New York Giants: Predicting 2021’s dark horse defensive player

New York Giants, Tae Crowder

The New York Giants will likely come into 2021 with a better defense than they had in 2020. While more of the focus has gone to improving the offense, there have been some good additions to the defense and we can expect more from defensive coordinator Patrick Graham now that the Giants are no longer working with an entirely new staff.

It’s easy to point to some of the top names on the defense as future big performers. But what about the dark horses? Which player will come away from the season with better numbers and on the field play than we expected?

The answer might be Tae Crowder

It’s easy to see why Tae Crowder already picked up some notability last season. He was selected with the last pick in the draft in 2020 but performed above expectations, and one could argue that he was also the most dramatic dark horse player for the Giants last season.

His 52 tackles and one fumble recovery is more than most would have expected from a player drafted at his position. After all, Crowder was hardly even guaranteed to make the team going into training camp. The fact that he ended up with a touchdown last season via running back that recovered fumble is even more impressive.

However, he has a chance to emerge as a larger part of the defense this season and once again surprise people with his play.

The position, after all, is there for the taking. The Giants moved on from competing linebacker David Mayo when they released him back in March, and it looks like Crowder might be in a position battle with Reggie Ragland this offseason.

Ragland, of course, is a new addition. We don’t know how he’ll perform yet with the Giants, meaning the other inside linebacker spot next to Blake Martinez is still a tossup. Ragland peculiarly had the same amount of tackles last year with the Lions that Crowder had with the Giants. While some might expect Ragland to take the spot, it’s not a foregone conclusion just yet and we shouldn’t be surprised if Crowder emerges as a starter and records more tackles this year.

It would be a pretty good progression from being Mr. Irrelevant, and if it does happen, it would certainly make Crowder one of the top dark horse performers on the defense.

New York Yankees Recap: Yankees lose the first game to the Athletics

Tonight the New York Yankees were back at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to face the first-place team in the AL West, the Oakland Athletics. It was the first time since 2019 that the Yankees were allowed a 100% capacity at the Stadium. The Yankees are coming off a sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays and hope they can do well against the A’s. Jonathan Taillon faced the A’s, James Kaprielian in game one of the three-game set. The A’s won the game 5-3.

With Taillon on the mound, he faced the A’s leadoff man Mark Canha who leads the A’s in triples; he ground out to short. Ramon Laureano struck out swinging. Matt Olsen homered into the stands in right field. Mitch Moreland struck out to end the half. In the bottom, LeMahieu flew out. Aaron Judge struck out. Gleyber Torres went down on strikes for a 1-2-3 inning for Kaprielian. Oakland 1 New York 0.

At the second, Jed Lowrie led off and flew out to Andujar in left. Matt Chapman ground out to Urshela. Sean Murphy ground out for the second 1-2-3 inning for Taillon. At the bottom, Giancarlo Stanton struck out. Gio Urshela struck out swinging. Rougie Odor ground out for Kaprielian’s second 1-2-3 inning. A’s 1 Yankees 0.

At the top of the third, Tony Kemp popped out to Judge. Elvis Andrus doubled to left center. Canha singled up center to drive in Andrus. Laureano flew out to Judge. Olson flew out to end the half. Miguel Andujar led off the bottom by grounding out. Kyle Higashioka flew out to short. Brett Gardner walked for the first Yankee base runner. LeMahieu got a two-run homer to right to tie up the game. Judge went down on strikes—Yankees 2 A’s 2.

Moreland doubled to lead off the fourth, Lowrie ground out. Chapman flew out to Gardner. Murphy was it by a pitch. Kemp popped out to LeMahieu to end the half. Torres led off the bottom by striking out. Stanton ground out to second. Urshela struck out for another quick inning for both pitchers. The game tied at 2.

