New York Giants: Da’Mari Scott Opts Out As Season Stands On Shaky Ground

The NFL is making its best effort to continue as usual with the 2020 season, but around the time of training camp, things aren’t off to a great start. No New York Giants members have tested positive for COVID-19, but two players have already opted out and the Giants aren’t the only team to have players leave so far.

The second opt out is Da’Mari Scott, a wide receiver whose absence won’t be significant to the Giants one way or another. Scott only has a couple of career receptions and previously bounced around between the Browns and Bills after going undrafted. It’s not the on the field impact that makes Scott’s withdrawal significant, though.

The current situation

While Nate Solder is the first player to opt out, Scott is the first one to do so without having a clear reason – at least a reason that’s visible to the public. Solder chose to opt out to protect the health of his son, while Scott is opting out for a reason that isn’t so clear and is joining a number of other players doing the same thing around the league.

Players opting out, such as Scott, is a trend going around the league rather than something exclusive to the Giants. Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley, Chiefs running back Damien Williams, eight players on the New England Patriots, and Packers receiver Devin Funchess are among those that opted out so far.

And Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has tested positive for the virus, which throws things into question for one of the teams in the Giants’ division. It’s only the offseason right now, after all. What’s going to happen is players and coaches around the league start coming down with the virus during the season?

We can all hope for the 2020 season to happen – after waiting through free agency and the draft, all of us want to see how the Giants actually do with their new look and new additions. However, the situation isn’t going to look good headed into the season if more personnel around the league come down with the virus and if more players opt out.

After all, the first thing needed to play the game is players and coaches, and replacing talent isn’t easy in a high level league such as the NFL.

MUST SEE: Aaron Judge puts the Yankees on his back and hits game-winning homer to sweep Red Sox

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

The New York Yankees entered the bottom of the eighth inning down 7-6 when Mike Tauchman earned a walk. Thanks to a beautiful orchestration of managing by Aaron Boone, Tauchman stole second base, putting him in scoring position.

DJ LeMahieu followed with a single to right field, allowing Tauchman to round third base and score with ease. With the game tied 7-7, Aaron Judge stepped up to the plate. He had previously hit a home run in the second inning, scoring Miguel Andujar and LeMahieu.

With DJ at first base, Judge slammed a curveball over the middle of the plate to the bleachers. Traveling 468 feet, he logged his sixth home run in eight games, putting him on pace for 45 homers in a 60 game season.

This is the second time judge has hit a game-winning home run in the last four days. He is on fire, and his defense was also stellar in the victory.

The Yankees will now host Philadelphia, who have battled potential COVID-19 tests this past week after playing the Miami Marlins. The Yankees are now 7-1 and in first place in the AL East. They are undoubtedly off and moving on the 2020 season, and have started off with a bang.

New York Yankees: James Paxton roughed up for second time in as many starts

New York Yankees, James Paxton

On Sunday, James Paxton had the chance to wipe the memory of Yankee fans after his rough outing to open the season. Instead, he saw no improvement from his season debut and had another poor outing.

Paxton lasted just three innings, giving up seven hits and five runs to the Boston Red Sox. Three runs were earned, and he struck out four batters.

After retiring the first two batters of the game, Paxton allowed a double to J.D. Martinez and a home run to Xander Bogaerts. However, Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks seemed to lose the ball hit by Martinez, as the ball could have been caught and would have avoided the early mess.

After a scoreless second inning, the third inning got really messy. But, the defense was once again unable to help.

Hicks lost another ball in the sky, allowing Kevin Pillar to reach. Rafael Devers drove him in with a single, but then two more singles from the Red Sox and an error from Miguel Andujar allowed two more to score.

Even if the Yankees were playing good defense, it would have been just a matter of time until Paxton got rocked. His velocity was down again, even more so from his previous start.

