New York Giants: Jabrill Peppers missed practice, could still return Sunday

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers

The New York Giants don’t need more long term injuries this season, but Jabrill Peppers still has a questionable injury status. The safety who was injured in the blowout loss on Sunday didn’t practice on Wednesday. But his condition isn’t bad enough that the staff have ruled him out for the next game. As of now, it’s a tossup whether Peppers will play or not.

Peppers has a low ankle sprain but the length that this injury puts someone out can vary. On the lower end of the spectrum it can see a player bounce back in a week, but on the higher end it may put someone out for several months. It depends on the severity of the injury, and the Giants haven’t revealed the specific situation for Peppers.

Still, the fact that Peppers hasn’t been officially ruled out tells us that there’s at least a chance of a comeback for the Rams game. With the Giants set to take on a 2-1 team that scored over 30 points in each of their last two appearances, there’s an incentive to get Peppers back on the field for this one.

Linebacker David Mayo was also absent in practice and Joe Judge was noncommittal when asked about his recovery.

“It’s not official yet right now. He’s with the trainers. We still have a couple days to get it. I don’t anticipate seeing him practicing today,” Judge said to the media on Wednesday.

With other players such as Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard already sitting out for varying lengths of time due to injury, the Giants will need as many healthy players as possible to have a chance at bouncing back this year. It remains to be seen if Mayo and Peppers will be healthy come Sunday.

NBA Draft: New York Knicks cast a wide net in point guard search

New York Knicks

It’s going to be an unpredictable NBA Draft Night for the New York Knicks.

New Knicks president Leon Rose and his front office have continued to keep their cards close to their chest.  But the Draft Combine media interviews have provided some clarity that the Knicks are zeroing in on a potential lead guard.

The Knicks, who will be picking at No.8, No.27, and No.38 barring any trades, have interviewed at least seven guards and could be even more.

The consensus top three point guards in the Draft — LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, and Tyrese Haliburton — have all confirmed that they have talked to the Knicks prior to the lottery.

Haliburton claimed his vision is what separates him from the top-tier guards in the Draft. The 6-foot-5 skinny guard from Iowa also added that he’s comfortable playing on and off the ball at the backcourt.

“LaMelo is scoring the ball at three levels. I think I’m the best facilitator out of the group and I think Killian defends at a high level,” Haliburton said of their different strengths during his Draft Combine Zoom call.

Ball is unsure if the Knicks would trade up for him.

“That I don’t know.  Maybe, maybe not,” Ball said.

Hayes, meanwhile, is excited at the possibility of playing with fellow Frenchman Frank Ntilikina in New York’s backcourt.

“It would be dope,” Hayes said Monday on a Zoom call. “He’s [Frank] not really a true point guard. He can play the 1 or the 2, so I think it would be a good duo.”

Another French guard Theo Maledon and Stanford’s Tyrell Terry have also interviewed with the Knicks. Curiously, Maledon had his interview only two weeks ago. He’s the only prospect so far that has been confirmed to have discussions with the Knicks in the post-lottery.

RJ Hampton, whose Draft stock considerably dropped after a lackluster stint in New Zealand’s pro league, has also met with the Knicks over Zoom call.

Add Alabama’s Kira Lewis, Jr. to the long list.  Ian Begley of SNY recently reported that the Knicks have been in touch with the quick point guard.

North Carolina’s enigmatic combo guard Cole Anthony, who opted not to join the Draft Combine, has also his share of fans and critics in the organization.  Meanwhile, Duke point guard Tre Jones, who is pegged by Tankathon as the Knicks’ pick at No. 27, revealed during his Draft Combine Zoom call that he has not interviewed with them.

During Rose’s first public appearance as the Knicks team president in June, he mentioned how he views this Draft as a lot more unpredictable compared to the recent years.

“This draft, a couple of guys stand out, and after that, there’s a lot of equality,” Rose said.

Outside the above-mentioned point guards, the Knicks have also interviewed Memphis’ big man Precious Achiuwa, who split his time in Bronx, New York, and New Jersey during his high school. The other lottery prospects that have also been linked to them are Dayton’s explosive big man Obi Toppin, and a trio of defensive stalwarts in Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, and Florida State’s Devin Vassell, and Patrick Williams.

The Knicks are navigating this Draft process under the same degree of prudence and diligence that they have shown during their head coaching search that ultimately led to Tom Thibodeau, the perceived frontrunner from the start.

Ball is the perceived No.1 point guard in the Knicks board as early as May, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.  And with Ball reportedly withdrawing from the Draft Combine after spilling his talks with the Knicks to the media, expect more smoke to come out of New York.

Whatever the Knicks would choose to do in the Draft — move up, trade down or stand pat — there’s a clear indication that they are doing everything to cover all their bases.

 

It’s a clever move that has Walter Perrin‘s imprint all over it. The former Utah Jazz executive is bringing in the small market-mentality to New York, finding every slice of information he could grab to get an edge over the bigger market teams.

The Knicks won’t draft everyone whom they have scouted and interviewed. But Perrin likes to keep notes which can be valuable down the road either in free agency or trade. Just like when the Jazz targeted Jordan Clarkson in the February trade deadline. Their Draft notes on him helped them pull the trigger on the trade.

“Towards the tail end of the (NCAA) season and the conference tournament he was struggling a little bit only because he had some off-the-court issues, personal issues, nothing bad. If I remember correctly, one of his family members was going through struggles in terms of illness,” Perrin said last April.

