The New York Giants improved in the secondary this season, but they still have some ways to go. The main improvements, of course, were the additions of James Bradberry and Logan Ryan. And while Xavier McKinney spent much of the year injured, his return to the field sets up an intriguing next season with him playing besides Ryan and Jabrill Peppers.
Despite the improvements, the Giants still have a need at number two corner. That seems to have dragged them down when Pro Football Focus went over the league’s secondaries and put the Giants in the bottom half.
18. NEW YORK GIANTS
New York is this high because of one man only: James Bradberry. The fifth-year corner was signed to a monster contract this past offseason after four middling years with the Carolina Panthers. He didn’t play at a high level in his four years with Carolina, failing to surpass a 70.0 PFF grade in every season, so the contract was risky, to say the least.
But Bradberry proved all the doubters wrong and justified his pay this season. He ranked fifth among outside corners in coverage grade and fourth in forced incompletion rate (21%). There were quite a few missed tackles from him (14), but that’s something you can live with if he keeps up this shutdown play.
Some might disagree with where the Giants were placed as well as the dismissive assessment of non-Bradberrry members of the secondary because this take makes no mention of impact players Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan.
In fact, Ryan had his second best season in the tackling department in 2020 when he racked up 94. His three forced fumbles were also the second most he’s had in a season, and those who watched the Giants before his arrival can attest to his impact.
Jabrill Peppers also stepped up at safety this season and had a career high in both tackles and passes defended, registering a total of 11 in the latter category. That’s a big step up from his 5 the previous season. It gives him one of the highest totals overall this year at the strong safety position.
The Giants do indeed have a need for a number two cornerback, however, which may be addressed through the draft if the front office doesn’t target offense first, or a pass rusher. Alabama corner Patrick Surtain has been brought up as a name in the mix for the Giants to draft at the position, but with a number of other needs too, it’s not clear which way the Giants will go with the 11th pick.
The New York Jets got their guy. Per Josina Anderson of ESPN, the Jets have reached an agreement with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to become the next head coach. Saleh was expected by many to be the favorite for the Detroit Lions gig coming into the offseason, but Joe Douglas and company got the guy they wanted.
Saleh is the CEO
Anyone who knows Saleh gives him rave reviews. He is a fiery and passionate leader capable of willing his men to victory. Look no further than the defensive success without stars like Nick Bosa this past season.
Saleh has the love for the game and leadership capabilities to be the true CEO the Jets long for. Saleh is inked to a five-year deal, which matches the duration of the remainder of Joe Douglas’s deal. The team finally got their coach and front office on the same page with a hire. Now, Douglas and Saleh will lead the next era of gang green football.
As Saleh looks to fill his staff next and the team has many questions to answer, like who is the quarterback of the future? The first big move Saleh can make towards figuring that out is bringing in a brilliant offensive mind. Look for Mike LaFleur, brother of Titans coach Matt LaFleur to be the hire. For now, though, one thing is for certain. Rejoice, Jets fans, this time, they really did get it right.
The New York Giants are entering a crucial roster-building offseason. New York has numerous key players set to hit free agency, in need of new contract extensions. The Giants’ defense exceeded all expectations this season, mainly riding off of their strong defensive line.
Unfortunately for the Giants, two of their most crucial players are impending free agents. Both of those players are defensive linemen. Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams are both set to hit free agency in March. It will be difficult for the Giants to keep both of these players and remain under the salary cap.
This has led to many fans pointing out Leonard Williams as the “must-sign” player between the two. However, both of these players are necessary to keep this defense thriving and the Giants should look to extend both of them in March.
Dalvin Tomlinson stats and highlights
Ever since he was drafted by the Giants in 2017, Dalvin Tomlinson has been one of the best, and most consistent members of the team. Dalvin has not missed a single game in his career yet.
Additionally, Tomlinson has improved as a pass-rusher every year. When he entered the league, Tomlinson was strictly a run defender and did not apply much pressure to the quarterback. He totaled one sack in his first two years in the NFL.
Since then, Dalvin Tomlinson has greatly improved as a pass-rusher. After posting zero sacks in 2018, Tomlinson turned things around in 2019 with 3.5 sacks. He matched that same total in 2020, proving that his improvements last season were not a fluke.
