New York Giants: Sterling Shepard practices, could play Thursday night

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

Few would say that the New York Giants are a primetime team based on their performance this season, but that’s the case as they have a Thursday Night Football game coming up with the Eagles. The team has suffered from a number of injuries this season that may hurt their performance in that game. However, one injured player, Sterling Shepard, may make his return.

We’ll probably know the answer sooner rather than later as the Giants have a short week to prepare for this one given the Thursday night date. What we do know for now is that Shepard practiced on Tuesday and hasn’t been eliminated from making a return against the Eagles.

What this return means for the Giants

Shepard has only appeared in two games this season. The first was the season opener where he played the entire game and caught all six of the passes targeted at him. However, his total statistics could have been better as he finished the game with a relatively low 47 yards. The second game Shepard appeared in is the one where he was injured. He registered 2 catches for 29 yards up until that point, and hasn’t played since.

The return of Shepard would be useful to quarterback Daniel Jones, who threw for one touchdown and one interception against Washington and has been under the magnifying glass of the fans and the media this season. With the team suffering from a slow start and with Dave Gettleman on the hot seat, it’s also believed that Jones might not have 100% job security as one of Gettleman’s most known draft picks.

But with Shepard, Jones will have another one of his main weapons and we’ll once again get to see the combination of Shepard and Darius Slayton playing at the same time. With healthy tight end Evan Engram thrown into the mix, the Giants appear to have a dangerous receiving game ready to face the Eagles.

New York Giants: A Thursday Night win could keep playoff hopes alive

New York Giants, Joe Judge

The New York Giants‘ season got off to a disastrous 0-5 start. Thankfully, the Giants were able to pick up their first win of the season against the division-rival Washington Football Team on Sunday. Now, at 1-5, the Giants are actually still very much alive in the playoff hunt.

The NFC East is laughably bad. The Giants’ division has a combined record of 5-18-1. The Giants sit one game back from first place in their division. Currently, the Dallas Cowboys own the title with a 2-4 record. If New York can pick up a clutch win on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, they can move into first place in the NFC East.

The Dallas Cowboys will need to lose as well if the Giants are going to move into first place in the east. Dallas is traveling to Washington this week to play another divisional game. Washington’s lone win of the season came against the rival Eagles. With a Dallas loss and a New York win, the Giants would find themselves with the same record as Dallas, 2-5, at the end of the week.

But beating Philadelphia will be no easy task for the Giants on Thursday night. If the Giants want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they need to come out of Philadelphia with a win.

The Road To First Place In The NFC East

The Giants will travel to Philadelphia to play their third divisional-matchup in a row on Thursday night. A primetime game against Philadelphia is typically a daunting task for the Giants, but things could be different this time around with the Giants coming off their first win of the season.

Luckily for the Giants, things have also gone from bad to worse in Dallas. The Cowboys are playing without their starting quarterback, Dak Prescott, after he suffered a season-ending injury in Week Five. Now, after the team’s embarrassing Week Six loss to the Arizona Cardinals, players have spoken out against their own coaching staff.

This is the perfect moment for Washington to pick up a win and throw its name in the playoff race. Washington is coming off of a disappointing 19-20 loss to the Giants. They fought hard and nearly won the game, but ultimately lost on a failed two-point conversion after an impressive comeback.

With Dallas hitting a low point and Washington showing week-to-week improvement, the Football Team could get its second win of the season in Week Seven. This would put Washington in a tie for first place in the NFC East. If the Giants win this week too, then there will be a three-way tie at the top of the division. In this scenario, it is essentially the start of a new season for every member of the NFC East. The playoff race would begin in Week Seven between every single team in the NFC East.

If the Giants lose this week, it seems like their playoff hopes will be over. Considering how they played the first five weeks of the season, the Giants are not likely to go on a big winning streak to rise to the top of the division. No 0-5 team has ever made the playoffs in the NFL. Winning on Thursday will be the Giants’ first step towards making history.

New York Giants place LB Tae Crowder on IR, sign pass rusher from Jacksonville practice squad

New York Giants, Tae Crowder

The New York Giants continue to take hits on defense, as they previously lost outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter to a season-ending Achilles injury against Dallas two weeks ago.

In week six against Washington, the star of the game was linebacker Tae Crowder, who took a fumble back for a touchdown, giving his team a late lead.

