New York Giants completely overhaul red-zone offense in one offseason

New York Giants, Kenny Golladay

The New York Giants had one of the more inept offenses in 2020, ranking 31st in points per game with just 280 total points throughout the course of the season. Only the New York Jets had it worse, scoring 243 total points. However, the differential between the Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars, who ranked 30th, was a significant 26 points.

Not only was the Giants’ offense incapable of moving down the field efficiently, they simply couldn’t get into the red zone to capitalize on opportunities. When in the red zone, the Giants didn’t have many adequate options to utilize, as their tallest receiver was Evan Engram at 6’3″, but his drops and inconsistencies hurt the team.

The Giants not only made it a priority to solve the red zone offense and inject more playmakers, but the primary purpose around their massive free agency spending and first-round draft pick in Kadarius Toney centered around providing Daniel Jones with more weapons.

Based on the production of their newly acquired assets, the Giants should have far more success scoring points close to the opponent’s end-zone while also moving the ball more efficiently downfield with a refined scheme that focuses on attacking man coverage and a high completion percentage.

Last season, opponents simply locked down Giants’ receivers, providing Jones with little to work with and forcing him to run the ball a bit more frequently than he would’ve liked, which resulted in an injury to his hamstring.

Nonetheless, with their newly acquired toys, let’s take a look at how they will impact an increase in scoring next season.

New York Giants top red-zone threats:

Kenny Golladay:

The Giants signed Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million deal, and if you look at his 2019 statistics, he’s worth every penny. While only playing in five games last year, his Pro-Bowl level performance in 2019 saw him accrue 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is a massive 6’4″, 214-pound receiver. He provides Jones with a massive target around the field, but in the red zone, he dominates. During his most productive season two years ago, he tallied at least one red-zone target in nearly every game, with a high of three targets in week four.

Jones can feel confident throwing the ball high and letting his big receiver make a play over smaller corners. Things in the red zone get a bit more condensed due to the congestion, meaning Jason Garrett and the coaching staff will have to devise proper schematics to get Golladay in advantageous situations.

Luckily, with the attention defense will have to keep on Kenny, they will also have to allocate eyes toward a variety of other playmakers.

Kyle Rudolph:

Kyle Rudolph has 40 career red-zone touchdowns, and while he only scored one last season, he recorded six in 2019 with an 81.3% catch rate. He’s extremely dependable with the ball in his hands, considering he hasn’t dropped a pass in over two years.

At 6’6″, Rudolph adds another tall target for Jones to utilize alongside Golladay. Engram was the tallest receiver on the Giants last year, and they made sure to attribute resources towards that category.

Evan Engram:

While most have given up on Engram, he’s actually quite effective when targeted on the boundaries and seams. Most think of dropped passes and interceptions when Engram crosses their mind (for good reason), but he’s capable of being an adequate receiver in scoring position, hauling in six touchdowns in 2017, showcasing his abilities.

One correlation we can make with the Giants’ playmakers and their fall off in production is that they were more efficient when they had a WR1 on the field. Even Saquon Barkley was far more productive when Odell Beckham Jr. was on the team. Golladay should help tremendously across the board, and one smaller receiver shouldn’t be overlooked in the red zone category.

Sterling Shepard:

One of the Giants’ most dangerous weapons is Sterling Shepard. He was asked to do far too much in 2020 against top corners. As an elite route runner with dependable hands, Shepard is capable of fitting into tight spaces and giving Jones windows to throw.

Sterling recorded eight touchdowns back in his rookie season in 2016 and has scored six touchdowns over the past two years. He stated recently that his goal is to play all 17 games this year, which should provide him with more opportunities in the red zone, especially with a plethora of attention being allocated toward the Giants’ new big body receivers.

Yankees: Good news and bad news in Kluber no-hitter win over Rangers

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The last time a New York Yankees pitcher threw a no-hitter, the year was 1999, about 22 years ago. Fast forward to the present day, and Corey Kluber has finally broken that streak, recording a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday evening.

Kluber has battled injuries the past few seasons, pitching a total of 36.2 innings since 2018. He’s already pitched 41.1 this season and hosts an impressive 2.86 ERA coming off a long stretch of absence.

Ultimately, the Yankees needed to find an established number two starter, and Kluber forced his way back into the conversation as one of the top starters in baseball. The Yankees allowed Masahiro Tanaka to walk this past off-season, as he took his talents back to Japan, replacing him with Kluber, who has impressed at 35 years old.

Good news and bad news for the Yankees:

The good news is quite straightforward, the pitching was phenomenal as the bullpen received a night off thanks to Corey and his outstanding performance. Over 9.0 innings, he threw 101 pitches, including 71 strikes and nine strikeouts. If not for one measly walk, Kluber would’ve enjoyed a perfect game, but his accomplishment shouldn’t go unnoticed.

He was the 11th Yankee in the franchise history to record a no-hitter, and he single-handedly carried the team to victory against Texas, putting them five games above .500 on the season.

If there are any negatives to harp on, it is the offense, as the Yankees only tallied four hits of their own and struck out six times on the evening. The only batters to record a hit were Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Tyler Wade, who replaced Ryan LaMarre in right field early on.

The top of the batting order struggle to get going in the victory, but they didn’t have to do much as Kluber carried the offense as they continue their stretch of inadequacy. While the Yankees have shown flashes of production at times, they have been wildly inconsistent this season, lacking run production. Of course, injuries have taken their toll, as the outfield has been decimated as of late.