Seven sacks in Dalvin’s last two seasons demonstrates his value in both facets of the game. Additionally, it is no coincidence that Tomlinson’s pass-rushing productivity improved upon the arrival of Leonard Williams midway through the 2019 season. The Giants need to prioritize re-signing both of their free agent defensive linemen, not just Leonard Williams.
Leonard Williams was excellent for the Giants in 2020, racking up a career-high 11.5 sacks. But New York’s top interior defender benefits from playing alongside two other talented hog mollies, Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence. Lawrence is entering only his third season, so he will stick around for a while longer. But with Tomlinson set to hit the open market, the Giants need to recognize the importance of keeping this trio of defensive linemen together and re-sign both of their impending free agents.
The New York Yankees were one of the 25 teams that sent scouts to the Corey Kluber showcase that took place on Wednesday in Florida. By now, if you follow the news, you know that the right-handed hurler looked sharp in the 30-pitch session.
Jeff Passan reported that he sat between 88 and 90 miles per hour on his fastball, and also threw other pitches. During his best days with the Cleveland Indians, Kluber used to average between 92 and 93 mph.
For him to be sitting 88-90 in mid-January is actually a great sign for the New York Yankees if they move quick to swing a deal with the veteran. It means that with over a month to go until spring training, he has lots of room for his arm to gain more velo.
The Yankees won’t be breaking the bank for a Trevor Bauer-type pitcher this offseason, as they did it last year by bringing Gerrit Cole to a record-breaking nine-year deal. That’s why they are reportedly focusing on low-cost acquisitions, hoping to hit the jackpot with one of them.
Rotoworld speculates that Kluber may be able to net himself a multi-year deal given the healthy state of his arm and the velocity he is already showing. If that’s the case, it remains to be seen if the Yankees will be in the bidding, with so many pitching-starved teams around the league.
For his career, the 34-year-old Kluber has a 3.16 ERA and a 2.99 FIP in 1342.2 frames. His dominance is best explained by his 9.80 K/9 and his 1.96 BB/9. Injuries limited him to one inning in 2020 and 35.2 in 2019.
The New York Mets continue their string of free agent signings and acquisitions with an eye towards the 2021 season. They have been, together with the San Diego Padres, the most active club in an otherwise slow offseason.
The league’s official page explains that “a split contract calls for a player to earn different salaries in the Majors Leagues and Minor Leagues. A player on a split contract would earn the pro-rated portion of his Major League salary for any time spent on the Major League roster.”
Per the report, the Mets will pay Martinez $1 million, with another $500,000 in available incentives, if he is able to make the major league roster.
Considering that Martinez isn’t a good defender at any position, the Mets would benefit if MLB implements the universal designated hitter rule, although that was true before this signing.
The Mets are getting a left-handed pitching masher
Martinez wasn’t good last season with two teams, slashing a horrid .182/.265/.295 with a .248 wOBA and a 57 wRC+, but St. Louis Cardinals fans have fond memories of him, as he hit .298/.363/.458 in 1,288 plate appearances for them between 2016-2019.
Currently 32 years old, it’s possible that Martinez’s best days are behind him, but he is a nice depth piece to have around as he can mash left-handed pitching to the tune of a .307/.382/.534 with a .915 career OPS and a 145 wRC+.
The Mets are probably not done adding talent to the MLB roster and the upper minor leagues, as they want to make a statement in the 2021 season.
So far, the Mets signed their starting catcher (James McCann), a top-notch reliever in Trevor May, traded for shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco, and replenished the upper minors pitching depth, all under the watch of owner Steve Cohen, president Sandy Alderson, and general manager Jared Porter.
The UFC is in the process of finalizing a really good matchup in the featherweight division. First reported by BJPenn.com, the promotion is finalizing a featherweight contest between Dan Ige (14-3) and Ryan Hall (8-1).
Now, the March 13th main card is getting a really solid UFC featherweight matchup. For Dan Ige, this will be his first fight since he lost to Calvin Kattar back in July. It was Ige’s first UFC headlining spot and he just came up short.
The loss snapped a six-fight winning streak for Ige. Ige hadn’t lost since his UFC debut which took place back in early 2018. Ige will enter the octagon on March 13th ranked 11th in the division.
