New York Giants: One big play on offense and one big play on defense for week 12

New York Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants have a lot to worry about going into their game with the Seahawks, where they may be missing Daniel Jones. But for now, they can celebrate another consecutive win after taking down the Cincinnati Bengals by a narrow margin. Despite the low scoring nature of the game, the Giants had some big plays on both offense and defense. And now that it’s all said and done, it’s worth going back and taking a look at both.

Evan Engram’s 53 yard reception

Evan Engram has struggled in recent years, and even during this current season. He had a somewhat slower start and his most well known moment this season is likely the drop that cost the Giants their first game with the Eagles. However, Engram has started to pick his game up recently and had some of the biggest receptions for the Giants in their win against the Bengals.

The most notable one from this game, of course, is the 53 yard reception that came relatively early in the game during the first quarter. The Giants scored a touchdown on this drive to take the initial lead and that was in large part because of Engram helping them get down the field to make it possible.

Also, it’s worth noting that this wasn’t a completely uncontested catch either. Engram has had trouble over his entire career with catching the ball under pressure, so seeing him make the longest reception of the Giants season so far while also beating a defender is a nice moment worth recognizing after the fact.

Jabaal Sheard’s game ending sack

Jabaal Sheard isn’t the most used defensive lineman that the Giants have. He played on about half their defensive snaps against the Bengals and played in 28% of their defensive snaps in the game before that, against Philadelphia. However, Sheard picked up his first sack of the season in this game in addition to registering three tackles for the second time this year.

The sack was a rather significant one as it ended the game and secured the win for the Giants. Brandon Allen went down for a 13 yard loss and Leonard Williams picked up the forced fumble to ensure the Bengals wouldn’t have a chance at getting the field goal that they were looking for, which would have given them the win.

After the Giants have blown other games this season which they could have won, it’s good to see a play like this – a clutch defensive play coming at the end of the game and keeping the result in favor of the Giants rather than throwing out the lead and allowing the other team to jump ahead.

Buffalo Bills set to return to Glendale to take on San Francisco

The Buffalo Bills are once again affected by the NFL’s continuing efforts to schedule games in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.

The Buffalo Bills are returning to the scene of the crime…robbery, to precise.

Buffalo’s Week 13 contest will take them back to Arizona’s State Farm Stadium in Glendale, as restrictions caused by the ongoing health crisis have forced several adjustments to the NFL schedule. The regular home of the Arizona Cardinals will now serve as a temporary base for the San Francisco 49ers, the Bills’ upcoming opponent on Monday. This interconference matchup will keep its Monday spot, with kickoff still scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN and ABC.

San Francisco’s movement from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara was forced by Santa Clara County’s shutdown of contact sports over the next three weeks. Such restrictions have also affected the football and basketball programs. The 49ers will take on Buffalo next Monday before welcoming in the Washington Football Team six days later.

For Buffalo, this means a return to Glendale, the site of the more heartbreaking losses in recent franchise history. The Bills nearly stole a win from the hosting Cardinals on November 15 but were done in by Kyler’s Murray’s 43-yard miracle toss to DeAndre Hopkins that gave the home team a 32-30 victory.

The Bills (8-3) are no strangers to scheduling changes enforced by COVID-19. Their Week 5 matchup against the Tennessee Titans was moved from Sunday to Tuesday after an outbreak in the latter organization. It was the first NFL game played on a Tuesday since December 2010, when the threat of inclement winter weather forced a game between Philadelphia and Minnesota to be moved. Buffalo’s next game, originally scheduled for the ensuing Thursday night in Orchard Park against Kansas City, was likewise adjusted, moved to the following Monday night. The Bills lost both games.

This will mark Buffalo’s first appearance on Monday night since October 2018, when they hosted New England.