Andrus led off the fifth and struck out swinging. Canha walked. Laureano went down on strikes. Wandy Peralta replaced Taillon. Olson flew out to Gardner at the center-field wall to end the half. Rougie Odor led off the bottom of the fifth by slamming a homer to right-center. Andujar flew out to right. Higashioka flew out to left. Gardner ground out to first, but the Yankees took the lead in the game. Yankees 3 A’s 2.

The top of the sixth inning was led off by Chad Pinder pinch-hitting for Moreland; he struck out. Lowrie ground out to short. Chapman got a base hit to left. Murphy singled to left for two on and two outs. Kemp hit a three-run homer for the A’s lead. Andrus flew out to Judge, but Kemp’s three-run shot did the damage. At the bottom, it was the top of the lineup for the Yankees. LeMahieu ground out to first. Judge looped to right for a single. Judge advanced on a wild pitch. Torres flew out to left, and Judge took third. Stanton faced the new A’s pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, and he got a long fly out to left to end the inning. A’s 5 Yankees 3.

Canha led off the seventh singling to center. A pitch hit Laureano. With two on and no outs, Olson popped out. The runners moved up on passed ball by Higgy. Pinder struck out. Lowrie struck out, saving the inning for Luetge. At the bottom, Urshela singled past short. Odor, who homered in the fifth, popped out to third. Andujar flew out to center. Sanchez pinch-hitting for Higashioka popped out to third to end the inning and strand Urshela. A’s 5 Yankees 3.

With Luis Cessa on the mound in the eighth, Chapman popped out to left. Murphy went down on strikes. Kemp hit to Judge at the warning track. Clint Frazier pinch-hitting for Gardner led off the bottom by striking out looking. LeMahieu ground out to second. Judge struck out, taking the game to the ninth inning. A’s 5 Yankees 3.

At the ninth, Andrus ground out to third. Canha went down on strikes. Laureano got a two-out single to left. Olson ground out up the first baseline on a toss from Cessa to LeMahieu to end the half. With last licks on the line, Gleyber Torres ground out to short. Giancarlo Stanton walked. Gio Urshela ground into a double play to end the game.

The final score was the Oakland Athletics 5 and the New York Yankees 3. The winning pitcher was James Kaprielian, the loser Wandy Peralta and the save was by Lou Trivino, his 12th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Giants: Why Andrew Thomas is a breakout candidate in 2021

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants invested a plethora of assets into their offensive line last offseason. However, these investments have yet to pay off as the Giants possess one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines. The New York 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.

The Giants’ biggest investment into the offensive line last season was their first-round draft pick. New York spent the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas. In his rookie season, the Giants did not exactly receive the return on their investments that they had hoped for. Thomas struggled greatly as a rookie while other first-round offensive tackles from the 2020 impressed and established themselves as quality starters. Still, the Giants have a lot relying on Andrew Thomas entering 2021, and there are reasons to believe he will turn it around and breakout this season.

Why Andrew Thomas could breakout in 2021

In his rookie 2020 campaign, Andrew Thomas allowed 10 sacks, the most of any tackle in the league. He struggled greatly in pass protection, causing many to second guess the Giants’ first-round draft choice. However, there are still reasons to believe that Andrew Thomas is a franchise left tackle. His improvements in the second half of the 2020 season are encouraging and could foreshadow a breakout 2021 season.

After allowing three or more pressures in eight of the Giants’ first eight games in 2020, Andrew Thomas allowed three or more pressures in only three of the Giants’ last eight games (PFF). Andrew Thomas earned just one PFF pass-blocking grade below 59.0 over the second half of the season, whereas every single outing before Week 8 fell below that mark. Outside of one disastrous game against Arizona, his pass-blocking grade was above 70.0 from Week 8 onwards (PFF).

Andrew Thomas’s ability to improve his play over the second half of the season is especially impressive considering the terrible circumstances he was dealing with. The Giants’ offensive line had no continuity last year. Will Hernandez started the first eight games next to Andrew Thomas at left guard, then Shane Lemieux started the second eight games at that position. Additionally, the Giants fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo midseason. A midseason coaching change is always a difficult challenge to overcome, but even moreso for a rookie offensive tackle playing injured.

