New York Giants: Evan Engram Adamant About Not Chasing A Contract

New York Giants, Evan Engram

2020 is the second to last year of the current contract for New York Giants tight end Evan Engram. So far, the team hasn’t gotten what they drafted him for, after a rookie season where Engram was one of the league’s most promising offensive players. Injury troubles have befallen the tight end and some have questioned Engram’s effort on the field too, citing problems such as making catches.

However, Engram has other things on his mind than a new contract, despite being somewhat on the hot seat. A better performance this year would be a big start in securing a huge deal like the five year one that George Kittle signed recently. But the fundamentals come first, or at least, Engram claims he’s thinking of those instead of a contract.

Evan Engram explains what he’s focusing on

It looks like Engram will imitate the contributions that Kittle and Travis Kelce have made to their teams – rather than chase after their big deals.

“I think it’s awesome for those guys. They’ve worked their butts off, they’re very talented guys and leaders of their team,” Engram told reporters. “That’s kind of my motivation right now, is to just come in and continue to get better with my talents and to continue to push my team. I’m not going to worry about the numbers and the contracts. My focus right now is just becoming a better leader and a better teammate and a better football player.”

And that could involve stepping up in multiple areas of the game. Not just the passing game, where Engram’s talents are most known.

“I’m basically just going to come in and do what I’m asked every day. That’s being a complete football player. That’s being physical in the run game, that’s being dynamic and flexible in the pass game. We have a lot of talent on our team. I just need to come in and do my part, continue to work as a unit and to be successful on Sundays,” he continued.

While it’s easy to say this is just typical player speak and that no one would openly admit to focusing on money first, Engram does have a good reason to focus on the fundamentals and making an impact for his team. He played in a career low 8 games last season and had a career low in yards, too.

He’s a player of the previous coaching regime, and if he doesn’t perform, he may quickly find himself in the dog house this season.

The Giants still have some hope for Engram and they showed that by not moving on from him and sending him to some other team that’s willing to bet on his potential. Hopefully, this year, their trust is repaid with good performance on the field.

UFC: Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell to face Andre Fili

Bryce Mitchell

The UFC is finalizing an exciting featherweight contest for their Fight Night on Halloween. Per MMA Junkie, Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell (13-0) will take on Andre “Touchy” Fili (21-7) on October 31st.

This will definitely be one of the more anticipated matchups on the UFC‘s Halloween card. The card is currently scheduled to be headlined by a matchup between Anderson Silva and Uriah Hall.

One of the UFC’s brightest prospects

Thug Nasty is one of the brightest young fighters in the UFC. Mitchell has defeated all four opponents he’s faced so far in the UFC, and he even pulled off a Twister against Matt Sayles at UFC on ESPN 7.

While Mitchell is a well rounded fighter, he is known for his incredible skills on the ground. Out of his 13 professional wins, nine of them have come via submission. He’s extremely creative off of his back, and there is really never a safe moment for opponents when the fight hits the mat. Mitchell just debuted at 15th in the UFC’s featherweight rankings.

Andre Fili will be the toughest test for Bryce Mitchell so far in his UFC career. Fili has been in there with some of the better guys in the division. In his UFC career, Fili has fought guys like Yair Rodriguez, Calvin Kattar, Michael Johnson, and Sodiq Yusuff.

While Fili has lost to those four top level guys, he’s battle tested against some of the best. Despite those losses, he does hold impressive wins over Myles Jury, Dennis Bermudez, and Charles Jourdain. Fili is extremely well rounded and he will pose some interested challenges for Mitchell.

This is a fantastic matchup in the UFC‘s featherweight division. If Mitchell is able to get through Fili, it will say a lot about his potential moving forward. If Fili is able to stop the hype train, it will be his second win in a row, and it might warrant a top ten opponent.

