New York Giants: Evan Engram will continue working on catching the ball

New York Giants, Evan Engram

Catches have been a big problem for New York Giants tight end Evan Engram. A missed catch blew the game against Philadelphia when the Giants should have had a game ending first down, but even beyond that, the problem of drops has remained throughout Engram’s career. In fact, it’s been called his biggest flaw other than his inability to stay healthy. This season, with a healthy Engram, his drops have some to the forefront more than his injury problems.

Engram managed to score his first touchdown since October of 2019 in the Giants’ win over Washington, but that game wasn’t without another signature drop from him. But he did have something to say about it after the fact, intending to continue working on it.

“Just really was a routine play and I got a little too excited and the ball went through my hands. I just have to keep working and stay at it all week and stay and catch balls and working on technique – keep eyes on the ball all the way to the tuck,” Engram said. “It was just a play that I wish I could get back and grab it and make play. Those things happen. You just have to overcome it.”

The Giants were urged by many to move on from Engram after the Philadelphia game, but the front office has stood by the tight end for now and the Giants turned down multiple trade offers before the deadline. That’s similar to last season, where the Giants also considered Engram an untouchable talent. But what does Engram himself think of the frequent trade talks?

“I don’t really pay that much attention to it. I just control what’s on my plate and what’s in front of me and whatever happens is whatever happens. Like I said, I’m blessed to be here as a Giant and it was a hell of a game that we played today and I’m just glad we got the win.”

Engram had 48 yards and caught half of the 10 targeted passes thrown his way. It’s hard to see him moving on from the Giants in the foreseeable future after they declined to trade him, but a high level of performance will certainly be expected going forward as the team has invested a lot of faith in Engram for the future.

Breaking: 3 Knicks employees test positive for coronavirus; MSG training center shut down

With less than three weeks before training camp begins, Covid-19 has struck the New York Knicks.

Three employees of the Knicks organization tested positive for the coronavirus, the team’s PR announced on Tuesday evening. The Knicks added they are all asymptomatic and are now under quarantine.

To avoid a further outbreak, the Madison Square Garden Training Center has been temporarily shut down for thorough cleaning. The training facility was earlier opened for voluntary workouts.

The training facility is expected to be ready when training camp opens on Dec. 1.

The latest outbreak is one of the hurdles the league will have to face next season, scheduled for tip-off on Dec. 22. The NBA has been Covid-free during its entire run in the Orlando Bubble. It will be interesting to see how they will navigate next season without the protection of a bubble.

The outbreak within the Knicks organization came at a time when they are expected to have a busy week starting with the transaction window three days before the virtual Draft Day on Nov. 18.

The Knicks have several players on team options (Bobby Portis and Theo Pinson) and non-guaranteed deals (Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, and Reggie Bullock).

They can create as much as $42 million on cap space to spend on free agency, which begins 48 hours after the draft.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Paul Felder’s journey from commentator to headliner at UFC Vegas 14

This Saturday night at UFC Vegas 14, fight fans will see an incredible lightweight matchup in the main event. Although, it is not the lightweight matchup that we thought we were going to see on Saturday night.

Originally, former UFC lightweight champion, Rafael Dos Anjos (29-13), was set to take on Islam Makhachev (18-1). This was supposed to be a big test for the budding UFC star in Makhachev. However, a staff infection caused him to pull out of the fight on Sunday.

Dos Anjos was left without an opponent. He called out Michael Chandler, however, the promotion has other plans for him. The UFC started sending out feelers to see who could and would step in on short notice and fight RDA in the main event.

Turns out, they didn’t have to look very far. They had to just look at the expected commentators for UFC Vegas 14. When they did, they found the seventh ranked contender in the lightweight division, The Irish Dragon Paul Felder (17-5).

Felder had been training for a triathlon so he is in great shape when it comes to his conditioning. Because of his training, his weight is also lower than it normally would be when he’s not in a fight camp. So, Felder decided it was the perfect opportunity to jump in and save the day.

UFC Vegas 14’s Hero

Felder appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA show where he talked about the decision to step up. “I thought about it. I was like, ‘Man you’re still 36, you’re young, you’re in shape. Save the day, let’s go get paid, let’s have some fun. You’re fighting a legend.’ What do I have to lose?” Felder said to Helwani.

After Felder’s last UFC contest back in February, we weren’t sure if we’d see The Irish Dragon again. Felder was in a war with Dan Hooker and lost a split decision. Since then, Felder has been a regular in the booth calling UFC action.