Andrew Thomas had ankle surgery after the 2020 season wrapped. Thomas’s ankle injury had bothered him for a while and he managed through the pain to finish the season. But the injury was something that hindered Andrew Thomas’s performance last season and needed to be taken care of this offseason. Looking ahead to the 2021 season, Thomas will be healthy and better coached. He finished the 2020 season strong despite playing injured. There is no reason why Andrew Thomas cannot breakout in 2021 and prove himself to be a worthy top-ten pick.

Full capacity MetLife Stadium releases health protocols for 2021 season

New York Giants and New York Jets fans will be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium on a full-time basis next season.

This summer’s Snoopy Bowl is going to mean just a little more this time around.

MetLife Stadium, the East Rutherford home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, will welcome back fans on a full-time basis, as the venue announced gameday health protocols for the upcoming NFL season. Of note, masks, proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test will not be required for entry. Tailgaiting will be permitted.

The biggest change to gameday operations will be the transition to full-on cash-free transactions, an effort to reduce touchpoints. Reverse ATM machines will allow fans to put cash on debit cards.

East Rutherford has not hosted fans since February 2020, when just over 12,000 spectators witness the New York Guardians triumph over the Los Angeles Wildcats in an XFL showdown. The Giants and Jets are set to resume their annual preseason series on August 14 after last year’s exhibition was canceled along with the rest of the NFL summer slate.

Giants fans will flock back with an interconference showdown against the Denver Broncos on September 12, while the Jets open their home portion a week later against their divisional rivals from New England. MetLife Stadium was one of a dozen NFL venues that played the entire regular season without fans last season The Jets will also get to play nine regular season home games for the first time in regular season history, as it will come against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 5.

“I think it’s going to be great to get back and to go to the full stadium,” Jets Chairman Woody Johnson said in a statement to team reporter Eric Allen. “(To) go out in the parking lot and talk to fans and see what they’re cooking and do all that stuff.”

“We walked out of the tunnel and they blared it on the speakers, the J-E-T-S chant,” new Jets head coach Robert Saleh added in Allen’s report, having stepped into the stadium for the first time. “I’m not going to lie to you, I got a little bit of goosebumps. I’m really excited to get it going and get that stadium to where it becomes live again, like it’s been in the past.”

Will you be returning to MetLife Stadium next season? Continue to the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC Vegas 29 Preview: Matt Brown – Dhiego Lima

Tomorrow night at UFC Vegas 29, one of the hard-core legends of the sport will make the walk once again. Matt “The Immortal” Brown (22-18) returns to the octagon as he takes on former Ultimate Fighter Runner-Up, Dhiego Lima (15-8).

At 40 years old, we are likely nearing the end of Matt Brown’s UFC career. It’s been a tremendous career for Matt Brown and he’s shared the octagon with some of the best in the business. The highlight stretch of his career came back in 2012/2013.

During that stretch of Brown’s career, he won seven consecutive fights including a win over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. That streak put him in a title eliminator against Robbie Lawler where he ultimately came up just short.

Since then, Brown has fought some of the best in the world. In his last fight, he lost a decision to former UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. Brown has lost two in a row leading into tomorrow night.

Dhiego Lima last fought back at UFC 258 when he lost to Belal Muhammad. That loss snapped the longest winning streak of his UFC career where he had won three in a row. Since joining the promotion, it’s been very up and down for Lima. Lima has put together an overall UFC record of 4-6.

UFC Vegas 29 Prediction

When it comes to this welterweight contest at UFC Vegas 29, it’s a tough fight for me to pick. If this fight was just a year or two ago, I would comfortably pick Matt Brown to win this fight. I love his forward pressure and his ability to mix in the grappling.

Dhiego Lima has really good kicks and very good striking technique. However, throughout his UFC career, we’ve seen him struggle when he’s being pressured. Matt Brown is not the type of guy you want to face when you struggle off your back foot.

That said, I’m not sure this is the same Matt Brown of a few years ago. If Matt Brown comes out looking sharp and aggressive, he’s going to win this fight. However, if he’s at all off, I see him getting touched up on the feet and losing a decision. Because of his pressuring style, I think it’s still close, but I have to favor Lima here.

Prediction: Dhiego Lima by Decision

UFC Vegas 29 Preview: Marlon Vera – Davey Grant 2

Tomorrow night on the main card of UFC Vegas 29, we will see a fun rematch in the bantamweight division. Marlon “Chito” Vera (16-7-1) is back as he takes on Davey Grant (13-4). This fight is a rematch from 2016.

Back in 2016, Davey Grant was able to pick up the unanimous decision over Chito Vera. Now, I will say that when they first fought, Chito Vera was still very green in his UFC career. He was just 23 years old and it was just his third fight with the promotion. That said, Davey Grant still won the fight.

However, since that loss, Chito Vera has been much more active as he’s been steadily climbing the ranks at 135 pounds. Since their first fight, Grant has fought five times while Vera has fought 13 times.

Chito Vera got the biggest win of his career last year when he stopped Sean O’Malley in the first round at UFC 252. That completed a stretch for Vera that saw him go 6-1 which led him to a fight with former UFC champion Jose Aldo. Vera lost the fight, but was extremely competitive.

Davey Grant has had some trouble staying active, but this will be his third fight in the last 12 months. After starting his UFC career 1-3, Grant has won three straight including back-to-back knockout victories.

UFC Vegas 29 Prediction

Heading into UFC Vegas 29, Davey Grant is making a lot of people question their picks of Chito Vera. When the fight got announced, most believed it was Chito’s fight to lose. Chito has been way more active against much better competition and he’s so much better now than he was when they first fought.

However, Grant’s back-to-back knockout wins are giving a lot of people pause entering UFC Vegas 29. There’s no questioning the fact that Grant has the skills to make this fight interesting and potentially win the rematch.

That said, I really do personally like Chito Vera in this fight. He’s become so much sharper over the last few years and still at just 28 years old he’s getting better. His defensive grappling should help him here and I really think it’s his fight to lose. Grant has the power to make it interesting, but I think Chito Vera gets it done.

Prediction: Chito Vera by Unanimous Decision

New York Yankees: Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees series preview

New York Yankees, Jameson Taillon

After a sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees this evening will entertain the Oakland Athletics at the Stadium in the Bronx to start a three-game weekend set. The Yankees have not been playing consistently good baseball and are in third place in the AL East, six games behind the Tampa Bay Rays. They are 5-5 in their last ten games. The Oakland Athletics are playing much better, leading the AL West. They are 8-2 in their last ten. The Yankees will have their hands full as the A’s have good pitching and a talented lineup.

Today, June 18th, 7:05 pm:

Tonight’s game will be the first time since 2019 that Yankee Stadium will be allowed full capacity. It will be a cloudy evening in the Bronx, with temperatures in the upper 70’s. New York’s James Taillon will face the A’s, James Kaprielian.

Taillon has been the Yankees’ least dependable starter. He is 1-4 with an elevated 5.74 ERA. He is coming off an abysmal start last Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies. He gave up four runs while only recording one out in his 1/3 of an inning effort. As a result, the Yankees have lost his last three starts. When he takes the mound tonight, the Yankees hope his poor performance will be behind, and he can rise to the occasion saving the bullpen. Tonight will be the first time Taillon has pitched to the Athletics.

At the bottom of the first inning, the A’s will send James Kaprielian to the Yankee’s mound. Kaprielian is a rookie but has had a strong start in his first six major league games. He is 3-1 with an ERA of 2.51 while recording an average of 6 strikeouts per game. Unfortunately for the right-hand heavy Yankee lineup, he holds righties to a .131 batting average. Therefore, the Yankees will have to pitch well and hit well to have any chance of pulling out a win. The game tonight will be on the YES Network and in California on NBCSCA.