Further adjustments to the NFL schedule involved moving games away from certain days. The long-delayed matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens was moved for a third time, as the game originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night was first pushed to Sunday afternoon and later this Tuesday night. But a new shift, announced on Monday, will stage the NFL’s first Wednesday game since 2012 (3:40 p.m. ET, NBC), when the Democratic National Convention forced the season opener between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys to be played a day before its traditional Thursday spot.

As a result of those delays, both Pittsburgh and Baltimore’s Week 13 games have already been moved. The Steelers will now play Washington next Monday at 5 p.m. ET, while the Ravens will play a day later (8:05 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network) in what was originally a Thursday night tilt against the Dallas Cowboys.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC: Jan Blachowicz eyeing a future move to heavyweight

Corey Anderson

The UFC‘s light heavyweight champion doesn’t plan on staying at 205 for the rest of the career. Poland’s Jan Blachowicz sees his title reign at light heavyweight ultimately leading him to the UFC‘s heavyweight division.

The UFC‘s Polish Power has turned around his career in a major way over the past couple of years. If you go back to 2017, you will find a dejected Jan Blachowicz who had just lost his second consecutive fight in the octagon.

After losing a majority decision to Patrick Cummins, Blachowicz knew he needed to take his career more serious. He really started to focus and train harder than he ever had before. The results since have been astonishing.

Since that loss to Cummins at UFC 210, Blachowicz has gone 8-1 with the only loss coming to former title challenger Thiago Santos. Somehow, Blachowicz seems to be getting better and better with age.

Blachowicz will turn 38 in February of next year. However, he’s on a stretch that proves that age is just a number. In his last four fights, Blachowicz has defeated Luke Rockhold, Jacare Souza, Corey Anderson, and Dominick Reyes. He won three of those by knockout.

UFC’s future heavyweight?

This run has seem Blachowicz reach the mountain top and become UFC light heavyweight champion. However, he’s still not satisfied. Blachowicz is disappointed that he never got the chance to fight Jon Jones.

Jones vacated the UFC light heavyweight title this year when Blachowicz was the number one contender. Blachowicz told Submission Radio that he believes the UFC‘s pound for pound GOAT is dodging him because he knows he will lose.

“That’s (A fight against me) gonna be his first loss at heavyweight. I’ll give him first loss at 205, or maybe heavyweight. We will see. But, he does everything to not fight against me.”

When asked about a potential move to heavyweight, Blachowicz said, “I would like to stay in 205 a little bit longer. But it’s also hard because nobody knows what Jon Jones is doing right now. I think two more years at 205 and then I will go to heavyweight.”

The UFC‘s light heavyweight champion made it clear that he wants to move up to chase Jon Jones. However, he acknowledged that there’s two roadblocks in his way. He must first defeat Israel Adesanya and Glover Teixiera before he moves up.

“First of all, I have to win against Glover or Israel, and after this fight we can talk about Jon Jones. I don’t care. I believe I catch him (Jones) in future somewhere, at 205 or at heavyweight.”

New York Giants: Logan Ryan makes PFF Week 12 Team of the Week after big performance

New York Giants, Logan Ryan

The New York Giants are coming off of a huge Week 12 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Giants’ defense was dominant in this week’s victory that pushed the Giants to first place in the NFC East. New York held Cincinnati’s offense to a total of only 155 yards.

The Giants’ defense was exceptional against both the run and the pass and even forced three turnovers. New York saw multiple defensive players have standout performances, but none greater than safety Logan Ryan.

Logan Ryan Week 12 Stats and Highlights

Logan Ryan had a phenomenal Week 12 performance that saw earn a spot on Pro Football Focus’s Team of the Week. Ryan was a defensive force for the Giants, totaling 6 combined tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. He was a true defensive playmaker for New York against Cincinnati.

Logan Ryan was listed as the FLEX defender on PFF’s Team of the Week. According to PFF, Ryan had two pass breakups when not the primary coverage defender this week. His forced fumble in the fourth quarter was also one of the most clutch plays of the game:

This was another great performance in the midst of an excellent season for Logan Ryan. Ryan seems destined to become a Pro Bowler this season. Ryan was leading all NFC free safeties in Pro Bowl voting earlier this week. This would be Logan’s first Pro Bowl nomination of his career.