New York Giants: Recapping Today’s Practice 8/25

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Sterling Shepard

The New York Giants had another late practice session tonight, wrapping up well after seven p.m. Practice was halted for a while too, as lightning was striking in the surrounding area. Because of this, media coverage was limited, but they were able to drop some tidbits on today’s practice session.

Injury update

Darius Slayton returned to practice today. Jabrill Peppers and Shane Lemieux also participated after leaving practice early on Thursday.

Ryan Connelly, Nate Ebner, Spencer Pulley, and Eli Penny did not participate in practice today. They all worked on the side with the training staff (via Art Stapleton).

Highlights

There was finally a fight at Giants practice today. Lorenzo Carter and Evan Engram got into a scrum. Engram’s helmet was thrown off his head. Head coach Joe Judge determined that Carter was in the wrong, so he sent him for a lap.

Later on, Sterling Shepard scored a nice touchdown reception with James Bradberry in coverage. Shepard celebrated to get back at the defense, jumping into the arms of Nick Gates. Later on, Shepard dropped a potential touchdown pass in a two-minute drill, and the defense got after him for that.

Giants’ practice is intensifying as we inch closer to the regular season. With no preseason due COVID-19, Joe Judge is making sure to work his players hard to prepare for the season. Judge even said today that the team is considering having Daniel Jones take off his no-hitting red jersey to get him acclimated to the hits of football (via Matt Lombardo).

The Giants wrapped up another intense practice today, as Joe Judge continues to set the tone for his new team. With less than three weeks left until the Giants’ first regular-season game, do not expect to see the Giants take their foot off the pedal anytime soon.

New York Yankees V Atlanta Braves game cancelled: What now?

New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium

The New York Yankees were scheduled for a 7:00 PM start against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday in a two-game series. However, nothing can seem to go right these days as the contest was postponed due to inclement weather. The Yankees will now face off against the Braves in a doubleheader starting at 4:10 PM on Wednesday.

The Yankees have three doubleheaders schedule this week, one against the Braves and two against New York Mets. The Yankees missed a four-game series against the Mets over the weekend due to positive COVID-19 tests. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, one player and one coach both contracted the virus, forcing the teams to reschedule their games.

For the Yankees, they reinstated star slugger Aaron Judge to the active roster, making him available for Tuesday’s game. However, he will now have to wait one more day to return to action.

New York Yankees schedule for the next few days:

8/26: Doubleheader at ATL

8/27: Off

8/28: Doubleheader vs. NYM

8/29: Single game vs. NYM

8/30: Doubleheader vs. NYM

New York Giants set to sign former 3rd round corner Brandon Williams, here’s what you need to know

New York Giants, Brandon Williams

The New York Giants are extremely thin at the corner position, having most recently brought in undrafted free agent Prince Smith. With DeAndre Baker on the commissioner’s exempt list and Sam Beal opting out of the 2020 season, finding players to compete has been difficult. The Giants were close to signing Ross Cockrel, but the deal fell through at the final moment.

However, the Giants went out and signed former third-round pick for the Arizona Cardinals, Brandon Williams. While Williams still has to go through COVID-19 protocols and a physical, expectation is that he will now enter the fold a cornerback.

With about three weeks left until the start of the regular season, he doesn’t have much time to learn the playbook and compete for the starting spot, but it is never a bad idea to add competition.

Despite taking 2019 off, Williams has made appearances in every game from 2017-18 but has only 12 combine tackles to show for it. He plays predominately on special teams, having served 71% of snaps in 2018.

I believe this might be a signing to supplement the loss of Cody Core, who unfortunately went down with a torn Achilles.

New York Knicks ‘all in’ on Fred VanVleet this offseason (Report)

The New York Knicks could have upwards of $40 million in cap space this offseason, which heavily depends on what they do with the 2020-21 team options they hold on multiple players. A soon-to-be free agent who has been linked and has yet again been connected to the Knicks is Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet.

According to Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School, some members of the Knicks front office are “all in” on signing VanVleet.

