New York Giants: Evan Engram and teammates to attend Travis Kelce’s TE camp

New York Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants will have an interesting group at tight end this season. Not only did they add Kyle Rudolph during the offseason, but their number one player at the position remains the controversial Evan Engram.

Engram was drafted for one reason, to catch passes – but the tight end has picked up a polarizing reputation due to long injuries and key drops in big moments. Going into the 2021 season, though, it looks like we can expect an effort from Engram to improve his skills.

That includes attending a brand new camp held by current Chief Travis Kelce and retired TE Greg Olsen.

While Engram was initially reported as attending the camp with teammate Kaden Smith, the camp’s official Twitter account later confirmed that Kyle Rudolph will also be present.

The camp so far has many other participants from around the league and aims to help the NFL’s tight ends improve their skills. It seems that the event is set to take place this summer, specifically in June. If it’s a success, we’ll likely see it become an annual happening.

Many fans will say that Engram needs to work on his catching – that aspect of his game has been a consistent problem for him since coming into the league, and even cost the Giants a game sealing first down against the Eagles last season in a matchup they would eventually lose.

But with some of the most prominent pass catching tight ends in the league there, there’s a good chance Engram and the other two Giants come out having learned something.

deGrom Shows No Rust in Mets 3-1 Win Over Rockies

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

The New York Mets desperately needed healthy bodies to return from the injured list, and Jacob deGrom was the first of hopefully many to come back. deGrom looked fresh as ever by leading the Mets to a much-needed 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

deGrom came out firing from the beginning of his start, consistently throwing his fastball in the 100-101 range. He only got to throw 63 pitches, but it was enough to pitch five terrific innings, allowing one run and struck out nine. The only blemish on his line was a Ryan McMahon home run in the second inning. Of course, no deGrom start is complete without the theatrics of his bat. He recorded another hit to push his average to .471, and it would have been a double if he did not leave the bag on his slide.

Catcher Collab

The Mets offense was not anything special but did enough to support deGrom. The terrific pitching allows the offense to put up enough runs to survive. The catcher combination of James McCann and Tomas Nido got the job done by driving in all three runs. McCann did it early in the first inning with a ground out, and Nido continued his hot hitting with a two-run homer to put the Mets in the lead. Jonathan Villar and Dominic Smith were the two Mets to record multi-hit games.

The bullpen was tremendous following deGrom. Miguel Castro (2), Trevor May (1), and Edwin Diaz (1) combined for four hitless innings with six strikeouts to secure the victory. The Rockies had just one at-bat with runners in scoring position, which was the exact amount they had the previous night. The win keeps the Mets in first place and improves them to 12-5 at home this season.

Wednesday night features a pitchers duel between German Marquez and Marcus Stroman. The first pitch from Citi Field is another 7:10 p.m. ET start.

New York Yankees Recap: Yankees couldn’t figure out the Jays in the loss of game one

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees met up with the Toronto Blue Jays for game one of a 3 game set coming up at Yankee Stadium. It was a beautiful night for baseball in the Bronx. After pitching a no-hitter, Corey Kluber took to the mound to face the Blue Jays’ Steven Matz and the Jays’ powerful young and energetic lineup. The Jays won the game 6-2.

At the top of the first inning, Kluber faced Marcus Semien, who struck out. Bo Bichette struck out. Vlad Guerrero Jr. walked. Teoscar Hernandez also walked. Randal Grichuk flew out to Urshela at third. At the bottom, Luke Voit struck out swinging. Gleyber Torres struck out swinging. Aaron Judge struck out for a quick 1-2-3 inning for Matz. No score.

The top of the second had Lourdes Gurriel hitting into the force. Joe Panik had a line drive caught my Rougie Odor. Danny Jansen stuck out to end the half. Gio Urshela led off the bottom, and he got a right-field single. Gary Sanchez struck out. Rougie Odor also stuck out. Clint Frazier flew out to left to end the inning. No score.

At the top of the third inning, Semien struck out. Bo Bichette singled. Bichette moved to second on an error by Kluber. Vlad Guerrero Jr. got a two-run blast for his 16th homer of the year; it broke 35 scoreless innings by the Yankees. Hernandez struck out. Grichuk popped to Voit to then the half the, but the Jays took the lead. At the bottom, Kyle Higashioka led off for the Yankees, and he struck out. Brett Gardner struck out. Luke Voit singled to center. Gleyber Torres had a long fly ball for the final out of the inning. Toronto Blue Jays 2 Yankees 0.

At the top of the fifth inning, Corey Kluber was replaced by Michael King Tellez ground out. Gurriel Jr. hit a home run. Panik walked. Jansen went down looking. Semien singled for two on and two outs. Bichette flew out to Gardner to end the half, but the Yankees gave up a run. At the bottom, Aaron Judge hit a fly ball out to center. Urshela ground out to center. Gary Sanchez ground out to end the inning. Blue Jays 3 Yankees 0.

At the top of the sixth with two on, Grickut struck out. Gurriel Jr. lined out to end the half. At the bottom, Odor led off and struck out for Matz’s eighth strikeout of the game. Clint Frazier singled up the middle. Higashoika flew out to left. Gardner struck out for a very fast sixth inning. Jays 3 Yankees 0.

To start the sixth, Joe Panik struck out looking. Jansen singled to left. Semien double, but Jansen held up at third. Bichette ground out to third. Guerrero Jr. also to third to end the hall. At the bottom of the inning, Luke Voit ground out to the artificial shortstop. Judge singled. Urshela Urshela ground out to short. Jays 3 Yankees 0.

The top of the seventh saw Hernandez ground out. Grichuk singled up the middle. Tellez singled to two on and one out. Gurriel Jr. singled to load up the bases still with only one out. Espinal pinch-hitting hit a two-run single. Danny Jansen, still with only one out, struck out. In his fifth at-bat, Semien struck out against Lucas Luetge for the final out, but the Jays picked up two more runs. Gary Sanchez led off with a pop-up showing Sanchez not running hard. Odor struck out. Frazier hit a double for the Yankees’ first batter in scoring position. Higashioka singled, driving in Frazier for the New York Yankees’ first run of the night. Brett Gardner faced the new Jay’s pitcher Tyler Chatwood, and he walked. Luke Voit hit back to Chatwood to end the inning, but the Yankees got on the board. Jays 5 Yankees 1.

At the top of the eighth, Luis Cessa faced Bo Bichette, who singled as Frazier got it off the wall to prevent a double. Guerrero Jr. hit into a double play by Urshela. Hernandez lined out to Gardner in center. At the bottom, with the Yankees having to make up four runs, Gleyber Torres started by lining out to the center-field wall. Aaron Judge walked. Gio Urshela hit into a double play to end the inning. Jays 6 Yankees 1.

At the top of the night, Randal Grichuk hit a home run to far centerfield as the Jays tacked on another home run. Tellez ground out to the infield, Higashioka to first. Gurriel Jr. grounded out to Torres. Espinal ground out, but the Yankees were down by five. At the bottom, with last licks on the line for the New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez went down on strikes. Rougie Odor walked. Clint Frazier went down looking. Kyle Higashioka doubled driving in Odor. Brett Gardner struck out to end the Yankees’ six-game winning streak.

The final score was the Toronto Blue Jays 6 and the New York Yankees 2. The winning pitcher was Steven Matz, and the loser was Corey Kluber.

After another loss at UFC Vegas 27, what’s next for Edmen Shahbazyan?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 27, top prospect Edmen Shahbazyan (11-2) took on The Joker Jack Hermansson (22-6) to kick off the main card. This was a really tall order for Shahbazyan who was coming off of his first career loss last year.

Shahbazyan was being touted as a future champion in 2020. The previously unbeaten Shahbazyan was surging up the UFC‘s middleweight division all before he even turned 23 years old.

Shahbazyan was 4-0 in the UFC as he got his first main event slot against Derek Brunson last August. The 22 year old Shahbazyan looked like he was ready to break into the scene of stardom, but Derek Brunson was having none of it.

Brunson completely broke Shahbazyan down on his way to picking up a third round TKO victory. In reality, Shahbazyan should have taken a step back after that loss. At just 23 years old, there is no reason to rush his career.

However, Shahbazyan insisted that he fight someone in the UFC‘s top ten. After some back and forth with the promotion, Shahbazyan was given that top ten opponent in the tough Jack Hermansson.

UFC Vegas 27 and what’s next?

In the first round, Shahbazyan looked sensational at UFC Vegas 27. In fact, it looked like he made the right choice. However, when he wasn’t able to stop Hermansson in the first round, that’s when things went south quickly.

Hermansson started taking the fight to the ground after the first and Shahbazyan had no answer. The third round was so one-sided that it was an easy 10-8 round for Hermansson. Ultimately, Shahbazyan lost a decision at UFC Vegas 27.

Having lost a second fight in a row, Shahbazyan has to take a step back at this point. He very well might be a future UFC champion, but he seriously needs to take a breather and take an easier fight.

It’s important to remember that he’s only 23 years old in a sport where many don’t reach their prime until their late 20s to early 30s. So, who should the UFC give him in his next matchup?

I think he needs to fight someone outside the rankings. I think someone entertaining would be a matchup with a guy like Julian Marquez (9-2). Marquez has nine finishes in nine wins and he’s won two in a row.

With the style he possesses, this could be a good step back for Shahbazyan. Should Marquez win, he bursts into top fifteen. Should Shahbazyan win, he gets some confidence back and the UFC can give him a ranked opponent afterwards.

Knicks’ Julius Randle honored to win Most Improved Player: ‘It embodies who I am’

new york knicks, tom thibodeau

Julius Randle got a much-needed boost entering Game 2 of their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

On Tuesday night, Randle won the Most Improved Player award via landslide. He earned 98 of the 100 first-place votes to become the first player in New York Knicks‘ history to win the award.

His son Kyden Randle presented him the award in a poignant scene after the team’s practice at The Garden.

It was a validation of his best season yet that fast-tracked the Knicks’ timeline.

Randle averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.3 3s on 41.1 3-point clip — all career-highs. He just joined Hall of Famer and three-time NBA champion Larry Bird (1984-85) as the only players in the league history to average 20/10/5 on 40% shooting from three in a season.

“It’s an honor, just because of how I view the game in the sense of when the summertime comes, that’s really where I have the most fun,” Randle told Inside the NBA crew on TNT Tuesday night.

“I enjoy the process of getting better. I always say you look at the trajectory of my career like every year, I take a step forward to get better and improve my game. And that’s what I’m really proud of. I never want to feel like I’m standing in the same spot or not getting better. For me, I think this award just really embodies who I am as a person. As far as what I put towards the game, my work ethic, just the grind, just the process,” he added.

Randle also became the second player under Tom Thibodeau to win the award since Jimmy Butler during the 2014-15 season while still in Chicago. That turned out to be Thibodeau’s last year with the Bulls after losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-2, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

A few years later, Thibodeau tried to work his magic on a young Minnesota Timberwolves team. But some of their young stars resisted his hard-coaching style. In New York, he found a Butler-type of player in Randle who embraced his hard coaching.

Randle thanked Thibodeau for empowering him from Day One and trusting him as the leader of this Knicks team. That, he said, gave him the extra motivation to dominate every night.

Now, more than ever, the Knicks need that Most Improved Player form from him on Wednesday night as they aim to tie the series. Randle had a sub-par game, missing 17 of his 23 shots to finish with just 15 points in a two-point loss.

Shaquille O’Neal coaxed him to slow down and let the game come to him during his interview.

“The adrenaline was going. I was hyped,” said Randle as the Madison Square Garden rocked on Sunday night in the Knicks’ first playoff game in eight years.

“It was rocking from the beginning. The energy was crazy. Shaq says, slow down, but it was hard, man! You know, the adrenaline was going crazy. By the time the second half came, I was done. My energy was crashed,” Randle said.

With his baptism of fire in the playoffs now already behind him, Randle is now ready to walk through that fire.

“Even though we lost, it was a learning experience. Just to know that we have the energy of the city. The support of the city and the way they were cheering for us is amazing. So we’ll be sure ready for the next one,” Randle added.

Randle has had 10 sub-par games in the regular season, where he scored 15 points or below. He rebounded every time with a big game averaging 28.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 6.0 assists, per Tommy Beer of Forbes Sports. The Knicks went 6-4 in the games following a Randle sub-par performance.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Yankees starter Corey Kluber exits with shoulder injury in first start after no-hitter

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees have been hit bad by the injury bug again. It seems like the past few years have been brutal for the Bombers in terms of injuries and this year is not looking much better.

Former two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber is the latest Yankee to be bitten by the injury bug. Kluber was coming off of a no-hitter as he took the mound tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays.

For the first couple of innings, Kluber looked decent but seemed to be struggling with command. He surrendered his first runs in the third when he gave up a two-run homer to Vlad Jr.

Despite the home run, Kluber had struck out five Toronto hitters through three for the Yankees. However, things started looking really off when it was announced that Michael King was warming up in the bullpen.

Fast forward to the start of the fourth inning and Kluber didn’t take the mound. Fresh off of his no-hitter, the Yankees starter exited the game with a shoulder injury.

New York Yankees Options

As mentioned, the Yankees will be having Kluber evaluated tomorrow and he will have an MRI. It should be noted that Kluber has dealt with shoulder injuries in the past and that’s one of the things that kept him off of the mound over the past couple of seasons.