His season opening loss against the Nationals saw him with an average fastball velocity of 92.4 mph, and his performance against the Red Sox on Sunday saw him with just a 91.5 mph average fastball.

Something is clearly wrong with Paxton, but skipper Aaron Boone believes it’s just mechanical. He said in an in-game interview that Paxton “feels good” and just needs to find his velocity.

Hopefully it’s something simple that can be worked out quickly. If it can’t be fixed soon, Paxton could get removed from the rotation and replaced with a young arm.

WATCH: Yankees’ Miguel Andujar suffers bad error, allowing Boston to take the lead

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

The New York Yankees entered the third inning with the lead of 3-2, but it didn’t last long after James Paxton gave up a series of hits. Aaron Judge secured the lead with a three-run home run at the top of the inning, extending his streak to homering in five consecutive games.

However, left fielder Miguel Andujar suffered a bad error, which allowed the Red Sox to retake the lead. On a routine ball bouncing after a single to left field, Andujar miss-played it and the ball ricocheted off his shin and toward the wall. This allowed Rafael Devers to score from first base and the Yankees lost the lead because of it.

This was Andujar’s second error since intrasquad play, as he has taken to the position well aside from this mistake. However, it could force manager Aaron Boone to consider Clint Frazier or Mike Tauchman in a more consistent role. That mistake could have limited the Red Sox’s offensive spark in the third inning, but it allowed them to retake the lead and now the Yankees will have to fight back.

If that’s the reason the Yankees lose the game, it will have been a significant blunder, which must be taken seriously.

NASCAR: Brad Keselowski dominates New Hampshire’s final stage

Brad Keselowski, Nascar

The NASCAR Cup Series returned to action in front of spectators at New Hampshire, where Brad Keselowski beat out Denny Hamlin for the win.

With spectators welcomed back into the stands on a limited basis, Brad Keselowski gave the New England faithful a show on Sunday afternoon.

The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford led the final 81 laps of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to clinch his third victory of the 2020 season. He joins Kevin Harvick and Sunday’s runner-up Denny Hamlin at the only three-time winners this season.

“(We) just had a great car and a great team effort,” Keselowski said in a postrace Zoom conference. “I was able to get into a really good rhythm at certain points in the race, just kind of take control. That felt really good. Third win of the year, but first kind of win where we’ve been able to kind of take control of the race.”

Keselowski had a healthy 1.6-second margin of victory over Hamlin, but the pair held the lead for all but 25 circuits of the 301-lap event. Hamlin, who wound up leading 92, threatened to take Keselowski lead over the final third of the race, which saw three quick cautions thanks to incidents involving Matt Kenseth and John Hunter Nemechek.

Once Keselowski was able to pull away from Hamlin, however, he coasted to victory, the 33rd of a Cup Series career that began in 2008.

“I thought we put on a great race. I was really proud of it,” Keselowski said of his battle with Hamlin. “I’m proud of it for our sport and for our team, proud for our sport because we got away from rules that didn’t make for good races and we went to rules that I think made for good driver battles. Denny and I had a heck of a driver battle.”

Starting the race in fourth, Keselowski took the lead from pole-sitter Aric Almirola on the third lap and never truly looked back. Hamlin had won the first 75-lap stage and nearly took the second one lasting 115. But Keselowski’s pass on a two-lap shootout brought out by Kenseth’s first incident more or less served as permanent momentum shifter.

Chase Elliott spent some time out front while Keselowski and Hamlin pitted, but the No. 2 settled things after Nemechek’s crash.

The win comes just as the Cup Series descends upon Michigan International Speedway for a doubleheader next weekend. Keselowski, who is set to be a free agent after this season, has yet to win at his “home” track, which is 90 minutes away from his birthplace of Rochester Hills. The first half comes on Saturday afternoon in the form of the FireKeepers Casino 400 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

“I’m pretty pumped. We’ve been really running well,” he said. “I haven’t quite executed perfectly until this weekend. I think we have a great shot of doing just that at Michigan. Competition is going to be really tough.  I think we all know how good Harvick is on those really big tracks. I’m going to have to be perfect to beat him.”

Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. recovered from a pit road penalty to finish third. Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano was fifth while Harvick rounded out the top five.

Race Notes

  • It was another tough day for Kyle Busch, whose No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota came home last in 38th. Busch lasted only 15 laps, as he made hard contact with the wall after losing a tire.

 

  • Almirola’s streak of consecutive finishes in the top ten was extended to nine after a seventh-place finish.

 

  • Rookies Cole Custer (8th) and Tyler Reddick (10th) each earned top ten finishes.

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Why James Bradberry Will Thrive In The Giants’ New Defensive Scheme

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants made a splash in free agency this offseason when the signed cornerback James Bradberry. Bradberry was one of the top cornerbacks on the market this year and the Giants paid him like it. New York signed James Bradberry to a three-year, $43.5 million deal ($14.5 on average annually).

James Bradberry has spent the entirety of his four-year NFL career with the Carolina Panthers after being drafted there in 2016. The New York Giants’ current general manager, Dave Gettleman, was the general manager of the Panthers at the time of Bradberry’s drafting. The connection was clear and the Giants were considered a top landing spot for Bradberry prior to the start of free agency.

The Giants gave James Bradberry a big payday. But does he deserve this contract and why did the Giants give him this contract?

James Bradberry Stats and Highlights

According to ESPN, 21% of James Bradberry’s career coverage snaps have been while aligned against Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, or Mike Evans. Bradberry has faced some of the NFL’s best wide receivers on a consistent basis playing in the NFC South. ESPN notes that Bradberry “ranks 12th in the NFL with 47 passes defended, as well as 14th among corners in interceptions (eighth) and second in tackles (279)” since 2016.

At 26-years-old, James Bradberry is the oldest cornerback on the Giants’ roster. But he is still a young player with a promising future ahead. One could argue that no cornerback in the NFL has had a more challenging start to their career, facing off against the best wide receivers in the NFL. Bradberry has handled this situation incredibly well. Here is a look at how he fared against the league’s best in 2019:

James Bradberry locked up nearly every receiver he faced off against in 2019. None of those elite receivers Bradberry faced were able to top 100 yards against Bradberry. A key trait that James Bradberry is bringing over from Carolina is the ability to shadow receivers. In 2019, former-Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins complained in the media for not being allowed to shadow receivers. Presumably, it did not fit James Bettcher’s game plan.

Why Bradberry Will Thrive In Patrick Graham’s Scheme

In 2020, the Giants’ game plan is bound to change under Patrick Graham. The acquisition of James Bradberry indicates that the Giants will have their top cornerback shadow opposing wide receivers since that is what Bradberry is best at. James Bradberry also thrives while playing press-man coverage, another staple in Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme.

The Giants have built a defensive scheme around their players’ skillsets, rather than plugging players into a scheme and trying to make it work, like the last regime. James Bradberry will thrive in the New York Giants’ new defensive scheme. Hopefully, the rest of the secondary can thrive with him.

BREAKING: New York Jets release Brian Winters Saving Cap Space

New York Jets, Brian Winters

Brian Winters has been a mainstay of the New York Jets’ offensive line for the past 7 years. From a third round pick out of Kent State in 2013, to being one of the most efficient lineman the Jets have had in the last few years, Winters has grown while in Green and White. Now, it unfortunately looks like his time donning the green and white colors has come to an end.

Why did the New York Jets release Winters?

Recently, I wrote a piece highlighting how Winters’ veteran presence could make him integral to the offensive line next season, now the Jets will continue to move forward with the offensive line overhaul. After signing Greg Van Roten in the offseason to play guard, and drafting Cameron Clark, it became apparent Winters was not in the long term plans. My initial thought process was he’d be a transitional piece for this season to allow the line to gel quicker, but now the Jets will count on offensive line coach, Frank Pollack to get the unit together in time to play Buffalo week one.

As for Winters, he will likely find a home elsewhere. He’s only 29 and despite battling injuries, he’s been somewhat efficient. As a fan, despite the $7 million freed up with his release, my heart breaks for Winters. He’s given his blood, sweat and tears to this organization. He’s grown from a rookie to a father with this team and it’s sad to see him go. With that said, he’s also a competitor and with so much football left in him I don’t think he would want to sit behind a new line and be slowly phased out. This gives him a chance to compete for a role elsewhere and hopefully find a new home. So, in the end, it’s a win-win for both sides.

Now, the Jets just built themselves an intriguing position battle. The team must figure out if Greg Van Roten, the former panthers mainstay, can hold the starting job, or if the feisty rookie, Cameron Clark can steal it away. 

Knicks reportedly want to add a number of player development coaches to staff

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The New York Knicks are a very young team, and with seven first-round draft picks over the next four years they aren’t getting any younger. Knicks president Leon Rose seems to understand the importance of player development, and according to Ian Bagley of SNY he’s making a big effort to address that department:

There is internal consideration in the organization to hire a significant number of player-development coaches for Thibodeau’s staff, per SNY sources.

To clarify, these coaches would not be replacing the assistant coaches Thibodeau would want to bring in for his staff. Instead, they’ll be hired in addition to Thibodeau’s coaches, which means that the Knicks coaching staff will be expanding.

This is a very logical and smart move by Rose and the Knicks, as the development of their young roster is critical to the team’s success both now and long-term. Thibodeau seemed to be in lockstep with Rose on this, as he pointed out the need for strong player development during his introductory press conference on Thursday.

Begley also mentions how former Knicks head coach David Fizdale had one of the smallest player development staff and coaching staff in general during his tenure. It seems expanding player development coaching has become a common practice around the league, with other teams, especially rebuilding ones, already going down that path in recent years.

Thibodeau also stated that he plans to utilize the G League in regards to player development as well. This is very encouraging and something the Knicks didn’t really take advantage of last year. It was reported over the last couple of days that former vice president of player development Craig Robinson wanted to give some of the young players who weren’t seeing a lot of minutes more time in the G League so they could get more playing time, but general manager Scott Perry, who Rose retained, felt as if it would be too big of a demotion.

Fortunately, it seems as though Rose and Thibodeau are on the same page in that they believe in using the G League more, so hopefully, they stick to that thinking cause it can really be beneficial.

Overall, it seems as though the new Knicks regime is serious about making sure they are able to properly develop their youth, and expanding the coaching staff to bring in more people that specialize in that area is a very wise move. It will be interesting to see who the Knicks add to pair with Thibodeau and the coaches he chooses to join him.

Brutal fourth quarter befalls New York Liberty in fight against Phoenix

Tough showings in the first and final frames doomed the New York Liberty on Sunday. It was their first full showdown sans Sabrina Ionescu.

The bookend quarters of a Sunday afternoon showdown with the Phoenix Mercury doomed the New York Liberty. In the first and final frames, Phoenix outpaced New York by a 59-23 margin in the Bradenton bubble in those timeframes. Those bursts over two separate 10-minute spans allowed them to coast to a 96-67 triumph.

Sunday marked the Liberty’s first full game without top overall pick Sabrina Ionescu, who was relegated to the bench two days after suffering a sprained ankle against Atlanta on Friday. Ionescu was certainly missed on the floor at crucial stages of the game.

Phoenix jumped out to an early lead, capping off the first quarter with a 25-12 lead. The Liberty were able to keep the deficit at a relatively stable 41-27 despite earning only eight conversions from the field and earning a majority of their points from the foul line. New York also failed to hit any of their 16 three-point attempts in the first half.