Crowder, who was developing nicely alongside Blake Martinez at middle linebacker, will miss a minimum of three weeks on injured reserve. The new rules due to COVID-19 indicate that a player can make a return in as little as three weeks, and he will have about four weeks to recover, including the BYE week after they play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week eight.

Against Washington, Crowder finished with a 53.6 coverage grade, his second-best of the year. He had his best grade against the Los Angeles Rams, with a 72.7 coverage grade, via PFF. While he wasn’t stellar against Washington, the defense got the job done and managed to escape with their first victory of the season.

New York Giants are bringing in another defender:

The corresponding move by the Giants was to sign Jabaal Sheard off the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad. Sheard is an outside linebacker who will not supplement Crowder but rather Lorenzo Carter.

In 2019, he started in 12 games for the Indianapolis Colts, posting 4.5 sacks, 25 combined tackles, nine quarterback hits, and five tackles for a loss. Earlier in his career, back in 2011, Sheard was produced with the Cleveland Browns. He reached a high of 8.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in his rookie year, which is a long way away at this point.

Sheard has since fallen off a bit but brings good experience to the Giants and the ability to rotate in alongside Markus Golden and Kyler Fackrell. It will take him a few weeks to learn the defensive scheme, but I imagine he will quickly incorporate into the Giants’ defense as their pass rushers remain thin. I anticipate a few additional moves being made after Thursday’s contest against the Philadelphia Eagles.

New York Mets: Steve Cohen’s bid is approved by Major League Baseball’s Ownership Committee

New York Mets

The New York Mets are about to enter a new era. Fans are excited at the prospect of Steve Cohen, a lifelong fan of the team with deep pockets, taking over the team and making it a competitive, perennial contender in the National League East division.

According to a recent report from Scott Soshnick and Barry M. Bloom of Sportico, Cohen’s bid to acquire the New York Mets was approved by Major League Baseball’s Ownership Committee.

Before you jump into any conclusions, the development doesn’t mean that the takeover is complete and Cohen is already the Mets’ owner. However, it is a sign that everything is moving in the right direction and there haven’t been, so far, any significant roadblocks in the process.

What is separating Cohen and the Mets?

The next step should be a review by the commissioner’s Executive Council, and then, a voting process by MLB owners. The expectation is that the latter will take place shortly after the World Series finalizes.

To be claimed as the Mets’ owner, Cohen will need at least 23 votes. Although the process probably won’t happen in a unanimous way, the expectation is that he comfortably gets the needed votes to fulfill his lifelong dream.

The fact that Cohen already announced Sandy Alderson as the team president in case of taking over the Mets should help his chances of securing the needed votes. Alderson was the general manager from 2010 to 2018 and is well-respected around the league.

Cohen, a known hedge fund personality with a net worth of $14 billion, agreed to purchase the Mets for a record $2.42 billion bid to the Wilpon and Katz families. In the process, he beat other groups and associations interested in buying the club, most notably the Harris – Blitzer pairing and the Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez – led group.

New York Giants: Stock up and stock down following week 6 win over Washington

New York Giants, Tae Crowder

The New York Giants defeated the Washington Football Team in a heated divisional battle on Sunday.

The Giants were able to secure their first win of the season in a 20-19 victory over Washington. This divisional win was big for Joe Judge and the Giants as it puts them right back in the thick of things as they are only 1.5 games out of a playoff spot; yes, the NFC East is that bad. Nevertheless, there’s no saying how much a first win can do for the players and the staff.

Here’s how this victory affected the stock of various aspects in the Giants organization.

Stock up

Joe Judge, Head Coach

Joe Judge got his first career win as a head coach on Sunday. This is a big milestone for Judge and definitely helps his stock as he could have been on the hot seat if New York kept losing. While the Giants do not have the best talent, wins are still expected in the NFL, and it is good for Judge that he was able to earn his first.

Daniel Jones, QB

Daniel Jones played one of his better first halves of this whole season here in week six. In the first half, Jones had 61 rushing yards, one passing touchdown, and only one incompletion. This was a strong bounce-back showing from Jones as he has been a player who has lost stock the previous four weeks.

While he did not play great in the second half (6 incompletions and one interception), Jones’s play in the first half would prove to suffice as he led his team to their first win of the season.

Offensive Line

In order for Daniel Jones to find this success, he had to have the help of his hog mollies upfront. This unit played their best game of the season as they helped the Giants rush for over 130 yards and surrendered a season-low one sack and five pressures.

