New York Giants: Nate Solder Tweets Ominous Warning Of “No Football In 2020”

New York Giants, Nate Solder

Just about everyone, from the fans to the players, want the NFL to come back in 2020 and for the season to not be delayed or cancelled because of COVID-19. At least, that’s been the narrative so far. The league and the player’s association have been working together so far to come to an agreement on the terms of the season, but according to New York Giants tackle Nate Solder, the season isn’t a guarantee yet.

Solder’s words carry more weight than that of the average player because he’s the current NFLPA representative on the Giants. And according to him, the NFL still has to do its part to keep the players healthy.

He tweeted a warning about the matter, that’s short and gets right to the point. It’s not known what Solder’s actual dispute with the NFL is right now, but it is known that the NFLPA and the league are in negotiations for the coming season.

There won’t be football without the players, and therefore, the season won’t happen unless the league can get the player’s association to agree to terms. The main issues have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic and how the league will handle health and safety issues related to this.

It already looks increasingly unlikely that the preseason will even happen, with training camp set to start late July and the preseason having been cut to two games per team.  These concessions may not be enough as the NFLPA wants to do away with the preseason altogether for 2020.

And with the way things are going so far this year, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Solder’s warning came true and the season ended up called off altogether.

NBA Agent Shares Positive Outlook On Free Agents Playing For The New York Knicks

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

There have been questions on whether or not free agents have any kind of desire to play for the New York Knicks. NBA Agent Mayar Zokaei doesn’t believe the negative narrative surrounding the Knicks in terms of gaining star free agents are true. Mayar Zokaei knows that negative narrative is completely false actually.

Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School conducted a podcast interview with NBA Agent Mayar Zokaei in early May. They discussed life as an NBA agent and the business side of the NBA in general. Then Jonathan Macri asked a great question towards the end of the podcast 44:35. It’s definitely a question many Knick fans want to know. Jonathan Macri asked the following question:

“You’ve had a lot of dealings with the Knicks over the last year plus, generally how was the experience? Knick fans are always wondering about the people leading their team and is this an organization players want to play for, is this a good place an agent feel like his player can grow their career, like what would you have to say to Knick fans asking themselves those questions”?

Mayar Zokaei’s response was:

“Some of the craziest s*** that I hear is about James Dolan. Some have no idea how passionate this guy is about his team, how he will spend whatever it takes to make that team a winner, how he stays in his lane and allows the people he hires to do their job, and how he’s willing to move on from his mistakes and is always willing to eradicate those mistakes and find something that’s better. At one point the Knicks were paying three different head coaches. Half the NBA teams wouldn’t do that, they’d rather stick to one coach until their contract runs out. James Dolan, he has put his life, his sweat, his tears, his money, so much money into that organization and just seeing that narrative around him is and who he is, take it from somebody who was inside I was a little bit removed from it, I wasn’t seeing James Dolan everyday. The conversations I’ve had with Mr Dolan during summer-league, a bit of a more casual environment you know that guy loves the Knicks and he puts his heart and soul into the Knicks. Everything is first class with the Knicks and he treats his players right”.

Mayar Zokaei then states:

“There are players I talk to right now on other teams that are 2-3 years into their NBA deals that will potentially become max guys on their second contract that will do almost anything to play for the New York Knicks”.

NASCAR: Rookie Cole Custer steals the last lap of a thriller in Kentucky

For the first time in nearly three years, a rookie won in the NASCAR Cup Series, as Cole Custer’s last-lap pass scored an improbable victory.

Kentucky is known for hosting “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” via the Kentucky Derby, whose post time has been pushed to September. The NASCAR Cup Series was happy to partly fill the gap in the meantime at Kentucky Speedway.

The final two laps of the Quaker State 400 took just over a minute to complete, but they certainly retained the level of excitement and intensity the Thoroughbreds often provide on the first Saturday in May. An hour away from Churchill Downs, Cole Custer and his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford came out on top at the end of a two-lap shootout, the final portions of the 267-circuit event. The rookie Custer beat out the combined 84 Cup Series wins of Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Ryan Blaney to earn his first victory at NASCAR’s premier level.

Custer sat in the sixth position when the caution flag came out for Matt Kenseth’s spin with six laps to go. He got a good push on the outside from fellow first-win seeker Matt DiBenedetto on the outside lane to catapult past the lead trio of Harvick, Truex, and Blaney. Once Custer got into clean air at the front, he was able to hold Truex off by 0.271 seconds to earn his first win in his 20th Cup start.