According to a league source with knowledge of the Knicks thinking, some members of New York’s front office are “all in” on VanVleet as a free agent target, feeling that he is the best available player on the market. Despite speculation that the front office is not looking to add any long term money to the books, the source said they are planning on being involved in the sweepstakes for the combo guard this October.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Monday that the Knicks are one of a handful of teams expected to pursue the guard this offseason.

VanVleet is in his first year as a full-time starter. Across 54 regular season games he averaged 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 41.3 percent from the field and 39.0 percent from beyond the arc.

The Wichita State product averaged 21.3 points, 7.8 assists, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 52.7 percent from the field and 55.9 percent from beyond the arc in the Raptors’ first-round series sweep of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Knicks’ point guard depth chart includes 22-year-olds Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. and the recently acquired Jared Harper, who spent most of the 2019-20 season in the NBA G-League. Veteran Elfrid Payton has an $8 million team option for the 2020-21 NBA season.

The Knicks own three draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft: their own first and second rounder (8, 38) and the Los Angeles Clippers’ first rounder (27).

Auburn wing Isaac Okoro ‘has support’ in the Knicks organization (Report)

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The New York Knicks select eighth in the 2020 NBA Draft and reportedly have interest in Auburn wing Issac Okoro.

An NBA source tells Marc Berman of the New York Post that Okoro “has support among Knicks brass.”

Okoro played one season at Auburn, starting all 28 games he appeared in. He averaged 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and two assists per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Berman mentions that Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said the Knicks have done their “due diligence” on Okoro.

“They’ve done their homework on him,” Pearl told The Post recently. “I didn’t get a read on it, but they’ve done their due diligence.”

If Okoro falls and is selected by the Knicks, he would likely be a day-one starter alongside 2019 first-round draft pick RJ Barrett.

Other potential wing/forward options for the Knicks at eight include Florida State’s Devin Vassell, Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith and Villanova’s Saddiq Bey. SNY’s Ian Begley reported last week that Vassell has “some fans” in the Knicks organization.

In the scenario they select a point guard at eight, such as Killian Hayes or UNC’s Cole Anthony, the Knicks could draft a wing/forward with their second first-round draft pick (27). Potential options at said position are Louisville’s Jordan Nwora and Colorado’s Tyler Bey.

The Knicks pick in the top 10 of the NBA Draft for the fourth consecutive season. Last year they drafted Barrett out of Duke with the third pick; the year prior they drafted Kentucky forward Kevin Knox at nine; in 2017 they drafted French point guard Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick.

New York has revamped its front office and coaching staff over the last seven months, most notably hiring former agent Leon Rose as team president and former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau as head coach. Former Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne and former Utah Jazz assistant Johnnie Bryant have joined Thibodeau’s coaching staff.

New York Islanders: 2 Key Players to Game 1’s Win

New York Islanders, Islanders

The New York Islanders defeated the Philidelphia Flyers 4-0 last night, as they take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 1 has gone to the Island a lot recently. The isles took game one against the Penguins, Panthers, Capitals, and now Flyers, all in 2 years. This was not your average game one, though. This was not the back n’ forth neutral zone trap play that everyone was expecting. No, last night was domination from both teams. The Isles killed it in the 1st and 3rd period, but the Flyers won the second period. Despite this, the Islanders exercised their second-round demons. No wins in the second round for four years, until last night. And there were two key players who helped accomplish that.

Andy Greene

How many goals did that second-round pick that Greene was traded for, score? That’s right, no one knows. Lou Lamoriello was laughed at by the critics for trading a 2nd round pick for a 38-year-old defenseman. This trade keeps looking better and better for the Islanders. Andy Greene opened up the scoring last night with a wicked shot from the blue line that snuck right under Carter Hart’s glove.