This is well deserved as Logan Ryan has been phenomenal as a new member of the New York Giants’ secondary in 2020. Playing opposite of Jabrill Peppers, Ryan has flourished in his new role as a free safety. The Giants signed Ryan to a one-year deal this offseason, but with the way he has played, it seems likely that he will be around longer than that. The Giants would be wise to extend their standout safety.

New York Knicks: ‘Gym rat’ Immanuel Quickley ready for training camp

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

New York Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley hasn’t changed his routine even after getting picked in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft.

There’s not a single day he missed going to the gym.

Even during the Draft Night, Quickley’s mother had to talk him out going to the gym.

That’s how dedicated Quickley is to his craft. He’s been preparing hard to prove that he’s worthy of the first-round selection when all mock drafts have slotted him late in the second round.

“He’s been in New York all month and in the Knicks’ facility since last week,” Quickley’s former AAU coach-turned personal trainer and adviser Jide Sodipo told Empire Sports Media.

Before Quickley was cleared to work out in the team’s practice facility in Westchester, he frequented the gym of former Knicks trainer-turned-independent NBA Skills trainer Chris Brickley in downtown New York. Quickley has also linked up with former NBA sharpshooter Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who is also working out Knicks guard Dennis Smith, Jr.

‘Nothing has changed’

For Quickley, the NBA Draft Night wasn’t the culmination of his hard work. It’s only the beginning of another mission, another challenge to overcome.

Sodipo has been with Quickley every step of the way since he was in eighth grade. And even now that Quickley has already reached his NBA dream, Sodipo never left his side. He’s accompanying Quickley to navigate his rookie season in the Big Apple. 

Sodipo worked him out every day in a gym near Quickley’s residence to prepare for the Draft. While Sodipo is proud of Quickley’s progress, he’s even prouder that his ward has kept his feet on the ground even after the high selection.

Quickley has been using that as a motivation to earn his spurs in the cramped training camp that will begin Tuesday. They will only have ten days before the Knicks play their first preseason game in Detroit.

“Nothing has changed. He’s still a gym rat,” Sodipo said of Quickley. “He’s a special young man, very focused. He’s a young man that really loves the game.”

‘It feels like Kentucky all over again’

Quickley will be tested towards the end of the week when group practices will be allowed. If there’s anything that is going his way, it’s the fact that he’s been in this type of situation before. His rookie season seems like Kentucky all over again.

Of course, former Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne will ease his transition to the team. But Quickley has to compete again and prove he’s worthy of a spot in the Knicks’ crowded backcourt that will have playoff veteran Austin Rivers and holdovers Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith, Jr., and Frank Ntilikina.

This is one reason why Quickley has stuck with the Wildcats even after a disappointing freshman season. Rather than run from it and look for a school that will give him playing time, he embraced the challenge to compete again in a crowded Kentucky backcourt in his sophomore year.

He adjusted his game from being a point guard to playing off the ball on his way to becoming the SEC Player of the Year.

John Calipari, Quickley’s college coach, knows that his stint with the Wildcats has prepared him for this challenge.

“I think what you’re going to find out is a guy that mentally is ready, is on a mission, is a gym rat, is a culture guy. Great faith, a big family that unconditionally loves him, and he knows it, and he’s comfortable in his skin,” Calipari said via zoom last week. “They made a great one. It was a hell of a pick.”

It was a hell of a ride for Quickley, too, just to get here.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Franklyn Kilome

Franklyn Kilome made quite a few trips between the New York Mets shuttle in Queens and Brooklyn. All of his outings were long relief, and each of the four he made got continually worse. Despite the tough season, the Mets still have hope for Kilome’s future.