In 2014, five months before the Draft, Clarkson’s father was diagnosed with cancer. It took a hit on his performance and consequently hurt his Draft stock.

“It was affecting his play, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to bring him in, we wanted to get to know him a little better and find out what was really going on,” Perrin added.

The Jazz wasn’t able to grab him in the Draft, but when they were looking for a key rotational piece this season, their Draft notes came in handy. Perrin’s scouting instincts was right all along as Clarkson proved to be a second-round steal in that Draft class.

That kind of progressive of thinking is a whiff of fresh air in New York which had more misses than hits when it comes to player personnel.

Under normal circumstances, Perrin could have had more workouts arranged for the Knicks by now. But still, he and his scouting department are doing their due dilligence.

It’s going to be a wild NBA Draft. But if the number of pre-Draft interviews are any indication, the Knicks will come prepared.

Gambler loses $1 million on New York Giants bet, a baffling move

New York Giants, Darnay Holmes

While some were confident the New York Giants would overcome the San Francisco 49ers in week three, one person had so much faith he was willing to invest $1 million on their success.

However, if you watched the contest, you know that the Giants were outmatched and completely blown out 36-9. If you were batting in favor of the Giants, there was no way you walked away a happy man, and this specific individual walked away with depression.

According to CBS, one unlucky gambler lost $1 million on two separate $500K bets on the New York Giants:

With one of the bets, our gambling friend decided to bet on the Giants to cover the four-point spread. Basically, the Giants didn’t even have to win the game, all they had to do was lose by three points or less and the bettor would have won some serious money (A four-point loss would have led to a push and the bettor would have gotten his money back).

For the second $500,000 bet, our gambling friend wagered that Daniel Jones would throw for more than 244.5 yards. With Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman both out for San Francisco, betting big on Jones wasn’t that crazy. However, Jones definitely didn’t take advantage of the 49ers depleted defense. If anything, they took advantage of him. With four minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, Jones only had 136 passing yards in a game where he would finish with 179. Basically, he didn’t even come close to hitting the 245 yards that were needed for our gambling friend to win his bet.

My question for this person is, why on earth would you bet on the Giants at any point in the past three years? They have been the epitome of failure in the NFL and have lost even the easiest of games.

The 49ers, despite their injuries, are much deeper and have fantastic coaching on their side. The Giants, with a new coaching staff and new faces littered across the roster, were never in a position to win. Predicting a score on Twitter is a lot different than putting $1 million down on the most optimistic bet in history.

UFC: Three Reasons why Paulo Costa’s night didn’t go the way he expected

Heading into UFC 253, there have been few fights — let alone sporting events — with as much hype and build-up behind them as there was for Costa vs. Adesanya. The millions of people that were chopping at the bit over the past months were finally gifted the long-awaited fight this past Saturday at UFC’s Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. With the bad blood between the two, the social media presence and coverage around it, and of course, the skillsets both fighters hold, there was no doubt that this would be one of the most profitable and entertaining fights in UFC history.

This last weekend held a title fight that caused some fans to bury their heads in their hands, while others simply gave a Jordan shrug and scoffed, saying “onto the next.” Costa fans watching went silent, Izzy fans roared, the classic smackdown after a smack-talking of the ages proved once more that there are very few — if any middleweight fighters — that can go toe-to-toe with The Last Stylebender. As always, with a win comes another flamboyant celebration from Adesanya, and this time he may have set off a ticking time bomb. Adesanya’s gesture of pelvic thrusting Costa twice after knocking him out didn’t sit well with Paulo, certainly guaranteeing a future matchup at least once more between the two. However, that is down the road, and as for now, Izzy made a definite statement on Saturday.

For one fighter, Paulo Costa, the fight was a massive wake-up call. For the other, Israel Adesanya, it was another notch on an already Hall of Fame resume. However, as one should always do when faced with defeat, I wanted to look at the takeaways for Costa from the loss. I figured this would be a great time to talk about a few things I observed from watching the fight Saturday that ultimately hurt Costa, but are adjustable to where he can improve and get better in the future.

1: Paulo Costa’s corner did little to help

When watching the fight, it was easy to see within the first three or so minutes of the first round that Costa wasn’t fighting this fight like any of his ones prior. While ‘El Borrachinha’ is criticized by many for his technique — or lack thereof, for him to be standing as flatfooted and open as he was, was a problem from the get-go. Not only was his stance just easy-pickings for Adesanya’s brutal and various leg kicks to his lead left leg, but it was also limiting his own offensive abilities as well. I’ll touch more on that later in another portion, but prior to getting into how Costa’s corner left him for dead, first here’s a comparison of how the night went for both fighters from a statistical perspective (info via Forbes):

SIGNIF. STRIKES LANDED SIG. STRK LND % S.S LND- HEAD S.S LND- BODY S.S LND- LEG S.S LND- CLINCH
COSTA 12 46% 2 7 3 0
ADESANYA 55 65% 24 5 26 2

The stats tell the story if the eye test wasn’t enough. For one of the most feared and brutal strikers across all divisions of the UFC to get out-shot by 43 significant strikes — the second-largest gap from all fights Saturday night — is inexcusable. What makes Costa such an intimidating fighter in the ring is that he is always applying “unrelenting pressure,” as Joe Rogan put it best. With this fight against Adesanya, there was little-to-no pressure from him whatsoever, and he was solely fighting defensively. Obviously, when fighting against Israel Adesanya, there are very few mistakes to capitalize on, so for Costa to be fighting in a defensive or counter-attacking style is interesting. However, as strong of an argument could be made about how difficult it is to press Izzy and get up close enough to do tons of damage — which is what Costa’s calling is.