This was the first time in 10 years that Greene scored a playoff goal. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, though. This goal gave the Islanders the momentum they needed to shutout the Flyers. Greene also had an incredible skate save in the defensive zone. Travis Konecny had a wide-open net, and Greene shut it down with his right skate. Andy Greene was phenomenal last night.

Semyon Varlamov

The MVP chants just keep getting louder for goalie Semyon Varlamov. This marks the first time in Islanders history that a goalie had back to back shutouts in the playoffs. Varlamov is less than a minute away from breaking Billy Smith’s record for most time without giving up a goal. Just over 136 minutes played with nothing lighting the lamps. Varlamov has been what every Isles fan wanted and more. Varlamov currently has a 1.50 GAA, and a .941 save percentage. 1.50 GAA is a ridiculous stat for a professional goaltender, especially one in the playoffs. Islander fans used to be afraid when a puck went on the net, but not anymore.

Conclusion

The Islanders have a long road to go if they want to hoist the Stanley Cup, but taking game one will definitely help on their journey.

New York Knicks have the right tools to navigate delicate Draft

New York Knicks, Anthony Edwards

There’s a great debate on what’s the best course of action after the New York Knicks fell to the eight spot in the NBA Draft.

During Rose’s first interview back in June, he already hinted at how the Knicks view this year’s Draft class.

“It’s interesting, this draft, there’s a couple of guys that might stand out, and after that, I think there’s a lot of equality,’’ Rose said. 

Perhaps Rose was referring to the enigmatic LaMelo Ball, their top point guard in their board, and Georgia’s Anthony Edwards

After those two young studs with the most obvious star potential, it’s going to be a guessing game.

“I think there’s a lot of guys that are close with different skill sets, different positives, different negatives. It’s funny, each scout, there are varying opinions. A lot more varying opinions than in past years,” he added.

With a roster lacking in star power, the Knicks are still years away from building a contender.  But with a Draft capital and a large salary cap space, they are also in a good position to accelerate their timeline via trades and the free agency.

The Knicks have a decision to make that could have a domino effect in their rebuilding plan. The upcoming Draft should be the first domino to fall.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors have hinted that they’re open to trading the top two picks.  The Knicks are expected to survey the asking price of those picks.

“It all depends on what they’d have to give up. I do like the idea of Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball in a New York Knicks uniform, but at what price? I’m not sure I’d be willing to take out a second mortgage on the house to move up,” NBA Draft analyst Matt Babcock of Babcock Hoops told Empire Sports Media.

In a Draft that is so wide open, the Knicks are looking at all options, including sticking with their pick or trading down to accumulate more assets according to a source familiar of the Knicks’ front office thinking.

Even without a top-three pick, the Knicks could still wind up with the best player of the Draft, according to ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla. 

But even taking the next best available player at No.8 is tricky.

“I think general managers using the line “we will take the best player available” can be misleading. Each team’s big board is different and catered to their own team and needs. With that said, in most cases, a team “taking the best player available” would likely be a healthy balance of talent and team need, naturally, which is the way it should be,” Babcock explained.

Babcock, the former NBA agent turned Draft analyst, said the Knicks have plenty of options at No. 8.  It will just boil down to their priorities.

“Out of the group of players that I’m expecting to be on the board at that pick, I think the Knicks should take a look at a handful of different guys that could be good fits: Isaac Okoro from Auburn, Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams from Florida State, or point guards Tyrese Halliburton and Kira Lewis from Iowa State and Alabama, respectively,” Babcock said.

For a Knicks team that has so many holes to plug, it’s going to be trickier.  But in the Draft that could be without in-personal draft workouts and interviews, Rose and his team are built for this.

Draft intel should be king. And Rose has managed to surround himself with a solid team that has built relationships across and outside the league.  He has World Wide Wes and Draft guru Walter Perrin to lean on.  Kenny Payne’s connections in college basketball and AAU circuits could also come in handy.