Custer, 22, has finished in the top five in the final standings in each of the past three NASCAR Xfinity Series campaigns. His full-time Cup Series debut got off to a tough start with only one top-ten finish over his first 15 starts in 2020. But he built momentum with a fifth-place finish at last week’s event at Indianapolis before his historic afternoon at Kentucky. Sunday featured not only the first win for Custer, but also the first win for his crew chief Mike Shiplett. The two united for seven wins at the Xfinity level last season.

The win for Custer proved monumental in other ways on the national level as well. Custer’s win ensures him a spot in the NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET, FS1). Had Sunday’s effort fallen short, Custer would’ve had to race his way into the exhibition by winning one of the three stages of the NASCAR All-Star Open. One more driver will reach the event through a fan vote. Provided he finishes in the top 30 in the points standings, Custer has also more or less clinched a spot in the Cup Series playoffs this fall. He is the first Rookie of the Year competitor to a win a Cup Series race since Chris Buescher won the rain-shortened Pocono event in August 2016 and the first to do so without the assistance of weather since Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma Raceway in 2007 (Trevor Bayne and Brad Keselowski won as part-time drivers in 2011 and 2013 respectively).

Truex, a two-time winner at Kentucky, managed to hold on to the runner-up spot despite late contact with Harvick, who finished third behind DiBenedetto. Defending race-winner Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.

Following the non-points race at Bristol, the NASCAR regular season resumes next Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway via the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Race Notes

  • Custer currently sits in the 20th spot in the standings but leapfrogs ahead of 16th-place Austin Dillon for the final playoff spot. Dillon was involved in a late incident with Brennan Poole but recovered to finish 13th.

 

  • Jimmie Johnson returned to the track after missing the Indianapolis race due to a positive test for COVID-19. It ended his streak of 663 consecutive Cup Series starts, but two negative tests in a 24-hour span allowed him to return. Johnson was in third place for a restart with 19 laps to go, but contact with Brad Keselowski spun him out and relegated him to an 18th-place finish. He nonetheless holds the final playoff spots via points, 24 points in front of Dillon.

 

  • In addition to Custer, two other rookies finished in the top ten, including Christopher Bell (7th) and Tyler Reddick (10th).

 

  • Aric Almirola saw his streak of consecutive top-five postings end at five races. Almirola still managed a top-ten finish (8th) and won the first stage of the race as part of a streak where he led 128 consecutive laps.

 

  • Benefitting from a separate Kenseth spin, Keselowski (9th) used a late caution to his advantage to win stage two.

 

  • John Hunter Nemechek (accident), Timmy Hill (electrical), Ryan Preece (transmission) all failed to finish

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Why Evan Engram Will Be A Top Tight End This Season

New York Giants, Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants‘ offense has a respectable group of playmakers for Daniel Jones to share the football with throughout his second season. In 2020, the Giants have a new coaching staff. Joe Judge was brought in to replace Pat Shurmur after two disappointing seasons.

On the offensive side of the ball, Judge made a splash hire. After spending ten years as the head coach of one of the Giants’ biggest rivals, Jason Garrett left the Dallas Cowboys and joined Joe Judge’s staff in New York. Garrett will serve as the Giants’ offensive coordinator.

The Giants’ previous two offensive coordinators were the team’s head coaches. Now, the offensive coordinator will run the offense and call plays while the head coach oversees the entirety of the team.

A signature aspect of Jason Garrett’s offensive scheme is the heavy usage of the tight end position. Jason Witten had a Hall of Fame-caliber career during his time with Garrett and the Cowboys. One of the Giants’ most talented playmakers is their tight end, Evan Engram. Pairing him with Jason Garrett could lead to a huge season from the fourth-year tight end.

Why Evan Engram Will Break Out In 2020

The biggest challenge for Evan Engram throughout his three-year NFL career so far has been staying healthy. Evan has already missed 14 games in three years. But by the looks of it, Evan Engram is healthy and will be ready to go for the 2020 NFL season:

Keeping Evan Engram healthy and on the field will be crucial to the offense’s success in 2020. Engram is usually a top target in the team’s offensive scheme, but his role might even increase with the acquisition of Jason Garrett.

