New York Giants: Lorenzo Carter Breaks Out in Blue-White Scrimmage

New York Giants, Lorenzo Carter

The New York Giants thought they had a steal on their hands when they selected Georgia linebacker Lorenzo Carter in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Carter played in 15 games, starting two, and recored four sacks and had four passes defensed. Last year, he started 12 games but his stats barely improved.

The plateauing had the Giants a little concerned. The book on Carter, a high school stud who had a college career that fell below expectations, was that he flashes on some plays then disappears on others. The incoming Giants’ coaching staff, specifically outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema, faced the challenge of unlocking Carter’s massive potential in Year Three.

So far, so good. Carter was absolutely dominant in the Giants’ first full-team scrimmage on Friday night, racking up four “sacks” and looking very much like a player who has taken that next step in his career. Carter may have had five sacks on the night. Since the quarterbacks are in red jerseys, defenders are not allowed to bring them to the ground, so sacks are basically imaginary during scrimmages.

“Zo has been very particular in training camp, he has made a lot of improvement,” head coach Joe Judge said after the scrimmage. “He plays with a high motor. He is developing a skill set to really expand on what his game has been in the past. Bret (Bielema) is doing a phenomenal job with him. The offensive line, to be honest with you, it’s live competition. We’re going out there, there’s some different tools we can use to help these guys in games. We chose to keep this a little bit vanilla tonight so it takes a little bit of tools you can use through game planning away from it. We have to see more improvement in the on one matchups and how they handle it across the board.”

Carter, who usually plays the WILL linebacker role in the Giants’ 3-4 alignment, was on the field for 65% of the Giants’ defensive snaps in 2019 and only 40% of the snaps in his rookie season of 2018. Yet, his production, as stated, was basically identical.

Bielema, who coaches all of his charges evenly, recently spoke about Carter and another former linebacker the Giants selected in the third round of the draft, Oshane Ximines.

“I think the part that’s been fun to work with those two, and really the room in general, is they’ve bought into everything Joe (Judge) has talked about since day one,” said Bielema. ” As a positional coach, we go in there, we talk about specific things that pertain to outside linebacker play. It’s easy to see that both of them have a lot of talent, a lot of physical, raw skills that they’ve been able to hone and kind of be specific. But now to fit into our scheme, they’re going to work every day. They’re doing their daily grind, they keep stacking days together, and then hopefully the results will start to show up on Sundays the way they envision, the way we envision them, and hopefully everybody alike on the outside world as well. ”

The Giants will be in terrific shape if one or both of those players make the “leap” this season. As a fall back measure, they went out and signed Green Bay’s Kyler Fackrell and then adroitly tendered Markus Golden, who went unsigned this summer. Throw in former University of Minnesota star Carter Coughlin and the Giants have gone from a dearth of talent at the edge rusher spot to practically having an embarrassment of riches.

“A lot of talent, honestly. A lot of raw ability,” said Fackrell when sizing up the unit this week.  “I think we’ve been working, we’ve been getting a lot better in the one on ones and everything. That work has been great. We were watching some clips from last year with pressures and stuff. As a rookie, X produced. I think he had four, four and a half sacks, which is awesome for a rookie. The same kind of thing with Zo. He’s going into his third year. I think it’ll be… It’s a fun room, it’s a fun group to be a part of. The mixture of us as outside linebackers as well as all the talent in the interior d-line. I think third down is going to be a fun down.”

The Giants hope it is, too.

 

 

New York Yankees: Good news and bad news following an unlucky loss against the Mets in game two

New York Yankees, Aroldis Chapman

The New York Yankees were on top late yet again against the Mets. But the theme of the last few games for the Yankees seemed to come back once again. The Yankees were up 3-2 going into the bottom of the 7th. Aroldis Chapman came in the game and gave up a walk-off two-run home run to Amed Rosario. 

In the last two doubleheaders, the Yankees have been swept. That’s the seventh straight loss for New York, and it seems to be in worse fashion every game. Their inability to finish games is causing them to drop in the division race.

FINAL SCORE: 4-3

New York Yankees good news and bad news:

GOOD NEWS:

The Yankees put themselves in another situation to win. Without some of their best, the Yankees were close to pulling out a victory but simply couldn’t get over the hump. The Yankees are getting better on offense, which is a really encouraging sign. This loss, like many others during this streak, was very unlucky. When is the last time you saw a team hit a walk-off home run on the opposing team’s field? Now, there haven’t been many opportunities for something like that to happen, but it goes to show how weird this streak has been. Once the offense and pitching click, the Yankees will be a top tier team once again. 

