UFC: Curtis Blaydes Embraces The Heel Role After Decision Win

Curtis Blaydes, UFC

UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes picked up his fourth straight win at UFC on ESPN 11, but not everyone is a fan of the way that win came. Blaydes, despite having a large number of TKO victories, has been accused of a “boring” fighting style thanks to his wrestling based background and the way he uses it in the octagon, and didn’t improve his reputation during his fight against Volkov where his victory came from a unanimous decision after outlasting his opponent rather than an exciting finish.

According to Dana White, the performance was underwhelming, but the criticism doesn’t seem to have gotten under Blaydes’ skin. When speaking to reporters, he seemed to embrace his spot among the UFC’s heels.

“I know who I am now. I’m the heel. You don’t like what I do? I like to make you mad. I like to win. That’s probably the best part about this win, is I predicted this, and I did it. Twenty-five minutes. Didn’t look the best, but I’m OK with having a gritty win like that, and I know a lot of fans didn’t like it, and I’m OK with that. It makes me happy,” Blaydes said.

Blaydes is one of the next contenders in line for the title but it remains to be seen who his next opponent will be. After two earlier losses to the higher ranked Francis Ngannou, it doesn’t look like a third fight is coming soon between the two.

And current champion Stipe Miocic is already set to defend his title against Daniel Cormier in a third fight, with the location having been recently confirmed as the UFC APEX facility.

It leaves Blaydes in an awkward position, but ultimately, he acknowledged that the matter of his next opponent isn’t in his own hands.

“I fought Justin Willis, ranked below me. I fought Abdurakhimov, ranked below me. I fought Junior, ranked below me. I fought Volkov, ranked below me. Like what? No. I don’t know, man. This is probably not the best time to answer that questions so I’m going to leave that alone.”

Things aren’t easy for Blaydes as a title contender right now, but as long as he continues to win, the UFC won’t be able to ignore him as a title contender regardless of popularity or style. His winning, after all, has remained fairly consistent as of recent.

New York Giants: New EDGE Kyler Fackrell Will Be A Huge Boost To The Team’s Pass Rush

New York Giants, Kyler Fackrell

The New York Giants‘ defense has struggled to rush quarterbacks in recent years. The team has not had a premier edge rusher in quite some time and has missed out on the top prospects in recent drafts, such as Josh Allen and Chase Young.

A primary pass-rusher is arguably the Giants’ biggest need. However, not having that top-tier rusher might not be necessary for the 2020 New York Giants. Patrick Graham, the new defensive coordinator, is known for running an aggressive, blitz-heavy scheme that generates a fair amount of pressure. On top of that, the Giants have a solid stable of edge rushers at their disposal, the best of which being Kyler Fackrell who will provide the Giants with a huge boost to their pass rush.

Kyler Fackrell and Patrick Graham

The New York Giants signed edge rusher Kyler Fackrell to a one-year contract worth $4.6 million this offseason. Fackrell is 28 years old and has spent his entire career with the Green Bay Packers. Kyler’s time in Green Bay give him a connection to Giants’ defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

Patrick Graham worked with the Green Bay Packers in 2018 as their linebackers coach & run game coordinator. During that 2018 season, Fackrell and Graham got to know each other very well:

“We had that year together and we became super close, he was my inside linebacker coach,” Martinez said. “For me, what made me so excited to work with him this year and the following years is how smart he is. I think he is probably the smartest coach I’ve ever been around. The preparation he puts in every week, his intensity, just how much he cares about the game of football. It just allowed me to go in every Sunday or Monday or Thursday games fully prepared. I never felt like I didn’t know what play was going to happen next.” – Kyler Fackrell on Giants Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham

That 2018 season was not only special because Fackrell worked with Patrick Graham. That 2018 season was also special because it was the best season of Kyler Fackrell’s career so far. While working with Graham in 2018, Fackrell played 59% of the Packers’ defensive snaps, a career-high. Kyler also started in 7 games and played in all 16. In 2019, though, Fackrell saw a huge decrease in playing time, being on the field for only 40% of the team’s snaps.