Between the ages of 25 and 31, Jason Witten was targeted in the Cowboys offense an average of 127 times a year–and that was despite their having a legitimate No. 1 receiver and a top rushing attack. – Gene Clemons of Giants County

In 2019, Evan Engram was tied for the second-most targets per game by tight ends in the NFL with 8.5. Engram only played in 8 games though, and a healthy season with a high target volume could lead to a breakout performance. In those first five games, Evan was averaging 9.6 targets per game, 74.6 yards per game, and totaled 2 touchdown receptions.

In his rookie 2017 season, Evan Engram was healthy and played in 15 games. That season, he was the Giants’ primary receiving option and received a whopping 115 targets. Evan caught 64 of those targets, totaling 722 yards and 6 touchdowns. Hopefully, the Giants can replicate that success in 2020.

New York Yankees game recap: Cole dominant in Yankee 2-1 win over the Bombers

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

The New York Yankees beat the intrasquad Bombers 2-1 in an afternoon game at Yankee Stadium.  It was the first intrasquad game that felt like a real ball game.  All position players were in their place and they had actual umpires albeit from the minor leagues.

More than just a game it was the Gerrit Cole Show, as he dominated for 5 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and only one walk.  He ended up with his longest outing of the summer camp with 84 pitches.  He also pitched 2/3s of the six-inning as he started to tire. Dan Otero came in to finish off the scoreless outing.

The Bombers started prospect, Micheal King.  King was sharp as well going three scoreless innings.  King in an after-game interview talked about how Cole is talking pitching with the other pitchers and teaching them tips.  One he mentioned, in particular, is that you shouldn’t practice your slider on flat ground, because it comes out of the hand entirely differently on the mound.

Nick Tropeano took over for King and gave up the two runs that the Yankees got.  Zack Granite walked and stole second and scored Luke Voit walked and then on double steal Voit scored. In a regular-season game that outcome would not have taking place.  As the hefty Voit barreled toward home, the catcher Erik Kratz, in a smart move stepped back and let Voit score. To do otherwise, he would have had a collision with Voit that would have surely resulted in an out.  In the move, he avoided possible injury to Voit in a game that doesn’t count.

In two great defensive plays, Estevan Florial and Zack Granite both made impressive plays from the right field. Florial in his throw showed Judge-like arm strength, throw our Luke Voit trying to make third from first base. Voit may be slimmed down but his speed has not improved, he was out by nearly twenty feet.

So far in all the New York Yankees intrasquad games, the Yankees pitchers are looking really sharp.  Cole, Clarke Schmidt, Paxton, Happ, and Micheal King have all looked sharp. It is clear that the Yankee pitchers are further ahead in their game readiness than the hitters that are just getting the feel for their hitting. This game featured the most hitting so far in summer camp. As side note so far, Thairo Estrada is the New York Yankees summer camp hitting star with three homers leading the team.

Gerrit Cole in an after-game interview said he felt good and was locating his pitches as he wanted to. He said he did feel a bit tired starting the sixth inning.  He also offered that he felt ready to start the regular season when he faces the Washington National’s Max Scherzer on opening day in D.C. on July 23rd.

Cole may pitch again next Saturday in the New York Yankees exhibition game against the cross-town rival New York Mets.  This would put him in line for the Washington D.C. Opening day. If he pitches earlier than that, it would give him at least six days rest before the opening day outing.

UFC: Diverging Paths For Rose Namajunas & Jessica Andrade After UFC 251 Slugfest

UFC 251 was a notable event for having not one but three belts on the line, but the title fights weren’t the only ones that have a big impact. The card also had two fights featuring high level talents from the women’s side of the UFC, and one of these fights pitted Jessica Andrade against Rose Namajunas in a rematch of 2019’s title fight.

This time, Namajunas came out on top in a split decision – it won’t be a popular decision with every fan, as it’s not impossible to make an argument that Andrade was the winner, but at the end of the day it was higher volume striking that won ‘Thug Rose’ the fight.

The result has important implications for the division, which is currently ruled by Zhang Weili. Weili currently has one title defense, which came against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, leaving her in a situation where the rest of the division is looking up to her and waiting for their shot.

Where will tonight’s result take both fighters as well as the champion?

A step down for Jessica Andrade

Many would say that Jessica Andrade is one of the most exciting talents in the UFC. Despite fighting at a lower weight class, she has great power and an aggressive style. She’s fought bloody battles before against high level opponents, and her fights are anything but boring.

