry. Alan Gustafson is about as good as they get in the garage area. With Alan’s leadership, they’ll dust themselves off and be back on Wednesday and be ready to roll.”

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action on Wednesday for the Alsco Uniforms 500, the second half of a doubleheader at Charlotte Motor Speedway (8 p.m. ET, FS1). Elliott will start 19th with the top 20 Sunday finishes inverted in the starting lineup.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: An inside look at why Tiki Barber retired from the NFL

New York Giants, Tiki Barber

Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber enjoyed 10 years in the NFL, missing only a handful of games. Ultimately, health was/is extremely important to him, and he played in all 16 games for the final five years of his tenure in the NFL. He missed six total games in his entire career, amassing 10,449 yards, and 55 total touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler between 2004 and 2006, even earning first-team All-Pro accolades during the 2005 campaign. However, he retired prematurely due to health concerns and multiple factors weighing on his mind.

His head coach of the time, Tom Coughlin, was an extremely disciplined leader and oftentimes underappreciated some of the players on the roster, according to Barber.

“I mean, Tom was such a small part of it,” Barber said during an appearance on the Scoop B Radio Podcast. “He was so hard on everybody and you felt unappreciated at times, but it was so much more than that. Maybe he was the last little straw that made me walk away from the game, but physically I was getting beat up, man.

“It would take me until Thursday to feel good again. I was getting massages on Monday and acupuncture. I would get this ART treatment and then another massage on Thursday, and then now I’m feeling all right on Friday. [Then we’d have] like a walkthrough practice and then you get beat up again and it starts over. And it was just getting hard.”

Going through the physical toll of a running back in the early 2000s must have been grueling, and it forced barber into retirement and a role with Fox News. He began to find the political side of things more interesting and intriguing in his life, and it took the physical toll of being beaten up every week out of the picture. However, the game always finds a way to get back into your life, as he began to file papers to return to the NFL in 2011, five years after his initial retirement.

His return never materialized, but Barber played an essential role in Giants’ history. He’s one of the all-time great running backs for the team and in the NFL. While he might fault Coughlin for his retirement to a degree, he must give him credit for helping solve his fumbling issues early on in his career.

Report: New York Yankees’ Kyle Higashioka hopes to be playing baseball soon

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka

With baseball operations being suspended for the past two months, the coronavirus pandemic has worked its way through the United States and abroad. The New York Yankees and all MLB teams have been waiting idly by the start of the regular season. With New York sports being allowed, per New York governor Andrew Cuomo, sports could be on their way back.

Ultimately, the return of baseball boils down to contract and financial negotiations between the Player’s Union and team owners. The owners continue to propose a revenue share that the Union is fighting against. They believe they deserve their fair share of the money allocated in their original contracts, and it doesn’t seem things are close to a resolution.

However, this upcoming week could be the most important for the MLB and its suspected return. If they can come to a conclusion, the league can begin opening up spring training once more and preparing for a regular-season start in early July.

Kyle Higashioka spoke to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, stating:

“I saw the news that Gov. Cuomo said he would support teams in New York that want to reopen their facilities and play games without fans. I thought that was really positive, just a step in the right direction of getting back on the field. It’s good because if it’s possible to play in New York at some point, you would think it’s definitely possible to play anywhere.”

“I’ve seen the proposal on safety and health that Major League Baseball sent to the players. Personally, I think whatever it takes for us to get back on the field, I’m fine with that, but it’s going to be a challenge to meet those safety standards that they’ve got outlined. Not showering at the field will be interesting. But I’m willing and ready to take whatever safety precautions are necessary to get back onto the field. I’m fortunate that I don’t have any underlying conditions.”

Higashioka played in 18 games last season, logging 56 at-bats with three homers and 11 RBIs. His offense was lackluster, but a lack of continuity and live reps contributed toward his minimal statistics. However, he is a solid player defensively, catching in 13 complete games, earning a 100% fielding percentage, and zero errors. Having a solid defensive catcher behind Sanchez is essential after Austin Romine took his talents to the Detroit Tigers in search of a starting gig.