New York Giants: Barkley’s Versatility Could Win MVP Says Mariucci

Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

The 2020 season might be the most important one yet for New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. After getting his career off to a flying start during his rookie season and competing for the rushing title, Barkley ran into injury trouble in year two and missed significant time in 2019, before coming back slowly and only getting in form later in the year.

The new changes for 2020 introduce help on the offensive line as well as a new head coach and offensive coordinator, but all of that needs returning star players such as Barkley to step up if the Giants are going to make an improvement. There’s a lot of reason to be optimistic about Barkley’s play this year, however. According to the NFL Network’s analyst Steve Mariucci, Barkley could even end up in contention for the MVP award this year.

The case for Barkley winning MVP

“Six running backs have made MVP in the last 25 years, but they did something special like rush for 2,000 yards or break the rushing record like LT did with 28 rushing touchdowns. But Saquon is versatile. He had 91 receptions and a bunch of yards rushing as a rookie. He’s going to go over 2,000 yards again. He’s got a chance,” Mariucci remarked on NFL Total Access.

Barkley’s production fell off in 2019 compared to the year prior, with 1,003 yards and 6 touchdowns compared to 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also made a significant lesser impact in the passing game with 52 receptions compared to 91, and a large drop in targets too.

But Barkley will come into the season healthy and if he avoids another injury, he can play the entire year and exceed his rookie numbers with the help of a more experienced Daniel Jones and an offense run by a more competent staff including Jason Garrett, who was able to get good performance out of fellow running back Ezekiel Elliot during his time with the Cowboys.

Garrett has shown he can coach an offense that puts a emphasis on the running game, Barkley has shown just how reliable he can be when healthy, and the Giants have worked to improve the offensive line in general with the addition of Andrew Thomas as a main starter and Cameron Fleming as a depth option – if all of those factors come together in 2020, Barkley getting more than 2,000 total yards and carrying the rebuilding team during an MVP season doesn’t seem like such an unrealistic outcome.

MLB: Players Association halting negotiations with owners

After over a month of intense negations, the MLB Players Association will be halting negotiations with the owners on the status of the 2020 season. This will lead to Commissioner Rob Manfred implementing a short season, possibly only 50 games long.

On Saturday afternoon, over 100 players were on a conference call discussing whether to continue negotiations. The answer was nearly unanimous to stop, as not much progress has been made the past month.

Players were clear and vocal during the entirety of negotiations that they wanted prorated salaries. A deal was made in March saying that the season can be any length desired as long as prorated salaries were granted. Owners were okay with it originally, but got cold feet after seeing the projected revenue loss.

The closest that the owners got to prorated salaries in proposals was around 80% percent of them. They weren’t willing to commit all the way, unless the season was extraordinarily short. What they fail to realize is that they make back the lost money once fans can return. It’s not impossible that we see a limited attendance at some events.

Players are demanding that the league come out with official intentions for the 2020 season as soon as possible. Players are ready to play and are just waiting to report back to camp.

The mess that the MLB is in will hurt the game. Fans are becoming disinterested due to the ongoing negotiations, and the end of the CBA looms after 2021. That means that it’s possible we see a lockout entering 2022, and that could mean another shortened season. It could be the final straw to an already dwindling fan base.

The MLB needs to figure this out soon. Hopefully, we see a season longer than 50 games. That way, the season would mean more. Regardless, this years World Series Champion will have an asterisk next to their name.

New York Giants: Xavier McKinney Will Boost Defense’s Pass-Rush

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants are going to make use of a pass-rush by a committee in 2020. The team does not possess an elite edge rusher or game-breaking pass-rusher to make a consistent impact. Rather, New York has some solid rotational rushers and an aggressive, blitz-heavy defensive scheme.

Safeties are not normally thought of as pass-rushers. A safety’s job typically consists of pass coverage and run defense. However, safeties are used occasionally in blitzes. Xavier McKinney is a player that should be used in blitzes often as he has proven to be an excellent pass-rusher from the safety position.

Xavier McKinney As A Blitzer

The Giants’ second-round draft pick, Xavier McKinney, is a talented, versatile safety out of Alabama. McKinney was projected to be a first-round draft pick and the Giants were extremely fortunate to land him in round two.