This improved play from the line helped open up the playbook to intricate play-action passes, and Daniel Jones designed runs, one of which that went for 49 yards.

Another major thing to look at from the offensive line was benching first-round pick Andrew Thomas. The Georgia alum had underwhelmed all season it seemed that New York had had enough and gave Matt Peart the opportunity at tackle. And in Thomas’ absence, Peart registered an elite PFF grade of 89.7.

Logan Ryan, S

Barring the fourth-quarter touchdown reception surrendered, Logan Ryan was having his best game with Big Blue. On the day, Ryan had eight tackles, one sack, and one pass breakup. Ryan also ended up recovering the onside kick to secure the win for New York. The Giants will need more of these performances from Ryan going forward as he has played 100-percent of defensive snaps in the last three games.

Tae Crowder, LB

In his second career start, Mr. Irrelevant had the best game of his short career easily. He made ten total tackles and had the game-winning fumble recovery for the Giants’ touchdown in the fourth quarter. This was a fumble recovery that took elite focus from the 255th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and one that he had to show a little athleticism with as he returned it 43 yards.

Kyler Fackrell, EDGE

The free-agent signee makes his way onto the stock up section once again after another huge play from Fackrell. On Crowder’s touchdown, Fackrell was the one who made the third-down strip-sack on Kyle Allen, which would have ended the drive but ended up ending the game. Fackrell now has a sack every other game this season, three total and will look to add to his total against a susceptible Eagles offensive line on Thursday.

Leonard Williams + Dalvin Tomlinson, DT

The big boys on the defensive line showed up in this divisional matchup. The two both wreaked havoc on the Washington offensive line, severely neutralizing both the run and passing game. Leonard Williams posted seven QB pressures, five QB hurries, two run stops, and one sack in a dominant display of talent on Sunday.

Dalvin Tomlinson, while not being as active in the pass rush, still was able to record three run stops, two QB pressures, and one QB hit. He ended up being the Giants’ highest-graded defensive starter from PFF with a grade of 83.9.

James Bradberry, CB

James Bradberry continued his All-Pro campaign in week six, where he recorded his second interception of the season. In this game, Bradberry’s presence alone helped the Giants tremendously as he was targeted only four times for three receptions and twelve yards.

Stock Down

Andrew Thomas, OT

Andrew Thomas probably was the Giant who’s stock was dropped the most on Sunday. He first received a first-quarter benching due to disciplinary reasons. When he came into the game, he was benched again, as he missed multiple assignments and blocks.

To make matters worse for the fourth overall pick, his competitor, Matt Peart, played excellent in his absence. Peart recorded a PFF grade of 89.7, highest on the offensive line, for his efforts against Washington.

All of this goes to question if the 2020 first-round pick will even start in week seven at Philly.

Blake Martinez, LB

After five straight amazing starts, Blake Martinez arguably had his worst game of the season. Martinez missed several tackles and was not a reliable coverage option, getting burnt on many passing plays. The veteran from Green Bay should be able to bounce back against an injured Eagles squad on Thursday.

Julian Love, FS

Julian Love saw his defensive snap count drop to zero percent last week in Dallas. However, with Adrian Colbert inactive against Washington, Love saw an increased role but did not take advantage of the opportunity. Love was the second-worst Giants defender, PFF grade of 47.0, and did more harm than good as he allowed one of the only two touchdowns on the day.

Wayne Gallman, RB

Since the arrival of Devonte Freeman, Wayne Gallman has essentially been thrown to the waste side. He only registered four offensive snaps on Sunday, where he received no touches. The former fourth-round pick’s lack of usage puts Gallman’s return in New York next season in major jeopardy.

David Mayo, LB

Another player whose future with the squad is in question is David Mayo. After registering 13 starts for Big Blue last season, Mayo saw his first playing time of the 2020 season in week six due to a preseason injury. However, in this game, he was vastly outperformed by his competitor, Tae Crowder, and ended up only playing 11 snaps where he recorded a team-low PFF rating of 28.6.

Justin Gaethje plans on causing massive damage at UFC 254

This weekend, the UFC‘s undisputed lightweight championship is on the line. The champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0). will take on the interim champion, Justin Gaethje (22-2), to determine who is the best lightweight in the UFC.