Why Kyler Fackrell Will Bounce Back In 2020

That decrease in playing time was caused by the Packers’ big free-agency additions. Green Bay signed both Preston Smith and Zadarious Smith, two highly-talented edge rushers that pushed Kyler Fackrell down the depth chart.

Kyler Fackrell will be atop the Giants’ depth chart in 2020. He will once again be coached by Patrick Graham and he will see an increase in snaps. In that 2018 season with a career-high in snaps, Kyler Fackrell recorded career-highs with 10.5 sacks, 42 combined tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 18 pressures. In addition to that, according to his former Packers and now current Giants teammate Blake Martinez, Kyler Fackrell is “one of the best zone coverage linebackers in the NFL.

The Giants found a special, underrated talent in free agency this offseason. Kyler Fackrell is a player who has struggled to see the field, but never due to any injuries. The Packers simply did not utilize Fackrell’s skillset and they certainly did not value it more than the skillset of the Smiths.

The New York Giants will have no choice but to utilize Kyler Fackrell as their primary pass-rusher in 2020. Maybe reuniting with Graham and seeing an increase in playing time will lead to another 10+ sack season from Kyler Fackrell.

Demetrious Cox to Help Young Athletes

Demetrious Cox

Demetrious Cox is using time in the off season to help others, something he has always done throughout his career.

Cox announced his plans to help young athletes hone their football skills as he will be providing group and or private lessons for kids ages 7 and up.  Parents can direct message Cox via his social media accounts (Twitter: @i_AM_SEVEN7 Instagram: @i_amseven_7) or through e-mail [email protected] to work out an agreeable location and time, as well as pricing.

Cox wants to take the invaluable knowledge and skills he gleaned from his extensive career and use it to aid others in forging their football futures, giving them a step up

About what inspired him to do so, Cox went on to say, “I’ve always been an advocate for using my experiences to give the younger generation in my area another resource to improve and get a step ahead. I have absorbed a lot of knowledge over a lot of years in the athletic business, especially on the football field obviously. So why not come back and use any down time that I have to give kids that knowledge and another competitive edge. Something I would’ve loved for guys to do with me when I was young.”

Using his platform to inspire others and make a difference in the lives of future generations is truly admirable.  Cox is a role model for both his immense talents as well as the leadership he exemplifies as a player and a man!  Cox will not only be setting these young athletes up for success in the game of football but beyond through both his words and his actions as he always leads by example!  He has always instilled in others just how significant it is to carry yourself with honor and integrity in all that you do, something Cox perfectly embodies!

New York Giants are preparing to make decision on Aldrick Rosas’ future

New York Giants, Aldrick Rosas

The New York Giants are still waiting on Aldrick Rosas’ arraignment:

The New York Giants have dealt with multiple legal issues regarding players this off-season, including DeAndre baker and now Aldrick Rosas. This was not the positive start new head coach Joe Judge anticipated with his new team, but the reality of a virtual relationship can often be tumultuous. Not having an in-person influence and disciplinary set of rules hurts, but I imagine the Giants will become harsher with their in-house punishments after the latest developments.

Baker is still awaiting the results of his legal processing, who his lawyer claims his innocent and exonerated from the armed robbery he was supposedly involved in. Witnesses have since recanted their comments, and the case against Baker seems to be dwindling.

As for Rosas, the Giants are still awaiting more information, but his wrongdoings are quite clear. Rosas was driving under the influence early in the morning on Monday last week when he struck a vehicle going 100 MPH through a red light.

Rosas was found near the accident bloodied and bruised, and according to NJ.com, “the Giants have been in contact with the authorities about Rosas’ alleged incident and are gathering all available information before making any decision.”

At 25 years old, Rosas reportedly had a DUI already on his record, which came before the start of his NFL career in 2016.

Rosas signed a $3.26 million deal as a restricted free agent in April; the Giants will now be scouring the free-agent market for a possible replacement.

One alternative could be Stephen Gostkowski, who has experience with head coach Joe Judge when they were with the New England Patriots. Gostkowski has been one of the more productive kickers in the NFL the past decade, and while he struggled due to injury in 2019, kickers across the league have seen inconsistent production and efficiency. An established veteran with experience would fit the bill perfectly for the Giants if Rosas succumbs to serious charges.

Why Did Adam Ottavino Regress in the Postseason? Is This What We’re Going to Get in 2020?

New York Yankees, Adam Ottavino

People aren’t sure what Adam Ottavino’s 2019 was, as his regular-season seemed great and then his postseason saw an implosion, with an 8.10 ERA in 3.1 innings with 3 walks. He didn’t lose velocity, nor his spin, nor was severely injured after the postseason or during it. While those are the initial factors looked at when we look at a downward spiral in performance, they aren’t always the only factors involved.

Using peripherals and breaking down Ottavino’s 2019, we can see that there not only were clear signs but signs that were apparent way before the postseason began.

How Good Was Adam Ottavino’s “Stuff”

Using a Statcast site called Baseball Savant, we can look at how Adam Ottavino’s stuff was beyond excellent, with a 27.6% Hard hit rate, .293 xSLG, .271 xWOBA, and a mere 85.1 MPH average velocity against. His slider and sinker combo worked magic, with his slider having an unreal 35.3% whiff rate and his Sinker only having 1 home run hit off of it. Ottavino didn’t just have good stuff, he had otherworldly stuff, so what the hell went wrong with Otto?

Walk It To ‘Em Otto

Adam Ottavino walked 14.1% of all batters he faced, for a 5.43 BB/9, which is beyond bad. This meant his WHIP skyrocketed to a 1.31, as he only gave up 7 more hits than batters walked. The thing is that we could’ve seen this from a mile away, as his xFIP was a 4.32 and his SIERA and 4.09, two stats that really punish a pitcher for giving up walks, and so the Yankees and baseball fans had ample time to see this coming, but why didn’t we?

Well, the thing is that over-performing metrics isn’t anything new at all, I love xFIP and SIERA, but they often don’t get used for one-year windows. A player usually doesn’t just have his peripherals rear their ugly head until projections for the next season, but it came in October. Does this mean Otto will be bad next year? No, I think if he has better command then his stuff is very much so still there. Pitching is an art, and with art, you need to be refined even if you have all the skills in the world. A great slider is going to help a lot but knowing how to throw it for a strike is crucial as well.

Ottavino can be great next year, but it all comes down to his command. Next year he can have a 2.50 ERA and a 3.00 FIP and xFIP if he can at least get his walk percentage down to like 10%.

Yankees legend Derek Jeter describes the racism he experiences growing up biracial

New York Yankees, Derek Jeter

If you’re a New York Yankees fan you probably know a thing or two about Derek Jeter. The former star shortstop, who is currently a minority owner with the Miami Marlins, grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan with interracial parents. Jeter himself is biracial, and he detailed the injustices and racism he experienced on ESPN’s Harold Reynolds “Baseball Tonight” segment.

“When I grew up, at the time interracial marriage was not as common as it may be nowadays,” Jeter said. “Growing up, every time you went somewhere with just one of your parents, people would look at you and they’d wonder who’s this person you’re with. When you went out to eat or to a store with both parents, you really got some uncomfortable looks.

The social injustices against African Americans have been vocalized across the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, spurring protests, and large changes in companies and subconscious innuendoes. Athletes have taken a huge part in the development of “BLM” and how it has been expressed in all corners of the United States.
Jeter was disciplined in his ways early on, as his parents ensured he and his sister spent time with people of all nationalities and colors, eliminating any unwarranted hate toward anyone specific.

“But my parents were very direct with me, and my sister as well, that you have to make sure that you surround yourself with people of all nationalities, all colors and don’t let anyone talk down to you because of your race. Stick up for yourself.

The Marlins co-owner has been active after the death of George Floyd several weeks ago, the ignition behind a global protest to advocate for the equal treatment of black people.

“You get to a point and say, ‘When is it going to stop and how many more tragedies?’” Jeter said. “George Floyd, Ahmaud Arber, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s countless others that people never even hear those stories, and something needs to change and it gets to a point where you say enough is enough.”

Jeter understands that forcing the conversation on people is sometimes the only way to get it out in the open.