In his collegiate career, McKinney lined up all over the Alabama defense. Xavier played 323 snaps in the box, 227 in the slot, and 271 deep (PFF). McKinney’s versatile skill set allows him to thrive in coverage and run defense wherever he lines up on the field.

In this clip, McKinney lines up as an edge rusher and gets a clutch strip-sack on 2020’s number one overall pick, Joe Burrow:

This was one of many impressive pass-rushes by Xavier McKinney in college. According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier recorded 21 pressures across 71 pass-rushing snaps in the last two years. He also totaled 3 sacks in each of his last two seasons. This is especially important for the Giants because of the defensive scheme they will be running.

Newly hired defensive coordinator Patrick Graham runs an aggressive defensive scheme filled with blitzes. In 2019, the Dolphins Blitzed on 35% of their snaps, 41% on third down (which was the third-most in the league). Knowing that Xavier McKinney as such an efficient pass-rusher, Patrick Graham will likely send his rookie safety on blitzes early and often in 2020.

Should the New York Jets invest in talented offensive lineman Larry Warford?

New York giants, Larry Warford

The New York Jets made significant moves to improve their offensive line during the 2020 off-season, but there are several additions who shouldn’t be considered top-level starters. Players like Greg Van Roten and George Fant are fringe level starters, making the idea of bringing in more talent enticing.

There is one player on the free-agent market that could make a lot of sense for the Jets, and his name is Larry Warford. A premium level guard, Warford is a massive offense of Lyman who is freshly 29 years old. Originally from San Diego, the third-round pick by the Detroit Lions has developed into a fantastic player at the NFL level. The New Orleans Saints recently caught him due to a massive salary hit for the 2020 season. He was scheduled to earn nearly $13 million this upcoming season, and the Saints felt better releasing him and saving the cap-space.

Nonetheless, Warford has been to three straight Pro Bowls with New Orleans and is reportedly looking for a contract worth $7 million per season, according to NFL Network. The Saints elected to keep the cheaper Andrus Peat, who is also younger.

The current offensive line for the New York Jets looks like this:

LT: Mekhi Becton

LG: Greg Van Roten

C: Connor McGovern

RG: Brian Winters

RT: George Fant

This unit is far improved from the one the Jets utilized in 2019, seeing a turnover at four of the five starting positions. I don’t expect them to be a premium level offensive line right out of the gate, considering they need time to mesh and develop chemistry. Sam Darnold was sacked 33 times last season, and decreasing that number is essential if they want their third-year quarterback to excel.

With that being said, Warford is a great talent who would offer an improvement at left guard over Van Roten. Ultimately, having solid depth is another essential point for an offensive line. The Jets have suffered plenty of injuries at the position and been forced into tumultuous spots because of it. Solidifying the group and adding proven talent is a necessity.

The Jets have just under $25 million in cap space available, giving them the mobility to take a stab at Larry if they see fit.

Yankees are affriad public release of sign-stealing letter will significantly impact reputation

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

The latest saga of sign-stealing has found its way to the New York Yankees after months of silence regarding the teams involvement in the cheating scandal. The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox have already been disciplined for their actions against the game and its ethics. The Yankees, on the other hand, are still in the midst of a legal review that could damage their reputation significantly.

According to The Athletic, a judge ruled Friday that an investigation to the Yankees in 2017 should be unsealed, making it public information.

The Yankees have been tied to some shady stuff in the past, including a fine for an undisclosed amount that was dealt for improper use of a bullpen phone.

Manfred stated in 2017 regarding the Yankees: “Had violated a rule governing the use of the dugout phone,” but that the “substance of the communications [over the phone] was not a violation.”

The unsealing of this letter would provide public information on the topic, which of the Yankees are desperately trying to keep quiet. They have managed to avoid bad publicity up to this point, and if they can keep this document sealed, they can further avoid any significant reputation dismemberment.