Aaron Hicks is starting to get his swing back and looks more confident at the plate. His overall approach looks a lot better. That is very encouraging from a guy the Yankees expect a lot from. 

BAD NEWS:

The bullpen is struggling. The starting pitching lately has been great, and the staff has really given the Yankees a great chance to win in many games. The bullpen, however, is doing the opposite. In the second game, it was Aroldis Chapman. He gave up a walk-off home run and blew another Yankees lead. His fastball wasn’t there, and he was trying to force the slider too much. This caused one to hang over the middle of the plate. 

The Yankees will start to get their meat of the lineup back as the season continues. This will give them a chance to clean up the mess that they’ve made and hopefully regain dominance over the AL East once again.

New York Jets set to sign WR Donte Moncrief (Report)

New York Jets

Set to assist the New York Jets’ depleted receiving corps, the veteran Moncrief spent last season with Pittsburgh and Carolina.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the New York Jets are set to add veteran receiver Donte Moncrief. The receiver must first pass COVID-19 protocols before joining his new squad. Financial terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed.

Moncrief, who turned 27 earlier this month, entered the league as an early entry, third-round pick (90th overall) of the Indianapolis Colts in 2014. After four years in Indianapolis, he spent a year with the Jacksonville Jaguars before spending last season between Pittsburgh and Carolina. Overall, he has earned 2,561 yards on 204 receptions, good for 21 touchdowns, over six seasons so far.

Notably, Moncrief scored seven touchdowns in only nine games during the 2016 season while dealing with both a shoulder and hamstring issue. As a rookie, he earned a postseason touchdown with a 36-yard score from Andrew Luck in the Colts’ 26-10 win over Cincinnati in the wild-card round.

Fans of Moncrief’s new employers may remember him for a 67-yard touchdown against the Jets in a September 2018 get-together in Duval. Moncrief had a season-best 109 receiving yards in Jacksonville’s 31-12 win. To date, it’s his last 100-yard game.

Upon his arrival to camp, Moncrief, who also worked out with San Francisco, should help a depleted New York receiving corps that has been befallen by injury during their training camp proceedings. Potential top targets Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims have been dealing with injuries, as has undrafted standout Lawrence Cager. Head coach Adam Gase did mention that he expected Perriman to return to practice this weekend. Moncrief was one of several veteran receivers who auditioned to fill the gap. Kevin White was also in that group but the former first-round pick recently inked a deal with the aforementioned 49ers.

The Jets welcome back veteran slot man Jamison Crowder and also signed two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Hogan earlier this month. But beyond that, there is little experience, the rest of the roster populated by inexperienced veterans and undrafted free agents. Moncrief is expected to shore up that spot on the depth chart and add reliable hands to a developing offense.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson, William Byron prepare for Daytona battle

Jimmie Johnson, Williams Byron

As NASCAR’s regular season winds down, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and William Byron are in a “weird” situation.

NASCAR has changed a lot since Jimmie Johnson began his full-time Cup Series career in 2002. He has raced under the Winston, Nextel, Sprint, Monster Energy, and plain old Cup Series banners. His record-tying seven championships have been won under four different playoff formats. The entire full-time journey, set to end at the end of the season, has been spent in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

One thing hasn’t changed, however: Johnson is locked in an intense battle with a Hendrick teammate driving the No. 24 car.

It was Jeff Gordon, the man most associated with the No. 24, that personally scouted Johnson and got his Cup career rolling. Subsequent battles between the two have had lasting implications on NASCAR history and altered the Cup Series’ postseason picture. The battle ended upon Gordon’s retirement in 2015 but reignites in the most dramatic and sensational fashion at Daytona International Speedway.

The World Center of Racing’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 will host the NASCAR regular season final for the first time on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC). Johnson enters a familiar place on the schedule in the most unfamiliar spot: on the outside of the playoff picture and looking in. He’s four points out of the 16th and final seed…held by third-year driver William Byron, the new bearer of the No. 24. Only adding to the drama is the fact that Byron’s crew chief is Chad Knaus…who was atop the No. 48’s pit box for each of its seven titles.

The reality of the situation only hit Knaus through a conversation with Johnson after last weekend’s doubleheader at Dover International Speedway.