In the third, the undermanned Liberty (0-4) made things interesting by taking advantage of foul trouble from Brittney Griner and Sophie Cunningham by attacking the interior and whittling a 16-point Phoenix lead to as little as two. Late antics from Diana Taurasi pushed Phoenix’s lead back to seven at 62-55, but there was still a chance for a decent showing.

Alas for New York, the Mercury (2-2) instantly took advantage of Griner’s reinsertion. She opened the quarter with a pair of three-point plays, setting the pace for a quarter that Phoenix won by a 34-11 margin. Former Liberty starter Bria Hartley set a career-best in scoring for the second straight game with 27 points (10-of-18 FG) off the bench while Taurasi fell just short of a double-double (18 points, 9 rebounds).

The Liberty were paced by Kia Nurse with 17 points. They shot 24 percent from the field overall with only Kylee Shook (3-of-6) getting to at least a 50-percent conversation rate.

New York and Phoenix will meet for a rematch in September. The Liberty return to action on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Lynx (7 p.m. ET, CBSSN/Fox Sports Go).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Mets: Cespedes Absence and Opt Out Looms Over 4-0 Loss

New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes

It was the same story but a different day for the New York Mets, but the mysterious absence then opt out of Yoenis Cespedes became the talk of the game in their 4-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. As for the players who were on the field, they failed to take advantage of ten hits in the shutout.

It was another chapter in the book of stupidity from the franchise. There were multiple reasons why the Mets made a dumb decision by releasing their statement as early as they did. Brodie Van Wagenen released it shortly after game time, and it became more talked about than the game itself. The Mets also released the statement knowing as much information as we did. They could have held off on releasing any statement at all until they received any new information.

We had to wait until the game ended to find out Cespedes is opting out for the rest of the season. It is a sad ending to a tenure that started in brilliance in 2015. Like we saw with other Cespedes teams in the past his attitude and character forced him to move from team to team. It was clear that his performance was the dictating factor for his opt-out, using “COVID” reasons for his opt-out. Should he have played well, there is no reason why he would not have remained with the team.

There Was a Game Today?

At this point, it is comical at how bad the Mets are at driving in runs. They continued their struggles with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-15, and leaving 13 total runners on base. Strikeouts and double plays kill the Mets as well. They had 11 on the day, and both double plays killed key rallies. For once, the Mets received decent pitching, but the offense, like Cespedes, was absent.

David Peterson gave the Mets another solid start to build on his debut. The rookie pitched six innings, allowing two runs and striking out eight. Peterson used his slider to keep the Braves off-balance, and it helped get swing and misses on his fastball. He also ran into trouble during the third and fourth innings, which could have ended his outing early. Peterson got stronger after that, retiring the final eight batters he faced.

Edwin Diaz pitched after Peterson and immediately walked the first batter he faced. It prompted a visit from pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, and it looked like he did a majority of the talking to get Diaz’s mind in check. Diaz responded great by recording a strikeout and getting a soft liner that Robinson Cano turned into a double play. The outing is a good step in the right direction for Diaz’s attempt to revive his career.

Hot and Cold

Jeff McNeil and Robinson Cano continued doing all they could to attempt to get the Mets on the board. McNeil added another three hits to move his average up to .343, and Cano recorded a hit that extended his hitting streak to 6-games.

Pete Alonso had the worst looking game of his season-long slump. He went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and left six runners on base. Alonso’s lack of approach showed an anxious hitter who is overthinking at the moment. There is no doubt that he will find his way out of it, but manager Luis Rojas has to think about dropping him in the order until he at least puts together better at-bats.

At 3-7 on the season, they need a tremendous turnaround or a season cancellation to put themselves out of their misery. With the way they are driving runs now, there is no end in sight for the Mets failures. On Monday, the Mets attempt to avoid the sweep as Jacob deGrom takes the mound in an attempt to end the five-game losing streak. He faces off against his Opening Day counterpart Mike Soroka. The first pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET.