New York Giants: Saquon Barkley working out with Odell Beckham Jr. in Arizona

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

One of the main storylines for the New York Giants this season is the recovery of Saquon Barkley. He’s arguably the most talented player on the team, and would be their undisputed top weapon if it wasn’t for his history of injuries over the past couple of seasons. The biggest blow to his career came during the 2020 season when he was ruled out for the year after a couple weeks due to an ACL tear.

This season will be a make or break one for Barkley as the Giants offense depends partly on him making a successful return. After all, the Giants had one of the worst scoring offenses in the league after his injury and their lack of a threatening rushing game was a big part of that.

Another player that found himself injured last season was former Giant Odell Beckham Jr., and it looks like the two have linked up for their recovery.

Barkley working with Odell Beckham this offseason

Barkley and Beckham have trained together in Los Angeles before but this time, the destination is Arizona. This comes after Beckham had his season similarly cut short when he tore his own ACL in only week seven, continuing a history of his promising career being cut short by not being able to stay on the field.

It’s for this reason that most would say the Giants won the trade that sent Beckham away – even if the Giants still don’t have a real number one weapon in the receiving game, even the most skilled receiver won’t help much if they can’t stay on the field.

One can hope that both players will make their way back to the starting lineup this season and that history won’t repeat itself. Both of them, after all, are a distinct part of the Giants’ recent past. And Barkley is still a huge part of their future. That’s clear this season more than ever, where the Giants will need a full recovery from Barkley to achieve their maximum potential.

New York Rangers quick start is enough to hold off the Buffalo Sabres

New York Rangers, Chris Kreider

The New York Rangers scored twice in the first two-and-half minutes of the first period and held off the Buffalo Sabres for a 3-2 victory. Pavel Buchnevich and Alexis Lafreniere recorded the first two goals, with Chris Kreider adding the game winner in the second period.

The Rangers continue their season-long trend of close games. Thirteen of the Rangers’ last 17 games, and 13 of the team’s 19 games this season, have been decided by two or fewer goals, and 10 of those contests have been decided by one goal.

Chris Kreider scores the game winning goal for the New York Rangers

Kreider‘s tenth goal of the season turned out to be the game winning goal for the Rangers, putting them up 3-1. The Sabres were able to close the gap with a Tobias Reider goal but could come no closer. Kreider has recorded a goal/point in four of the last five games. He is one of four NHL players who have registered at least nine goals and 40 hits this season.

Adam Fox had two assists in the game, including Kreider’s game winner. Fox also continues to be a bit of an ironman for the Blueshirts, especially since the absence of Jacob Trouba.  He has led the Rangers in ice time in each of the last 10 games, and he ranks 12th in the NHL in average ice time this season (24:53).

After the game, Fox talked about the solid defensive effort the Rangers had, especially in the third period. “They were in our zone but didn’t have too many grade A chances. And when they did, Shesty came up big.”

Igor Shesterkin made some critical saves for the New York Rangers

Shesterkin recorded 22 saves in the win with just five in the third period, However, many of his saves were on plays in which the Sabres had an excellent chance to slam the puck in the back of the net.

The Rangers defense and goaltending continue to do well in recent games. They have held their opponents to two goals or fewer in seven of the last 11 games (including two goals or fewer in regulation in eight games) and in eight of the last 13 games. The Blueshirts have allowed 2.68 goals against per game in 2020-21, which is the ninth-fewest in the NHL.

After the game in his Zoom Conference, Shesterkin said through his translator: “In the first period, it wasn’t a great thing when the first shot went in but the guys rallied and helped me out and we took care of business the rest of the game.”

The Rangers now embark on a six game road trip, starting Thursday with the New Jersey Devils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke Rockhold targeting the early summer for his UFC middleweight return

Luke Rockhold

Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold (16-5) is getting ready to make his return to fighting. Rockhold hasn’t competed since mid-2019 when he was knocked out by Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239.

The loss was the second straight knockout loss by Rockhold. Going back to his title loss at UFC 199 to Michael Bisping, the former champion is just 1-3 in his last four fights. Rockhold seemed to lose a little passion for the sport, however, he now appears more focused than ever.

In a recent interview with Submission Radio, Rockhold said that he was targeting an early summer return to the UFC. He said that he didn’t have one particular opponent in mind, but he wanted something ‘sexy’ that would motivate him.

Currently, there have been some behind the scenes conversations at the UFC about Rockhold’s first opponent back. There are a couple of middleweight matchups to watch in April that could produce Rockhold’s first opponent back. Rockhold made it clear that he wants to get right into the mix at 185.

Who could the UFC pair him against?

When asked about his motivation to return, Rockhold said that he wouldn’t be coming back if he didn’t have the motivation to once again be UFC champion. With that in mind, what options are there for Rockhold to get him right back in the mix?

The most obvious choice is the winner of the Chris Weidman – Uriah Hall fight which takes place at UFC 261. Rockhold has history with Weidman and either him or Hall would make for an excellent fight for Rockhold. Whoever wins will definitely be in the top ten at middleweight.

Another option for Rockhold would be the winner of the Darren Till – Marvin Vettori fight or the winner of the Kevin Holland – Derek Brunson fight. There are a lot of big matchups coming up in the UFC’s middleweight division and Rockhold has his eyes on all of them. The division has arguably never been better and Luke Rockhold’s return makes it even better.

UPDATE: New York Jets cut DL Henry Anderson

The New York Jets have released defensive lineman Henry Anderson. Anderson was brought over in a deal with the Indianapolis Colts just 3 years ago. The deal was for a 7th round pick, and it ultimately lead to success in his first season with the Jets. Anderson put up 7.0 sacks, 7 TFL ‘s, and 35 overall tackles. This prompted the former front office to offer him a three-year, $25.2 million dollar extension. The deal has been an utter failure.

Anderson’s Struggles

in the past two seasons, Anderson has combined to put up a measly 1.5 sacks, 7 TFL ‘s, and only 77 tackles. Anderson has consistently underperformed, and for the money he was worth, he failed to live up to expectations as a whole, only starting 22 of 32 of games since resigning.

The guaranteed money blocked the Jets from cutting him last offseason and allocating resources elsewhere, now with the availability to free much more cap, the team has released him, freeing up $8.2 million.

The Jets have a plethora of young and talented defensive linemen behind him with Quinnen Williams, John Franklin Myers, Foley Fatukasi, and Nathan Shepherd, who will all see increased playing time now. Anderson is older and less likely to fit the Saleh/Ulbrich defense, making him an easy cap casualty. The move also pushes the Jets closer to the Jaguars for the most cap space in the league as they look to reconstruct the roster this offseason. As for Anderson, he hits the open market, and for a team that still sees potential in the veteran, he could be a tempting depth option. 

New York Giants: Kyle Van Noy an interesting new free agent to keep an eye on

New York Giants, Kyle Van noy

The New York Giants are preparing for a crucial free agency period this offseason. New York has made it known that they are in the market for new offensive playmakers. The defense was the strength of the team in 2020 while the offense fell behind, averaging only 17.5 points per game.

But that is not to say that the Giants’ defense was perfect by any means. The Giants did a good job generating interior pressure and had an impressive trio of safeties combined with some 2020 free agency standouts in Blake Martinez and James Bradberry. There was one position, though, that the Giants were lacking consistent production out of.

The New York Giants did not have a consistent presence pass-rushing off the edge in 2020. They ran with a rotational pass-rush that saw numerous players start as edge rushers. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines were solid edge players when healthy, but when they went down, New York had a revolving door at edge rusher.

Today, a new edge rusher entered the free agency market. The Miami Dolphins cut Kyle Van Noy after one season with the team to save themselves over $9 million in salary-cap space. Van Noy is an intriguing player that the Giants should keep an eye on as they approach free agency.

Kyle Van Noy stats and highlights

After one season in Miami, Kyle Van Noy is once again a free agent. Van Noy spent the first four years of his career with the New England Patriots before playing in Detroit with the Lions for three years. In 2020, Van Noy was a free agent searching for his third team. He ultimately landed in Miami but did praise the New York Giants and their new head coach Joe Judge earlier in the process.

Kyle Van Noy has familiarity with Joe Judge from their days with the New England Patriots. Last offseason, Van Noy was a guest on the Pat McAfee Show. He praised Joe Judge, referring to him as a “ball of energy,” and even said, “Go, Giants!” towards the end of his interview. Now that he is once again a free agent, Van Noy could be a potential fit with the New York Giants.

Kyle Van Noy is an eight-year NFL veteran that has played a versatile role throughout his career. He might not fill up the stat sheet, having a career-high of only 6.5 sacks in a season (2019). But Van Noy is one of those guys that generates a lot of hidden production.

According to Pro Football Focus, Van Noy tied third among non-defensive linemen in pressures with 28 in 2020. Kyle Van Noy is an edge rusher, but he is also an off-ball linebacker. He plays a variety of defensive alignments and performs well at every one of them. If the Giants sign Kyle Van Noy, he could potentially fill two needs for them. Van Noy would contribute to the Giants’ pass-rush and he would also be able to plug in as a solid off-ball linebacker next to Blake Martinez.

The Giants utilize a complex, versatile defense under Patrick Graham. In 2020, New York sent plenty of creative blitzes. Kyle Van Noy might fit perfectly in this scheme as a player who can rush from anywhere on the field. Additionally, his familiarity with the coaching staff could connect him to New York.

After UFC Vegas 20 win, what’s next for Magomed Ankalaev?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 20, Magomed Ankalaev (15-1) and Nikita Krylov (27-8) went head-to-head in a pivotal match in the light heavyweight division. The winner of this matchup would only be a win or two away from a UFC title shot.

In the first round, Nikita Krylov was getting the better of the exchanges. Krylov was using his kicks nicely and his clinch control was impressive. All three judges gave the first round to Krylov. However, after round one, the momentum switched.

Magomed Ankalaev came out very aggressive to start the second round. There was a lot of pressure from Ankalaev and he started working his wrestling. Krylov couldn’t get anything going at UFC Vegas 20 once Ankalaev started going downhill.

Neither man did serious damage to the other throughout the fight. It was a tactical affair that was relatively easy to call once the final bell sounded. It was clear that Ankalaev had won the last two rounds with his forward pressure and his wrestling.

When the judges scorecards were read, Ankalaev won 29-28 on all three scorecards. After losing his UFC debut by a last second triangle choke, Magomed Ankalaev has now won six fights in a row at 205 pounds.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 20?

The hype train continues for the light heavyweight from Dagestan. Ankalaev looks to be the kind of contender that can challenge for the light heavyweight title in the next year or so. With that, what should the UFC do with him next?

Considering what is currently on the books, I think a matchup in April would provide the perfect opponent for Ankalaev. At UFC 261 in April, Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (34-16) will be taking on Jimmy Crute (12-1).

Smith is currently ranked sixth while Crute is ranked 12th in the light heavyweight division. Whoever wins this matchup would be the perfect next opponent for Ankalaev. I belive this is where the promotion will head. Whoever would win the matchup between the winner and Ankalaev might just be one victory away from a UFC title shot.

New York Yankees Recap: Mike Ford has 2 RBI’s in Yankees win over the Orioles

New York Yankees, Mike Ford

The New York Yankees had their third game of the 2021 spring season. Today they had their first game away, at Ed Smith Stadium 42 miles away in Sarasota, Florida, against the east rivals, Baltimore Orioles. Jordan Montgomery made his first start of spring training, facing the Orioles John Means. It was another beautiful day for baseball on Florida’s west coast; it was 80 degrees for most of the game with partly sunny skies and a light breeze.

The “Machine” DJ LeMahieu got a hit to start the game, followed by a Gleyber Torres’s hit. Luke Voit battled Means, but Means won out, leaving two on base. Clint Frazier got a hit and recorded an RBI to give the Yankees the early lead. Yankees 1 Orioles 0. In the bottom, the Oriole center fielder Trey Manchini got an RBI driving in Mullens to tie it up at one run apiece.

To start the second inning Miguel Andujar flew out to center, Kyle Higashioka popped out, and Mike Tauchman sharply hit a grounder to center for a single. Tauchman immediately stole second base, but DJ LeMahieu flew to Cedric Mullens in center, ending the half. Last season Tauchman led the New York Yankees in stolen bases with six steals. In his second inning, Montgomery made quick work of the Orioles, going one-two-three to end the inning.  Orioles 1 Yankees 1.

Aaron Judge doubled at the top of the third, Gleyber Torres, singled followed by a single by Luke Voit, Judge scored on the play, and Torres moved to second base. Then Mike Ford doubled to far-right looked like it might have been a triple, scoring both Torres and Luke Voit for the Yankee 4-1 lead. The 34-year-old Luis Garcia relieved Jordan Mongomery on the mound. Garcia pitched a clean inning. At the top of the fourth, the Yankees were scoreless in the half. Cedric Mullens singled against Tyler Lyons at the bottom of the inning, causing Yolmer Sanchez to score and Ramon Urias to go to third. Lyons managed to get out of the inning just given up the one run. Yankees 4 Orioles 2.

Brooks Kriske pitched the fifth and allowed no runs. Tanner Scott came out for the Orioles in the sixth escaping any scoring by the Yankees. The Yankees sent out 24-year-old Glenn Otto to pitch the bottom of the frame. He left the Orioles scoreless in his inning. The New York Yankees came to the plate at the top of the seventh inning with the Orioles seventh pitcher of the day, Cole Sulser, on the mound; he shut the Yankees down in their last inning of play. With the last licks on the line for the Orioles, the Yankees sent out Trevor Lane to close it out. Yankees 4 Orioles 2.

By the end of the fourth inning, the game was basically over as there was no further scoring in the seven-inning game. There were no homers in the game; each team had an error apiece. The Yankees were 4 for 12 with runners in scoring position, leaving 5 runners on base. DJ LeMahieu increased his spring training batting average to .500, and in encouraging news Gleyber Torres, who hit so badly last season, increased his batting average to .750. The winner was Montgomery, with Lane getting the save.

Tomorrow’s New York Yankee game will be back at George M. Steinbrenner Field against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees lost their first game of the season against the Jays. It will be another non-televised game and will be an unusual spring training night start at 6:35 pm. Corey Kluber is scheduled to start that game.

Pair of Homers Power New York Mets to 2-0 Victory Against Astros

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

The first two spring training games for the New York Mets have resulted in seven-inning, 2-0 finishes. On Tuesday, they were on the winning side for the first time. Mets pitchers had another strong showing, and solo home runs from Jeff McNeil and Albert Almora Jr. powered the offense.

Marcus Stroman got the start over Jordan Yamamoto and was as good as advertised. Stroman retired all six batters he faced and struck out two. His hard sinker resulted in three groundball outs, and he displayed his brand new changeup as well.

Yamamoto worked around a couple of hard-hit balls to deliver two scoreless innings following Stroman. Jerry Blevins, Drew Smith, and Sam McWilliams finished off the shutout. Mets pitchers have allowed just two runs over 14 innings pitched this Spring.

The bats are still quiet, but the dominant pitching held up the two solo homers. McNeil’s homer came against a hanging curveball from Framber Valdez. Over his career, McNeil has less power against left-handed pitching and is always looking to add more power to his game. Almora is another player looking for more power and has a consistent leg kick in his batting stance. In past seasons, he has used a toe tap which led to increased groundball rates every year of his career.

Prospects Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, Brett Baty, and Pete Crow-Armstrong all made appearances once the starters exited. For Crow-Armstrong, it was his first game in professional baseball, and he struck out in his only at-bat. On Wednesday, the Mets travel to Jupiter to take on the St. Louis Cardinals. Jerad Eickhoff faces Kwang Hyun Kim at 1:10 p.m. ET.

 

 

Towns, Oladipo on the way? Knicks’ future looks rosy on Leon Rose’s first year anniversary

New York Knicks, Leon Rose

On this day last year, the New York Knicks officially announced the hiring of Leon Rose as team president, replacing Steve Mills.

While there were reservations of his hiring with some quarters hoped that the Knicks could have waited for Masai Ujiri—the architect of the Denver Nuggets’ emergence in the West and Toronto Raptors’ first NBA championship—to become available, Rose has exceeded expectations on his first year on the job.

Beginner’s Luck?

Since his hiring, Rose has made himself scarce and let the Knicks’ front office moves and play on the court do the talking.

In just one year, Rose has accomplished what Phil Jackson and Mills have failed to do — turn the league’s laughingstock into a rising stock.

The Knicks have the lowest payroll in the league, yet they are in the thick of the fight for a playoff spot. They made savvy moves in the offseason, picking up more draft capital and resisted the temptation to chase after stars on a decline and taking a nosedive on a shallow free agency pool. They unearthed a gem in rookie Immanuel Quickley while the jury is still out on their lottery pick Obi Toppin who can’t carve out significant minutes with Julius Randle emerging as an All-Star this season.

Rose’s biggest acquisition — Tom Thibodeau — has made the Knicks believe that they can win every game. They enter tonight’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, an organization that the Knicks wanted to emulate in terms of stability and respectability, just a 1.5 underdog riding high on a three-game winning streak and the fourth-best record in the East.

Change of Image

The Knicks have put the league on notice.

The national media, who were laughing at the Knicks’ series of misfortunes, are now pivoting and giving their roses to Rose.

“Here’s the thing. They have one of the top former agents in the league running the organization in Leon Rose. Their no.2 in their team [William Wesley] — his specialty is relationship-building, and he’s known for working in the shadows. They’re playing in New York City. They have an abundance of draft picks, young assets, and cap space. The only sort of flaw in here is I’m not sure that every player wants to play for Thibs. But there are some who like him. I say that within the next 12 months, a star or a superstar player will demand a trade to New York,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his podcast The Hoop Collective.

Could the Knicks finally land a star?

Windhorst restrained himself from dropping names, but he hinted that executives around the league have their guesses.

Who could that be?

Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Rose’s biggest client before he jumped on the Knicks’ job, has long been rumored to be a Knicks’ target.

Stefan Bondy of the Daily News added fuel to the fire when he hinted that Thibodeau is open to a reunion with Towns, who reportedly didn’t see eye to eye with his former coach during their brief partnership in Minnesota.

“I don’t know if Minnesota would ever make Karl-Anthony Towns available. But as bad as things ended for Thibodeau in Minnesota, I’ve heard that he’d be open to Karl-Anthony Towns again because Thibodeau just wants to win, and he thinks Karl-Anthony Towns will help him do that. And so I know that Karl-Anthony Towns is somebody that’s actually been reported before that the Knicks are monitoring as well,” Bondy said on SNY’s Putback last week.

Cornerstone or Trade Chip?

Bondy’s response came after Newsday’s Steve Popper posited that Randle could be a valuable trade piece down the line.

“Because of his contract and the way he’s producing, he’s a hugely viable asset around the league. He’s not overpaid. He’s got an out after next year if you want to pick his option next year. It’s not a long-term deal right now. Could I see him as a piece, maybe pair with another young asset, another young player, or a pick for Karl-Anthony Towns if Thibodeau wanted to go there? You could absolutely see something like that,” Popper said on SNY’s Putback. “And I think that’s a reasonable offer for Minnesota.”

KAT-Randle trade

Windhorst also shares the same view about the 26-year old Randle, who is in the midst of a career-year.

“I say by next year’s trade deadline, a star or a superstar player will force his way there, and they’re gonna be in a position to do that type of trade, and maybe that’s where Julius Randle comes in and does his greatest service for the Knicks especially if he continues to play this way because he could be a part of that trade,” Windhorst said on his podcast.

Knicks still Kings of New York

Meanwhile, First Take’s Max Kellerman, a former Knicks fan and a staunch critic of the team, has admitted that he’s recently watched a Knicks game — from beginning to end — in a long while.

“This is something new. They’re a young and exciting team. The culture seems healthy. It looks like [James] Dolan has finally got out of the way,” Kellerman said.

“My hats off to this young team. They’re a game over .500. They’re in fourth place in the conference. But to say ‘Are the Knicks back?’ No, this is something new. Look, they’re called the Knicks, the laughingstock of the league. This is new,” he added.

Kellerman went on to say that even if the Brooklyn Nets are the bigger story with the trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden, the Knicks remain the kings of New York.

“What’s crazy to me is nationally the Nets are the story. People outside New York don’t care about the Knicks. They care about the Nets. But inside New York, in terms of locally, the Knicks still got it. People get more excited.

When they have a team that they can get behind when New York does because of effort especially and intensity when you know these young guys are working hard and laying it all out there, New York respects that in a different way,” Kellerman explained.

Attracting marquee free agents

With Rose effectively changing the Knicks’ image around the league, the once-moribund franchise is in a prime position to land a star finally.

For a team that has long been tied to dysfunction and incompetence, it’s a whiff of fresh air to have the national media talking about the Knicks in a positive light.

The Knicks may regress with a brutal second-half schedule–considered the third-hardest in the league–ahead of them. They may or may not be in the playoffs, but this season is already considered a victory for Rose and the Knicks in the big picture.

“Let me say this. You know why I was laughing at you guys when you’re thinking you’re gonna get KD (Kevin Durant) because players don’t go to bad cultures. The reason the Nets got those guys is because the culture was good. This Knicks team, if they keep doing this, the message they’re gonna send to potential free agents is it’s a good place to play, and then New York sells itself,” Kellerman said. “This could be the first time ever really that a top-flight free agent eventually signs with the Knicks.”

Will that be Victor Oladipo?

Oladipo, who recently rejected a two-year deal from Houston Rockets, is set to become a free agent. Even if Oladipo is not traded to the Knicks in the next two weeks, he will be a prime target in the free agency. If the Knicks keep on winning, they may give the Miami Heat a run for their money in the Oladipo sweepstakes this summer.

The Knicks may or may not land Oladipo.

But what Rose’s shrewd leadership has shown is important to their long-suffering fan base. He made the Knicks relevant again without being extravagant.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC books Edson Barboza – Shane Burgos

Edson Barboza

Just this week we learned that Edson Barboza (21-9) had signed a new deal with the UFC. After being frustrated for a couple of months with the promotion, Barboza was able to come to terms on a new deal that’ll keep him in the UFC for several more fights.

The promotion had already been working on Barboza’s next matchup when the deal was agreed to. There had been rumors out there about potential matchup and now we know exactly who Edson Barboza will be fighting and when.

Combate was the first to report that the UFC was booking Edson Barboza against Shane Burgos (13-2). The matchup will take place at UFC 252 which occurs on May 15th. It will be Barboza’s third matchup at featherweight.

Barboza has always had championship potential. One of the flashiest strikers in the UFC with incredible power and speed. However, he’s always ran into roadblocks at lightweight on his journey to a title.

Barboza decided to drop down to 145 pounds last year. He made his debut back in May of 2020 at featherweight and lost a razor thin split decision to Dan Ige. He followed that up by defeating Makwan Amirkhani and now he’s in the UFC‘s top 15 at featherweight.

Fun matchup at UFC 262

Barboza is currently ranked 14th and his next opponent comes in at 12th in the UFC’s featherweight rankings. Shane Burgos has been sensational since he joined the promotion back in 2016.

Since signing with the UFC, only two men have defeated Burgos and they’re both top contenders at featherweight. Outside of those two losses, it’s been smooth sailing for Burgos and that includes a decision win over veteran, Cub Swanson

Burgos always brings the fight and he showed that in his last fight against Josh Emmett. While he didn’t get his hand raised, the fight was on the shortlist of Fights of the Year for the UFC in 2020. This matchup between Barboza and Burgos promises to be fireworks on May 15th.