Now, after the first round, it was apparent that the leg kicks were going to start becoming problematic for Costa, but when listening to his corner, there was no sense of urgency or change of approach being suggested. His corner encouraged him to work his combos and told him that when he’s got Izzy up against the cage that he should push off him and separate. My main problem with that advice is that advising Costa, who already had a 3in height disadvantage to go with an 8in reach disadvantage, to make this a fight from distance in the center of the octagon doesn’t make sense. For his corner to suggest the idea of “throwing his combos” implies that Costa would need to be on the offensive and pushing in more. Once more, however, as the second round got underway, his shots were not landing. I myself don’t speak Portuguese, so I’m not entirely positive as to what was being shouted out by his team throughout the fight, but for an in-between round talk to be so contradictory of oneself was interesting.

What I mean by that is that encouraging Costa to work the combos and let them come to him, but also discouraging him to get in the clinch or up close enough to do that patented damage he’s so well known for, contradicts completely. There was seemingly no anger or aggression that Costa was fighting with, and one can contribute some of his corner’s lack of plausible advice as one of the reasons. Costa was not going to win this fight by going five rounds, and there were little who expected him to outduel Izzy from the center of the octagon. Simply put, the strategy put in place by Costa and his team was completely shattered within a few minutes of the fight.

2: Costa’s stance and nonchalant demeanor cost him greatly

While many love the heavy punches and seamless combinations executed, there’s an undeniable art to the wear-and-tear style of fighting. For Adesanya to have come out and executed the various leg kicks that he did, most to the outside of the knee and oblique, and various to the calves and thighs, shows that he truly does possess the precision he daunts. After a few moments, Costa’s knee began to swell, and by Round 2, it was already bleeding, along with the inside of his thigh. Praising Adesanya is easy after that showing, and of course, it is easy to rag on Costa’s rather pitiful performance, but the one glaring thing Costa neglected to do anything about were those kicks. He very infrequently even attempted to check them and didn’t once switch up his stance or try to switch up the octagon position.

The 26 Significant Strikes Landed to the leg by Adesanya were the most strikes landed between the two across the entire body. Yet, when the fight’s candle slowly was nearing the burnout, it were the early leg kicks that were Costa’s main downfall. To some, leg kicks are ineffective and, when not properly executed or located, can do minimal damage. However, with as accurate as Izzy was, and as little care as Costa seemed to show toward it, it played a crucial part in his loss.

For Paulo, he’s always been a confident fighter and one that enjoys showboating in the ring, but to do it against Adesanya while not actively doing anything himself, was not what I wanted to see out of the potential future middleweight champion. I’m all for having fun in the ring and giving your opponent nothing to feel good about or smile about, but to not push offensively in between doesn’t make sense. Costa’s demeanor is never going to change, and nor should it. His confidence and ego play into his ambition and work ethic, and there are very few who work as hard as he does. Yet, to see him repeatedly slap his knee as if it wasn’t a mere slap from Adesanya while neglecting to check it or counter it was worrisome.

When Costa fought Yoel Romero at UFC 241 last year, there are glaring differences in the way he approached both bouts. With Romero, Paulo was constantly on the offensive, keeping his body straight and aligned with Romero, his shoulders square. He had his classic guard up — with both hands up below his chin, left hand lower and dangling for the majority of the fight. That allowed him to throw those lead left jabs and hooks and hit him with the brutal right uppercuts or hooks when the body is turned. Add to that, Costa constantly pushed Romero and tried to get in the clinch. When up against the fence, he’d throw knees and vicious body shots, even if it meant he’d take some hits as well. Ultimately that combination led to a few knockdowns for Costa, some hard punches, and win via unanimous decision.

The Adesanya fight was a completely different story. Very rarely was Paulo ever seemingly fighting off his front foot, and he was often caught in an open stance where Izzy was able to land repeated kicks and a few headshots throughout the fight. What Makes Israel Adesanya such an incredible fighter is his ability to switch stances on the fly, thus adjusting and adapt to whatever is going on in the moment and read fighters’ moves, seemingly telegraphing them before they happen. For Costa, there was no stance switching or applying pressure when his opponent was caught on his back foot. There were no combinations thrown or kicks mixed with jabs that could’ve dazed Izzy. Instead, it was as if Adesanya knew everything that Costa was going to throw. The constant feints and ducks, while being light on his feet and repositioning himself accordingly, ended up being too much for Paulo to keep up with.

3: Costa needs to greatly improve his adjustability and agility

Paulo Costa could eat the Jan Blachowicz diet of Polish sausages and beets & potatoes, as well as nothing but straight butter and not lose his figure. There is no doubt that his strength and striking ability are amongst the best of the best in the world, but if he wants to be a titleholder, he is going to need to expand his range. Costa teased the media by saying he could take Adesanya to the ground in a matter of seconds, but there was not one takedown attempt attempted by Costa. There were few impactful kicks that he landed, aside from a few decent shots to the body and one that clipped Adesanya’s head. To put it simply, Costa’s game, when he was unable to push in and throw his punches, was severely limited. If he truly wants a shot at the belt, he needs to work on his endurance and agility along with his craft — specifically his kicking.