UFC Matchup for Ryan Hall
The one fighter that the UFC seems to have the most difficult time booking a fight for is Ryan Hall. We haven’t seen Ryan Hall inside the octagon since July of 2019 when he defeated Darren Elkins by unanimous decision.
Hall has only competed four times in the UFC and he’s the season 22 winner of The Ultimate Fighter. He won TUF back in 2015 and he’s only won three fights since. However, they were three impressive wins.
Hall was able to pickup wins over Gray Maynard and former two-division UFC champion, BJ Penn. Hall has been impressive when he’s fought, however, the issue with Hall has been his inactivity. He’s just the one fighter in the division that nobody seems to want to fight.
With being given Dan Ige, we can rest assured knowing that Hall has an opponent which should make for an exciting fight. It’ll be fascinating to see the way this matchup unfolds. Hall has a funky style, and he’s extremely dangerous on the ground. I’m very intrigued by this matchup.
The Natural Born Killer has a lot on the line at UFC Fight Island 7. Former interim welterweight champion, Carlos Condit (31-13), will be fighting his final fight on his current deal with the UFC on Saturday night.
Condit is taking on Matt Brown (22-17) in a fight that fight fans have been waiting years for. The two gritty veterans are expected to put on a show and nobody is expecting this fight to go the distance.
It’s been a rough few years inside the UFC for Carlos Condit. Back in April of 2009, Condit made his debut with the promotion and lost a split decision to Martin Kampmann. After that, he went on an incredible run.
Condit won four straight fights which earned him a shot at Nick Diaz. The two headlined UFC 143 for the interim welterweight title and a chance to fight Georges St. Pierre for the undisputed title.
Condit won the fight and the interim title by unanimous decision. The Natural Born Killer went on to lose to GSP when they fought later in that same year. However, he did have his moments including dropping GSP with a headkick.
Rough UFC run over the last seven years
Entering 2013, Condit was looking to get back in the rhythm after losing to GSP. He started the year off by fighting Johny Hendricks and he lost by decision. After that fight, he was able to stop Martin Kampmann to avenge his earlier loss.
Tyron Woodley would be next up and he stopped Condit by a leg kick which ended up tearing the ACL of Condit. After that, Condit ended up taking a year off from the UFC to rehab his knee. He returned successfully against Thiago Alves in 2015.
That’s when Condit got his second title shot. He took on Robbie Lawler at UFC 195 and put on a clinic. Most people, including myself, felt that Condit should have won the decision and walked out with the title. However, the judges gave the fight to Lawler.
After that fight, Condit would lose four straight fights through the end of 2018. Condit made his UFC return back in October against Court McGee. Having lost five in a row, it was do or die for Condit. Condit ended up pulling out a big decision win.
Now, he will make the walk looking to win his second straight fight. Condit hasn’t won multiple fights in a row since 2012. Considering the UFC’s current state and this being the last fight on his deal, Condit needs to win on Saturday night and he needs to do it with style.
Roman’s redemption could officially culminate with a playoff win over the Buffalo Bills, the team that set him on his current path in 2016.
As an Atlantic City native, Greg Roman probably knows all about rags-to-riches stories. He’s well on his way to penning his own and can gain a quantum of revenge along the way.
A spotlight will shine on both Roman and his compatriot in offensive coordination Brian Daboll on Saturday night, as the former’s Baltimore Ravens visit Western New York to battle the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional playoffs (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC). The powerful offenses of both Buffalo and Baltimore will face off against not only opposing defenses but a second opponent of Mother Nature. Orchard Park’s Saturday weather forecast heralds an 80 percent chance of snow on Saturday with winds reaching 15-25 miles per hour. This could present a problem for the Bills (second in the NFL at 396.4 yards per game) and the Ravens (NFL-best 191.9 rushing yards per game) and their high voltage offenses.
Earlier this week, Roman talked about what sort of an impact the snow could have on Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. The multi-threat and most recent NFL MVP put up 315 total yards in Baltimore’s AFC Wild Card victory over Tennessee last Sunday afternoon.
“The snow will be much easier for him to deal with than some of the heavy sheets of rain, some of the torrential downpours we’ve played in the last couple of years,” Roman said, per Aaron Kasinitz of Penn Live. “Those are the games that really, really impact it. Snow? Not so much. Wind? Yes; wind can be a major factor.”
“I definitely think (the snow) can aid somebody with his skillset…as far as the footing of the people trying to corral him.”
Roman knows all about Buffalo winters. The long-tenured NFL assistant coach spent 18 games as the Bills’ offensive boss over the 2015-16 seasons under Rex Ryan. In one of the more controversial in-season firings in recent memory, Roman was dismissed from the Bills’ staff shortly after a nationally televised loss to the New York Jets in Week 2 of the 2016 campaign. The ousting came after the Bills tallied 393 yards of offense in a 37-31 defeat.
He wasn’t out of the NFL for long, as John Harbaugh came calling in the ensuing offseason, calling Roman to oversee the Ravens’ tight ends for two seasons before his promotion to offensive coordinator in 2019. Roman previously work with Harbaugh’s brother Jim for six seasons at both Stanford University and the San Francisco 49ers.
By now, there’s use in talking about revenge. There’s little leftover from the Ryan days in Buffalo and Roman already made the return to WNY last season when Baltimore took a 24-17 decision in December. Despite being held to only 257 total yards as a team, the Ravens broke through thanks to three scoring passes from Jackson.
Roman’s work with Jackson has earned acclaim and has put him on the shortlist of teams searching for new head coaches. Choosing to center the Baltimore offense around Jackson’s talents both through the air and on the ground, Roman has kept the Ravens in contention since the team moved on from franchise staple Joe Flacco during the 2018 season. Jackson has hit the height of his powers under Roman, with their magnum opus to date likely being last week’s showing in Nashville.
Buffalo is set to counter with their dynamic offensive pair of Daboll and Josh Allen, who have likewise hit new heights together in Orchard Park. Approximately 24 hours before Jackson earned his first playoff victory, Allen likewise broke his own, brief streak of postseason futility, putting up 378 yards and three total scores in the Bills’ 27-24 victory over Indianapolis. With Allen listed as one of the popular contenders to succeed Jackson as the NFL MVP, it’s safe to say that things have worked out on each respective side.
Yet, one can wonder what Roman could’ve done with the fresh clay of Allen has his Buffalo tenure not come to an early end. During his lone full campaign with the Bills, Roman helped another multi-talented threat, Tyrod Taylor, earn the best numbers of his career. It featured Taylor’s personal bests in passing yards (3,035) and total touchdowns (24) as the Bills earned a respectable ledger of 8-8, securing what was then their first pair of non-losing seasons since 1998-2000.
Current Bills radio analyst Eric Wood theorized this week that prior knowledge of Roman’s systems can help the modern incarnation neutralize Jackson. Wood played nine seasons for the Bills and went to the Pro Bowl after Roman’s only full season.
“You can’t completely abandon what you do defensively because you can’t re-learn a defensive scheme in a week,” Wood remarked through team reporter Jordan LaBarber. “You won’t understand all the different aspects of it. That’s what Greg Roman wants you to do. He wants you to get the defense and get your guys into positions that they’re not used to playing. So, you’ll probably see more base defense from the Bills this week than we’ve seen a majority of this season.”
Though Roman got the last laugh in the teams’ meeting last season, the Bills’ defense did manage to hold Jackson in check by allowing only 185 yards out of him. It was the only time that Jackson was held below 200 personal yards during the 2019 season. Baltimore’s offense has undergone little turnover since, with the only major addition being second-round rookie rusher J.K. Dobbins.
While several BIlls defenders have vowed to study the film from that game, Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott believes that Roman is well-capable of adjusting despite the relatively same personnel.
“I’m sure they’ll be looking at that tape,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said of his defense, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “They’ve got a lot of new stuff this year that we’ve been looking at that they’ve added to their offense. So, I think it’s a frame of reference, or a reference point, but not a be all end all.”
When it comes to winning with the New York Mets, Darryl Strawberry certainly knows what he’s talking about. He was a crucial piece when the franchise last won the World Series, back in 1986, and is the all-time leader in home runs in the organization. He knows a thing or two about baseball.
In fact, Strawberry won it all three times, and with both New York teams. Now, as a Mets’ highly respected figure, he is excited about what new owner Steve Cohen is doing since he took over the organization.
Together with team president Sandy Alderson and general manager Jared Porter, the New York Mets have turned into serious contenders by bringing reliever Trevor May, catcher James McCann, shortstop Francisco Lindor, and pitcher Carlos Carrasco, not to mention several high-upside relievers.
“(It’s) about time. It’s a new time for them. New ownership, new organization. This guy loves the Mets. He loves the history of the Mets. Spend some money, be like the Yankees, develop your farm system and bring your younger players up so they can develop themselves and play at the major-league level and you’ll become a winner.”
Despite all the additions to the roster, the Mets are reportedly not done improving the team. They are said to be after center fielder George Springer, and while Trevor Bauer’s potential arrival is not absolutely necessary after the addition of Carrasco, you never know with these Mets.
Strawberry likes what Bauer could bring to the Mets. Back in December, he had some advice for the outspoken pitcher in a conversation with SNY:
“That’s what you have to have – you have to have personality,” Strawberry said. “But you have to be able to back it up at the same time. You could have the swag about you, but you have to play when you get here. Hopefully, any guys who do decide to come to New York – just bring it all with you. Bring it to the ballpark. That’s what fans love.”
The journey for the Islanders towards the franchise’s fifth Stanley Cup begins tonight. Excitement and anticipation for this year has been building for months now, but now the real thing begins.
So let’s be real. And what that means is acknowledging that the Isles are about to embark on their most important campaign in recent memory.
“I think for the team, the same thing goes, we were close last year, we had a taste of how close we can get to playing in a Stanley Cup Final,” Mathew Barzal said last week. “I think that it didn’t sit well with us afterward.”
The past two years have been wonderful and brought pride and respectability back to the franchise. But now the dynamic has shifted. The vibe is different, as it should be. The bar is higher then it’s been in a long time, and rightfully so. Almost in the same light as the organization was just before they began their dynasty, the Isles have reached the point under the where winning is now expected.
Forget about proving people wrong, which it seems they will have to do again because that’s how things just are outside these parts. No, that shouldn’t be the message. It should be not just contending for a Cup, but winning the silver chalice.
This Isles team are in a good enough position to possibly win it all.
It starts with the aforementioned Barzal, who will have all eyes on him after signing his new three-year deal that will pay him $7M a year. 2021 will be his fourth season in the NHL and all signs point to him breaking out and becoming a star. Then behind are Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson, who are all expected to have huge seasons. The bottom-six should be better with a full season of J.G. Pageau, the fourth line being intact, and an injection of youth with Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows. And on the backend and in goal, they are strong. The introduction of stud netminder Ilya Sorokin and pairing him with his fellow countrymen Semyon Varlamov could give the club a big boost.
All of those things combined, along with this being the final chapter for the organization at Nassau Coliseum before they move into their new home at UBS Arena next season, and determining who will be here for the future in regards to the Seattle expansion draft, only add to the significance of this year.
The Islanders have had expectations coming into important seasons before. In 2013-14, they were coming off a first-round defeat to the Penguins the previous spring where they pushed them to the limit in six games. Many thought then they were ready to take another step, but they would falter that season and miss the postseason. 2016-17 saw them fail to qualify for the postseason in two years after making it to the second round for the first time in 23 years the previous year.
Now it’s different. The stability provided from Lou Lamoriello on down and world-class coaching from Barry Trotz and his staff are the reason why.
There’s a lot at stake for the Islanders this season. It’s their most important season in quite some time.
Let’s drop the puck.
It doesn’t need to be reiterated how much Matt Martin means to the Isles and loves along Island. But how he described his feelings yesterday hit more for some reason.
“I just wanted to see it through here and be a part of this franchise as long as I can be,” Martin told reporters. “I call Long Island home now. They showed the trust and investment in me for four years. My goal is to go and pay that off to them. My heart was always to stay here. My plan was always to stay here.”
Four more years of that is something Isles fans will treasure.
Ross Johnston and Martin being in the lineup together should make for some extra activity. And being that it’s the Rangers they open with, we might see some more of this: