New York Giants: PFF reveals the fans’ first round pick for the 2021 Draft

New York Giants

The New York Giants fanbase is split on what the team should do with the number eleven pick overall in the draft, but one answer reigns above the others. At least, that’s what Pro Football Focus found when they measured the data from over a million mock drafts to find out which player each fanbase favors. And the pick that New York Giants fans went with in the largest numbers might surprise you.

Giants fans favor Rashawn Slater

The offensive line might be the biggest need for the Giants right now after concerns at the receiver position and in the secondary were addressed in free agency. Because of that, Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater has risen in the draft rankings of many as a possible pick at number eleven. According to PFF, Slater is also the most favored pick among Giants fans.

Giants fans are prepared to draft a first-round offensive tackle in back-to-back seasons, opting to grab Rashawn Slater to protect Daniel Jones. There are questions as to whether Slater will be at his best at tackle or inside at guard, but either way, he has the athleticism and tools to be an elite blocker in the NFL.

Of utmost importance to Giants fans, Slater posted the best tape against Chase Young in 2019 among any offensive lineman in college football. That will be critical as the Giants battle the Football Team for the NFC East crown.

Interestingly enough, despite adding to the receiver position with Kenny Golladay, Jaylen Waddle was still listed as the alternative pick for the Giants. Though, given the team’s troubles at receiver last year it would be understandable if they spent the pick on another weapon.

Slater, on the other hand, would add to the lacking offensive line but it’s unknown where he would play. He held up well against some of the best talents in college as a tackle, but many believe his physique and skillset make him a better guard going into the NFL.

Regardless of his position, he could add to the Giants greatly. They do, after all, have more than one need on the line and it looks like previous early round pick Will Hernandez has fallen out of favor at guard.

The New York Rangers Rally but fall to the Islanders in Overtime

The New York Rangers did pick up one point in their playoff run after falling to the Islanders 3-2 in overtime. Ryan Pulock scored his first goal of the season at the 1:13 mark of the overtime period to give the Isles the extra point.

The Rangers came very close to winning the game at 17:19 of the third period when a Ryan Lindgren shot from the left circle hit Scott Mayfield‘s skate and went off the crossbar.

After giving up two goals to the Islanders in the first period, the Rangers rallied in the second to tie the game.

The Rangers have done very well in the second period this season. Per NYR Stats & Info, the Blueshirts have outscored opponents, 52-36 in the second period this season. The Rangers rank third in the NHL in goals and rank fourth in the NHL in goal differential (+16) in the second period in the 2020-21 season.

The Rangers got their first two goals from a couple of defensemen, courtesy of Libor Hajek and Brendan Smith. Vitali Kravtsov earned an assist on the Smith goal, which is his first career NHL point. Mika Zibanejad had the other assist.

Igor Shesterkin stopped 28 shots in regulation, while also facing his former Russian National goaltending teammate and KHL opponent.

Shesterkin and Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin played against each other in the NHL for the first time. Shesterkin and Sorokin faced each other 11 times in the regular season and playoffs in the KHL. They were also teammates on the “Athletes from Russia” Olympic team in 2018.

New York Rangers were pleased by their response after a poor first period

Smith discussed how well the New York Rangers responded after falling behind in the first period. “The Islanders came out hot and I don’t think we weathered the storm as well as we wanted to,” Smith said in his post-game Zoom conference. “But then we go back to our game. We talked about it in the dressing room and I like what our leadership core said there. Our young players bought in and we played good in the second and third.”

Head coach David Quinn echoed Smith’s feelings in his post-game conference. “I certainly like what we did in the second and third periods. I am disappointed that we did not get the two points but every point is life and death now but we have got to be better three-on-three, something that we will probably work on in the next practice. But I did like how we bounced back after a tough first period.”

The Rangers will now face the New Jersey Devils for four straight games, starting with a game on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.

 

 

NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. survives Martinsville for second win in 2021

Truex survived several caution flags and a battle with a teammate to become the NASCAR Cup Series’ first two-time winner in 2021.

New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr. became the first two-time winner on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series circuit on Sunday, taking home the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The race began on Saturday night, but all but 43 laps were pushed to Sunday due to inclement weather.

Truex survived a seemingly endless barrage of caution flags to earn the victory, which featured a final pass of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin with 15 laps to go to secure the win. The No. 19 Toyota previously won at Phoenix and has earned a win at Martinsville in each of the past three seasons.

Defending series and Martinsville champion Chase Elliott finished second ahead of Hamlin, who led a race-best 274 laps. Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.

Truex’s No. 19 was a rare clean vehicle in a race that featured 15 caution flags, all but five coming after the midway mark at lap 250. The most carnage occurred on lap 387 when a get-together between Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher blocked the entry into turn two caused major damage and ended the days of Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, Brad Keselowski, and Michael McDowell. An ensuing red flag paused the race for just over 20 minutes.