Kluber was having a tremendous season for the Yankees having gone 4-2 with a sub-three ERA. This is a major blow to the rotation especially if he’s going to be out for an extended period of time.

For now, the bombers could always turn to someone like Michael King to fill the void depending on how long Kluber will be out. The Yankees also have Deivi Garcia in the minors that could be an option. Luis Severino and Clarke Schmidt are currently making their way back from their own injuries, but they won’t be options anytime soon.

This has the makings to be a major blow to the Yankees, but we will have to follow along and see what the MRI reveals.

UFC recently attempted to make Khabib Nurmagomedov – Georges St. Pierre per Ali Abdelaziz

The UFC recently attempted to make a fight between two of the greatest to ever do it. At least, that’s according to the manager of one of those men, Ali Abdelaziz.

Abdelaziz said on his appearance of Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson that the UFC wanted to make Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) – Georges St. Pierre (26-2). This potential dream fight almost became a reality in the last couple of weeks.

For the last year or so, Dana White hadn’t expressed any interest in having GSP fight Khabib. However, that apparently changed in the last couple of weeks. Abdelaziz said that the UFC got in touch with him about his client, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Abdelaziz said, “Two weeks ago ago, Dana White called me. He said, ‘Georges St-Pierre said he’ll fight Khabib in a non-title fight at 165 pounds.’ In a way, we’ve been waiting for Georges.”

Of course, Khabib Nurmagomedov relinquished the UFC lightweight title officially earlier this year when his retirement was confirmed. Nurmagomedov had announced at UFC 254 that he was walking away from the sport.

The UFC dream match that never happened

Khabib said that he promised his mother that UFC 254 was his last fight and he plans to honor that promise. According to Abdelaziz, the former UFC lightweight champion also turned down $100 million to box Floyd Mayweather.

For years, Daniel Cormier has said that Khabib wouldn’t take any fight because of money. It’s pretty obvious now there’s truth to what Cormier was saying. You have to imagine the UFC’s offer was massive to have him fight GSP.

A matchup between GSP and Khabib is a fight fans dream. Of course, it would have been better if GSP was in his prime, but still, UFC fans all around the world would be glued to their televisions for that one.

It’s a matchup that will stay in the barbershop for now. Who would win? We will never know, but it will be a fun topic to debate. It’s just pretty remarkable that the UFC was pushing to make this fight happen just in the last few weeks. You can see Abdelaziz’s appearance on Hotboxin’ Here. 

New York Knicks’ Julius Randle wins ‘Most Improved Player of the Year’ award

new york knicks, julius randle

One of the primary reasons the New York Knicks are currently in the postseason is thanks to All-Star Julius Randle, who has witnessed a significant transformation compared to 2020.

Last season, Randle averaged 19.5 points per game, but was inconsistent from the field, and shot a measly .277 from beyond the arc. The 26-year-old has completely revitalized his game, working all off-season to improve his shooting and efficiency in all categories.

Thanks to his rejuvenated career and stellar campaign, Randle won the league’s “Most Improved Player of the Year” award, thanks to 24.1 points, 6.0 assists, and 10.2 rebounds per game. He finished the regular season with a .456 field-goal percentage and a massive increase in the three-point category, ballooning to .411%.

“I thought he would have a good year, but I didn’t see this level,” Thibodeau said a few weeks ago.

“Obviously, the big thing was the three,” Thibodeau said of Randle’s improved three-point shot. “It stood out right away during the summer, but you’re in the gym when there’s no defenders. It looked a lot better coming off his hand, the arc was better, and he looked real comfortable with it.”

The Knicks are preparing to host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday evening in the second game of their first postseason series since 2013. Randle struggled significantly to get going, as the postseason jitters might have played a part. However, he vowed to return in game two with a vengeance, and if he can play like the All-Star caliber self we witnessed the entire regular season, the Knicks should walk away with a victory. They desperately need a win before heading to Atlanta.

Despite losing Dalvin Tomlinson, the New York Giants still have a top-tier defensive line

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

The New York Giants improved in many ways during the 2021 offseason. New York landed premium playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. The focus was placed mainly on the offense, but the Giants still invested resources in their defense as well.

The Giants signed Adoree’ Jackson to be their new starting outside cornerback opposite of James Bradberry. They also added talented edge rusher Azeez Ojulari in the draft. The Giants also made sure to lock up star defensive lineman Leonard Williams to a long-term deal.

These moves will all be impactful, but they were all quite costly. The Giants had to make a difficult decision and part ways with defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson this offseason. Re-signing Dalvin would have made it impossible for the Giants to upgrade the positions that they did in this offseason. However, despite the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson, the Giants still have one of the most talented defensive line units in the NFL.