Saturday, June 19th, 1:05 pm:

The Saturday matinee will see Domingo German on the mound for the Yankees and Chris Bassitt for the A’s. German has been a successful pitcher for the Yankees, but his last outing against the Philadelphia Phillies was the worst of his career. He pitched on 4 1/3 innings giving up seven runs. His record is 4-4, with an ERA of 3.88. Previous to that outing, he was stellar except for his first start of the season. He has four career starts against the A’s without a win.

German will face Chris Bassitt, 7-2, with an ERA of 3.43 and 91 strikeouts in 14 games. Bassitt is the A’ number two starter; they have won 11 of his 14 starts. In the last two years, over 25 starts, he has never allowed more than four runs in a game. The Yankees are going to have to be at their best facing this ace pitcher. Saturday’s game will be on the YES Network, NBCSCA, and MLBN out of market.

Sunday, June 20, 1:05 pm:

Sunday’s game will feature Jordan Montgomery facing Sean Manaea, another ace-like pitcher. Montgomery has allowed three or fewer runs in his last four starts. He is 3-1 with an ERA of 4.20. On May 21, this went seven innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts. The New York Yankees have won his last five starts. If his command is on, he can be lights out.

The A’s Sean Manaea is also a lefty; he is 6-2 with a 2.99 ERA. The Yankee lineup will be challenged by this pitcher that has not allowed more than one run in his 14 starts this season. He has pitched twelve innings at Yankee Stadium and has not allowed a run. Sunday’s game will be televised on WPIX and its affiliates, NBCSCA, TBS, and MLBN, out of market.

Summary:

This series will test the grit of the New York Yankees and will tell what they are made of. The stats say the Athletics will sweep the New York Yankees. Without Cole pitching, the A’s certainly have the pitching advantage in this matchup. For the Yankees to win any of these games, the pitching must be excellent, and the lineup will have to live up to that projection of being one of the best in baseball. Home runs will be paramount.

UFC Vegas 29 Preview: Chan Sung Jung – Dan Ige

Tomorrow night in the headliner of UFC Vegas 29, we will see a matchup between two top contenders in the featherweight division. Former title challenger Chan Sung Jung (16-6) will be taking on Dan Ige (15-3).

This fight is a massive opportunity for Dan Ige. Dan Ige made his UFC debut back in 2018 where he lost a decision to Julio Arce. After that decision loss, Ige went on a six-fight win streak that put him in a main event against Calvin Kattar last July.

Ige was out-boxed by Kattar who snapped his UFC winning streak. After taking some time off, Ige returned back in March to take on Gavin Tucker. Needing a win to get back on track, Ige knocked Tucker out in 22 seconds. Now, he’s looking to ride the momentum into a win over The Korean Zombie.

Chan Sung Jung will be looking to bounce back at UFC Vegas 29. Last October, Jung was in a title eliminator against Brian Ortega. Jung was the popular betting favorite, however, Brian Ortega controlled the entire fight and won a decision.

That loss snapped a two-fight win streak for Jung. In his UFC career, TKZ has been in there with some of the best in the world and he has some incredibly impressive wins like defeating Dustin Poirier and Frankie Edgar. Tomorrow night, he will look to show Dan Ige that he’s still on another level.

UFC Vegas 29 Prediction

If you were to ask me for this UFC Vegas 29 prediction before March, I would’ve said Chan Sung Jung without even thinking about it. However, Dan Ige’s last performance against Gavin Tucker really surprised me and showed me how well Ige responds to losses.

I’m fully expecting this fight to stay on the feet. In their last few performances, I have really liked the technique of Dan Ige on the feet. He keeps his guard high and he has some very good power right down the middle.

Jung has never been known for his striking defense and he’s known to get clipped. Now, does Dan Ige have the power to stop the zombie from moving forward? That, I’m not too sure of.