The constant restarts allowed Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota, a strong short-run vehicle, to jump out to the lead on restarts, a gambit that allowed him to lead a race-best 276 laps. Truex gained the lead after the final caution of the day (Chase Briscoe’s spin in turn three) led to pit stops, but Hamlin quickly assumed it back.

But as the final 42 laps went green, Truex eventually realized that his car would be able to outperform the tightening No. 11. He eventually made the victorious pass with 16 laps to go and earned the win by a 1.9-second margin.

It was part of a strong day for Joe Gibbs Racing, which placed all four of its Cup vehicles in the top ten. Christopher Bell, another 2020 winner at the Daytona road course, finished seventh and led nine laps while Busch recovered to place tenth. In the Xfinity Series conclusion that ran before the Cup event, Gibbs had four cars in the top seven.

Truex’s victory continues a dominant stretch on short tracks. He has now won five of the last eleven events at short tracks (less than a mile long) and is one of two active drivers with at least three wins at Martinsville (the other being his teammate Hamlin with five). The win was also the 29th of Truex’s Cup Series career, breaking a tie with Carl Edwards and Hall of Famer Rex White.

NASCAR will return to Martinsville in October, as its fall event will serve as the penultimate race of the season.

A prime opportunity awaits for Truex to continue his short-track dominance. The series descends upon Richmond Raceway next Sunday for the Toyota Owners 400 (3 p.m. ET, Fox). Truex’s No. 19 team swept the pair of Richmond events during the 2019 season.

Race Notes

  • Ryan Blaney won the first stages, lasting 130 laps each. Blaney was in contention all day and led 157 laps, but a pit road miscue during the final stops relegated him to the rear of the field. The No. 12 Team Penske Ford recovered to finish 11th.

 

  • Pit strategy allowed Bubba Wallace to lead a career-best 23 laps. His No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota hovered around the top ten for a good portion of the latter stages, but late contract relegated him to a 16th-place finish.

 

  • Suarez, relegated to a 32nd-place finish after the wreck, endured a brutal weekend. The No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet was relegated to the rear of the field and lost crew chief Travis Mack after an illegal ballast issue was discovered during prerace inspection on Saturday.

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Is it time for Lyoto Machida to retire after Bellator 256?

Friday night at Bellator 256, Ryan Bader (28-6) and Lyoto Machida (26-11) kicked off the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix. While the fight had big implications in terms of the Grand Prix, it also had big implications for the career of The Dragon.

Entering Bellator 256, Lyoto Machida had lost two fights in a row. The former UFC light heavyweight champion had dropped split decisions to Gegard Mousasi and Phil Davis.

However, since both fights were close, there were a lot of people giving Machida a shot on Friday night facing the Bellator heavyweight champion. The betting lines on the other hand were drastically in the favor of Bader.

In the first round, it looked like we were seeing the old Lyoto Machida. The Dragon was light on his feet and he was beating up the body of Ryan Bader with body kicks. Machida won the first round on all three scorecards.

However, after that round, Machida hit a brick wall at Bellator 256. When Ryan Bader went to his wrestling, it spelled the end for Machida. Bader continuously took Machida down and beat him up the rest of the fight. In the end, Bader won a lopsided decision.

Will Machida retire after Bellator 256?

Lyoto Machida never gave up at Bellator 256. The Dragon kept trying until the final bell and was even throwing heel kicks to the back of Bader’s thighs from the guard as the final bell sounded.

However, Machida was badly beaten up after the five round fight. Machida was gassed really after the second round and didn’t have anything left to give. In the past, we would have never seen Machida that tired in a fight.

However, at nearly 43 years old, it appears that father time has caught up with The Dragon. With that being said, should Machida hang it up after Bellator 256? I think it’s safe to say that Machida’s days of competing with even Bellator’s best are behind him.

I don’t think he would be favored to beat any of the light heavyweights that are in this Grand Prix. In reality, Machida should probably hang it up after last Friday. However, I’m not sure he’d be willing to walk away on a loss.

Machida has had a sensational career and reached the pinacol of the sport in becoming a UFC champion. There’s nothing left for him to prove and he’s just 5-7 in his last 12 fights. Bellator would give him another fight if he wants it, but with never left to prove, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Rays manager Kevin Cash takes shot at Yankees after ‘grossly mishandled’ situation in 2020

New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays

It took only five pitches into the Yankees versus Rays game on Sunday afternoon for both teams to be warned not to throw at each other. After Jordan Montgomery got a little zesty with his pitch location, which was seemingly inadvertent, Tampa was clearly frustrated. Even skipper Aaron Boone stated that there was “definitely no intent” after the victory in extra innings.

“Definitely no intent,” Boone said. “But I understand their anger. You see Meadows get hit up around the shoulder. I’d be upset on our side whether it’s unintentional or not. I think it was clear that Monty, though, was really struggling to find his command there the first couple of innings and it kind of got away from him.”

If you are unaware of the tension between the Yankees and Rays, we can reflect back to last season, when a fiery and heated rivalry sparked a few hostile scenarios. Closer Aroldis Chapman threw a fastball targeted at Michael Brosseau, which soared over his head in what would’ve been a devastating injury. There was a reason to believe that the Yankees were targeting hitters out of anger, and Rays’ manager Kevin Cash fired back after the game, stating:

“It’s ridiculous. Enough is enough. … It was mishandled by the Yankees.”

“Poor judgement. Poor coaching. Poor teaching.”

“I can assure you, other than three years ago, there hasn’t been one pitch thrown with intent from any of our guys. Somebody has to be accountable and the last thing I’ll say is I have a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph.”

Following the Yankee victory over Tampa, Cash took one last shot at the Yankees after old memories were brought up due to Montgomery’s poor pitch location.

He mentioned the lack of suspensions for Chapman and Masahiro Tanaka and how things continue to roll over. Clearly, Boone believes that his team wasn’t targeting anybody intentionally, but it is always a bad sign when it happens early, and the pitch is hat shoulder height.

 

New York Giants draft scenario: Micah Parsons or Rashawn Slater at eleven?

new york giants, rashawn slater, micah parsons

The New York Giants are gearing up for another crucial NFL Draft. The 2021 NFL Draft will kick off in a few short weeks. After months of preparation and hard work, teams will finally put their plans in motion and draft in their franchises’ future building blocks. The New York Giants hold the eleventh overall pick in the draft this year. This year’s selection for the Giants is fascinating because they can successfully go in several different directions.

The Giants filled their major needs in the 2021 free agency period. New York spent big in free agency and added two playmakers on offense in Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph. Still, the Giants could draft another weapon at eleven, but now they don’t have to. They also do not have to draft a cornerback early on since they filled that hole with the splash signing of Adoree’ Jackson.

There are a couple of needs, though, that the Giants could fill at eleven. One primary need that New York did not address in free agency is the offensive line. New York’s front line was amongst the worst in the league in 2020. They need to fix the offensive line in front of Daniel Jones to allow him to enjoy his new stable of weapons. But should they reach to draft for need or take the best player available regardless of position?

There are two top-tier prospects that can heat this debate to a boil. One of the draft’s top offensive tackles, Rashawn Slater, could potentially be available at eleven overall. But the draft’s top defensive prospect, linebacker Micah Parsons, could also be available for the Giants. What happens if both of those players are on the board? Do the Giants draft the best player available, or do they draft to fill a crucial need?

The best player available: Micah Parsons

Micah Parsons – a former top-five lock

Entering the pre-draft process months ago, Micah Parsons was a top-five lock and potentially a top-three talent in this year’s draft class. In fact, if at this time last year someone asked a Giants fan, “would you rather have Rashawn Slater or Micah Parsons in next year’s draft?” many fans would have responded with, “Who is Rashawn Slater? Micah Parsons could be a generational talent, so he is the pick for sure.”

Now the debate is much less black and white and a lot more gray. Some fans say “Rashawn Slater, not even close,” and others say “Micah Parsons, no debate.”

Neither one of these players played in 2020. They both opted out of the COVID-riddled 2020 collegiate season. But one player’s draft stock (Slater) has risen tremendously in the past year, and the other player’s draft stock (Parsons) has slid and taken a bit of a hit. This time last year, Parsons was never expected to fall outside the top five, and Slater was not even expected to be a top-ten pick. Now, many believe Parsons will fall outside of the top-ten, and many have a tough time envisioning a world where Slater is not a top-ten pick. Why is that?

The conversation around positional value

The reason for Parsons’s and Slater’s swap in draft projection is simple: positional value. Offensive tackles are a premium. An NFL offense is only as only good as its offensive line. An elite offensive lineman can transform an offense. But does an elite linebacker do that for an NFL defense? In some cases, sure.

But when you are the New York Giants who have a young quarterback entering his third season on a rookie contract, you want to know what you have in him before you pay him. It has been tough to evaluate Daniel Jones due to the lack of playmakers around him and the poor offensive line in front of him. In theory, solidifying the offensive line would allow the Giants to get a good look at Daniel Jones and decide if he is or is not the future of the franchise.

The Giants already have a top-notch defense. Micah Parsons could propel New York’s defense to be arguably the best unit in the league. But, unless the Giants see significant progress from the guys on the roster or hit on an offensive line prospect in the later rounds, their biggest weakness will still be their biggest weakness in this scenario.

Micah Parsons’s “red flag”

Granted, there is another factor at play other than the positional value with Micah Parsons. He had some off-the-field question marks regarding a hazing scandal at Penn State. But most scouts and analysts seem to have moved on from those allegations, and most seem to believe it will not be a problem in the NFL. Parsons himself explained that he was a 17-18-year-old kid when the hazing happened.

Now, Parsons is a 21-year-old young man and father that has presumably aged and matured past those freshman shenanigans. But this murky history could hold teams back from drafting Micah Parsons.

Micah Parsons – the best linebacker prospect since Luke Keuchly?

NFL Draft scouts and analysts love to make player comparisons. Last summer, before the 2020 NCAA and NFL seasons kicked off and before everyone dove deep into this year’s draft class, Micah Parsons was getting insane player comparisons.

Brad Kelly, an acclaimed NFL Draft analyst and offensive coordinator for Portsmouth, declared Micah Parsons as the best linebacker prospect since Luke Keuchly in March of 2020. Pro Football Focus made the same comparison in August of 2020. Last summer around Micah Parsons, the consensus was that he is a truly rare and special (maybe even generational) defensive talent. Now he is barely even a top-ten pick. That is confusing, considering Micah Parsons did not play in 2020 but still showed up and dominated his Pro Day.

Micah Parsons ran a 4.36s 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. His relative athletic score was a 9.59 out of 10 with elite speed grades, great size grades, great explosion grades, and good agility grades. Micah is a freak athlete. He is also a near-perfect linebacker prospect.

According to Pro Football Focus, Micah Parsons missed only 11 tackles on 188 attempts in his career and improved his missed-tackle rate from 2018 to 2019. Also from PFF, “on 127 career pass-rush snaps, the Penn State linebacker has racked up 29 pressures and a 91.4 pass-rush grade.”

Micah Parsons is a rare talent. He has the rare blend of size, speed, and athleticism, combined with elite instincts, tackling, pass-rushing, and playmaking ability. If the Giants are trying to draft the best player available, they are drafting the next Luke Keuchly, and they are spending the eleventh overall pick on a home-run selection in Micah Parsons.

Drafting for need: Rashawn Slater

If the New York Giants are drafting for need, they are taking the best offensive lineman on the board and never looking back. Penei Sewell is widely considered to be the best offensive lineman in this year’s class. But Rashawn Slater is deemed to be a close second, and, in some rare cases, he is the top offensive lineman on some draft boards.

The Giants’ lowly 2020 offensive line performance

The Giants’ pass-block win rate in 2020, according to ESPN, ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win-rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. So while the Giants did upgrade Daniel Jones’s weapons in free agency, they still desperately need to fix the offensive line in front of him.

When the value of talent meets the importance of the need in the first round of the draft

The Giants need an upgrade on the offensive line. Whether that be at right tackle or offensive guard, the Giants need to add some talent to their front line more than any other position. 2021 is the year of Daniel Jones. New York needs to evaluate how he plays when he has sufficient talent around him. The painful truth is that the Giants’ talent on the offensive line is insufficient. Changes need to be made.

Rashawn Slater would be that massive upgrade on the Giants’ offensive line. He would be the talented player to fill that enormous need for the Giants. Slater was a dominant left tackle at Northwestern that deleted Chase Young in pass protection during their 2019 matchup. But in his 2018 freshman season, Slater played right tackle and was excellent on that side of the line, too.

Rashawn Slater and the importance of versatility

If the Giants drafted Slater, they have a plethora of options in front of them, thanks to Rashawn’s positional versatility. He is naturally an excellent left tackle, but the Giants just drafted their left tackle in 2020 with Andrew Thoams. Potentially, Thomas could make the switch to right tackle, and the Giants could plug in Rashawn Slater to protect Daniel Jones’s blindside. But Slater’s distant history at right tackle in 2018 could make him the day one starter at right tackle.

New York feels confident in its current starting tackles, though. They love Andrew Thomas and feel confident in Matt Peart’s potential as a future starter. On the interior, though, the Giants are expected to roll out former fifth-round pick and eight-game starter Shane Lemieux alongside the former starting guard who was benched for Lemieux, Will Hernandez. That is kind of scary, especially considering Lemieux is a clear work in progress.

Rashawn Slater was an excellent left tackle in college and deserves a chance to start outside in the NFL. However, he is pretty severely undersized for an offensive tackle. Many believe that Slater will find more success playing guard in the NFL. The most significant need on the Giants roster is at offensive guard. If he is there at eleven, the Giants could draft Rashawn Slater and get a day-one starter and a massive upgrade at offensive guard. Rashawn Slater is the top pick for the Giants to fill their most significant need, even if he is not the top talent on the board at eleven.

Rashawn Slater – the second-best player available?

While Micah Parsons would be the best player available if he is on the board at eleven, the argument could be made that Parsons and Rashawn Slater’s talent gap is not that wide. Just like Parsons, Slater is a guy with All-Pro potential. Some might even argue that Slater is the best player available, though the consensus would seem to indicate that Parsons is the higher-grade prospect between the two.

But Slater and Parsons might have relatively similar prospect grades. Not to say that Rashawn Slater is a potentially generational offensive tackle talent, but he is potentially an elite offensive lineman and long-term starter at the next level.

During Rashawn Slater’s dominant 2019 season that saw him lock up Chase Young, Slater produced a 90.0 PFF grade and allowed just five pressures over 11 games in his final season at Northwestern in 2019. According to Pro Football Focus, Slater was one of just five offensive linemen in 2019 with a grade of 87.0 or better in both run-blocking and pass-protecting. He allowed just five pressures on 355 pass-blocking snaps as a 20-year-old true junior. Slater also allowed only one hit on the quarterback, and no sacks surrendered all season.

Rashawn Slater could step in and fix the Giants’ pass-protection issues overnight. Slater could have an impact on the Giants’ offensive similar to the impact that Tristan Wirfs had in Tampa Bay last season. Wirfs was an undersized rookie near-All-Pro right tackle for the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. Slater could be that athletic, undersized tackle that exceeds expectations in 2021.

The decision?

Realistically, the Giants cannot go wrong in this scenario. With one pick, New York lands the best defender in the draft class and tries to fix the offensive line in round two. Micah Parsons transforms New York’s defense, aiding in run support and boosting their pass-rush. The Giants potentially have the best defense in the NFL next season while the offense makes strides and the team is hopefully looking at their first playoff berth in years.

The other scenario is pretty, too. Drafting Rashawn Slater gives the Giants long-term security on the offensive line. Andrew Thomas and Rashawn Slater hold down the fort for the next decade. New York gets to evaluate Daniel Jones properly as the offense takes a huge step forward and goes from a weakness to a potential strength.

Maybe Rashawn Slater is the better long-term choice. Maybe Micah Parsons makes the Giants a contender overnight. Of course, the draft is a crapshoot, which is why many teams go “best player available” with every pick. But this crapshoot aspect also leads teams to think, if it is so hard to hit on a pick, we might as well try to hit on a player we need.

Either one of these players would be looked at as home-run selections for the New York Giants. Micah Parsons and Rashawn Slater are both worthy of being the number eleven overall pick in the draft. The Giants are in a great position and have the chance to leave fans happy no matter whom they select in the first round.

My opinion:

To me, the easy pick is Micah Parsons. He is a talent that you do not pass up. I’m going best player available and looking to land one of the interior offensive linemen in round two. This is a deep draft class for offensive linemen. But no class is ever deep in potentially generational defensive talent. Parsons would be a rare find and a true weapon in Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme. For me, if he is on the board at eleven, Micah Parsons is the pick, no questions asked.

Fans’ opinions:

The fanbase is split on this decision, but seemingly leaning towards Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern. I asked the question on Twitter: Rashawn Slater or Micah Parsons? I received over 100 responses. It seems that the consensus among fans is to fill the most significant need with Rashawn Slater. The most frequently given reason is Daniel Jones’s development. Fans are sick and tired of seeing their rookie quarterback get beat up game after game. Rashawn Slater is the fan selection because fans want to see Daniel Jones get a fair chance in 2021.

Personally, I can respect this opinion and still stan firmly with my own. As I said, the Giants cannot go wrong at eleven. If these two prospects are on the board, they would both be home-run selections, and I cannot wait to see what happens at the end of the month. The New York Giants are one step closer to turning this thing around and becoming a playoff team once again.

New York Yankees Recap: Yankees avoid the sweep with gutsy win in the 10th

Today the New York Yankees faced the Tampa Bay Rays in the finale of a 3 game set. The Yankees have lost the first two games, with the Ray shutting out the Yankees Yesterday. Today the Yankee’s Jordan Montgomery faced the Ray’s Brent Honeywll Jr. Montgomery was coming off his first game of the season in which he was totally dominant. He shut out the Orioles 7-0, striking out seven and walking none. Honeywell made his Ray’s Major League debut after not pitching for 3 and a half years due to several surgeries.

DJ LeMahieu started off facing Honeywell and flew out to right. Aaron Judge ground out. Aaron Hicks ground out to first for an excellent start for Honeywell. At the bottom, Montgomery faced Yandy Diaz, and he walked. Randy Arozarena hit into a double play, two outs. Monty plunked Austin Meadows. The Yankee pitchers have hit several Rays in this series. Manuel Margot ground out for the last out. No score.

Giancarlo Stanton led off the second against Honeywell. He struck out looking. Gleyber Torres down on strikes Rougned Odor flew out for another quick inning for Honeywell. The Rays lead off with Mike Brosseau, the player that caused Chapman’s suspension. He singled to left with a hard-hit line drive. Brandon Lowe flew out to Judge on the warning track. Willie Adames flew out to Gardner in left field. Mike Zunino hit a home run into the left-field stands. Kevin Padlo struck out, but the Rays picked up two runs. Rays 2 Yankees 0.

Michael Wacha took over for Honeywell in the third inning. Gary Sanchez walked. Gio Urshela hit a long home run over the center-field wall to tie the game at 2 (457′). Brett Gardner singled up the middle. LeMahieu doubled on a ground-rule double. Aaron Judge walked to load the bases with no outs. Hicks hit into a double play, but Gardner scored. Stanton ground out to third. Yankees 3 Rays 2. Montgomery faced the top of the order at the bottom of the third. Diaz singled over Torres’s head. Arozarena homered, bringing two more runs for the Rays. Meadows struck out. Margot doubled to center. Brosseau ground out to Urshela. Lowe chopped back to DJ, but the Rays regained the lead. Rays 4 Yankees 3.

Gleyber Torres led off the New York Yankees fourth by walking. Odor flew out to left. Torres stole second. Sanchez ground out to third base. Urshela stuck out, leaving Torres stuck at second. At the bottom, Adames struck out. Zunino flew out to Hicks. Padlo struck out for a fast 1-2-3 inning for Monty. Rays 4 Yankees 3.

Gardner led off against Wacha in the fifth by striking out. LeMahieu hit into a double play. Judge made it 1-2-3 for Wacha. At the bottom, Diaz ground out to Urshela. Arozarena followed, doing the same. Meadows got hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Margot ground out to Odor to end the inning. Rays 4 Yankees 3.

Hicks led off the sixth by comebacking to the pitcher. Stanton struck out for the 3rd time. Torres struck out for 9 in a row for Wacha. Brosseau led off the bottom by walking on Monty’s 82nd pitch. Lowe against Chad Green ground out. Adames ground out to DJ, but Brosseau made it to third base with two outs. Zunino struck out. Rays 4 Yankees 3.

Odor led off for the New York Yankees in the seventh grounding out. Sanchez walked on a hit-by-pitch. Urshela singled up the middle to put two on for the Yankees with one out. Gardner walked to load the bases. Thompson replaced Reed. LeMahieu hit into a double play for the second time in the game. Yankees leave three on base. At the bottom Padlo against Green and stuck out. Diaz struck out, and Arozarena popped out to DJ in foul territory. Rays 4 Yankees 3.

Aaron Judge led off the top of the eighth by walking. Hicks flew out to the far left-center. Stanton walked giving the Yankees two on with one out. Mike Tauchman was brought in to run for Stanton. Torres got an RBI single to left to tie up the game. Castillo came in to replace Thompson. Odor popped out, two away. Sanchez flew out to center but the Yankees were able to tie up the game.  Green was out again for the bottom of the eighth. Meadows lofted to Gardner in left. O’Day came in to replace Green. Margot ground out to Torres. Tsutsugo pinch hit for Brosseau and struck out for the 1-2-3 inning for Darren O’Day. Yankees 4 Rays 4.

Leading off the ninth was Urshela he doubled up the middle. Gardner walked, first and second with no outs. DJ LeMahieu goes to second on a bad throw by Padlo. (E5), Gardner got caught between third and home and was tagged out, and Judge ground out as the Yankees left two on base in the ninth in a tied game. The Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman came in to hold the Rays at the bottom of the inning. Lowe struck out as did Adames. Zunino doubled to Gardner. Padlo struck out to bring it to the 10th inning. Score tied at 4.

At the top of the tenth Judge was on second (man on second rule after 9) with Hicks at the plate. Hicks was hit by a pitch going to first. Two on no outs. Tauchman bunted and the runners moved to second and third. Gleyber Torres had a slow roller, and Judge was called out trying to reach home. “Rougie” Odor with men on the corners and two outs, he became a Yankee hero in his first game as a Yankee, he popped one into no man’s land in center that scored Hicks for the Yankee lead. Sanchez singled bringing in Torres for the two-run lead. Urshela line drove to center bring in two runs for the Yankee 4 run lead. Urshela moved to third on the error by Margot. Gardner stuck out. Yankees 8 Rays 4.

In the bottom of the 10th with last licks on the line for the Rays, Albert Abreu came out to pitch for the New York Yankees. With Pedlo on second, Phillips struck out. Arozarena struck out. Meadows flew out to Hicks to end the game and give the Yankees an 8-4 win over the Rays as they avoided the sweep. The winning pitcher was Aroldis Chapman the loser, McHugh.

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Jets must fix their kicking situation now

The New York Jets have been through six different legs since Jason Myers absconded to Seattle. The next one must last.

Even with a decent free agency haul, the New York Jets still have holes to fill with the NFL Draft looming large. Contending in a crowded AFC…one whose East division likely belongs to Buffalo for the time being and one packed with established contenders…might be difficult anyway even if all those needs are satisfied.

The Jets’ first choice, second only to Jacksonville on April 29, will undoubtedly be used on a quarterback, many presuming the choice to be BYU’s Zach Wilson. Afterward, however, there’s a lot of flexibility, especially with nine further picks in a surplus gained through trading Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Sam Darnold, and Jordan Willis. The Jets can thus upgrade areas of major need, such as the gaps in their blocking and secondary.

But there’s one underrated area where the Jets are in desperate need of help: their kicking game.

One could be excused in overlooking the current situation. The Jets, losers of ten games decided by at least two possessions, didn’t drop any games because of a missed kick, after all. But having a reliable leg at this point of the franchise timeline is supremely vital.

For one thing, having this much turnover in a position that often takes up a single slot on the gameday depth chart is troubling. Since 2019 Pro Bowl nominee Jason Myers absconded to Seattle, the Jets have gone through a disturbingly jaw-dropping six kickers, including those who appeared only in preseason games. But the biggest reason why the Jets need to settle this is the sake of their offense.

In a modern NFL that worships a fantasy football deity, the Jets have lagged behind. In the highest-scoring season in NFL history (teams averaged 24.8 points per game, breaking a record set in 1948), the Jets ranked dead-last at an average of 15.2. New York was also dead-last in another vital category: only 16 of their (again, league-low) 38 visits to the red zone ended in a touchdown.

Time will only tell if the Jets will be able to raise any of those numbers this season. But, even with the potential of Wilson (or another rookie party like Justin Fields), there’s no doubt it’ll be tough to build on it with a freshman thrower in tow. But this year of building must end with an offense full of confidence as they try to end this perpetual rebuild. The perfect way to build that poise and assertiveness is by ensuring that drives that end within the opponents’ 20-yard-line yield points. When you’re a team that has had issues…and might continue to have issues…getting balls in the end zone, a good kicker is a must.

Right now, it’s debatable as to whether the Jets have that. They have two kickers on the roster, the most recent pair of the aforementioned six. A competition is all but assured to assume once training camp commences this summer. Each one returns from last year’s roster, with Sam Ficken, the two-year incumbent, coming back on a future/reserve contract and Chase McLaughlin being retained from the Week 17 trip to New England, meaningless if not for being the final stand of Adam Gase.

Both Ficken and McLaughlin could stick around in the NFL for a while. Ficken has floated around in gameday rosters since 2015, while McLaughlin has racked up frequent flier miles as an injury replacement since entering the league four years later. Though McLaughlin has a minuscule sample size (converting two extra point attempts in the aforementioned futile Foxboro visit), Ficken established a new career-high by converting just over 86 percent of triples (13-of-15). The Penn State alum well could’ve been the Jets’ long-term solution, but a groin injury sustained in November could prove concerning.

What the Jets need right now is a reliable, proven leg, one where fans don’t have to hold their breath as long when his name is called. It’s probably too late to turn to free agency to solve that problem. The most reliable available name, Ryan Succop, re-upped with the defending champions while veteran Matt Prater moved from Detroit to Arizona. What’s left is a group of names past their prime (Dan Bailey/Stephen Gostkowski) or inconsistent (Brett Maher/Zane Gonzalez).

Thus, the means toward a solution may come from an unusual source: the NFL Draft.

It’s true that the Jets could probably scour the undrafted free agent wire to add to the special teams festivities at camp. Four of the five most accurate kickers last season (the exception being Mason Crosby) were, after all, UDFA finds. But the Jets need to be confident in the name they have going forward, unlike the 2019 season. The team scooped up former Minnesota preseason hero Kaare Vedvik mere days before their season opener against Buffalo. Vedvik lasted just one game in green, missing an extra point and a field goal, the indirect difference in a 17-16 loss to the Bills.

In this era, the Jets need a proven name that has succeeded at a high level of football, and this year’s selection pool has some strong names to work with. Reigning Lou Groza Award winner Jose Borregales perhaps headlines the class out of Miami, while his fellow finalist Evan McPherson hails from Florida. Senior Bowl standout Riley Patterson from Memphis could also hear his name called during the four-round, final day process on May 1.

Drafting a kicker often gains your team only postmortem mockery in the immediate aftermath. Tampa Bay’s aforementioned Super Bowl triumph may only now finally end the Roberto Aguayo jokes after they chose the Florida State booter in the second round in 2016. The Jets themselves endured some of this the last time they opted for a leg in the draft, shockingly choosing Mike Nugent with their second-round choice (47th overall) in 2005 (passing on future Pro Bowlers like Nick Collins, Vincent Jackson, and Frank Gore).

This time around, though, the Jets can afford such a risk. That’s part of the gifts that come with ten draft picks, a surplus gained through trading several franchise staples. Quantity, as the Jets found out through John Idzik’s doomed dozen in 2014, doesn’t always equal quality, so they have to make the most of the extras granted to them. Drafting a kicker might be a great way to do that. There’s obviously no need to go the Nugent route…there are far greater holes to fill…but using one of their later picks could be a good way to find an immediate contributor and gain some consistency at a position where there’s been endless turnover.

Using a draft pick on special teams and valuing the group isn’t unheard of in this new era of Jets football. In his first draft at the helm, general manager Joe Douglas used his final choice on punter Braden Mann and special teams coordinator Brant Boyer is a rare survivor of the purge of Gase’s coaching staff, having also survived that of Todd Bowles’ group. Douglas knows that football is a three-pronged game, and getting the right guy at the vital positions is going to be crucial to building what he and Robert Saleh are trying to build.

Drafting a kicker’s an unusual situation in any NFL era. But desperate times, times that would welcome even the simplest form of football stability, call for unusual measures.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Knicks News: Lonzo Ball free agent target, Raptors present underrated challenge

New York Knicks, Lonzo Ball

There is an argument to be made at the New York Knicks made a mistake not trading for a player at the deadline a few weeks ago. With reports swirling that the Knicks were interested in Pelicans’ point guard Lonzo Ball, there was a moment where the two teams could have connected on a deal, but the Knicks will likely wait until free agency to take another shot at the 6’6”, 190 pound PG.

It seemed as if New York had more desire to add draft capital than give it away, and they did just that by parting ways with Austin Rivers and Ignas Brazdeikis, adding two second-round selections.

The Knicks now have two first-round picks, likely in the middle of the draft unless they tank the rest of the season, and multiple second-rounders. They could consider pairing their draft picks to move up and get their player of choice, but free agency also offers a different approach. They could look to Ball to fix their point guard problems, letting Elfrid Payton walk simultaneously. At 23 years old, Ball is averaging 14.5 points over .424 shooting from the field, both career highs.

Otherwise, they can use their draft picks to find a point guard, as some have New York taking guard Sharife Cooper out of Auburn.

The New York Knicks have an important game on Sunday:

Taking our attention toward the present, the Knicks are gearing up for a contest against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday evening. The Raptors are coming off a blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, with both Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam resting on the bench. A few individual performances boosted Toronto toward an impressive victory, but the Knick defense won’t allow that to happen. New York currently hosts the best defense in basketball, allowing a league-low 104.5 points per game.

New York finally extracted a victory in a close contest against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night, inching a four-point victory after falling numerous times in close games to playoff-bound teams. The Grizzlies are just about as good as the Knicks but far more offensive than defensive.

In the contest, RJ Barrett finished with 20 points and Immanuel Quickley the same. The two youngsters fueled the Knick offense, which desperately needed a pick me up after falling by four combined points to the Nets and Celtics two games prior. Tom Thibodeau must limit Toronto from scoring, so playing his usual aggressive defense style is exactly what they need to focus on.

Yankees hypothetical trade proposal for star SS Trevor Story will blow your mind

trevor story, new york yankees

The New York Yankees have an issue at shortstop with Gleyber Torres, primarily revolving around his defense. A 24-year-old, the Venezuelan has earned two All-Star appearances in four years and could push for a third in 2021, but his defense needs to improve if he wants to reach that accomplishment.

So far this year, Torres is hitting .219 with seven hits, but the sample size is too small to even consider. Defensively, though, he played 40 games at shortstop in 2020, earning a .933 fielding percentage, well below the .973 league average. This year, he’s settled in even below his 2020 number at .929.

Unfortunately, his inability to make routine throws has plagued his defensive development. Whether it be arm strength or inaccuracy, these issues aren’t being alleviated over time, as general manager Brian Cashman even indicated he is a better second baseman. However, the Yankees signed DJ LeMahieu to a long-term extension to play 2B, Torres’ natural position.

Joel Sherman of the NY Post believes the Yankees should call the Rockies and inquire about Trevor Story’s availability:

But I think the Yankees should call the Rockies today and offer Gleyber Torres for Trevor Story, because Torres’ defensive deficiencies at shortstop are not from a small sample size.

Of course, the idea of adding Story is fantastic, as the 28-year-old is one of the best shortstops in baseball. Having also made two All-Star appearances, Story is capable of being an elite player, historically averaging double-digit home runs per season. In 2019, Story logged 35 homers but saw that number dip to just 11 last year, still showing prowess in the category. He finished 11th in MVP voting, earning a .961 fielding percentage.

The primary issue with this hypothetical trade is that parting ways with Gleyber Torres would be silly. The team has control over Torres until 2024, and Story is projected to hit the free agency market after this current season. Not only would you be giving away a player with star potential, if not an already established one, with three years left of control and protection, but you’d only be gaining Trevor for the rest of the season and no guarantee of retention.

The Yankees are better off sitting still, for now, playing out the current season with what they have available and signing Story in free agency. They could even consider moving LeMahieu to first base, Torres back to second, and Story cemented at shortstop. This would allow them to utilize the value of Luke Voit and potentially trade for pitching.