All who have stepped into a UFC octagon across from Khabib Nurmagomedov has failed. The Russian superstar has ragdolled every opponent on his way to his perfect 28-0 record. Nobody has been able to solve the Nurmagomedov puzzle.

Justin Gaethje plans on being the man to solve that puzzle at UFC 254. Gaethje grew up in the sport of wrestling, but it’s been his exciting striking wars that have captivated fans. His brutal power and brawling style have played up to his nickname of the highlight.

Everything came together for Gaethje at UFC 249 when he fought Tony Ferguson. For the first time, Gaethje didn’t appear wild when he fought. He was composed and executed a game plan. In return, he picked apart Ferguson on his way to capturing the UFC‘s interim lightweight title.

He knows and understands that Khabib Nurmagomedov is a different animal. However, the one positive about fighting Nurmagomedov is that there is no secret to his game plan. Gaethje plans on keeping the fight standing and doing big damage on Saturday night.

UFC Fight for the Ages

“My athleticism is going to cause him serious issues. He’s not going to be able to do what he wants when he wants. He’s going to have to take chances. And when he’s on his feet I’m going to be causing massive damage to his legs, his body, and his face,” Gaethje told BT Sport.

I will say this, Gaethje is the biggest test in the UFC for Khabib. When it comes to the skillset that he brings, he does pose some problems for the UFC‘s lightweight champion. Gaethje does have the grappling and scrambling skills to keep the fight standing.

Leg kicks could be a massive factor in this fight. Gaethje possesses some of the most devastating leg kicks in the sport and he only needs to land a few to make an impact. Sure, leg kicks make him suceptible to the takedown, but again, if a few land they will cause damage.

The UFC‘s interim lightweight champion will definitely have the advantage on the feet. Gaethje’s striking has looked sensational in his last couple of outings. If Gaethje can keep the fight standing Saturday night, he very well could walk away the undisputed UFC lightweight champion.

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Center Fielder Jake Marisnick

The New York Mets brought in Jake Marisnick before the 2020 season as a defensive specialist to replace Juan Lagares. Marisnick also brought in more power than Lagares, but injuries limited him to only 33 at-bats over the short 60 game season.

The Mets also brought in Marisnick as a good bat to start against left-handed pitching. Despite his career average being slightly higher versus lefties, his career slugging percentage is 50 points higher against southpaws. Marisnick also missed plenty of time throughout the season while battling a hamstring injury, which kept him out on two different occasions.

Lefty Specialist

Marisnick played in 16 games but only started 8 times. In those starts, he was very productive slashing, .385./.407/.731 with two home runs and five doubles. Overall, he also batted .375/.412/.688 against left-handed pitching but was very respectable with a .294 average and .529 slugging against righties.

All of this was done in a small sample size, but his 30.4% line drive rate would have been the highest of his career. Marisnick also had the lowest launch angle (7.8) and highest pull rate (60.9%) in his career, which usually does not bode well for someone with below-average exit velocity.

His defense also tailed off a little, and it likely had to do with his leg issues. Marisnick had a negative defensive runs saved and had zero outs above average, the lowest of his career. With a whole offseason to recover, those numbers should return the gold glove level they were in prior years.

Marisnick heads into free agency with a significantly lower value than he should. The Mets do not have any better defensive options in center field, and giving Marisnick another opportunity should benefit the overall team defense. On the year, Marisnick batted .333 (11-for-33) with two home runs and five RBIs. Though the average likely falls in a full season, he is still a quality depth piece.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

Hitting: 80 (30), Marsinick is a career .220 hitter, so anything near .300 is a reach.

Power: 55 (40), Good power but 15 home runs is likely his ceiling.

Run: 60 (60), Top 5% in baseball with a 29.2 ft/sec sprint speed.

Arm: 45 (40), Arm has declined in center over the last few years, would translate better in the corner spots.

Field: 45 (70), If he can get healthy, he will return to his top tier glove work.

Overall: 55 (50), It was a good season with the bat; it will regress over a full season, but his glove makes him a major league level player.

 

New York Islanders: Comparisons for the 2020 NHL draft class

The New York Islanders had 5 draft picks during the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. None of these picks were in the 1st or 2nd round. This doesn’t mean that the Islanders didn’t select some potentially good players. But, since NHL analysts don’t make comparisons past the first and early second round, regular fans don’t know what to expect. Here are the player comparisons for all 5 players. Also, keep in mind that I’m only using current active NHL players.

Alexander Ljungkrantz

I know for a fact that Brendan Burke will have a hell of a time saying his name every other night. I was skeptical of this pick for one reason, the production wasn’t there. Ljungkrantz played in 42 games in J20 SuperElit, and there wasn’t much I saw. Only 15 goals and 12 assists is not great production. But, he’s proved me wrong as of late. Just 2 days ago, Ljungkrantz had a hattrick with more than 14 minutes remaining in the third. In just 11 games, he has 7 goals and 3 assists. The SHL is not an easy league, but Ljungkrantz is dominating right now. He’s a grinder, and that’s why the Islanders picked him in the 3rd round—my comparison: Jesper Fast, but without that offensive output.

Alex Jefferies

Alex Jefferies’ production is absolutely outstanding. I’ve never pointed to a late-round prospect and said: “the production speaks for itself.” The best is yet to come for this young winger. I am so high on this kid—his most recent stats record as 33 goals and 36 assists in 32 games. Jefferies was over 2 points per game in the USHS-Prep. Jefferies is more of a sniper than a grinder but still plays a 200-foot game. For the sake of optimism, my comparison: Alex DeBrincat.

William Dufour

I’ve seen a lot of buzz around William Dufour. I’m not so sure I believe in it. But, there is a lot to like in his game. I see Dufour as a top-six power forward. Dufour can drive to the net effectively and has some wicked tip-ins. His goalie screens are always effective. Dufour has a nice slapshot and a good wrister. Dufour is not afraid to get dirty and will lay the body. He can definitely be a nice penalty killer for the Isles. My comparison: Jake Debrusk/Anders Lee hybrid.

Matias Rajaniemi

I really have no clue how to pronounce this name, but that’s not my job is it? Top 4 upside for Matias Rajaniemi. All over the world, Hockey analysts have raved about his skating abilities. Almost every beat writer wanted their team to draft Rajaniemi late. Lucky for the Islanders, they stole him in the 6th round. Rajaniemi recorded 2 goals and 15 assists in 39 games last year. His puck skills aren’t there just yet, but they will be. My comparison, just off size alone: Nikita Zadorov.

Henrik Tikkanen

Yes, the Islanders drafted a goalie who is 6’8. How can an NHLer go top shelf on a goalie who covers the whole net and more? Sadly, Tikkanen will not reach the NHL level. His sub .900 save percentage in the second-highest Finnish HL is not going to cut it. He’s just a really tall goalie, hopefully, he makes a difference in Bridgeport one day. My Comparison: Ben Bishop without any of the talent.

Jared Cannonier is completely focused on his UFC title aspirations

This weekend at UFC 254, The Killa Gorilla Jared Cannonier (13-4) will face the biggest test of his fighting career. He’s going to be standing across the cage from former world champion, Robert Whittaker (21-5). Both men want to earn a crack at the UFC middleweight title.

Cannonier has had an interesting journey to get to this point. When he first broke into the UFC, Cannonier fought at heavyweight. He wasn’t concerned about his diet or nutrition, he just wanted to fight. Cannonier carried knockout power at heavyweight, but he was pretty small.

He then decided to move down to the UFC‘s light heavyweight division. While this division better suited Cannonier, he still wasn’t clicking on all cylinders. His body still didn’t look like it was in peak condition, and his performances reflected that.

That’s when Cannonier decided to drop to his third UFC weight class. The middleweight division, and that is where his career completely turned. Cannonier has looked like a destroyer at middleweight going 3-0 with three knockouts.

Cannonier has been so impressive that UFC champion Israel Adesanya called him out after UFC 253. However, Cannonier made it clear today that he’s not focused on who’s the champion, he just wants a piece of that UFC middleweight title.

Future UFC champion?

“My journey is to get to the title. Whoever holds the title is going to have that target on his back,” Cannonier told reporters at the UFC 254 media day. Cannonier made it clear that his only goal is to become champion and he’s not focused on whoever he has to fight to get there.

Whittaker is a massive test for Cannonier. The former UFC middleweight champion had a similar story to the beginning of his career. Whittaker started at welterweight, but moved to middleweight because he felt his body would perform better.

He has gone 10-1 in eleven fights at middleweight which includes him capturing the UFC middleweight title. Whittaker is very well-rounded and he poses big problems for Cannonier. Whoever rises above the other on Saturday night will have clearly staked their claim as the number one contender.