I am not implying that Costa is out of shape or is unable to handle the grueling endurance battles that can take place in the UFC, but it was quickly apparent that he wasn’t remotely as quick or technically smart as Adesanya. Costa has never fought a five-round bout before in the UFC, either, and the longest fight he’s fought was that UFC 241 FOTY candidate between he and Romero that went to the judges after three. The more important thing I am touching on with his agility and endurance is that his horizontal movement and ability to adjust when having to fight off his back foot are lacking. When he is able to be the aggressor and throw his punches, thus dictating the fight, there is no one that can stop him. If that fails to materialize in the early stages of the fight, when going up against poised and technical fighters like Adesanya, Costa has to have a fallback option.

Similar to how in baseball, what separates an elite pitcher from a good pitcher is their out-pitch and their complementary stuff. For guys like Clayton Kershaw, it is his changeup and curveball, for Josh Hader, it is his slider and fastball. In the UFC, world-class fighters who are considered the best of the best have well-rounded games, and outs that they can look to in case they encounter a roadblock in their own game plan. Adesanya is able to move quickly and combine his precision and lethal strikes with light footwork and rapid pace, allowing him to adjust on the fly and pickup his opponent’s moves before they happen. For Khabib Nurmagomedov, it’s his ability to throw quick punches and then drop levels and take you to the ground within a blink of an eye, before executing near flawless grappling techniques. Whereas for Costa, if he’s not able to use that gorilla-like strength and pressure, there is no true other option for him yet. His biggest strength is his ability to fight in the clinch and up-close. When Costa is pressed against the opposing fighter and able to throw vicious body shots mixed with headshots, opposition can only stay standing for so long. He didn’t land a single shot when in the clinch versus Izzy and was quick to break it and revert back to the middle.

That inability to adapt and either A) push Adesanya against the fence and initiate the clinch more, or B) match him with exchanges and shots at a distance, was his downfall. On Saturday night, everyone saw that Costa could be labeled a “one-trick pony” and that there are flaws in his game for sure. Taking away the lack of grappling, for his stand-up game to truly reach elite levels and to be considered the best of the best, he is going to need to diversify and expand.

Paulo Costa is certainly not down and out in the UFC. There should be little-to-no-doubt about him returning with an emphatic statement in his next fight and doing whatever it takes to claw his way back to that Adesanya matchup. He already told Dana to book the rematch, proving that this rivalry is nowhere near close to over.

New York Giants: James Bradberry is dominating through three weeks

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants‘ secondary has been inconsistent through the first three weeks of the 2020 NFL season. New York has not seen its safeties play at a consistent level and has seen its second cornerback play at a consistently poor position. But if there is one bright spot to point out from the Giants’ first three games, it is starting cornerback James Bradberry.

Through three games, James Bradberry has performed as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He has been dominating for the Giants and is one of the biggest reasons that their defense has stayed afloat in these games.

James Bradberry Stats and Highlights

According to Pro Football Focus, James Bradberry is the third-highest graded cornerback in the NFL so far. His overall grade is an impressive 82.5, ranking him behind only Xavier Rhodes and Jaire Alexander.

Bradberry has also forced tight coverage on seven of his 19 targets thus far. And of those seven, not a single one was caught. That is the most targets forced in tight coverage without one being caught of any NFL cornerback. – Pro Football Focus on James Bradberry

Bradberry has been providing air-tight coverage on the outside for the Giants. Through three games, James Bradberry is leading the NFL with 9 passes defended. He has also added an interception and a forced fumble. Bradberry, who signed a three-year $43.5 million contract with the Giants this offseason, has looked worth every penny so far.

With struggling performances throughout the secondary, the Giants are fortunate to have Bradberry holding the defense together. If not for James Bradberry, the Giants’ pass defense would be one of the worst in the NFL. New York’s season may feel lost at 0-3. But standout performances by James Bradberry have kept the Giants in some of these games and do give the team hope for the future.

2021 Free agent wide receivers the New York Giants could pursue

New York Giants, Chris Godwin

The 2021 free-agent wide receiver class is absolutely stacked with talent. Receiver needy teams are going to have plenty of options once the free agency period starts next year. The New York Giants are a team that could quite possibly look into one of these receivers to bolster their pass-catching unit. The Giants haven’t really filled the shoes of Odell Beckham Jr, their last true number one receiver, whom they traded to Cleveland in March of 2019.

Before I list some potential options, here’s a disclaimer. Some of these receivers could not hit free agency. Some will sign contract extensions, some could still be franchise tagged, but these are just players who’s current contracts expire after the 2020 season.

With the being said, here are a few intriguing options for the New York Giants:

1. Chris Godwin

Godwin had a terrific 2019 season. Racking up 86 receptions for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns, Godwin solidified himself as a certified playmaker. The 1-2 punch of him and fellow Buccaneer Mike Evans makes one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL today. With the loaded offensive arsenal Tampa Bay has assembled thanks to the additions of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Godwin might look to become a number one receiver somewhere, and the Giants could be the team to give him that opportunity at just 24 years old.

2. Allen Robinson

A-Rob has been a solid contributor on the field since he was drafted in 2014. The only reason he is not considered among the elite talents at the position today could be due to the fact that he has spent his entire career in two bottom tier offensive systems in Jacksonville and now Chicago. Caching passes from Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky can certainly contribute to the hindrance of anyone’s productivity, but Robinson has still managed to produce solid numbers. The Bears were the 29th ranked offense last season averaging only 296.8 yards per game, but Robinson still amassed over 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns. In the right situation, Robinson (still only 26 years old) could flourish as a WR1.

3. A.J. Green

Green often gets forgotten about when talking about elite receivers. Injuries sidelined him all of 2019, and for almost half of the season in 2018. Prior to that, Green has only not produced a least 1,000 yards in a season twice since he was drafted in 2011. A big-bodied, physical receiver is exactly what the Giants could use. Green has been franchise tagged by the Bengals and is going into his age 33 season, but can still be a contributing factor in the passing game. Quick route runners like Slayton and Shepard are useful in the slot and short-yardage situations, but an over the top go up and get it receiver like Green could be a very interesting addition to the Giants offensive arsenal.

4. Mike Williams

The Chargers wideout logged his first 1,000-yard season last year, despite a down year from Phillip Rivers. In an offense full of weapons with Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler, Williams’s contribution didn’t go unnoticed as he is looking like one of the most promising young wideouts in football. Approaching just his third season in the league, the 25-year-old Clemson star definitely has WR1 potential. Williams does have a fifth-year option the Chargers can use, but if they choose not to, the Giants could give him the opportunity come 2021.

5. T.Y. Hilton

T.Y. is getting up there in age but is still a solid contributor on offense. The sudden retirement of Andrew Luck certainly derailed the Colts chances of success and subsequently Hilton’s as well, not to mention injuries caused him to miss six games last year. A big bounce-back year could be in the works for Hilton, though. Jacoby Brissett looks now to be just a bridge quarterback to hopefully groom his possible successor Jacob Eason, whom the Colts drafted in the fourth round back in April. With a young, strong offensive line and a stout young defense, the Colts might look to embrace a new era and move on from Hilton. Should the Giants give him a chance to prove his worth? We’ll see in 2021.

New York Knicks: Kevin Knox will have to earn playing time

New York Knicks, Kevin Knox

Nothing is given.  Everything is earned.

That’s how Kevin Knox‘s life under new head coach Tom Thibodeau.

The former lottery pick has started to come along in the New York Knicks‘ Bubble-like organized team activity thanks to the culture of accountability that Thibodeau has set.

“I think the first step is preparation.  That’s where you get your confidence from.  How he practices every day that will allow him to continue to develop.  He’s played very well here. He shot the ball very well.  He’s put a lot of time into that,” Thibodeau said of Knox’s performance in the Knicks’ Bubble.

Knox was oozing with potential when he was selected as the ninth pick in the 2018 Draft ahead of the likes of his Kentucky teammate Shia Gilgeous-Alexander, and Michael Porter, Jr.

Those three players who were picked after him have made great strides, while Knox has yet to pan out after a promising rookie season. The 21-year old Knox was hounded by inconsistencies and got buried on the bench in his sophomore year. That killed whatever momentum he has built in his rookie year as his confidence dipped.

“I think it’s the same thing.  I think there’s been ups and downs for him.  Hopefully, he continues to learn from those experiences,” Thibodeau said.

With the new Knicks front office zeroing in on player development, Knox has been rejuvenated, especially with the arrival of former Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne. But even with Payne now on his corner, Thibodeau has made it clear that Knox has to earn his minutes.

“Everything will be based on performance.  It’s how you practice first.  You have to practice well with the team before you can begin to talk about playing time.  And when you’re playing in the game, everything will be based on performance,” Thibodeau said.

It’s a make-or-break year for Knox, who has been the subject of trade rumors. Thibodeau’s message is clear: shape up or get shipped out.

Henrik Lundqvist: His 30 greatest saves as a New York Ranger (Video)

New York Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist

As Lundqvist’s legendary reign with the New York Rangers comes to an end, ESM looks back as his finest metropolitan moments.

Accounting for his regular season, shootout, and postseason stops, Henrik Lundqvist made 27,482 saves as a member of the New York Rangers.

ESM looks back on the 30 best from No. 30…

10/8/05: The Reign Begins

Little hype surrounded Lundqvist’s debut, as the seventh-round pick was giving veteran starter Kevin Weekes a rest during an early visit to East Rutherford to battle the New Jersey Devils. Things almost ended before they even truly began, as Lundqvist allowed the Devils’ only first period shot, this one from Alexander Molgilny, to go in. But He held his own over the final two frames, stopping 24 of 26 shots over the next two periods and overtime. His first save was a stop of Viktor Kozlov in the early stages of the second period. Lundqvist and the Rangers fell 3-2, but he helped turn the tide in the New York-New Jersey rivalry. His final ledger in New York against the Devils was 38-18-8 in the regular season, his best win tally against any single opponent.

11/26/05: Alley-No

One of the earliest starts of Lundqvist’s career was the famous 15-round shootout against the Washington Capitals. Marek Malik’s clinching goal remains the endearing image, but Lundqvist got things off to a strong start by making a stop on a fellow rookie…Alex Ovechkin.

12/29/06: Motion Denied

Ten months after collaborating on a Swedish gold medal at the Torino Olympics, Lundqvist and Daniel Alfredsson reunited for a show stopping sequence in Ottawa, albeit to the detriment of Alfredsson’s Senators. Lundqvist denied his fellow countryman and future Eastern Conference champion twice in a shorthanded opportunity.

