New York Giants: Joe Judge thankful for Patrick Graham staying

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

The New York Giants won’t be changing defensive coordinators this season. Despite interest from other teams such as the Jets, it didn’t take long this offseason for Patrick Graham to agree to a new contract with the Giants. The extension came after the Jets asked to interview Graham, and confirmed that he’ll remain with the Giants instead of looking into the head coaching options.

One person that’s happy about the immediate move to keep Graham is Joe Judge, who was largely involved in the hiring of Graham in the first place this offseason.

“Keeping Pat here was definitely a priority for us. We know Pat’s gonna have a lot of opportunities going forward. He’s a very, very smart coach, he’s very good communicator, he has a lot of really good ideas and he’s very good getting the players to buy in and understand the concept he’s trying to do,” Judge said while speaking to WFAN on Tuesday.

The Giants defense improved quickly under Graham, with the Giants finishing in the top half of the league in terms of stopping the opponent from gaining yards. They also allowed the 9th least opponent points, and several players such as Leonard Williams and James Bradberry stepped up to have improved performances while playing under Graham.

Defense kept the Giants in several games, and they could have had more wins if it wasn’t for having one of the worst offenses in the league. So, it’s understandable that keeping Graham was a priority.

“I tell you what, that to me was huge. That was huge. Pat’s a great coach, he’s a good friend. Being able to keep him in this organization for as long as we can, that definitely was a priority. He’s a tremendous help to me, he carries that title of assistant head coach and that’s not just fluff on a sheet. He does a lot of things helping me internally,” Judge said about the coach.

Both of the Giants’ coordinators have received interest from other teams. Graham obviously turned down the chance to interview for the Jets job, but offensive coordinator Jason Garrett accepted an interview from the Chargers. It remains to be seen what the staff will look like come the 2021 season, but we do know for sure that the Giants will keep their best performing coordinator from 2020.

New York Rangers announce 2020-2021 team roster

New York Rangers

 The New York Rangers announced their 22 man roster and taxi squad on the eve before the start of the 2020-2021 NHL season.

18 players were trimmed off the training camp lineup leaving the team with 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies.

Morgan Barron, Anthony Bitetto, Colin Blackwell, Jonny Brodzinski, Brandon Crawley, Gabriel Fontaine, Tim Gettinger, Anthony Greco, Libor Hajek, Adam Huska, Patrick Khodorenko, Keith Kinkaid, Darren Raddysh, Tarmo Reunanen, Justin Richards, Matthew Robertson, Austin Rueschhoff, and Tyler Wall were all removed from the Rangers’ active roster.

Rangers Roster

Forwards– Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, Phillip Di Giuseppe, Julien Gauthier, Brett Howden, Kaapo Kakko, Chris Kreider, Alexis Lafrenière, Brendan Lemieux, Artemi Panarin, Kevin Rooney, Ryan Strome, Mika Zibanejad.

Defenseman– Tony DeAngelo, Adam Fox, Jack Johnson, Ryan Lindgren, K’Andre Miller, Brendan Smith, Jacob Trouba.

Goaltenders– Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.

Taxi Squad– Morgan Barron, Anthony Bitetto, Colin Blackwell, Libor Hajek, Matthew Robertson, and Keith Kinkaid.

Brodzinski, Crawley, Fontaine, Gettinger, Greco, Huska, Khodorenko, Raddysh, Reunanen, Richards, Rueschhoff, and Wall have been assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL).

NHL Debut

This year’s first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft Alexis Lafreniere and the first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft K’Andre Miller will make their NHL debuts at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night when the Blueshirts host the New York Islanders in game 1 of their abbreviated 56 game schedule.

Should the New York Giants look to add Anthony Lynn to their coaching staff?

The New York Giants are entering a crucial offseason. The Giants made serious progress this season, winning two more games than they did last season despite transitioning to a new, rookie head coach in a pandemic-filled season. New York saw numerous key, young players develop into building blocks. But there was one serious flaw with the New York Giants in 2020: their inept offense.

The Giants’ offense, more often than not, was terrible in 2020. They finished the season averaging just 17.5 points per game, the second-worst in the NFL. New York’s defense kept them in games and even won the team some games. But the offense often held the team back and consistently failed to propel the team to victory.