However, it never appeared that Felder was completely out of the game. It just looked like he was waiting for the right opportunity. Well, it turns out that the right opportunity is this Saturday. If he wins, Felder is right back in the conversation to fight a big name at lightweight.

New York Giants waive CB Corey Ballentine, prepare to add Will Hernandez, Dante Pettis

New York Giants, Corey Ballentine

The New York Giants had high expectations for former sixth-round pick, Corey Ballentine, out of Washburn, solely based on athletic ability and upside. His lack of technicalities and mechanical prowess lingered for a bit too long, as a team waived him on Tuesday afternoon.

With guard Will Hernandez testing positive for COVID last week, he is preparing to re-join the team, and Ballentine was simply a weak link that drew the short end of the stick.

Ballentine played nine games this year, starting in two. After playing in 92% of defensive snaps in week one and 45% in week two, he saw his reps decreased to just 3%. From week 5 to 7, he didn’t play a single snap, and over the last two weeks, he has been absent as well.

Corey found a home for himself returning kicks but had that job stolen from him from running back Dion Lewis. He averaged just 21.2 yards per return, and given his inability to cement the CB2 position, he will now hit the waiver wire.

The Giants have been attempting to find a solution at the CB2 position for quite some time but simply haven’t been able to fill the spot with a quality player. Since moving on from Ballentine, the Giants have utilized Isaac Yiadom and Ryan Lewis predominantly at the position.

Expect to see Hernandez re-join the active roster shortly and wide receiver Dante Pettis, who was claimed from the San Francisco 49ers, also join the roster.

New York Yankees Analysis: Are the New York Mets heating up, the Yankees, or Gleyber Torres?

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

The New York Yankees have been looking for a way to move Gleyber Torres back to second base. It is no secret that the Yankees are not happy with Torres at short. They are actively looking for a replacement. But in this cash strapped offseason don’t look for the Yankees to spend big on that void, it’s not likely you will see Francisco Lindor in pinstripes. A few days ago I offered a possible replacement in Andrelton Simmons. Now John Heyman has reported that the Yankees are indeed interested in Simmons.

“They are looking at the other guys that are out there,” John Heyman of MLB.com said. “They’ve contacted Andrelton Simmons, that’s a guy they’ve liked for a long time. … They’ve tried for Simmons before, they looked at him at the [2020 Trade] Deadline, so that’s a possibility. And, of course, with Didi Gregorius, who’s a free agent now. He was their guy and they liked him very much. He did a good job for them and did a good job for Philly, so that’s another consideration.

Is there some surprising news coming soon?  You never know, but Gleyber Torres has been making some noise. The Yankees have been somewhat overshadowed by the purchase of the New York Mets by its new owner Steve Cohen. Cohen had his introductory Zoon news conference talking about all the great things that the Mets are going to be doing. Surprisingly during that new conference, Gleyer Torres Tweeted this:👀

🍿

😴

We love the cryptic nature of this tweet, Gleyber Torres, but we need some answers as to what it means. Is it about the Mets, is it about Fracisco Lindor, DJ LeMahieu? Who knows but the timing of the Tweet is interesting in the middle of Cohen’s new conference. Is Torres hinting something. Recently Alex Cora did a similar tweet and the next day he was the new Red Sox manager.
Another interesting thing out of Cohen’s take over of the Mets, is that he indicated by tweet that he is not going to be in competetion with the Yankees this offseason, saying: “we are the Mets, we will create our own excitement.”
One thing is for sure this is going to be a very interesting offseason.

 

New York Mets: Sandy Alderson says Luis Rojas is “very likely” to remain the manager in 2021

The New York Mets introduced, via Zoom, their new owner Steve Cohen and his president: old friend Sandy Alderson. Both said that while they won’t spend like “drunken sailors” they want to win.

Cohen specifically said that if the New York Mets don’t lift the World Series trophy in the next three to five years, he will be “slightly disappointed.” Both men stressed the importance of building a culture of winning and sustainability.

The two men completely overhauled the Mets’ front office, starting with former general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and nearly all of his staff. The manager position, however, was a question mark before today’s press conference.

Luis Rojas, who has been with the Mets for several years in a variety of roles (even back when Alderson was the GM) just finished his first season as the team manager. It wasn’t a particularly successful one, as the Mets finished with a 26-34 record and in last place of the National League East division. However, Alderson said that Rojas is “very likely” to remain the team’s skipper in 2021.

Rojas know the Mets and the Mets know Rojas

The Mets’ president specified that he has been talking with Rojas about the matter for some time. While he didn’t quite make it official, it does sound like he is leaning towards keeping the young manager for at least another season.