Yankees lawyer Jonathan Schiller wrote, per The Athletic, “there is no justification for public disclosure of the letter. The plaintiff has no case anymore, and the court held that what MLB wrote in confidence was irrelevant to the court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case. Under established law, this supports the Yankees’ right to confidentiality required by the Commissioner of Baseball.”

“It is the Yankees’ understanding that the press release about the investigation reflects the Commissioner’s final determinations,” Schiller said. “Those determinations were that the Yankees had committed a technical violation of MLB’s rules by misusing the dugout phone. The Yankees were not found to have violated any rule involving sign stealing. The press release is accurate and states MLB’s conclusions.”

Houston Astros players have already begun trolling the Yankees due to their suspected involvement in a cheating scandal. Of course, tying in other teams and players will take some of the pressure away from Houston, who have suffered through plenty of public harassment of the past few months.

 

New York Giants: Can Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack push for a roster spot?

New York Giants, Austin Mack

The New York Giants elected to pass on selecting a wide receiver in the 2020 NFL draft, despite there being a talented crop of players to choose from. Passing on all of the highly regarded prospects in favor of undrafted free agents Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack could prove to be a bit optimistic.

However, the Giants landed two intriguing players in Victor and Mack, both of whom are coming from Ohio state. Victor, who is a 6-foot-4 and 198-pound pass-catcher, utilizes his long and lanky frame to snag balls in the air. He is solid at making contested catches and can be a good red-zone threat at the NFL level. His issues primarily land in his strength and speed category. He’s not the fastest pass-catcher out there but uses his radius to supplement that weakness. In 2019, he posted 573 yards and six touchdowns over 12 games. He is far from being the focal point of an offense, but he has the potential to develop into a solid producer over a long term period.

I believe Victor will be more useful in the short to intermediate-range in the red zone. Allowing him to run mesh/slant routes and run endzone fades is how he can make his money at the NFL level. With a lack of elite speed, he has to be in positions to use his catch radius to beat defenders. Quick throws will likely accompany his skill set more frequently if he can make the active roster.

What are the New York Giants getting in Austin Mack?

Austin Mack, on the other hand, is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver. He posted 361 yards and three touchdowns in 2019, producing even less than Victor for the Ohio State offense. There are a few pros and cons to note when it comes to Mack, precisely his impressive strength and balance. His 19 starts give him experience, and he started last season with at least three receptions in the first six games.

A foot injury derailed his campaign, but he has the national talent to develop into a solid boundary wide receiver. His physicality off the line of scrimmage gives him room to make plays and get open on his break. He is a fearless player who will travel across the middle with no hesitations. He can run well as a ball carrier and seems to excel when he has extra time to get open for his quarterback.

The primary issue with Mac is his most recent injury and lack of production regarding touchdowns. He has only three scores over three seasons with Ohio, and lack of separation in man coverage could cause them to fall down the pecking order. If he can increase his ability to get open against press coverage, he could land an active roster spot at the back end of the wide receiver unit.

Overall, Victor and Mack are two exciting prospects that have the talent to develop into solid contributors for the Giants. I suspect one of them will land on the practice squad, but both of them may end up in that position. They have to unseat Corey Coleman on the active roster to land a start spot on the team.

New York Yankees Player Profiles: Luis Cessa, the Yankees go to middle reliever

New York Yankees, Luis Cessa

The New York Yankees Luis Cessa is a seldom talked about Yankee pitcher, but his relief is indispensable when the starting pitcher fails to perform.  Luis Cessa was born Luis Enrique Cessa and was born on April 25, 1992, in Cordoba, Veracruz, Mexico. He is an American citizen and speaks English as his second language.

Cessa, in his native Cordoba, played baseball as a boy in the sandlots around his neighborhood.  He continued to play ball for his high school team. He played at shortstop but transitioned to pitching in his high school years, where he was often the best pitcher on the team. Cessa was scouted and agreed on a contract with the New York Mets as an international free agent in July 2008. In 2009, He made his professional debut with the Dominican Summer League Mets, where he again played as a shortstop for the first two seasons, transitioning into a pitcher again in 2011.