The Giants’ defensive line stats and highlights

Leonard Williams will return in 2021 after nearly hitting the open market this offseason. Big Cat spent the 2020 season on the franchise tag, but the Giants made sure to lock him in long-term after a career-year last season. Leonard Williams posted a career-high 11.5 sacks in his first full season with the Giants. He also made PFF’s list of top 1010 players from the 2020 season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Leonard Williams set a career-high in pressure with 62 combined sacks, hits, and hurries — seven more than his previous best. PFF also points out Leo’s typical run-defending excellence, stating that he had had 30 defensive stops in 2020.

The Giants have their top pass-rusher on the interior with Leonard Williams. But he’s not the only hog molly that can get after the quarterback. Dexter Lawrence has been a solid pass-rushing interior defensive lineman in his first two seasons, and he is only getting better. Sexy Dexy bumped his PFF pass-rush grade from 64.5 as a rookie to 73.2 last season.

Dexter Lawrence recorded 4.0 sacks, 53 combined tackles, and 6 tackles for loss in 2020. At 340 pounds, Lawrence moves quick for a man his size and also does a phenomenal job controlling the line of scrimmage, plugging holes in the run game.

With these two stud defensive lineman returning in 2021, the Giants’ defensive line is in good shape regardless of who mans the nose tackle position that Dalvin Tomlinson left vacant. Regardless, the Giants managed to add solid talent to fill Tomlinson’s shoes.

The Giants signed Danny Shelton this offseason. Shelton has been a solid, consistent run-defending nose tackle his entire career. According to PFF, Danny Shelton graded 69+ overall in 4 straight seasons from 2016-2019 before going to Detroit in 2020.

The loss of Dalvin Tomlinson will be felt on the Giants’ defense as he was a tremendous talent for them since 2017. However, the Giants still have a plethora of talent on the defensive line. The Giants should still have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL with Williams, Lawrence, and Shelton.

One quirky but important part the Islanders game five win

When historians look back on the Islanders’ incredible game five win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, they will be quick to point out the turning points that shifted the contest. Most of them will probably be the ten-bell stops by goalie Ilya Sorokin.

But there’s another moment that can’t go unnoticed.

Jordan Eberle’s goal midway through the third period not only was the Isles to first shot on net of the period but helped them tie the game and eventually set forth the battle that would take place the rest of regulation and in overtime.

“Once we scored that [third period] goal [from Eberle], I felt pretty good about our team,” head coach Bary Trotz said following the win. “It was one of those nights, where when we got it tied up and it went to overtime I was thinking that this was going to be our night.”

Eberle’s goal Monday night was his second of the series; he scored the Islanders’ fourth goal on Saturday in their 4-1 win in game four. Last night’s game-tying tally also marked sixth against the Penguins in the postseason dating back to 2019. Oddly enough, that little stat means a little more this morning.
The Islanders are a perfect 6-0 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs when Eberle records a goal. They are 1-2 when he doesn’t. Four of those victories came when the Isles swept those same Pens two years ago in the first round.

“Ebs scored a big one. A nice big shot and buried it,” J.G. Pageau said in the postgame which drew a bit of smirk from Eberle knowing he had fanned on his first attempt but converted on the second.
Eberle had a slow start to the series the first three games, as did his linemate Mathew Barzal. In the last couple game though, he’s really come on strong and has played a key role in the Islanders having a chance to move on to round two with a win tomorrow night. His two tallies in this series have been extremely crucial, last night being the bigger of the two.
The Islanders seem to come out on the better side of things when Eberle finds the back of the net, especially when the opponent is has a penguin on its sweater. With the potential to clinch the series, he scoring tomorrow night could very well put the nail in Pittsburgh’s coffin.
Josh Bailey’s game-winning goal last night was his second in his Islander career. But as usual, he was calm, cool and collected when asked about how big a goal it was for him by reporters after a game. Leave it to his wife Megan to elicit the emotion we had hoped to get out of him. FYI, it was a great celebration.

Hats off to Ilya Sorokin for his miraculous performance in game five. The rookie netminder was the only reason up until overtime the Islanders had even the slightest chance of winning. His performance was reminiscent of another Islanders’ goaltender in a pivotal postseason game, Thomas Greiss.
Back in 2016, Greiss turned away 47 of 48 Panthers shots — including a huge penalty shot save in OT against Aleksander Barkov — in the Isles’ game five OT win in that first-round series.
Sorokin last night stopped 48 of the 50 shots the Penguins threw his way, 19 of which came in the second period when the Islanders were outshot mercifully 20-4.