However, Alderson wants to ensure that his front office hires have their opinion about Rojas before things making it official.

Most of the New York Mets’ players are familiarized with Rojas and have worked with him as all of them rose from the minor leagues, where he managed for a few years. He knows their strengths and weaknesses, and while the results weren’t there in his first season, he accumulated valuable experience for the future.

New York Mets: The Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson Press Conference

New York Mets

Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson introduced, or in Sandy’s case reintroduced, themselves to the New York Mets fans during their press conference on Tuesday. The new bravado, confidence, and professionalism that the Wilpon’s lacked are immediately visible in a Cohen regime.

Cohen spoke first, and the message stood out like any unforgettable campaign slogan. The new owner wants professionalism, a fan-oriented experience, and, most importantly, to WIN! Cohen said if the Mets are not champions within the first 3-5 years of his ownership, he would be extremely disappointed.

He said perfectly that the Mets would not spend like “drunken sailors” just because they have the resources to. Cohen likened, creating a successful baseball organization to his successful hedge fund a Point72. He wants to put everyone in the organization in the best place they can to be successful. Even more than that, Cohen wants to develop an organization that produces and brings in talent.

Cohen wants this franchise to be for the fans, not for his wallet. He said his hedge fund already makes money for him. Cohen wants to make “millions of people happy” by leading the Mets to the consistent success the franchise has lacked. It was refreshing to listen to a New York sports franchise owner talking about his love for the game and winnings instead of using it as a money grab.

Players Voice, Sandy is Back

Earlier, we saw Marcus Stroman rule out playing for the White Sox after his tweets about Tony LaRussa. Just a few hours later, Steve Cohen says the words “black lives do matter” and discusses players needing their freedom of speech as long as they give it their all on the field. This was not always the case with the Wilpon’s and players with social justice opinions like Stroman or creative players like Trevor Bauer find comfort knowing their owner backs them.

Alderson handled more of the baseball questions after Cohen’s session came to an end. He said manager Luis Rojas is likely to return to his post for the 2021 season. Alderson left the door open for a potential change if the new president of baseball operations wants to bring in someone else. Speaking of the president of baseball ops., Alderson began the search over the weekend. He said the team is on the right track heading into free agency.

Alderson voiced the same theme’s as his boss, saying, “We don’t want to just be known for winning, we want to be known for how we win.” As the Mets president, his urgency to win is as strong a Cohen’s even through “winning” has not been something the franchise has ever been known for.

Professionalism is Key

The number one thing to take away from the press conference is the discipline of the Mets. They will become a franchise who does things right instead of running the franchise the way the Wilpons ran it. The classic loveable losers or the franchise known for Bobby Bonilla strives to tear themselves from the negative stigma the Wilpons left.

New York Giants: Xavier McKinney injury update, inching closer to return

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

While the New York Giants’ defense has been stellar through nine weeks, they can use all the help they can get in the secondary. Aside from star corner James Bradberry, the CB2 position has been a revolving door of inadequacies. Whether it be Isaac Yiadom or Ryan Lewis, the Giants have failed to supplement the position with talent, mainly due to a lack of available funds and their desire to work in young players.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has done a fantastic job developing a scheme that helps maximize his player’s strengths. While CB has been a bit tumultuous at times, as Yiadom allowed a perfect 153 passer rating to Alex Smith and the Washington Football Team in week nine, every start has a few hiccups.

Next off-season, Graham’s unit should see improvement, with a reallocation of money and draft capital. However, they have yet to inject young safety Xavier McKinney into the secondary.

After suffering a fractured foot prior to the start of the regular season, McKinney has been slowly working his way back. Some predict he could return after Thanksgiving, following the teams week 11 BYE.

“That’s still up in the air,” head coach Joe Judge said of McKinney returning for week 10. “I don’t know if we will necessarily see him this week. He was on the field the other day running with the trainers. I haven’t had much of a chance with my own eyes to really get my eyes on him. I know he’s making a lot of progress. I’m getting positive reports on him. We have until Wednesday. He’ll be with the trainers tomorrow, that may shed a little bit more light on it for us. Based on how we practice Wednesday, if we go full tilt or some kind of an abbreviated walk thru, or short fundamentals practice, we haven’t decided yet. That may affect whether or not we start his clock on that day or not.”

When will the New York Giants insert McKinney into the defense?

Based on the positive developments regarding McKinney’s foot and his proximity to starting regular practice, I predict he will be ready for the team’s Week 12 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

That would be December 6, following a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 12. It would be a perfect opportunity for the Giants to face off against one of the league’s best offenses — a great test for McKinney early on.

Conor McGregor – Dustin Poirier official for UFC 257

Conor McGregor, UFC

The wait and the negotiations are finally over. The UFC has finally come to terms with both fighters and the rematch that the world is waiting on is booked. Per MMA Fighting, Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) has agreed to terms and the rematch with Conor McGregor (22-4) is on.

The two men will headline UFC 257 that will take place on January 23rd. The date was created specifically for the McGregor – Poirier rematch, but there’s been doubts around the fight over the past week. In fact, there’s been talk the UFC might pivot from Poirier.

Yesterday, it was reported that the UFC was considering moving on from Poirier to book McGregor against Justin Gaethje. This was looked at as a tactic to put a little pressure on The Diamond who had been at odds with UFC brass.

Poirier was originally supposed to face Tony Ferguson back in October. However, that fight fell apart due to financial negotiations. Then, the McGregor – Poirier rematch started picking up steam, but it wasn’t smooth sailing in getting the fight booked.

McGregor had agreed to terms with the promotion, but the UFC was still having trouble with Poirier. This promoted the promotion to start working on alternative plans with Justin Gaethje. We don’t know which side ultimately caved, but the fight is now official.

UFC 257

Conor McGregor last fought at UFC 246 in January of this year. After the victory, McGregor openly talked about his desire to remain active in his MMA career. He wanted a 2020 season that would culminate with him winning the lightweight championship again.

However, the pandemic through everything off. McGregor ended up retiring and having a public spat with UFC President Dana White. McGregor challenged Dustin Poirier to a fight for charity that had nothing to do with the UFC following Poirier’s struggles with the promotion.

Both men agreed, but that prompted the UFC to get to work on booking the fight. It wasn’t easy, but now it is official. These two men fought at featherweight when McGregor was on the rise in his career. Poirier is far better now, but you could make the same argument for McGregor.

The rematch should be a lot of fun and it will be a massive event for the UFC‘s lightweight division.

New Mets owner Steve Cohen already taking pages out of Islanders’ owners playbook

Steve Cohen has owned the New York Mets for more than a week now, and in that time he’s done exactly what a new owner of a professional sports franchise should do: Listen.

He’s listened to the fans, their suggestions and complaints. He’s listened to Sandy Alderson, who he brought back to the organization and was the reason for the success the team had a few years ago. And he’s listened to what will make the Mets feel like a franchise that the fans and players should be proud of.

In doing all that, Cohen has thus taken a page out of the book from another New York-based franchise’ stewards — Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky — who not too long ago had the same goal of leading that woe-be-gone franchise out of the abyss.

When the New York Islanders were in major need of an organization overhaul after the 2017-18 season, a year where the season fell apart after December and the end result was second consecutive year without a postseason appearance, it was Malkin and Ledecky who had finally seen enough. They took it upon themselves to right the ship and bring some much-needed credibility back to the franchise.

And it started at the top.

Out went the old regime with Garth Snow and Doug Weight, in came Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz. With that duo at the helm, the Islanders outlook immediately changed, even  with the departure of former captain John Tavares shortly after those changes were made. Two years later, the twosome has helped transform the Isles into one of the top teams in the NHL and a place where players want to play.

All of that was a result of ownership going for the cream of the crop and letting those masters of their class do their jobs while they stood quietly in the background.

Cohen showed he’s already had that thinking.

Immediately after taking full control last Friday, the hedge-fund billionaire had Alderson clean house and rid the franchise of the brain trust the last two years who failed to build a winning team, traded top prospects for retreads, and failed to make the postseason. This shortened season in the summer was considered an even larger failure with the extended playoff format.

But it’s not just on the field product where Cohen wants changes, he wants the image of the entire franchise to change. He’s mirrored Malkin and Ledecky in that aspect as well.

Ledecky is not on social media (there’s been rumors of a burner account), but he’s been extremely forthcoming about talking to as many fans as possible when he would walk the concourses at Nassau Coliseum/Barclays Center during home games. Those conversations have helped put the off-ice dynamic of the Islanders in a whole new light. The proof is already there and will show even more when the team’s new home UBS Arena opens next fall.

Cohen has taken the same route re-establishing his Twitter presence and answered Mets’ fans questions on how to make their experience as fans better was the perfect step to introduce himself and show how committed he is.

Cohen is set to be formally introduced this morning as the team’s new owner but things are changing at 41 Seaver Way just as they did once at 1255 Hempstead Turnpike.

We might not see the full scope of those changes for a few months when spring training begins.

Even so, Cohen has already taken huge steps in the right direction with getting the Mets to the place they should be by using the Islanders’ playbook.