“I was like ‘man, it’s so weird that I’m going to be battling the No. 48 car going into Daytona’,” Knaus recalled when speaking with the media this week. “Then the next morning, at like 8 a.m., he sent me a text. He’s like ‘man, isn’t it weird that we’re competing with one another for this?’ So, we had a text right there and then we had a phone conversation a little bit later in the week. And hey, it is what it is. We’re both professionals here. We understand what’s going on. It’s racing. It’s competition.”

“Chad and I are great friends and have stayed really close through all that’s happened,” Johnson would say of the conversation. “Sure, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun at some different points here recently, but I wish him the best. We talk often. I want the best for Chad and his family, and for Chad and his race team.”

“We certainly both look at the year and know there are moments that could have kept us both from being in this position, but it is what it is and we’re going to Daytona, which makes it even more awkward. We’ll see how things play out.”

Unlike Johnson’s relatively quiet Cup Series arrival, Byron entered the Cup Series with a fair amount of hype. He won a rookie record seven races in the Camping World (now Gander RV & Outdoor) Truck Series’ 2016 campaign and then took home the Xfinity Series title at the age of 19. When Hendrick Motorsports rebranded their No. 5 Chevrolet to be the iconic 24, it was Byron who was called upon to take over.

Nearly three years in, a combination of bad luck and strong competition has Byron still searching for his first Cup Series win. If it came at Daytona on Saturday, it would clinch his second consecutive playoff berth. He won a qualifying event at the track for the Daytona 500 back in February, but an early accident relegated him to a last-place finish in 40th. The No. 24 car has shown speed throughout the season, the development stifled by factors beyond Byron’s control. For example, he had the lead at Indianapolis in July and won the first stage, but a lost tire relegated him to a 27th-place finish.

Johnson, stuck at 83 wins in the midst of a career-long 119-race winless streak, was quick and eager to note the improvements Byron has made in his third year behind the wheel.

“He’s a true student of the sport and his life is dedicated to racing,” Johnson said. “With his interest in sim racing, he can literally day in and day out learn tracks, drive cars, think about racing, think about setups, interact with his team on that level. During my generation, we could go test quite a bit and we did a lot of that. But still, I think he can get more reps in today’s world than the world that I grew up in and it’s been really interesting to watch him grow in his path. I think he probably has the fastest path to a NASCAR Cup car in the history of our sport.”

“Hats off to him. He’s doing a great job and I know he’s going to be a tough competitor at Daytona.”

Knaus was moved to Byron’s garage after the latter’s rookie season. The driver, a Charlotte native, grew up watching Johnson dominate the Cup Series circuit. A childhood incident only adds to the Daytona intrigue. As a child, Byron trick-or-treated at Johnson’s home in Charlotte…dressed as Jeff Gordon.

Now, Byron can deal the cruelest trick of all: denying Johnson a playoff berth in his final full-time season.

“I think it’s a great storyline. Jimmie is the guy that I looked up to as a kid,” Byron said. “I was really a 48 fan through and through. I’ve got a lot of 48 stuff at my parent’s house and a lot of different diecast cars.”

But with the Hendrick competition topping the list of Daytona storylines, Byron has no intention of actively kicking Johnson out of the playoff bracket. In fact, he’s hoping that both cars can partake in the first postseason party on Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway. Their HMS teammates, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman, have already clinched their playoff spots through wins.

“I really don’t look at it as me versus him. I know that’s what the bubble is right now, but it really is an opportunity for both of us to get in,” Byron continued. “I’m trying to look at it (like) that. That’s ultimately the goal: to get both of us in. Jimmie is an awesome competitor and somebody I really look up to.”

“Hopefully, we both get in, you know?” Knaus asked rhetorically. “We both run really well at superspeedways. Hendrick Engines and the guys at the shop build some amazing race cars. So, hopefully, we can get out there and get some stage points and race well and get both the No. 24 and the No. 48 into the playoffs.”

Both Byron and Johnson can still get in on points, which would come at the expense of 15th-place Matt DiBenedetto (nine points ahead of Johnson in the cutoff). But the Daytona factor looms large over the proceedings.