“My general feeling is that if a scout does a good job throughout the year, they should have a good grip on a player’s on-court talent. The typical pre-draft process should be more of an opportunity for scouts to get a feel for a player off the court by interviewing them and doing extensive background research. Of course, teams haven’t been able to meet with players in person recently, but I don’t think teams are being held back from gathering the necessary information too much,” Babcock said.

Back in April, when Perrin was still with the Utah Jazz, he raised his concerns on the lack of in-person interviews in this KSL Sports report.

“With a phone interview, you’re not able to see body language,” Perrin warned. “In a live interview, you can see how guys react to certain questions that may not be facial. I feel you may get a better sense of how well they answer a question, how much trouble, or the struggles they may have coming up with an answer. I personally think it’s better to see them live.”

On-court performances are just the tip of the iceberg.  There are so many factors why amateur standouts don’t pan out in the NBA and why late-round picks or undrafted players become stars. Half of the equation is talent.  The other half is the mental makeup and character of a player.

“Personality for us is very big,” Perrin said. “Background intel is big with us. Certain franchises and I would not say us per se, but speaking in generalities, talent outweighs character, other teams would be character over talent, and other teams would be character plus talent. I would hope when we look at it character is big naturally, but talent is also big.”

For a team that has long been wallowing in dysfunction, it is a whiff of fresh air to have someone like Perrin in the front office. The Knicks must get this Draft right to have a foundational start in their rebuilding.  It appears that the new regime has the right tools, this time, to navigate this delicate Draft.

New York Mets Series Preview: Miami Marlins (8/25-8/27)

The New York Mets are finally back in action after a couple of positive COVID-19 tests halted their season. They will pick up with the same team they left off against in the Miami Marlins. Their schedule is jammed packed for the next week, and it starts with four games in three days.

Probable Pitching Matchups

Tuesday, 8/25 @ 5:10 p.m. ET: Daniel Castano (0-2, 5.91 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (1-3, 5.76 ERA)

Tuesday, 8/25 @ Directly After the First Game: TBD vs. Seth Lugo (1-2, 2.61 ERA)

Wednesday, 8/26 @ 7:10 p.m. ET: Elieser Hernandez (1-0, 2.29 ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (2-0, 1.93 ERA)

Thursday, 8/27 @ 7:10 p.m. ET: Sixto Sanchez (1-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. TBD

For everyone speculating about who the Met with COVID is, we have our list narrowed down to two. Tomas Nido and Andres Gimenez were put on the injured list without a specific injury, which is the norm when it is a COVID-19 related listing. The player without a positive test is on the IL likely due to close contact with the staff member who tested positive.

Back to the Schedule

The Marlins are a team familiar with returning to the field after a long layoff. They have to miss a large chunk of their schedule after the virus spread throughout their team very early in the season. It stunted their hot start to the season, and their record has not recovered yet.

Rick Porcello gets the first start of the twi-night doubleheader and looks to continue his good stretch on the mound. After putting up a 13.50 ERA during his first two starts, he has a 3.32 ERA since despite hitters batting over .300 against him over that stretch. One of those two numbers is going to balance out the other. It is tough to maintain success when batters are continuously getting on base.

Seth Lugo also returns to the starting rotation for the first time since the 2018 season. Lugo will remain in the rotation as long as he pitches well, but the Mets will have to be careful when building up his stamina. He has been pitching with a partially torn UCL, and there has to be a concern that becoming a starter will cause more damage if pushed too far. As such a valuable asset to the Mets pitching staff, the Mets desperately need him healthy.

Matchups to Look Out For

Jacob deGrom vs. Lewis Brinson: 4-for-22 (.182), Double, 8 Strikeouts

Jacob deGrom vs. Jon Berti: 6-for-15 (.400), 3 Doubles, 2 Strikeouts

Dominic Smith w/RISP: .318/.393/.682, Home Run, 15 RBI

Seth Lugo Career As a Starter: 13-8, 4.06 ERA, 31 Starts