Perhaps that’s the reason why the UFC was willing to throw Andrade a bone and give her the Namajunas fight immediately after her loss of the belt to Weili. If she managed a win, there’s a chance she would get a rematch and a chance to take the belt back.

However, the loss means that Andrade has lost back to back fights. With a recent record like this, one can expect her next fight to be of a lower caliber than her last two.

Will the UFC match Andrade up with another contender, giving her a chance to get right back into the mix in the competition for the number one contender spot? Or will they instead use her recent lack of success as a chance to ‘put on’ a newer fighter with a matchup against the veteran who has fallen out of favor?

What are the possible fights?

If the league does decide to send Andrade down the rankings a bit to fight some of the others who are in the contender mix, a couple of names stand out. Tatiana Suarez is still undefeated in professional MMA and 4-0 in the UFC and could easily move into title contention with a win over a name like Andrade. Suarez is already a top three name in the division rankings, and has a chance to move up due to Andrade’s defeat.

Claudia Gadelha, on the other hand, was at number six in the rankings before UFC 251 but has a history of contention and already fought one bout against Andrade, which was Fight of the Night and had some exceptional action. Few would complain about a rematch, and Gadelha is on good form, having won her past two fights.

There’s also some decent names in the division to match with Andrade if the UFC wants to set up a former champion versus rising prospect fight, which would either put Andrade back on track or put a newer contender on the map. Yan Xiaonan is a possible opponent who was at 10 in the rankings going into UFC 251, with a 5-0 record in the UFC.

Amanda Ribas is more of a longshot but will likely move up from her spot at #14 thanks to her quick finish of Paige VanZant in the earlier fight at UFC 251.

The road to the belt for Rose Namajunas

It looks like Rose Namajunas is certainly going to fight for the title next.

Things are far more clear cut for Thug Rose than they are for Andrade. Andrade has been the opponent for the past two of her fights and she came out with a 1-1 record from those matchups, but in her previous fights, she had put together three straight wins including two against ex-champion Joanna Jedrzejcyzk.

With Andrade’s defeat, her and Tatiana Suarez are the last ones standing in the race to fight Weili. And with Suarez lacking the resume, it’s blatantly obvious that Weili and Namajunas are set for a fight where Namajunas will have a chance at getting her belt back.

It looks like an entertaining title fight – one where Weili’s 21 fight win streak will be challenged by a contender who has experience against the best. And thanks to the way things panned out, it seems certain that we’ll get this fight as the next title bout in the strawweight division.

New York Mets: Luis Rojas says Yoenis Cespedes’ bat is ‘ready for opening day’

New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes

There has been a lot of optimism in recent weeks that New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will be on the active roster for the team’s July 24 season opener against the Atlanta Braves.

Sunday afternoon Mets manager Luis Rojas said he feels Cespedes’ bat is “ready for Opening Day” (quotes by means of Zach Braziller of the New York Post).

“I feel that his bat is ready for Opening Day. The way we saw him running yesterday, I feel he looks ready for Opening Day,” Rojas said on Sunday as the Mets continued spring training 2.0 at Citi Field. “He said it [on Saturday], which is always great to hear. But we’ll keep reassessing with that part.”

Rojas sees encouraging signs in Cespedes’ base-running.

“His base-running is ahead of what I thought it was going to be like,” Rojas said. “I saw him running the bases [on Saturday] and he looks great. The defense is the part we need to see more and more [of], the progression. We’ll reassess as we speak with the performance staff.”

Rojas reiterates the positivity surrounding Cespedes’ health, saying the outfielder looks “really good.”

“This guy, he does it all,” the first-year manager said. “He looks really [good].”

Cespedes hasn’t appeared in a big-league game for the Mets since July 2018 due to a multitude of injuries. He has appeared in just 119 games since 2017 and been unable to play a full season since 2015, when the Mets acquired the outfielder at the Major League Baseball trade deadline from the Detroit Tigers.

Cespedes is part of an outfield rotation that includes Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick. MLB implemented a universal designated hitter for the 2020 season. The Mets could potentially utilize Cespedes as their DH.

The outfielder recently claimed that he’s healthy and will be ready for opening day.

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge still battling new injury, update here

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

A lot can happen in two years. New York Yankee slugger Aaron Judge has taken a turn for the worst after being named the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year.