10/20/07: Oh, Denied, Marc

Around the same time Kevin Garnett started issuing rejections at TD Banknorth Garden, Lundqvist started to make some big ones of his own against the Boston Bruins. The Rangers fell in a 1-0 shootout, but Lundqvist at least made sure it got to overtime with this glove save on Marc Savard.

4/9/09: Talk About Playoffs

Engaged in a wild battle for the final Eastern playoff spots, the Rangers held a 2-1 lead on their rivals from Philadelphia, who were looking to do anything to awaken the Rangers from their postseason dreams. Sustained by first period goals from Ryan Callahan and Markus Naslund, Lundqvist took care of the rest with a wild save on future teammate Dan Carcillo in the third period. With no further incidents, the Rangers clinch their fourth consecutive playoff berth with the win.

2/6/10: Unlike Mike

One of Lundqvist’s most underrated stretches is perhaps the end of the 2009-10 season. It was the only time the Rangers missed the playoffs in his so-called “prime”, that the Rangers missed the playoffs, but Lundqvist made it sure it took all 82 games to dispose of them. Forced to make all but one start over the final 26 games, the stretch featured a shutout streak of over two full games against the New Jersey Devils, headlined by a rebound denial on Mike Mottau in a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden.

11/15/11: Soccer-Style

MSG Network perhaps loved Lundqvist’s propensity for indirect cross-promotion of their New York Red Bulls coverage. Lundqvist made several header saves throughout his time in the tri-state area, one of the earliest instances being a matchup against the New York Islanders. A 31-save night in a 4-2 win in Uniondale was headlined by a penalty kill sequence in the second period, in which he stopped a Mark Streit shot with his head, before getting knocked down by a teammate. Lundqvist nonetheless stopped a follow-up chance by P.A. Parenteau before covering up.

12/31/11: Florida Man Steals Defenseman’s Stick

Lundqvist never got to score a goal in New York, but he did get to handle a skater’s stick in securing a penalty kill during a New Year’s Eve visit to Florida. In the chaos of the Panthers’ rush, Lundqvist lost his stick but got a souvenir from his trip to the Sunshine State from Michael Del Zotto, who handed his own over. Lundqvist managed to deflect a shot from Walt Garrison away to preserve a 4-1 lead.

1/2/12: Citizens Hank Park

Citizens Bank Park, home of MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, played host to a different brand of saves when the Rangers did battle with the Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic. No bullpen was necessary for Lundqvist to make the biggest one of the afternoon, coming with 20 seconds to go and the Rangers nursing a 3-2 lead. Awarded a penalty shot after Ryan McDonagh covered the puck in the crease during a Philadelphia rush, Danny Briere tried to send things to extra innings, but Lundqvist slammed the door shut. Lundqvist went undefeated in four outdoor games, winning the latter trio in New York’s respective professional baseball parks (two at Yankee Stadium, one at Citi Field).

2/1/12: Oh Boyes!

Olympic heroes Lundqvist (Sweden) and Ryan Miller (United States) staged an epic battle at First Niagara Center just over two years after the Vancouver Winter Games. 65 minutes, 63 saves, and no goals later, the tilt moved to a shootout, where Lundqvist made a strong diving stop to kick off a 10-round ordeal eventually won by Callahan.

1/19/13: Boston Stewin’

The start of the 2012-13 NHL season was delayed due to a lockout, but Lundqvist showed little rust in the Rangers opener in Boston. New York fell by a 3-1 final, though Lundqvist did his part with 31 saves, including a jaw-dropping glove robbery of David Krejci during a Rangers penalty kill.

5/12/13: Capital Robbery

One could perhaps made a list of Lundqvist’s best saved solely against the Capitals and still come up with 30 videos. One of the most memorable was a frantic final sequence in Game 6 of the 2013 conference quarterfinals. With the Rangers clinging to a 1-0 lead, Lundqvist forced a decisive final matchup with a flurry of saves to secure the win. Another shutout awaited him back in Washington, as the Rangers secured the series with a 5-0 finale.

5/19/13: Baba Jagr

Lundqvist will be forever linked with Jaromir Jagr. The two will forever be seen as two of the best European players in hockey history and played huge roles in the rebirth of New York hockey during the earliest years of the post-lockout era. Lundqvist gave his fellow energizer and former roommate a thank you gift during the 2013 postseason, stopping Jagr, then a Boston Bruin, on an exquisite blocker save during the conference semifinals.

3/14/14: Unscheduled Landing

There’s playing out of position, and then there’s what Lundqvist did in a March visit to MTS Centre. When a turnover on a Rangers power play allowed two Winnipeg Jets to skate unguarded into the zone, Lundqvist moved up and denied them the opportunity, allowing his teammates to move the puck out of harm’s away. That same night, Lundqvist earned the 301st win of his career, tying Mike Richter atop the Rangers’ victory list.

5/13/14: Pittsburgh Stealer

Two years before the Cavaliers and Warriors made it cool in the NBA, Lundqvist was making 3-1 the most dangerous lead in hockey. The Rangers fell behind to the Pittsburgh Penguins by that margin in their 2014 Eastern Conference semifinal matchup, but Lundqvist allowed only three goals over the final three games to secure the series. His magnum opus was a flurry saves made with just over five minutes left in Game 7, even briefly using skater teammate Brian Boyle’s stick to withstand a late Pittsburgh rush. The Rangers took the game by 2-1 final, primarily thanks to Lundqvist’s 35 stops.