As long as he’s competing for Cup Series points and is placed in the top 30 of the standings, Saturday’s winner will be partaking in the playoffs. Daytona’s propensity for tightly-packed racing and multi-car wrecks has created the perfect formula for surprise winners. Just last summer, in the most recent version of Daytona’s 400-mile event, Xfinity Series regular Justin Haley navigated his way through a big accident and a Floridan summer storm to earn an unlikely victory in the microbudget No. 77 Chevrolet of Spire Motorsports in just his second Cup start. Saturday’s field is rife with talented drivers that can steal the final spots. Both competitors are aware of the danger presented…both in the standings and on the track…but they’re loving every minute of it.

“It’s going to be great from a fan’s perspective,” noted Byron. “It’s going to be stressful in the car, but sometimes those are the most fun times and the most rewarding times in the race car, those times where you’re under pressure. It should be fun.”

Johnson is also excited, but perhaps a more accurate way to describe his Daytona mindset is one of peace. As he discussed with Knaus, opportunities were there to secure a playoff berth. There’s nothing he could’ve done about the Indianapolis event, sidelined due to a positive test for coronavirus, but a runner-up finish and the points that came with at Charlotte’s renowned Coca-Cola 600 in May was wiped out due to a failure at postrace inspection.

The calamities that have befallen 2020 have done nothing to change Johnson’s mind of retirement from full-time racing. His resume nonetheless continues to expand, adding the duty of professor to his resume through home-schooling his daughters Evie and Lydia. Having recently spoken on several societal issues since NASCAR’s return from the coronavirus-induced pause, Johnson expressed concern about the current state of the country but hopeful of what he’s seen from his children.

“At times, I’m discouraged by where we sit as a nation, as a world, and just how divided we all are,” Johnson admitted. “But then when I see my kids, their questions, and their genuine concern about the future of our country, of our environment, of racial inequality issues, gender-related issues, I do become encouraged. To hear a ten-year-old and a six-year-old weigh in on some conversations really has blown my mind. So, I do have some optimism for the future.”

On the track, Johnson isn’t looking to get sentimental. Whereas some see his final start at Daytona and what could be his final start in a “playoff” race, Johnson just sees an opportunity to drive his iconic Chevrolet again. That’s the way he wants it.

“We have a lot at stake and, again, it could be a great storybook ending for my last full-time race or race on an oval at Daytona. We all understand the storylines. I’m excited, I’m ready to go. I’m not one to spend too much time getting overly sentimental. I’m more excited about the opportunity to go racing and drive that 48 car. So, I’m just excited to get there and get to work.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Yankees News: Yesterday was a very difficult day for Yankee Manager Aaron Boone (video)

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone had a very tough day yesterday.  First, one must understand that everything that went on yesterday, happened under the shadow of the great Jackie Robinson.  Number 42 paved the way for black players to enter the major leagues. Jackie Robinson was an African American professional baseball player who broke Major Leagues Baseball’s infamous “color barrier” when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Until that time, professional ballplayers of color suited up for teams only in the Negro Leagues.

Yesterday MLB celebrated Jackie Robinson day.  The celebration usually takes place on April 15th, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration of his life was pushed forward to when baseball was actually being played. Yesterday on the Diamond Vision screen at Yankee Stadium images of Jackie Robinson’s career was shown. The bases were all marked with the number 42. All the Yankees and Mets players wore the number 42 on their backs. Famous New York Yankee and Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera was one of several active players who wore No. 42 when he began his career. Those active players already wearing the number were permitted to wear it until they retired. Rivera retired in 2013, and when his number 42 was finally retired in Monument Park, Jackie Robinson’s widow and daughter were at his side.

In a horribly ironic occurrence, the black star that played Jackie Robinson in the movie “42”, Chadwick Boseman died yesterday on Jackie Robinson day.  The talented star was just 43 years old. He died of colon cancer, which he had been battling since 2016.  Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack at the age of 53, at his Stamford, Connecticut home.

For Aaron Boone, the day started with the hope of curbing the slide, that the Yankees have suffered over the last several days, losing five games in a row.  That hope was dashed as the Yankees slipped to third place in the East Division, after losing two more, making it seven in a row.  This was particularly hard for Boone as the Yankees had the lead in both games of the doubleheader. In both cases, the Yankee bullpen gave up the lead. In game one Jordan Montgomery pitched five solid innings, only to have the Yankee’s most dependable reliever, Chad Green come into the game, and give up five runs that the Yankees could not recover from.