Kilome joined the Mets roster for the first time on July 31. It only lasted for three days but made one long relief appearance against the Atlanta Braves. Kilome faired well in the outing as he worked four innings and allowed two runs while striking out five. After he went back to the alternate site the following night, he did not return until August 17.

In his second stint, Kilome allowed five walks over three innings but kept the Marlins to two runs. He also picked up his first career save in the outing, but control issues would continue to hamper him. Kilome went back and forth again to step into another long outing on August 18. It was another three-inning appearance where he allowed four runs and two homers.

After one more trip between the boroughs, he had a final outing against the Braves. It was the worse of the season, allowing six runs, two home runs, and three walks in just 1.1 innings pitched. High pitch counts summed up his season as he struggled to put hitters away efficiently.

The Potential?

Kilome showed good strikeout potential but is still working back from Tommy John Surgery in 2018. He has good life on his fastball, good movement on his curveball, and a promising changeup. Like most young pitchers, the command is going to make or break his career.

At 6’6″, there are plenty of moving parts in his delivery, making it hard to duplicate. Kilome’s biggest flaw is replicating the same front side movement. When it is in sync with his backside, he can pinpoint the ball right at the knees. The current motion is a good base; once he finds a good rhythm, Kilome should see improvement.

Overall, it was a very tough season for Kilome. He had an 11.12 ERA in 11.2 innings while allowing five home runs and walking nine. The 13 strikeouts are a positive point to reflect on, but it shows how erratic he is on the mound. It was Kilome’s first season pitching at any level above AA, and there is still plenty of learning to complete. Kilome is unlikely to make the roster out of spring training, but he is part of the weak starting pitching depth in their system.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

Sinker: 35 (40), Not enough movement to be a reliable pitch. Four of seven hits against it went for extra bases.

Curveball: 45 (55), The curve has a real potential to be a weapon. It had a 35.7% whiff rate; if he can better the command, it will increase.

Changeup: 20 (30), Still a pitch that needs work; just about half were thrown to the upper part of the zone.

4-Seam Fastball: 20 (45), Only threw 16 of them, and only two were put in play. If the downward movement on his sinker does not improve, he should throw the 4-seam more.

Command: 25 (35), 7.1 BB/9, and 4 HR/9.

Overall: 20 (30), Still has some work to do to make a difference at the big league level.

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Dellin Betances

Dellin Betances was the big signing the New York Mets made last offseason to bolster their struggling bullpen. In his first season in Queens, injuries and lack of spring training held him back from reclaiming his role as one of the best relievers in baseball.

After three scoreless and walkless outings to opening up his season, Betances struggled to complete entire innings. As usual, Betances still needed a few outings to regain his upper 90s velocity and reign in his breaking ball. Unfortunately, we never saw the consistent high velocity, and Betances had trouble finding the strike zone.

Betances made 10 more outings before heading to the injured list with a right lat injury. In those 8.1 innings, he allowed seven runs and seven walks. While he did not allow an extra-base hit, combining eight hits with those walks led to bad outings.

Betances stint on the IL lasted just under a month, and he returned to pitch twice before the season ended. Both outings were typical of his season, one scoreless with two walks and the other allowing three runs. Betances had more outings where he allowed a walk than ones without a free pass.

Reasons For Struggles

Throughout his career, Betances has been known for his lack of velocity early in the season. Combining the lack of outings he made in 2019 due to injury and the lack of a full, healthy spring camp was something Betances did not adjust to well. Betances had the worst strikeout and walk rates of his career six consecutive seasons of double-digit K/9 numbers.

A positive for Betances is continuing to limit the home runs against him (0). Finishing the season with a 7.71 ERA gave Betances no choice but to use his option year to return for 2021. After two seasons riddled with injuries and dealing with a wacky season, Betances should right himself with a fully healthy offseason and spring training.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

4-Seam Fastball: 45 (60), Lowest average velocity of his career and a 13.2% whiff rate, also the worst of his career.

Curveball: 40 (50), Used to be a major weapon for him and lagged as a strikeout pitch.

Slider: 55 (65), Only threw 24 of them but hitters only batted .231 against it. It should be interesting to see how he balances the curve and slider in 2021.

Command: 20 (50), Never been a control artist but is much better than he was in 2020.

Overall: 20 (55), Betances may not return to being an All-Star, but he still has plenty of good years left in him.

New York Ranger draft pick named to preliminary roster for Team USA

New York Ranger’s fifth-round draft pick Brett Berard was one of 29 players invited by USA Hockey to its 2021 U.S. National Junior Team Training Camp that will begin on Dec. 6 in Plymouth, Michigan.

Berard will begin his freshman season with the Providence Friars in 2020-21. He recently spent two seasons in the U.S. National Team Development Program while recording 16 goals and 18 assists with the U18s in 2019-20. He was selected by the Rangers in the fifth round (134th overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft back in October.

Berard has been described as a small, but scrappy player.  He also put up 18 points in just 13 games with the USNTDP Juniors making him the highest-scoring forward in the USHL on a per-game basis, according to EliteProspects.

Elite Prospects also mentions that Berard pairs his strong skating with excellent stickhandling ability. He is deadly in one-on-one situations as he can make a quick dangle and also can use his feet to get around a defender. His scouting report also mentions that “He is extremely aggressive, using his body on the forecheck and creating havoc in front of the net. Berard is always moving his feet and in the middle of the action. He can drive opponents nuts and draw penalties. Berard brings his non-stop motor and aggressive style in all three zones.”

Most scouts feel that Berard could be a top-6 forward if he continues to develop. Compensating for his size is a continuing project and adding bulk will certainly be a helpful component.

The camp is part of the evaluation process in selecting the 25-player U.S. National Junior Team roster that will compete in the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 25, 2020, through Jan. 5, 2021, in Edmonton, Alberta. The final roster will be announced on Dec. 13, prior to the team’s departure from Plymouth to Edmonton that day.

The United States enters the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship seeking its fifth medal in six years after earning a record four-consecutive medals: gold in 2017, silver in 2019, and bronze in both 2018 and 2016.

 

 

 

Buffalo Bills, Cole Beasley talk about Sunday trickery

Beasley’s touchdown toss against Los Angeles is the Buffalo Bills’ second scoring pass from a non-QB this season.

Kelly, Kemp, Ferguson, Flutie, Bledsoe…Beasley??? 

It’s not likely that Cole Beasley will go down amongst the great passers in Buffalo Bills history, even if his official passer rating sticks at 158.3. Beasley joined fellow non-quarterbacks John Brown and Preston Ridlehuber as the only players in Bills history to earn a perfect mark in the category on Sunday. Buffalo trickery led to the receiver tossing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis during a tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers at Bills Stadium en route to a 27-17 victory. It was similar antics that allowed the rusher Ridlehuber and the receiver Brown to likewise earn passing scores in 1969 and 2019 respectively (Beasley’s current teammate Brown also had a scoring throw in last year’s playoff cameo in Houston). 

The Bills (8-3) were able to pass the play off as a bubble screen, with Beasley taking a pass behind the line of scrimmage from regular quarterback Josh Allen. Davis faked a block before heading downfield, drawing the Chargers’ attention to Beasley. With the ruse in full swing, Beasley lobbed the ball to a wide open Davis, helping the rookie catcher earn his fourth touchdown pass of the season and to give Buffalo a 14-6 lead in the second quarter.

According to Davis, the gridiron sorcery was several weeks in the making, giving him full confidence that the deception would work. 

“I knew it was going to work,” Davis said, per Jourdan LaBarbour of BuffaloBills.com. “We run a lot of those bubble screens, so as soon as I saw (Chargers cornerback Chris Harris) shoot, I just knew the ball was coming to me and Cole was able to, you know, put a dart. He said he threw it kind of hard to get it in there but…it was a softball. It was an easy catch and I’m glad we could make that connection.”