Judge has battled numerous injuries over the last two seasons, and he’s just making his way back from a stress fracture in a rib that occurred last September on a diving catch. However, after enjoying several weeks of positive progression and work, Judge was scratched from the lineup on Saturday evening due to a stiff neck.

The slugger was held out of baseball activities for a second straight day on Sunday to receive more treatment. Manager Aaron Boone doesn’t believe it is anything serious, but we have heard that story many times before with Giancarlo Stanton and others.

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Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated:

”Just thought it was better not to push through it today.”

With a 60 game condensed schedule starting on July 23, Judge needs to be healthy and prepared to play often. While minor nicks and nacks will undoubtedly be a part of the season, avoiding major injury is essential. Boone is taking the proper precautions by sitting him and making sure he is 100% ready to begin playing again.

Aside from Judge, right-handed pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka began playing catch on Sunday at 100 feet. He is also increasing his cardio. Tanaka took a 112 mph line drive to the head off Giancarlo Stanton’s bat. While it is uncertain when he will return to the mound, Tanaka does not have any concussion symptoms and is working his way back cautiously.

WATCH: Yankees’ Estevan Florial nails Luke Voit at third base with amazing throw

New York Yankees, Estevan Florial

The New York Yankees are ironing out the active roster with every intrasquad game, and outfielder Estavan Florial is one of the summer camp youth players looking to leave their mark.

Florial, who has suffered multiple wrist injuries over the last two seasons, is climbing his way back to form. He was formally the number one ranked prospect in the Yankees’ farm system and one of the top in all of baseball, but his lack of reps and production has hurt his progression.

Nonetheless, when Gleyber Torres hit a line drive base hit to right field, Florial utilized his fantastic arm to throw out Luke Voit, who was rounding second and heading to third. While Voit might not be the fastest player on the team, Estevan showed off one of his most exciting tools.

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Florial is considered a five-tool player with the potential to be a starting outfielder in the MLB. This opportunity has given him a chance to showcase his abilities after playing in just 74 games last year. With Tampa, he hit .237 with eight homers and 38 RBIs. The Yankees are desperately seeking more production from the outfielder in the hopes he can make his way to the starting team one day.

New York Giants: Darnay Holmes can be more than just a slot corner

New York Giants, Darnay Holmes

When the New York Giants initially drafted Darnay Holmes out of UCLA, most assumed he would fill the nickel corner position at the NFL level. Having never played an interior corner spot, Holmes experienced his first reps during the Senior Bowl, where he dominated opposing pass-catchers.

However, without any live game action in the slot, it is impossible to know what he’s capable of at the NFL level. There is no question his frame fits the mold for the position at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds.

The expectation is that the Giants will inject him into a competition battle with Grant Haley, Julian Love, and potentially Corey Ballentine. Holmes has fantastic physical traits and athleticism, making him an excellent option to fill a position that has been problematic for the past few years.

But Holmes is more than capable of playing on the outside, and as we await the results of DeAndre Baker’s case, which has since become more complicated, Holmes should be training for both spots.

His versatility and toughness define the former UCLA player. In 2018, he posted respectable numbers. Over 12 games, he logged 36 solo tackles, 48 total, 1.0 tackles for a loss, three interceptions, eight passes defended, and two forced fumbles.

Considered to be one of college football’s rising stars, Holmes had a tough 2019, as he suffered a high ankle sprain. However, being a team captain and leader, Holmes returned far too early and played on the injury despite medical advice. He ended up playing in 10 games, logging 23 solo tackles, 33 total, two interceptions, six passes defended, and zero forced fumbles. The injury clearly affected his production, but with that issue alleviated, the expectation is that he can return to form in 2020.

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What makes Darnay Holmes so versatile for the New York Giants?

The Giants have plenty of players in their secondary, the issue is none of them are proven aside from James Bradberry. If Baker and his legal issues are not solved within the next few weeks, Holmes could be asked to compete at both the slot and outside corner positions. He has the experience and tenacity to succeed at both.

NFL analysts projected him as a nickel corner in the NFL, as he is a bit short and light to match up against bigger receivers on the outside. While I do think he will end up at that position, allowing him to compete on the outside is beneficial for the entire team. His exceptional intelligence, character, and work ethic make him a great candidate to land a starting job in his rookie year.