“You’ve got to talk about it,” he said. “You’ve got to have those conversations and they’re uncomfortable. but you’ve got to force them. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to change. And you have to listen. That’s the key. You have to be willing to listen. Don’t just hear. Listen to what they’re saying and try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, which is very difficult.

MLB awaits vote from Players Association

New York Yankees

On Friday, the MLB informed the Players Association that the league will play no more than 60 games in the 2020 regular season. However, in a 60 game season, players would receive the prorated salaries that they so desired.

But, for the 60 game season to be approved, the Players Association will need to vote on it. The players are expected to vote on it on Sunday.

However, coronavirus numbers are beginning to increase again, especially down south. There were confirmed cases in multiple Florida spring training facilities, forcing the MLB to shut all training camps down to deep clean and develop a testing protocol. Hopefully, training facilities will be able to reopen soon, as the shutdown is temporary.

But, the players want to wait to vote for a few days until they reopen and see what the MLB comes up with in terms of a testing and cleaning protocol. Players won’t vote “yes” on the proposal unless they feel safe.

Right now, time is ticking and a decision needs to be made soon. Within a few days, we will be away from the possible dates to play 60 games. No matter what, the MLB wants to finish the regular season by September 27th.

Waiting much longer could lead to renegotiations again, but for an even shorter season. All the sides need to figure this all out fast, as it’s killing the sport each day that this goes on.

But, safety is the number one priority. If the players don’t feel safe about a season, then a season won’t happen.

New York Giants: Why Nate Solder will improve in 2020

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants’ offensive line struggled in 2019, Nate Solder was a big part of it. As of right now, it’s still a mystery if Nate Solder will start this year. The New York Giants made some reinforcements to the offensive line this offseason, the new additions could push Solder out of the starting lineup.

In 2019, Nate Solder allowed 11 sacks, the third-most in the NFL. To go along with the sacks, Solder allowed 57 pressures and was responsible for five penalties. It seemed like every game Daniel Jones was getting sacked, sometimes it was hard to watch as a fan. He would get such a late jump on snaps, defenders would blow by him with ease. Also, Nate Solder was responsible for protecting the Jones’ blindside. There needs to be a change, the Giants can’t trust him at left tackle anymore. I think Solder can make the change to right tackle, there will be less pressure of him there and he won’t have to worry about going up against the best defenders anymore.

If played right, I think Nate Solder will have a big year in 2020. I’m not saying he will be a pro-bowl offensive tackle, but he will make solid improvement and help the Giants’ offensive line grow.

New offensive line coach

Marc Colombo, a former standout NFL lineman, is in his first season as the New York Giants’ offensive line coach. I think this is a blessing in disguise for the offensive line. Not only has he played the position, but he was also with the Dallas Cowboys for five seasons. All Giants’ fans know how good their offensive line has been, its a dream of mine for the Giants to get an offensive line like Dallas. I think Colombo will be a motivator for Nate Solder and a great mentor. With Colombo in charge, he will breakdown Solder’s game and find out what’s wrong. He will also run a scheme that fits the offensive line best, Joe Judge wants to make a system that fits all players skill set.

Making a move to right tackle

In 2020, I think Nate Solder should make the move to right tackle. The Giants can’t trust him with protecting Jones’ blindside. Also, the Giants just drafted his replacement, Andrew Thomas. It’s best if Thomas starts week one at left tackle, there is no reason for the Giants to start him at right tackle then move him back to left. Moving Nate Solder to the right tackle will take a lot of pressure off his shoulders. At the end of the day, Nate Solder is a reliable offensive lineman who can still play ball. In 2019, he played all 16 games and 95% of offensive snaps.

Improvement of the Offensive line

The biggest key to success for Nate Solder in 2020 will be the pieces around him. With the addition of Andrew Thomas, the offensive line looks good. Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler will be solid guards for the next two to three years, I can see a combination of Solder at right tackle and Zeitler at guard. Those two will work well together, both of them have years of experience in the NFL. As a unit, these big boys can cause some damage. If the offensive line underperforms, Nate Solder will do the same. Hopefully, with Colombo in charge, he will make improvements to the line that best fits every player.

New York Giants, Joe Judge to ‘push’ Leonard Williams

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

Leonard Williams is entering his first full season with the New York Giants. The Giants acquired Williams from the New York Jets before last season’s NFL trade deadline for a 2020 third- and 2021 fifth-round draft pick. The Giants utilized the franchise tag on Williams this offseason, which pays him roughly $16.1 million for the 2020 season.

New head coach Joe Judge is encouraged by the team’s conversations with Williams, and the Giants have made it clear that they plan to “push” the defensive lineman.

“Leonard has had a really good spring in terms of what we’re able to do working virtually,” Judge said, per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “He’s done a phenomenal job working with our coaches. He’s been great in meetings. He’s been very active. We’ve had great conversations. And we’ve expressed to him how much we’re gonna work and push him, that we want to see him maximize his potential.”

Judge says there has been minimal talk about a long-term deal for Williams.

“There have not been extensive talks on contracts since the spring’s gone virtual.”

The head coach wants Williams to maximize his potential this season.

“The biggest focus I have on Leonard right now is that this year, he can really go ahead and maximize his potential. I’m looking forward to working with him for this year, and I’m really looking forward to working with him on the field, finally, to be honest with you.”

The Giants have put a lot of stock in their defensive line. Alongside Williams is Dexter Lawrence (one of the team’s three first-round draft selections in 2017), Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, RJ McIntosh, and Austin Johnson, a free-agent signee.

Williams appeared in eight games for the Giants last season. Across those games, he totaled 26 combined tackles, two tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, and 0.5 sacks. Across his five seasons in the NFL, Williams has totaled 266 combined tackles and 17.5 sacks.

CBS Sports listed New York Giants as potential landing spot for free agent Josh Gordon

Will the New York Giants claim Josh Gordon off waivers?

Josh Gordon’s NFL career has been far from stable, especially in recent years. Despite his off the field issues and multiple suspensions causing a slew of missed games, he has reportedly reached out to Commissioner Roger Goodell about possibly reinstating him for the upcoming season. Gordon has battled his own internal demons, resulting in several suspensions for substance abuse, but one more chance at the NFL could still be a reality for the 29-year-old former Pro Bowler.

CBS Sports listed potential landing spots for Gordon and included the Seahawks, Buccaneers, Patriots, Redskins, and finally, the New York Giants. From a completely unbiased standpoint, the possibility of the Giants taking a chance on him immediately caught my attention. Definitely a high risk-high reward situation here, but it is worth analyzing the possibility.

What would be the benefits?

Josh Gordon has all the tools to compete with the top receiver talent in the league today. Still only 29 years old, we have seen what he looks like when he plays to his full potential. For example, in 2013 he led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,646, while also scoring nine touchdowns. All the more impressive considering he was catching balls from a quarterback room consisting of Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer. Joe Judge has so far proven to be a “no-nonsense” kind of guy. Not to mention he was Gordon’s WR coach during his stint in New England. Could be the perfect coach to maintain Gordon’s focus on football. Even Bill Belichick, the most “no-nonsense” coach in the history of the sport, gave him a chance, so all hope is not lost for Gordon.

The New York Giants filled a lot of holes this offseason. Drafting a top tackle prospect, acquiring several defensive free agents to bolster their linebacking and secondary units, as well as completely revamping the coaching staff. The receiving corps is one that could look to be addressed next season. Not an area of urgent need, but definitely room for improvement. Darius Slayton looked to be one of the steals of the draft, Evan Engram, when healthy, is one of the better receiving threat tight ends in the game, Golden Tate looked to be one of Daniel Jones’ favorite targets, and Sterling Shepard battled injuries all throughout last season.

Gordon most recently played for the Seahawks, the only team to claim him off waivers in 2019. Gordon is looking for a fresh start, again. With a history of availability issues and disciplinary struggles off the field, could the Giants take a chance with the hopes he returns to his pro bowl form? Adding a big-bodied wide receiver in a massively important second year for Daniel Jones could be an intriguing thought. Gordon is a beast on the field, the only problem is getting him on there and staying there for a full season. Wherever he ends up, I think it is safe to say we all want to see Josh Gordon flourish in a stable situation and return in a productive role.