Many critics have placed the blame on the Giants’ offensive coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has received a plethora of criticism. However, it seems like his job is safe unless he leaves for a head coaching job elsewhere. Interestingly enough, the Los Angeles Chargers did interview Jason Garrett for their vacant head coach position.

The Chargers parted ways with head coach Anthony Lynn this offseason after four seasons in the position. Lynn has now generated excitement from fans who are suggesting him for the Giants’ offensive coordinator position if Jason Garrett were to leave and fill Lynn’s former position. However, I suggest another role for Anthony Lynn on the Giants’ coaching staff. One that could elevate the Giants’ offense to new heights.

Proposing Anthony Lynn as passing game coordinator

It seems unlikely that Jason Garrett will leave the New York Giants’ coaching staff this offseason. There are numerous head coaching candidates out there that will be more appealing to teams that have vacancies. Additionally, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said that the idea of Garrett leaving makes him “antsy,” so it seems like the team has no plans to fire Jason Garrett.

Many fans suggested Anthony Lynn would be a nice fit with the Giants as the team’s offensive coordinator if the position were to free up with Garrett’s eventual departure. But, with Garrett seemingly here to stay, Anthony Lynn cannot fulfill that offensive coordinator position. However, I think he could fill another role on Joe Judge’s coaching staff.

The New York Giants do not have a passing game or running game coordinator. These are somewhat new coaching positions that are not implemented in every coaching staff in the league, but they are present on many of the NFL’s top offenses. The Giants could add a passing game coordinator to aid Jason Garrett with that facet of the offense. New York seemed to run the ball just fine but struggled mightily in the passing game. A passing game coordinator could help fix that.

Anthony Lynn would make a lot of sense as the Giants’ passing game coordinator. He might not have been the best decision-maker as head coach of the Chargers, but his passing concepts were undeniably impressive and helped Los Angeles achieve plenty of success through the air under Lynn’s tutelage.

Could Anthony Lynn take this offense to the next level?

The Giants need more playmakers on offense. It is an obvious weakness right now and the fans, coaches, and front office alike are all aware of this. Getting an elite wide receiver for Daniel Jones will help this offense tremendously. But, furthermore, having an offensive coach that specializes in creating and implementing a creative passing attack would help Daniel Jones even more.

The Los Angeles Chargers saw their offense reach new heights in 2020. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert stepped onto the scene and instantly looked like a star, shattering rookie passing records. Anthony Lynn’s poor special teams, defense, and game-management led to his demise in Los Angeles. But his offensive scheme was not even close to problematic.

Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ offense averaged 270.6 passing yards per game in 2020. Herbert racked up a rookie-record 31 passing touchdowns to go along with 4336 and only 10 interceptions. Herbert often found himself throwing to open receivers downfield, schemed open by Lynn’s offensive scheme.

Anthony Lynn’s vertical passing concepts create an aggressive, downfield approach in his offensive attack. Mixing that in with Jason Garrett’s downhill rushing scheme and short passing concepts could give the Giants the best of both worlds.

Granted, a job as a passing game coordinator might be a bit beneath Anthony Lynn. Lynn is a highly-respected NFL coach that led the Los Angeles Chargers to a 12-4 record in 2018. But, if he is willing to take a less significant role on the Giants’ coaching staff, he could create significant improvements within the Giants’ offense.

MSG Networks to air 50 New York Rangers games this season

MSG Networks released their New York Rangers television schedule on Tuesday afternoon which will include 50 games broadcasted by the network.

MSG Networks, the television home of the New York Rangers, today announced the team’s telecast schedule for the upcoming 2021 NHL season, which will include a total of 50 regular-season games. The first telecast will be on Thursday, January 14th at 7:00 pm on MSG, when the Rangers open their season at home against the Islanders, with coverage getting underway at 6:30 pm.

Sam Rosen will return to the booth for his 37th season calling Rangers hockey. The recipient of the 2016 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame will be joined by analyst Joe Micheletti, back for his 15th season. John Giannone will host the network’s pregame, postgame, and intermission coverage, alongside former Rangers goalie and Emmy Award-winning studio analyst Steve Valiquette. Anson Carter, who played two seasons with the Rangers during his NHL career, will also serve as an analyst in the studio for select games this year.

On the radio side, Kenny Albert will be calling the games for his 25th season as the radio voice of the Rangers, calling play-by-play action on ESPN 98.7 radio. He will be joined by former Rangers captain Dave Maloney.  Don La Greca will serve as the back-up play-by-play announcer.

 

Courtesy MSG Networks

Fans can look forward to Sam and Joe calling rookies Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller’s first games in a Rangers sweater on Thursday night.

Looking forward to hearing Sam’s famous “it’s a power-play goal” hopefully in two days.

Buffalo Bills sign ex-Giants RB Devonta Freeman to practice squad

New York Giantsm Devonta Freeman

The Buffalo Bills made a pair of roster moves as they prepare for their Divisional matchup against Baltimore on Saturday.

The Buffalo Bills announced a series of roster moves prior to Saturday’s night AFC Divisional Playoff matchup against the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC). In conjunction with the placement of running back Zack Moss on injured reserve, the team added rusher Devonta Freeman to their practice squad and activated offensive lineman Jordan Devey to their 53-man roster.

Freeman, 28, partook in five games with the New York Giants earlier this season, picking up 172 yards over five games (four starts). The two-time Pro Bowler was placed on injured reserve in November with an ankle ailment before landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He was outright released on January 7.

His best performance in blue was a 60-yard output on 17 carries in an October loss in Dallas. Freeman scored the first and only Giants touchdown in that same game. Previously, Freeman led the league with 11 rushing scores during the 2015 season as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. He reached two Pro Bowls as an Atlanta representative and has appeared in five postseason games, scoring a touchdown through the air or on the ground in each of them. Freeman was notably a member of the Falcons’ 2016-17 squad that reached Super Bowl LI.

With Moss placed on injured reserve, his postseason is over thanks to the required three-week stay that comes with such placement. Moss had 47 total yards during the Bills’ Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts in Orchard Park. Devin Singletary will likely shoulder a larger load, while other reserve rushers on the active roster include T.J. Yeldon and Taiwan Jones. Freeman joins Week 17 star Antonio Williams on the practice squad, with the latter scoring twice in the blowout win over Miami.

Devey, who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Monday, joins the Bills’ active roster after spending most of it on their practice squad. He was previously activated for the Bills’ October visit to East Rutherford to take on the Jets. Devey previously started six games during the 2014 New England Patriots’ run to Super Bowl XLIX and also has earned a playoff start with Kansas City. He has partaken in 43 games overall (21 starts) since entering the league in 2013 as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Max Holloway has a lot on the line at UFC Fight Island 7

This weekend in the headliner of UFC Fight Island 7, Max Holloway (21-6) will be taking on Calvin Kattar (22-4). The fight is Holloway’s first fight since he lost the rematch to Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) at UFC 251.

Granted, most people believe that Holloway won that fight. Nevertheless, Holloway will enter the cage this Saturday riding a two-fight losing streak. Saturday night is going to be a very interesting evening for Holloway.

UFC Fight Island 7’s headliner will be the first non-title fight for Holloway in almost five years. In June of 2016, Holloway fought Ricardo Lamas at UFC 199. Since then, it’s been all title fights for the blessed one.

Another reason that Saturday is so interesting is the fact that Holloway has so much on the line. Holloway is in a very difficult position at the moment having already lost to the current champion twice on paper.

End of the UFC’s Blessed Era

It’s not only that he’s lost to the current champion twice, but Holloway will enter the cage at UFC Fight Island 7 having gone just 1-3 in his last four fights. Granted, it’s all been to top competition.

He moved up and lost to Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title. Then of course, he’s had the back-to-back losses to Volkanovski. If Calvin Kattar wins Saturday evening, we might be seeing the end of the Blessed Era.

What we learned at UFC 236 was that Max Holloway is not a lightweight. When he fought Dustin Poirier, he looked so much smaller than Poirier. Featherweight is the ideal spot for the Hawaiian.

Calvin Kattar is riding a ton of momentum into Saturday evening. Holloway on the other hand is looking at a potential three-fight losing streak in the featherweight division. While it wouldn’t spell the end, it would spell a big tumble down the mountain.

For that reason, it could be looked at as a do or die at UFC Fight Island 7. There’s no shame in losing to Poirier, Volkanovski, and Kattar. However, 1-4 in five fights doesn’t show that you’re at the top of the heap in the UFC.

New York Giants: 3 wide receivers Dave Gettleman could target during the 2021 offseason

New York Giants, Kenny Golladay

The New York Giants were the second-worst team in the league in passing. The Giants averaged only 189.1 yards per game through the air. Quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Colt McCoy combined only threw for 12 touchdowns. The G-Men need to get another weapon or two on the offensive side of the ball.

The injuries with Jones this season a lot to do with the Giants’ lack of air attack combined with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s short passing scheme, which did not fit with Jones’ skill set.

Big Blue has some talented skill players on offense in Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, and Evan Engram, but the Giants need to get another weapon. The Giants need to get Jones an No.1 receiver if the Giants want to see Jones’ full potential.

Here are three wide receivers the New York Giants need to consider in free agency:

Allen Robinson:

The 28-year-old wide receiver Allen Robinson will be the most highly looked receiver on the open market in March, that’s if the Chicago Bears let Robinson walk.

Robinson has been one of the most reliable receivers over the past two seasons with the Bears. Robinson has caught nearly 200 passes for 2,400 yards over the last two seasons. Robinson also racked up 13 total touchdowns with the Bears.

Robinson would come in and instantly become the New York Giants No.1 receiver and will instantly make Jones a better quarterback. This signing could be one of the biggest reasons why the Giants find themselves in the playoffs in 2021.

Kenny Golladay:

The same issue with Robinson is with Kenny Golladay. Golladay will be one of the most highly looked at receivers on the open market in March, that’s if the Detriot Lions let me walk.

The 6-foot-4 receiver has been hurt all season long, and with the NFL cap space decreasing by $20 million, it will be very difficult for the Lions to retain Golladay long term. If Lions could franchise tag him, but if not, Golladay will hit the open market.

Golladay has the sort of size and athleticism the New York Giants will want to give Jones. He will provide Jones with a big red zone and end zone target.

If Golladay hits the open market, he will not be cheap.

Curtis Samuel:

The Carolina Panthers have a surplus of wide receivers, there is no need for them to retain Samuel long term. Samuel and Dave Gettleman both have ties with each other as well.

Gettleman drafted Samuel in his last draft in Carolina. Gettleman signed James Bradberry last offseason, and Gettleman drafted him as well. Maybe, we could see Gettleman re-unite with another former draft selection.

Samuel will be a little cheaper than Robinson and Golladay but is not a true No.1. But getting Samuel and maybe drafting a receiver will significantly help this offense.

Samuel is coming off his best year as a pro with 851 receiving yards and over 200 yards on the ground. He is a playmaker, which the Giants need on this offense.

Michael Chandler believes he will be the UFC lightweight champ this year

Michael Chandler

One of the biggest storylines for the UFC that came outside the actual octagon in 2020 was the promotion’s signing of Michael Chandler (21-5). The former Bellator lightweight champion finished his contract back in August.

After he knocked out Benson Henderson, Chandler was the hottest free agent in MMA. All of the big promotion’s were throwing money at him, however, there was one place he knew he wanted to be at.

Despite the UFC not offering the most money, Chandler signed with the biggest MMA promotion in the world. For Michael Chandler, signing with the UFC was more about his legacy and the competition over the money.

Chandler has made it very clear that he wants to prove that he’s one of the very best in the world. He served at the backup at UFC 254 if Khabib Nurmagomedov or Justin Gaethje would have fallen out of the main event.

Chandler showed up and made weight despite not being officially booked for a fight. He wanted to get the feel of being in the UFC and he wanted to meet everyone behind the scenes to get a sense of what it’s like.

After initially struggling to get him a fight, the promotion has booked Chandler for his debut at UFC 257. Chandler will be taking on top lightweight contender, Dan Hooker (20-9), in the co-main event of the evening.

Will Chandler become a UFC champion?

Michael Chandler recently sat down with MMA On Point where he talked about his journey in getting to UFC 257. He made it clear that he believes he will prove he’s the best in the world saying, “I truly believe I’m going to be the UFC Lightweight Champion this year.”

Defeating Dan Hooker would be a great first step for the former Bellator champion. However, even beating Dan Hooker isn’t likely to net Chandler a title fight right away. More than likely, he will have to win twice to get that shot at the title.

Granted, starting in January is a great thing for Michael Chandler and the UFC. Chandler has a desire to be active in 2021 and if he’s going to be champion, he’s going to have to fight three times this year.

Michael Chandler does have the skills to become a champion in the UFC. However, it’s going to be far from easy, but that’s his prime motivation. Chandler’s addition made the best division in the promotion even more exciting in 2021.

Robert Saleh is Jets’ first finalist for next head coach

New York Jets, Robert Saleh

The New York Jets have taken a significant step in narrowing the search for their next head coach. Later today, the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, will be flying in to meet with the organization.

He will be the first candidate brought in for a second interview, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Saleh is one of the most highly sought-after candidates for teams needing head coaches for next season. He has already interviewed with the Lions, Jaguars, Falcons and Chargers, along with the Jets. Now, the Eagles have requested an interview with him as well. To sum it up, Saleh is in high demand.

With all of the openings at head coach, he was expected to be one of the top candidates for seemingly every team. Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the 49ers in 2017, he’s been receiving a lot of attention, and rightly so.

The 49ers Robert Saleh defense got better each season with him at the helm. In 2017, they were ranked 24th in yards-per-game allowed. The following year, in 2018, the shot up to 13th. Last season, in which they went to the Super Bowl, they ranked second in yards-per-game allowed and were one of the elite defenses in the league. This season, while dealing with an immense number of injuries, they finished fifth.

Along with the great numbers his defenses have produced, his energy on the sideline is infectious and echoes throughout the team. The way he got his defense to produce each week, while missing top players due to injuries, resulted in the league taking even more notice of his ability.

Robert Saleh is more than deserving of a head coaching job in the NFL. If things continue down the same path, he could be the next head coach of the New York Jets.

Mets remain interested in Brad Hand, whose price may have increased after the Hendriks’ deal

New York Yankees, Brad Hand

The New York Mets have several trustworthy relievers for the 2021 season. They signed Trevor May, who will join Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz to form a formidable trio at the back of the bullpen. They also have a number of bounce-back candidates that, if they pitch to the top of their abilities, can make the unit an elite one: Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman, and Dellin Betances fall in this category.

However, if they add one more reliable piece, manager Luis Rojas can rest easy knowing that he will have at least four top relievers for those tough outs at the end of games. Liam Hendriks, who was a New York Mets’ target, is now off the market after signing a lucrative three-year deal with the Chicago White Sox.

However, left-hander Brad Hand remains unsigned, and he is a fantastic fit for a Mets team that lost lefty Justin Wilson to free agency. As it turns out, and according to SNY’s Andy Martino, Hand remains in play for the Mets.

When the Cleveland Indians placed Hand on outright waivers near the end of 2020, no one wanted to claim the $10 million salary he was slated to make. Now, as a result of the Hendriks deal (he will make $39 million through the first three years and then there is a $15 million buyout on the option, which is also worth $15 million) Hand’s prospects of getting the two-year pact he desires just got bigger.

The Mets could be getting an elite reliever

The 30-year old has been an elite reliever for years and is still in his prime. In 23 2020 games, he pitched 22.0 innings of a 2.05 ERA and a 1.37 FIP, with a fantastic 33.7 K% and a minuscule 4.7 BB%.

Martino cites league sources when he says that “New York was one of several teams that was willing to sign Hand for one year and slightly less than the $10 million he would have made if claimed on waivers in October. All 30 clubs passed on the three-time All-Star at that price (at least during the waiver period), making him one of the top relievers available on the open market.”

“Hand is seeking a two-year deal, and has not yet found it. But many in the industry were surprised at the hefty salary that Hendriks commanded — a $54 million guarantee over three years, in a deal that includes a fourth year option or deferred buyout for the same money, he continued.

Martino explains that “one executive believed that the Hendriks deal would slow free agency because some agents were starting to show a willingness to lower prices. Now, a reliever like Hand might feel even more justified in seeking a multi-year deal. Perhaps Hendriks’ good fortune will trickle down on some level to Hand.”

Hand blew the save in Game 2 of the Wild card series against the Yankees, but that shouldn’t stop the Mets, or any other team, from pursuing him. He was a perfect 16-for-16 in saves during the regular season.

Will the Mets make a high-profile relief pitching addition and bring Hand into the fold?