Mandatory Credit: Jamie Germano-USA TODAY NETWORK

Beasley became the second Bills receiver to flip the narrative of a touchdown pass this season, joining Isaiah McKenzie. The latter threw a four-yard pass to Allen in the infamous loss to Arizona earlier this month. Alas for McKenzie, the passer rating formula left him just short of a perfect mark at 156.2. Since 2018, Buffalo is tied with division rival Miami for the most touchdown passes thrown by a non-quarterback (4, including postseason). 

“My feet weren’t set right, it was really ugly, but it got there. I’ll take it,” Beasley analyzed in LaBarbour’s report. “I was trying to get them to come up and think it was a bubble screen. I just had to have eyes on the safety, make sure he’s not coming over back there. The guys were guarding the guys going deep, so I had a chance to throw it.”

If anyone on the Bills was ready for aerial duplicity, it was likely going to be Beasley. The 31-year-old previously served as an option quarterback at Little Elm (TX) High School, earning 5,071 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air and on the ground combined over two varsity seasons. He did not attempt any passes during his college years at Southern Methodist but got two chances during his seven-year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, both falling incomplete. 

In addition to his self-deprecation, Beasley was happy to chalk the highlight up to a team effort, complimenting both his blockers and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

“(The blockers) sell it more than I do,” Beasley said, per Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News. “They sell it with the blocks. They give like a three count and then they go. I was trying to get them to come up and thinking it was a bubble screen. I just had to have eyes on the safety, make sure he’s not coming over back there.”

“(Daboll) has done a good job of mixing it up,” he continued in another report from David De Cristofaro of Bills Wire. “He does a good job of keeping them off-balanced and that was one of those times right there.”

Before anyone tells Beasley to stick to his day job, they should be advised that he’s been posting strong numbers on the receiving ledgers as well. He’s currently on pace to set career-highs in nearly every major statistical category, standing at 667 yards on 57 receptions, three of which have gone for touchdowns. 

Allen has praised Beasley for stepping up in recent weeks, particularly with Brown forced out due to an ankle sprain. 

“Cole is very instinctive. He’s a very smart player,” Allen said prior to the Chargers’ visit, per AJ Feldman of RochesterFirst.com. “He knows what windows to kind of throttle down into and get out of and it’s just something we’ve talked about an extreme amount. We’ve watched a lot of film together.”

“I trust him implicitly whenever he breaks in or breaks out. I trust that he did his due diligence of peaking where the defense was. The majority of the time he’s 100 percent correct.”

Beasley and the Bills return to action on Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers in a game moved to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

Giants’ Daniel Jones has better than expected MRI results on hamstring

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones receive some positive news on Monday afternoon regarding a pulled right hamstring he suffered against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 12. Leading up to the injury, Jones had completed 16 passes on 27 attempts for 213 yards.

Jones has confirmed himself to a running style quarterback in Jason Garrett’s new offensive scheme, and with running comes a higher probability of injury. This hamstring issue could last several weeks, but the latest MRI results showed that the injury wasn’t severe, and he has an outside chance of playing against the Seattle Seahawks, Per Ian Rapoport.

Following the injury, Jones was walking along the sideline without a grimace, which was a positive sign, to begin with. Thankfully, the injury should only keep him out for one week at the most, and a game the Giants were expected to lose anyway against MVP candidate Russell Wilson.

On the year, the Giants are 4-7 and leading the NFC East by just half a game. Jones has completed 63.2% of his passes for 2,335 yards, eight touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He has also rushed for 403 yards and a touchdown, bringing out a strength the Giants didn’t realize he had in during his rookie season.

However, Daniel has subsequently fixed his turnover problems, going 2.5 games without turning the ball over. He’s also found a rhythm in the passing game, getting the ball out of his hands faster and maneuvering in the pocket more efficiently. He has taken significant strides the past few weeks in his development, and the Giants feel confident he can be their quarterback of the future.