5/29/14: Sacre Bleu-shirt!

When Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final rolled around, the Rangers owned a 3-2 series lead over the Montreal Canadiens. But after Montreal chased Lundqvist in a 7-4 defeat in Game 5 at Bell Centre, many predicted that the winner of the penultimate match at MSG would take the series, especially if it had to return to Quebec. Lundqvist needed only 18 saves that night, but a crucial, acrobatic stop on Thomas Vanek in the latter stages of the second period permanently shifted momentum to the Rangers’ side. Just over three minutes later, Dominic Moore scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory that propelled the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup visit since 1994.

6/11/14: Snow Problem

Lundqvist was hardly to blame for the Rangers’ coming short in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. In the Rangers lone win in Game 4, Lundqvist stopped all but one of 41 Los Angeles shots, including all 15 in the third period (the Rangers mustered only one shot in the final frame). He had some help on the most memorable, as a patch of snowy buildup helped stopped the puck’s progress in the penultimate minute. Taking away a tough Game 3, Lundqvist stopped 167 of 179 attempts from the Kings (.933 save percentage).

1/31/15: Down, But Not Out

The star-crossed nature of Lundqvist’s Rangers career was perhaps best on display during a 2015 showdown against Carolina. An errant stuck from Ryan McDonagh left Lundqvist’s neck exposed on a hard shot attempt, downing the Rangers goalie for several minutes. While the services of Cam Talbot were required in the weeks that followed, Lundqvist remained in the game to tally 31 saves in a 4-1 triumph.

10/10/15: Henrik Takes a Dive

One can only imagine just how much more could’ve fit onto Lundqvist’s already impressive resume if not for a few more blue bounces of the puck. Fate, alas, had other plans, but Lundqvist was at least able to stop one of them in an early-season matchup against Columbus. With the puck taking an eccentric bounce right to the stick of Ryan Johansen while Lundqvist tried to play it behind the net, a timely dive preserved a Rangers lead and denied the Blue Jackets a wide-open opportunity. It was part of a 37-save night in a 5-2 New York triumph.

10/23/15: King Stops the Duke

The common trope amongst Rangers fans is that former Blueshirts always seem to score when they come back to MSG in enemy colors. Lundqvist made sure that one took a temporary leave with a diving stop on Anthony Duclair, one of the final touches of a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

11/21/15: Florida Man Takes a Puck To The…

Another painful save in Lundqvist’s career came during a November 2015 penalty kill against the Florida Panthers, when he took a Nick Bjugstad shot to the groin in the second period. Lundqvist was examined by trainers but stayed in the game to secure a 5-4 overtime win.

1/11/16: The Scorpion King

Lundqvist’s scorpion kick save on Maxime Talbot preserved a tie game in the third period against Boston at MSG. It came big in the latter stages of the game, as Jesper Fast scored in the penultimate minute to secure a 2-1 win.

4/22/17: Hab We Done This Before?

Fellow New York sports legend Yogi Berra would say that Lundqvist experienced deja vu all over against during the 2017 playoffs. The Rangers were clinging to a 3-2 series over the Canadiens. Though this bout came in the conference quarterfinals, the Rangers were on pace to wrap the series up at MSG in Game 6. Montreal made a monstrous final effort, but Lundqvist’s pad save on Tomas Plekanec gave the Rangers the confidence they needed to once again eliminate their Original Six rivals up north. Derek Stepan’s empty-netter gave them a 3-1 win, good for Lundqvist’s most recent playoff series win.

5/9/17: Vetoed

The Rangers’ loss to the Ottawa Senators in the 2017 conference semifinals remains one of the more baffling and frustrating defeats in recent memory, but Lundqvist at least managed to make a showstopping highlight before all was said and done. As if proving goaltending was easy he could do it sitting down, he made a big stop on fellow Swede Erik Karlsson in the early stages of Game 6 while in a seated position. Alas for Lundqvist, the save was part of what became his final playoff game at MSG.

3/2/18: Nifty 50…on His 36th

A trek to Alberta proved historic in several ways for Lundqvist. He celebrated his 36th birthday and earned 50 saves in a regulation win, posting half-a-hundred stops for the second consecutive game. The most crucial denial came in the early stages of the second period, turning away Mikael Backlund shortly before Pavel Buchnevich permanently gave the Rangers the lead.

1/26/19: Going Streaking

Though the more recent seasons featured little in terms of postseason success, Lundqvist made one more splash in the national level at the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition in San Jose. In a 12-save performance, Lundqvist earned the title in the Save Streak competition, securing the title with a stop on Auston Matthews. Lundqvist would later made 13 saves on 15 attempts in the All-Star competition, including a six-stop shutout in the victorious final for the Metropolitan Division.

2/2/19: The King’s the Captain Now

The reigning Stanley Cup champions were constantly a thorn in Lundqvist’s side, though he did muster a 15-11-5 record against the Bolts. Tampa Bay and New York did a lot of business together in their respective quests for the Cup, so Lundqvist came face-to-face with a lot of former teammates over the years, ones that helped him kickstart the Rangers’ rise to power. During one memorable reunion at MSG, Lundqvist stopped former captain Callahan on a breakaway in the third period of an eventual 3-2 loss.

3/27/19: Boston Red Stops

The latter stages of Lundqvist’s career forced him to deal with the Rangers’ latest rebuild, one that forced the aging goaltender to deal with lapses from a blueline trying to find itself. Though he didn’t match the numbers of his prime, Lundqvist did manage to provide some vintage moments, including this denial of Chris Wagner in a 2019 visit to Boston.

11/27/19: Rock You Like a Hurricane

The Rangers’ 2020 playoff cameo perhaps allowed the Carolina Hurricanes to dispatch some long-awaited revenge toward Lundqvist, who earned 33 wins against the artists formerly known as the Hartford Whalers in his career (3rd-best tally, behind only New Jersey and Philadelphia). He did manage to quell the storm one last time in November, when he made a whopping 45 saves, including this robbery of Martin Necas, in a 4-2 win.

2/1/20: One Last Ride in the Motor City

Fate denied Lundqvist a Derek Jeter-like farewell moment at MSG. The closest things Rangers fans will get likely came in February in Detroit, when he made 33 saves in a 1-0 win over the Red Wings. He sealed the deal with a final stop on Dennis Cholowski with an extra man on, providing the fateful clearing as time expired.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Jamison Crowder, Mekhi Becton expected to play Thursday

The New York Jets will be facing off against the Denver Broncos tomorrow night at home. The team’s injury report is lengthy, but they are expecting to get wide receiver Jamison Crowder and rookie offensive tackle Mekhi Becton back for the game. Getting both players back would be huge for the last-ranked offense in the NFL.

Crowder has missed the last two games after suffering a hamstring injury. During the Week 1 game against Buffalo, he posted 7 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown, being by far the most productive weapon Sam Darnold had. Crowder addressed his chances of playing tomorrow and how his progression has been.

“I feel real good about them,” he said. “I’ve been working out, doing some running… I feel like I did some really good cutting and ran a few routes [Tuesday] and it felt good.”

Head coach Adam Gase reiterated his excitement about getting Crowder back, calling him the team’s “best receiver.” Crowder certainly has been the most consistent option on the field, and it should give them a boost against a banged-up Denver secondary.

Rookie offensive tackle Mekhi Becton is expected to play tomorrow as well, after leaving early last game with a shoulder injury. Becton had an MRI done on Monday to determine the severity of his injury and it turned out much better than initially expected, according to Adam Gase.

“The MRI and everything turned out better than really we were thinking [Sunday] night.”

That’s great news for the rookie and the team as a whole.

The starting left tackle has been very good through his first three games, even being named the highest-graded offensive rookie through two weeks, according to Pro Football Focus.

That’s great to see from a top draft pick and from a position that the Jets have desperately needed consistency from. If Becton does indeed play tomorrow, his job will not be all that easy. He would be lining up against defensive end Shelby Harris, who has 2 sacks so far this season, and potentially against linebacker Bradley Chubb.

Becton has held his own, though, so far during his transition to the NFL. He has had just one penalty called against him and he has allowed only one sack. That is, once again, great to see from the player responsible for guarding Darnold’s blind side.

Getting these two key players back would be much needed for a struggling offense. Based on the track they’ve been on so far this week, tomorrow’s game looks like the return for both of them.

 

NFL News: New York Football at an All-Time Low

The New York Giants and New York Jets have had combined for some bad football over the years and 2020 looks like it’s going to right up there with some of the worst.

Both teams are off to 0-3 starts and neither has looked very good doing it. The Jets are in their second season under head coach Adam Gase, whose presence forced them to trade their best player in safety Jamal Adams.

The Giants are in their first season under heat coach Joe Judge. They also look like a disorganized, undisciplined mess after three games. They are still reeling from losing their best player, running back Saquon Barkley, for the season to a knee injury.

The Jets have had just one winning season since 2010. The Giants have had losing seasons in six of the last seven years. NFL.com isn’t liking what they see and ranked the two New York franchises at the bottom of their latest power rankings.

New York Giants (0-3): Rank: 31

“The Giants are the best team in New York … unfortunately, they’re worse than everyone else. Big Blue was dreadful at home on Sunday, bullied up and down the field by a 49ers team missing several key players on both sides of the ball in a 36-9 loss. Daniel Jones threw an interception and was charged with another lost fumble; his turnover issues cannot be ignored and will make him a figure of increasing scrutiny with the Giants steaming toward a high pick in the first round next spring. That said, this is not all on the second-year quarterback. The Giants lack difference-makers on defense, and the loss of Saquon Barkley has robbed the offense of the only thing that made it special. Dark days in the Meadowlands.”

New York Jets (0-3): Rank: 32

“Three weeks, three blowout losses. Sunday was another grim slog, as Sam Darnold threw three interceptions — including two returned for scores — in a 36-7 loss to the Colts. Darnold finds himself in an impossible situation, marooned on an injury-riddled and talent-poor roster with an unimaginative offensive scheme cooked up by an uninspiring head coach — but he may force Joe Douglas’ hand come next spring if the Jets land at or near the top of the draft and Darnold is coming off an ugly statistical season. This wasn’t supposed to be the conversation around Darnold in Year 3, but these are the consequences for a Jets team that has done virtually everything wrong since his arrival.”

The Jets travel to Denver to play the Broncos on Thursday night. Denver is missing their starting quarterback (Drew Lock) and oddsmakers have made them a one-point underdog. The Giants will face the Rams in L.A. on the late slate Sunday. They are 13-point dogs with little chance of overcoming the high-powered Rams’ offense.