Aaron Hicks is currently dealing with a torn sheath in his left wrist, which could keep him out for potentially months. Giancarlo Stanton is working his way back from a quad strain, which could keep them out for a few weeks in addition.

New York Jets: 4 undrafted free agents who can make an impact

The New York Jets’ draft proceedings garnered some strong praise, but several post-Cleveland signings can also instantly make a difference.

The New York Jets have earned high praise for their work at the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland. However, their offseason duties still aren’t over, as undrafted prospects received their calls after the original 259.

While the Jets are pleased with their draft weekend haul, they’ve enjoyed sizable contributions from UDFA’s in recent seasons. As a team coming off a two-win season and saddled with a playoff drought entering a decade, the Jets will certainly take help from whatever source they can get.

In the realm of the New York undrafted, ESM has four names to keep an eye on…

CB Isaiah Dunn, Oregon State

At the rate they’re paying him…per Aaron Wilson, Dunn’s guaranteed salary of $185,000 is the most expensive deal ever bestowed to an undrafted cornerback…the Jets definitely have plans for the former Beaver. All but one of their picks on day three were centered on defense, but they were likely attracted to Dunn’s ball skills and speed (posting a 4.39 40-time during his pro day) once the draft clock was put back in storage. The Jets have a crowded cornerback picture, but with so many unproven pieces, Dunn has a realistic chance to battle for a roster spot.

S Jordyn Peters, Auburn

It seems like a small task, but one of the Jets’ most interesting developments of the offseason has been their dedication to fixing their special teams…which have been special in name only. This Auburn addition, complemented by fellow undrafted rookie Chris Naggar (set to compete with Sam Ficken for kicking duties) and veteran cornerback Justin Hardee, could help make things right.

Peters should be an incredible tool for returning coordinator Brant Boyer. Labeled a “special teams maestro” by Alabama.com’s Tom Green, Peter blocked four punts during his time with the Tigers. Peters also provided some solid defensive depth, earning 101 tackles (7 for a loss) over his four years as an Auburn safety.

LB Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State

One area where the Jets need some assistance is their pass rush, especially when four games of their future schedules could well feature the multi-faceted talents of Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa. Rashed burst onto the scene with a dominant junior season, leading the nation with 23 tackles for a loss and the Pac-12 with 14 sacks in 2019 (an OSU record).

Returning for his senior season proved to be a tough decision for Rashed, whose production drastically dropped after dealing with injuries and opt-outs from key defensive contributors. He was nonetheless bestowed an honorable mention by Pac-12 Team voters. Bringing in Rashed on an undrafted free agency deal is a low-risk, high-reward endeavor that can shore up an area where the Jets have been suffering for years.

TE Kenny Yeboah, Mississippi 

Some found it a little surprising that the Jets didn’t look to the draft to put some heat on Chris Herndon and create a competition for the primary tight end spot. Yeboah enjoyed a bit of a breakout at the start of his fifth college season, transferring to Oxford after four years at Temple. Over the first four games of a shortened season, Yeboah earned 438 yards (including 183 alone against Alabama) and four scores. Yeboah has some focus issues, leading to a troubling number of drops, and probably went undrafted after some tough breaks in his blocking game. However, he can offer a youthful spark to a depth chart currently dominated by veterans Herndon, Tyler Kroft, and Ryan Griffin.

Much like Dunn, the Jets spared no expense when it came to Yeboah, a one-year college teammate of second-round pick Elijah Moore. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the former basketball player was granted a $200,000 deal.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Development will be key for Chicago Bears at cornerback in 2021

The Chicago Bears entered the offseason with a major issue: Too many needs and too few resources. General manager Ryan Pace had over-invested in the defense, which led to a depleted offense. The Bears were also limited on salary cap space, making it hard to address any position on offense without poaching from the defense. The Bears did poach from the defense by releasing All-Pro CB Kyle Fuller, ending a run that lasted seven seasons in the Windy City.

To replace Fuller, the Bears added veteran Desmond Trufant on a one-year, $1M deal this offseason. Chicago now hopes that second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson can develop into CB1 for the foreseeable future. Besides Johnson and Trufant, the Bears have a number of unproven commodities including Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley, Thomas Graham Jr., and Tre Roberson.

Both Vildor and Shelly were with the Bears in 2020 and received some playing time. Roberson was injured throughout last season while Graham Jr. enters the fold as a rookie. Cornerback can be considered the weakest position on the Bears defense but there is also plenty of potential.

“We’re excited about developing some of these guys right now,” said defensive coordinator Sean Desai on the Bears official Youtube page. “We like the volume and depth we got there. We got to play football.”

One name to keep an eye on as a potential surprise starter is Vildor, who was a fifth-round pick for the Bears in the 2020 NFL Draft. Despite playing just 13 percent of the Bears snaps as a rookie, the potential Vildor displayed was clear and as he enters year two, he could play either on the outside or in the slot for the Bears.

“Kindle showed that he belongs in this league, last year and the reps that he took last year,” Desai said. “So I think he’s going to have a chance to compete at various positions. We’re going to have a lot of competition at the nickel as well. We’ve had guys that have played there in games.”

Besides Johnson, the Bears’ CB competition is wide open at this point. There is no guarantee that Trufant starts week one simply because there are too many bodies but not enough reps to go around that will make the Bears’ CB decision even harder.

Sometimes, creating additional competition is simply a way for coaches to continue pushing players to further develop players’ skillsets. The Bears are doing the exact same, trying to push younger players to get the best out of them, showing a young room that nothing is given in the NFL, rather everything is earned.