Tomorrow night at UFC Vegas 29, I’m expecting a very back-and-forth matchup. If Dan Ige has the pop to hurt Jung, I expect him to have a good night. However, if he gets walked down all night, I don’t see him beating TKZ. Ultimately, I think we see a bit of a war tomorrow night and anytime there’s a war, how can you not favor a zombie?

Prediction: Chan Sung Jung by Unanimous Decision

Yankees: Injury updates on three crucial contributors

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

There has been an unprecedented flurry of injuries in the 2021 MLB season, and the New York Yankees have been no exception to the rule. They already lost center fielder Aaron Hicks for the season with a wrist injury, while starters Corey Kluber and Luis Severino won’t be back at least for several weeks.

Three players should be back soon, though:

Gleyber Torres: The Yankees’ shortstop had to leave Thursday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays with what was deemed as left lower back stiffness. The team will evaluate him on Friday, per MLB.com, as the team returns home to face the Oakland Athletics.

Torres suffered the injury in the third inning as he threw a ball in the infield and fell awkwardly on his back. It doesn’t have the look of something that will need a stint on the 10-day IL, but we will know more after he is evaluated.

Two Yankees’ relievers are inching closer to a return

Darren O’Day: A low-key crucial signing during the offseason, O’Day has been nursing a right rotator cuff strain for a few weeks now. He is expected to return in a couple of weeks, since he threw a bullpen session on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium that went according to the plan.

He is slated to throw another one today or tomorrow, per manager Aaron Boone. If he clears that hurdle, the next step would be pitching in a live batting practice setting.

Justin Wilson: The left-hander strained his right hamstring recently, but threw a successful bullpen on Tuesday and will throw again today. Just like O’Day, if he has no issues, he will pitch live batting practice or begin a rehab assignment in the minors.

Wilson, dealing with a less serious ailment than O’Day (at least in theory) could beat him back to the Bronx and may skip the live batting practice step.

Yankees are finally starting to fight back after taking a flurry of punches

New York Yankees, NYY, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton

For weeks, the New York Yankees kept taking punches in the form of painful losses. Each defeat was a jab, an upper, or a cross to the chin: it hurt. But the fight is far from over, and fortunately, the Bombers are showing strength, determination, and heart at the same time. They are, finally, starting to fight back.

The Yankees pulled off a crucial 8-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays that guaranteed a sweep in Sahlen Field, in Buffalo. Home runs by Gio Urshela and Giancarlo Stanton, and a crucial run-scoring single by Chris Gittens, were the keys to the win.

The three straight wins come on the heels of Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman publicly backing manager Aaron Boone and his coaching staff.

“Look, we’ve gone through some tough challenges already this season, clearly, but this is a big series for us,” Boone told Betelhem Ashame of MLB.com. “This is a good team we’re playing over there, obviously a division rival, a team that’s beaten us a little bit already this year. … To come up here and really bounce back and have some gut-check wins — we had to come from behind a little bit, a lot of people contributing, guys coming off the bench, it was exciting to pull this out tonight.”

A unique night for the Yankees

It was an exciting night in which the Yankees turned a bizarre, unique 1-3-6-2-5-6 triple play and Aaron Judge robbed Cavan Biggio of a home run.

The Stanton home run was a game-changer. “It was big,” Boone said. “He hit one like not many guys hit, where [it was a] good pitch, looked like down and away, and just — line drive the other way. G’s one of those few guys that can do it.”

The 36-32 Yankees are in control of the third place in the AL East, and dropped the Blue Jays below .500 (33-34).

“There’s only so long all of us can underperform or take this beating inside and out. It’s not a fun environment in the clubhouse or going out there not play to our abilities,” Stanton said. “So it’s time we got to step up and start punching back. That’s what we’ve been doing. One or two series ain’t gonna cut it; we’ve just gotta keep rolling.”