In the summer of 2015, Cessa was traded to the Detroit Tigers.  He was added to the Tigers 40 man roster after the 2015 season.  But in the offseason, he was traded to the New York Yankees along with pitcher Chad Green. In 2016, Cessa was named to the Yankees’ Opening Day roster in 2016. On April 8, 2016, he made his debut for Yankees on the major league against his former Detroit Tigers.

Cessa spent the majority of 2016 at the minor league affiliate Scranton Wilkes/Barre Rail Raiders.  But on June 26, the Yankees called Cessa up from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and on June 29, He had his first major league win, pitching three innings of 1-run relief.

In 2017 while bouncing back and forth from the Rail Riders to the Yankees, he played in 10 games in middle relief.  In 2018 that increased to 18 games.  Although not the best pitcher, Cessa was making a name for himself as a New York Yankee middle reliever.  2019 was spent at the Stadium.  He was mostly used as a middle reliever in 43 games, although he did save one game.  In one of his wins last year, he struck out seven in three and two-thirds innings.

During the 2019 ALDS against the Minnesota Twins and in the ALCS against the Houston Astros the 28-year-old Cessa pitched four scoreless innings in relief. This year if there is a season, he will be an impactful pitcher with Happ, Montgomery and Loaisiga anchoring the Yankee pitching rotation.  With Luis Severino out for the year recovering from Tommy John surgery and Domingo German likely not to play at all due to suspension, middle relief will be an integral part of the Yankee plan.

Cessa is not only a reliable pitcher to eat up innings when the starter fails to perform, but has regularly been used when there is an opener instead of a starter.  The combination of Chad Green and Cessa has been beneficial to the New York Yankees in those games.  In 2020 he will earn $895k and will become a free agent in 2024.

Luis Cessa has a warm personality that has caused him to be well accepted by all the Yankee players and is considered to be a valuable teammate in the bullpen. The affable Cessa has a main squeeze in Nancy Arreola, who is a media personality for TV Azteca in Mexico.  They have been going together for several years, and their bond is strong.  She even has a photo of them together as the header on her Twitter page.

 

New York Mets Second Round Pick: Isaiah Greene

The New York Mets took another risk with a high upside pick in outfielder Isaiah Greene. The left-handed hitter out of Corona High School in California was taken with the 69th overall pick of the draft. Greene’s pick was a Compensation Round B pick in exchange for Zack Wheeler signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Greene is a potential five-tool prospect but still has work to do with his bat. He is committed to the University of Missouri and given the talent, he already possesses he may turn down the Mets offer and play in college to move up in future drafts.

Natural Athlete

Speed is the first thing that stands out about Greene. He was at the top one percent of the 2020 draft class in the 60-yard dash and is built well with a 6’1, 180-pound frame. If he is going to be a five-tool player, it will likely happen in left field. Greene’s stellar speed may not be enough to overcome his below-average routes to the ball and arm strength. His development in either college or the minors is going to settle his primary position.

On the bases, his advancement shows. Greene is a good baserunner and base stealer, going his entire high school career without being caught. The most potential comes from Greene’s bat, he has a naturally fluid swing and hits the ball well to all fields. After playing okay during his freshman year, he .389 the following year then dropped to .321 but his the only four home runs of his high school career during 2019.

Greene only hit .067 during five games in 2020 but had five walks and only struck out five times during that span.

What makes his bat intriguing is the two separate directions it can go. Greene has a slight leg kick and his swing is flat through the zone, producing mostly low line drives. Should the Mets stay with that approach they could create a doubles/triples type of hitter, who could potentially leadoff in the future.

Two Hitting Approaches

The other direction would move towards the approach of most hitters in today’s game. Greene would add more height to his leg kick and lift to his swing to put balls over outfielders’ heads, not between them. Already with a good frame, he should be able to add strength to legitimize his power. Right now he projects around 10-15 homers but has 20-25 home run potential.

My prediction is he likely goes to college to round out his game in a solid baseball program at Mizzou. Either way, the Mets did a solid job with this draft pick.

 

New York Yankees Prospects: Denny Larrondo

New York Yankees, Aaron boone

The next New York Yankees prospect that we will be discussing is one that was in the news a couple of months back when the pandemic started. That prospect would be the talented right-hander from Cuba, Denny Larrondo. Larrondo made headlines when it was reported that he had tested positive for COVID-19 back in March. By all accounts, Larrondo has made a full recovery, so we can start talking about the kind of player that he is on the field. Larrondo stands 6’2 and weighs about 180 pounds. He has a very nice frame for a pitcher. He has a very quick arm that generates a fastball in the mid-90’s. He compliments his fastball with a curveball that shows great potential and a developing changeup. After being signed by the Yankees out of his native Cuba, Larrondo made his professional debut last year in the Gulf Coast League.

First year in the Yankees organization

Pitching for the GCL Yankees (East & West), Larrondo started in nine games, and he appeared in relief in three. Larrondo pitched a total of 32.1 innings last year and had an ERA of 5.01 with a WHIP of 1.21. While those numbers are not ideal, there are a couple of really good numbers if you dive into his season. He held opponents to an average of .171 and he didn’t give up one home run in those 32.1 innings. Larrondo has a very raw arm at this young stage of his career, but he is already showing a lot of promise. He’s a hard guy to square up when you’re at the plate. He’s got two plus pitches already with one coming along nicely. It’ll still take years for him to fully develop into someone who is major league ready, but I’m very encouraged with what I’ve seen and read about Denny Larrondo.

Development for Larrondo

Being young and inexperienced does have it’s drawbacks with the main one being control. Larrondo had poor numbers overall last year due to the amount of guys he walked. In those 32.1 innings, Larrondo walked 21 batters and hit 10. Almost every inning he was allowing someone on base for free. As he continues to develop, I believe that control will get ironed out. I like his frame, and I think the Yankees will continue to develop him over the next few years as a starter. I think that changeup that he’s shown will develop into a solid third offering. If it doesn’t get to the level it needs to be as a major league starter, Larrondo projects very nicely as a bullpen arm with a tightly spun curveball and a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s with life.

New York Giants news 6/13: Jon Halapio recovery update, Patrick Graham receives praise from former Giant

New York Giants, John Halapio, Eli Manning

The New York Giants are taking a different approach their defense in 2020 with former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. They want to utilize a mesh of different schemes and sets, determined to brew a sense of unpredictability and versatility on a weekly basis.

Former Giants, Jonathan Casillas, gave an excellent review of Graham:

“I feel like Pat Graham, he’s learned so much,” Casillas told Giants.com. “He’s a guy that has been so versatile. He was a linebackers coach, a d-line coach, DB (coach) and defensive coordinator, and has kind of been all over the place. But I think that versatility has given him a lot of education in different parts of the game, and that’s going to translate over to him being a great defensive coordinator.”

“It’s not just the x’s and o’s,” he said. “It’s identifying with the players that you have in the locker room. A lot of great coaches sometimes aren’t great player-coaches. You know, not player-friendly… It’s a little bigger than the x’s and o’s. It’s about culture and having the players’ trust and believing in you.

“I think Pat Graham has risen to that to where he’s gotten the defensive coordinator job. The players will believe in him because I feel like he’s a coach who believes in his players. Not the scheme, not that he makes all the good ideas, but the guys that he put in certain positions because of his education and everything that he’s learned. But also, his studying, his due diligence on those guys, that they’ll be put in the right place to win. That’s what the Giants needed.”

The ability to adapt to your players and identify with them is a major factor for coaches in the NFL. Success depends on your ability to reach them on a personal level and convince them to buy into your system. If they feel like they are on the outside looking in, failure is just around the corner. Graham seemingly has the ability to maximize his relationships with players to bring the best out of them.

How is Jon Halapio recovering?

Halapio is 23 weeks post-Achilles surgery. He previously returned from a broken leg in 2019, and while he did struggle at the center position, he will remain a competitor with the Giants during training camp. The expectation is they will develop a position battle at center, consisting of Halapio, Spencer Pulley, Shane Lemieux, and Nick Gates.

Ultimately, Halapio is in serious danger of losing his starting job, but he has the experience to remain on the roster as a depth piece. His return to the field as a positive sign in his recovery, but he still has a long way to go before he can be considered a reliable starter at center in the NFL.