Game two was more of the same, being the seventh loss in a row, something the Yankees hadn’t done since Joe Girardi’s 2017 team. For the Yankees, it was an “opener game” started by Jonathan Loaisiga, who pitched one-run ball for three innings, striking out three on 39 pitches. Adam Ottavino, Nick Nelson, and Luis Cessa turned over a 3-2 lead to Chapman, who has yet to record a save after opening the season on the COVID-19 injured list. Zack Britton who covered for Chapman saved all of his eight tries. Chapman allowed a two-run walk-off homer to Amed Rosario.

Following the games, in a post-game interview, a clearly dejected Boone was asked a difficult question, that he became very emotional over and could not answer, abruptly leaving the room.

 

He recovered shortly thereafter, and stated about the games: “you have to quickly move on.”  On the matter of his black children, he said, his eyes puffy from just having fought back tears, had been asked if the Black Lives Matter movement may have resonated more with him because two of his four children are adopted, and black. “It’s been a hard and heavy year,” Boone said. “A heartbreaking year in so many ways.”

A very tough day for Boone for sure. Today the Yankees will again try to end the slide when New York Yankee pitcher J.A. Happ takes the mound in a matinee game at Yankee Stadium.

As a team, the New York Jets have relatively little to lose

New York Jets, Sam Darnold, James Morgan

Individually, the New York Jets have several make-or-break cases. It’s a shame because, from a 2020 point-of-view, they have little to lose.

In the latter stages of “Like a Rolling Stone”, Bob Dylan declares “when you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose”.

That’s certainly one way to look at the current state of affairs of the New York Jets. The team is the midst of a nine-year playoff drought (third-longest in the NFL) and, even with expanded playoff invitations, ending it will be a tall task. Established contenders populate the AFC (which will likely run through Kansas City until further notice) and the Jets were dealt a further blow with linebacker C.J. Mosley opting out.

But desperation creates difficult times. With no expectations, this could a time to break out of their shell, take chances, risk it all. After all, this is a team whose few veterans are getting quite sick of the piled-up defeats.

“I’ve been here four, going on five years and I’m tired of f***ing losing,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said earlier this month, per Andy Vazquez of NorthJersey.com. “So, now (we) just got to ramp (things) up and just try to get the ball rolling.”

New York Jets, Jordan Jenkins
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Entering his fifth season in green, Jenkins has been on the wrong end of many an NFL scoreboard. His collegiate career at Georgia endured only 13 losses. That number was surpassed by October of his sophomore season. A strong season (leading the Jets with eight sacks) led to the Jets welcoming him back for another year, but Jenkins, 26, perhaps has plenty to lose as his career enters a crossroads and he seeks to earn a long-term contract, be it in New York or elsewhere.

The Jets have 36 players due for free agency next offseason. They’re working with a coaching staff that may well be fighting for their jobs. At the same time, 2020 is a bit of a consequence-free season from a team standpoint. It’s anything but a Super Bowl-or-bust campaign. Everyone outside of Foxboro has the Buffalo Bills pegged to usurp the AFC East throne. Matching last year’s win total of seven may be a reasonable goal. Anything else would be a pleasant surprise. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not exactly a tragedy if the Jets miss out on the postseason party this year.

Thus, it’s on the guys whose positions are relatively safe to get things rolling and opening the book of chance up. Fortune can be risked. Moves can be made. It’s all about the Jets of the present and future working on something new. It’s on them to play a brand of risky Jets football that probably hasn’t been seen in a while. When was the last time, for example, you heard of a Jets trick play? Deep balls have been far and few in between. It’s time for the team to take risks on a year of no consequence.

Rookie safety Ashtyn Davis knows all about that brand of football. The Cal-Berkeley alum’s days as a Golden Bear were defined by a sense of nothing to lose as a walk-on player who had track to fall back on if the football experiment didn’t work out. He went on to be a crucial part of the Berkeley defense and special teams, becoming a regular on the Pac-12’s leaderboards. He played his way into consideration for the Burlsworth Trophy (awarded to the most outstanding Football Bowl Subdivision player who began his career as a walk-on) and into a third-round selection in April’s NFL Draft.

Set to be a big part of the New York defensive efforts as it was, Davis has a huge opportunity ahead upon the departure of Jamal Adams. His healthy reckless abandon, a willingness to immediately play two parts of the game (Davis has worked as both a returner and a gunner) has drawn the attention of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who hopes that veterans emulate such an attitude.

“I love the fact that he had to walk on and he had to do everything he could to just get a scholarship and get some time at the college level to play,” Williams said, per Kristian Dyer of Sports Illustrated. “But he’s done very well with everything we’ve seen, he’s going to have to slow down mentally and that’s what happens when any young guy comes into our league and this league is not one of those things where you just do a couple of things and let him go.”

“I’m a fast guy and special teams is just defense in space so it’s a good opportunity to show that I can do the things I need to do on defense as well as making a contribution on the field,” Davis added. “I’m competitive so as long as I’m on the football field so when I’m out on the field, regardless of what it is, I like doing it.”

Veterans can likewise roll with the continuing change and the potential to take risks and roll through. Quarterbacks entering a “make-or-break” year appears to be a theme in the Adam Gase era…it felt like Ryan Tannehill went through a decade of them in Miami…but this isn’t the case for Sam Darnold.

As the Jets continue to search for an offensive identity, Darnold has a chance to establish himself as a true leader and franchise man. The Jets’ receiving corps continues to develop and work itself out, a process that might get even lengthier with both Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims nursing injuries. But the potential of a bolstered offensive line gives him a good opportunity for a true breakout.

Considering the turnover Darnold has had to deal with in only two years as a New York starter (both the receiver corps and offensive line from Darnold’s rookie season are gone), it’s almost a miracle that he’s been able to flash his occasional brilliance under center. Stationed behind a group of blockers that has the most to lose on this squad, Darnold has a chance to develop chemistry and work on the personal issues that have prevented him from reaching his full potential, such as the deep ball. NFL Next Gen Stats had him ranked third-worst among starters in air yard distance (46.2).

“Continuing to work on deep-ball accuracy, is huge for me. (I) feel like I left some of those on the table last year,” Darnold said during the spring. “But with the weapons that we have now, we’re looking for good production from our wide receivers and running backs.”

Risks should even be on the table for those who have everything to lose. Marcus Maye has an opportunity to truly take over the New York defense. When he gets back on the field, Perriman has a chance to truly live up to his first-round potential and hit the reset button his career.

By no means, obviously, should this team even consider tanking or “trusting the process”. This isn’t the NBA, where a high draft pick proves more valuable than getting the 7th/8th seed. Seasons in the NFL are simply far too valuable to entertain that kind of thought.

But, as a team, healthy reckless abandon should be the name of the game. Not everyone is going to make it through this season of transition, one that will serve as an audition for many as the Jets try to prepare for potential glory days ahead. From a team standpoint, it’s time to take risks, make your own luck. If it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be. Who knows, the season could well play out the way many expect it to play out: another losing season and no playoff berth to show for it. If that’s the way it goes, at least work on the development. Risk and chance could well be the way to go.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Giants: 5 players to watch during intra-squad scrimmage

New York Giants, Darnay Holmes, Julian Love, Jabrill Peppers, DeAndre Baker, Xavier McKinney, Corey Ballentine

The New York Giants will face off in an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday evening, which will be aired Saturday on television. Fans will have a sneak peek at the team in action, after several weeks of watching practice highlights via social media.

Without the usage of the preseason, the Giants are utilizing a scrimmage against one another to provide a controlled environment for the players as they prepare their bodies for the regular season. The Giants face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 14, which is only a few weeks away.

This scrimmage will represent an opportunity for back-end roster players to showcase their skills in a live setting. It also provides rookie offensive lineman Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart with a chance to prove they can stand up to NFL level talent.

Ultimately, we will learn a lot from Friday’s live-action.

Five players to watch during the New York Giants’ intrasquad scrimmage:

1.) Corey Ballentine

With DeAndre Baker being placed on the commissioner’s exempt list and Sam Beal opting out of the 2020 season, second-year player Corey Ballantine is in line to earn starting reps at CB2. Coming out of Washburn University last year, Ballentine had a lot of catching up to do to adapt to the NFL. Ultimately, he had a tumultuous rookie season and has not looked great during padded practices.

If Ballentine can stand out during Friday’s scrimmage, it might give the coaching staff a bit more confidence in playing him if it comes down to that.

“I’m just kind of going with it, I’m happy to play wherever they want me to play, wherever I’m needed,” Ballentine said this week. “That’s really all it is. I’m still trying to grow as a player myself and be the best I can be. I’m not super worried about the depth chart or anything else.”

Ballentine has noticed one major improvement compared to his 2019 self:

“I like where I’m at mentally, l like where I’m at physically. I knew kind of what I was getting into this year because I went through last year so I knew what to expect going into training camp. I prepared myself in the offseason for that,” Ballentine said. “I’m really just prepared to take whatever is thrown at me. I know we have a whole new coaching staff so there’s challenges there. Getting to know them, getting to know their play styles and their call styles and how they want us to operate as a team and as players and our technique and things like that.

“I’m just learning and going with the flow and really trying to do the best I can. I’m comfortable, I feel like I am thinking a little bit less. I’m just going out there and playing which is good for me. I’m enjoying myself.”

 

2.) Andrew Thomas

Of course, everybody wants to see new tackle Andrew Thomas in live-action. As the fourth overall pick, there are a lot of expectations riding on the former Georgia stand-out. However, he has struggled at times during camp against pass rushers like Lorenzo Carter and Leonard Williams. While these drills favor the defense, Thomas has been working on his hand placement. He has the physical traits to be a quality tackle in the NFL, but he is still a bit raw at such a young age. Scrimmages like this will allow him to see live-action and hopefully adapt quicker.

In terms of pass rushers, the Giants have a tough schedule ahead of them. Thomas must be repaired to face off again some of the best defensive ends in the league.

“One of the first things we talked about was use of hands, hand strike,’’ Marc Colombo said regarding the weakness of Thomas’. “Andrew’s aware of where he needs to get better. That was one thing he needs to get better with. That’s something we’ve been working on quite a bit.

“And just the type of pass rusher you’re going to see week in and week out, it’s going to be a premier pass rusher, being able to study that rusher, know how to study him. Know what his moves are, know everything he’s thinking. Love where Andrew’s heading. He’s smart, he knows where some of his deficiencies are right now. And there’s not a lot of deficiencies.’’

3.) Lorenzo Carter

Carter has flown under the radar since have a lackluster sophomore campaign. In double the snaps, he barely replicated his rookie season statistics. However, on Friday night against the starting offense, he racked up five sacks. Two of the sacks were on Andrew Thomas and two on Cam Fleming. He forced a Daniel Jones fumble, despite not being able to hit the quarterback.

If he can take a developmental leap in 2020, the Giants could have an answer at pass rusher moving forward.

Former Giants linebacker Carl Banks has high expectations for the former Georgia Bulldog:

“It’s time for him to become a Giants linebacker. There are a lot of players who have played linebacker for the Giants, but it’s been a long time since there’s been a Giants linebacker on the team. Lorenzo has the skill set to become what I consider a Giants linebacker in the tradition of Giants linebackers.’’

4.) Devante Downs

With David Mayo undergoing surgery on his meniscus, reserve linebacker Devante Downs could earn starting reps to start the season. Downs has only eight combined tackles to his name, recording just one assist in 2019.

Going into his third season, it seems as if his confidence is growing, and he has looked stellar during camp. The Giants seem to think he could be a productive player for them, and he might have no choice with Ryan Connelly still recovering from a torn ACL in 2019.

Ideally, Connelly will earn some reps in live-action on Friday, but if not, Downs needs to show some sort of quality, otherwise, the Giants will be heading into the regular season with a big question mark next to Blake Martinez at middle linebacker.

“I think a little bit probably of some confidence, familiarity with the area, the staff a little bit, the time we’ve been around each other, most of it through Zoom,” position coach Kevin Sherrer said of Downs. “He’s a bigger athlete. He’s one of the bigger guys in the room. He’s in the 240 (pound) range. Most of the guys are a little bit lighter than that. … With him, I see a lot of confidence that I didn’t necessarily see on film last year given only being around him in person for just a few weeks. I’ve seen his confidence really grow.”

5.) Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones put on nine pounds of muscle mass this off-season, and it has showed on the football field. His strength in the pocket and velocity have improved according to the coaching staff, and holding onto the football will be a major focal point for him in his second year. After fumbling 18 times and losing 11 of them in his rookie campaign, cutting that statistic back is essential. Having scored 24 touchdown passes with a number of injuries across the offense, he is set to take a step forward this year. Hopefully, given everyone remains healthy, he can build off a strong rookie campaign and cement himself as the franchise quarterback for the future.

With Jason Garrett leading the offense now, we should expect to see a heavy dosage of Saquon Barkley and tight ends. Utilizing different looks and players will keep the offense unpredictable and help Jones attack opposing defenses efficiently.

New offensive coordinator Jason Garret has had nothing but good things to say about Jones:

“Daniel’s done an excellent job. He comes in here and, again, he’s so prepared, he’s so into it, he wants to know every detail. To play quarterback in this league, or really play any position in this league, there are a lot of different things that happen over the course of a play or the course of a practice,” Garrett said. “There’s so much to learn from. I’ve never been around a player who played a perfect game. I’ve never been around a player who had a perfect practice. We’re always striving for that. We’re striving for excellence in everything we do, and that’s really what our objective is.

BONUS:

6.) Matt Peart

One player that has impressed so far during camp is third-round pick Matt Peart out of the University of Connecticut. When drafted, he was a bit undersized for his lanky frame. Over the off-season, he has added nine pounds of healthy muscle mass, which should benefit him against bigger players and more talented pass rushers. Colombo has been working on developing his technique and activating his gritty mentality in the trenches. There’s a lot like when it comes to Peart, but he is still far away from being a cementEd starter for the Giants.

Offensive line coach, Marc Colombo, gave glowing reviews on Peart, so far:

“There’s just a lot to work with as an offensive line coach. We like what we’ve seen so far,” Colombo said, adding that Peart is a tremendous athlete. “He just looks like a [expletive] football player.”

New York Yankees Recap: Yankee bullpen fails and loses both games of a doubleheader to the Mets

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

For the New York Yankees, it just wasn’t their day, they lost both games that they were leading in when the bullpen failed to hold the lead. The Yankees have now lost their last seven games in a row. In a regular-season, that’s the equivalent of a 19 game losing streak. The Yankees have not had a seven-game losing streak since 2017 when Joe Girardi was leading the team.  The Yankees are now four games behind the Rays and have slipped to third place in the East Division. All this on a day that all of baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day.

In game one the Yankees got off to an early 4-0 lead. Yankee pitcher Jordan Montgomery pitched a masterful five innings allowing only one run, but in the sixth, he allowed two runners on base. Manager Aaron Boone took Montgomery out and replaced him with Yankee reliever Chad Green, who had previously pitched 12.2 innings of scoreless ball.  In an unbelievable turn of events, Green gave up 3 home runs for 4 Met runs, in one inning.

The final score in the first game was 6-4 with the New York Mets scoring six unanswered runs in the game. Chad Green took the loss.  Lockett got the win for the Mets, and Diaz got the save.

The bad luck didn’t end in game one, In game two the Yankees had the lead through six and a half innings.  The second game was a home game for the Mets at the Stadium.  At the bottom of the seventh inning, with the Mets backs up against the wall, Aroldis Chapman took the mound to close it out for the Yankees.  Chapman did not have it, and threw seven fastballs, five of which were out of the zone.   To set it up, McNeil hit a single. The Mets sent in Billy Hamilton into pinch run. Hamilton stole second.  Aroldis Chapman threw a slider to  Amed Rosario and Rosario homered to left, and it was game over. Mets 4 Yankees 3, for the second Yankee loss of the day. Chapman took the loss, and Hughes got the win for the Mets.

With seven losses in a row, it isn’t necessary to say that the Yankees are playing horribly. If the pitching is good, the bullpen isn’t.  If pitching is good the lineup is unproductive.  In the last seven games, the Yankees have only scored 22 runs, that just over 3 runs per game, while the Yankee pitching has allowed 37 runs in the last seven games.

The pitching problem of the Yankees is well known, what isn’t expected is that the bullpen, lacking Tommy Kahnle, and Zack Britton, just isn’t getting the job done.  The Yankees minus key players put forth a lineup in game one with six players batting at .185 or less. One of the biggest problems is Gary Sanchez.  His batting average is just .139. He is totally unproductive in the three-hole.  Twice in game one, once with the bases loaded and once with two on, he struck out both times.  Right now Sanchez is swinging at everything no matter how far out of the zone the balls are.

Almost every day the New York Yankees can not escape more bad news.  With Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, DJ, LeMahieu, and Gleyber Torres on the IL, now Gio Urshela has been reported to have bone spurs and is listed as day to day.

The New York Yankees will again try to turn it around tomorrow when J.A. Happ takes the mound in a matinee game at the Stadium.  Happ has pitched poorly this season with an ERA north of 6.  However, in his last outing, he pitched six solid innings, giving the Yankees hope that he can pitch well tomorrow and stop the Yankees slide.