New York Giants: Tiki Barber speaks on Saquon Barkley’s challenges

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

All eyes are on New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley this season. Not just Giants fans, but fans around the league in general are curious to see if Barkley will get back to his rookie season heights coming off a season taken away by injury. By all accounts, things have been going well so far with Barkley’s recovery. But until we see the player on the field, we can’t make a judgement for sure about how his season will go.

What exactly will define whether it’s a good or bad comeback for the Giants starter? According to Tiki Barber, much of it will come down to Barkley’s signature explosiveness and whether or not he can bounce back with the same form he showed early on.

“I think it’s mostly his change of direction you’ll be looking at, but it’s also how explosive he looks. One of the things I always remember about Saquon is when he puts his foot down and he’s ready to go he’s out the door. I think his explosion will be something to keep an eye on,” Barber told the New York Post.

Barber went on to say that Barkley probably won’t be as fast – but that this might not have the impact on his game that some are thinking. “I think it will slow him down and that will be a good thing. Will he be as fast? I don’t know, it’s a good question, and I don’t know if it matters, to be honest with you. Being a running back is not about straightaway speed like a wide receiver.”

According to Barber, Barkley will still be the kind of player that can run the full distance in the open field. Even if he’s not quite as fast.

Would Barkley slowing down his game be a good thing?

While Barkley has received widespread praise since coming into the league, one of the criticisms of his play is that he frequently looks for “home run” plays while passing up on chances to pick up a few yards less glamorously.

Barber’s prediction that Barkley will have to slow his game down could indeed be a good thing for solving this problem. After all, a player moving at a slower speed will have to think more about their actions and not rely as much on pure physicality.

That may be a good thing long term for Barkley’s career. At this point, he’s already been injured for two of his three seasons in the league, missing last season nearly entirely. His fearless play style helped make him popular in the first place, but many running backs in the past have shown that reckless running isn’t sustainable for a long career.

The Giants invested a lot in Barkley and will want him to perform for as long as possible. Given that context, it would make sense for the coaching staff to also welcome a change of pace for him come week one.

Until then, though, we won’t know for sure how aggressively Barkley will play in his return. There’s a lot riding on his performance, and if there’s one thing that Saquon Barkley is, it’s a staunch competitor. If he’s in a position to go full speed despite recovering from an injury, we may very well see him try it right from the start.

New York Yankees Recap 6/29: Yankees pummeled the Angels 11-5

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

Tonight the New York York Yankees had their second game of the four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels. Last night he lost the first game of the series 5-3, their fourth loss in a row. On the mound for the Yankees tonight was Jameson Taillon and for the Angels Andrew Heaney. The Yankees have been looking to turn things around as they slip further away from the top of the AL East.

Jameson Taillon, the Yankee’s least dependable pitcher, took the mound for the first inning facing the Angel’s David Fletcher, who flew out of left. Shohei Ohtani flew out to Aaron Judge. Anthony Rendon got a two-out double to left-center. Jared Walsh struck out for a good inning for Taillon. At the bottom, DJ LeMahieu faced the Angels Andrew Heaney, and he ground out. Aaron Judge went down on strikes. Then, Gary Sanchez hit a long home run into the right-center field stands for his 14th home run of the season. Giancarlo Stanton walked. Luke Voit went down looking, but the Yankees got ahead in the game on Sanchez’s sole shot. New York Yankees 1 Angels 0.

Max Stassi doubled on a bobbled play by Andujar in left. Rengifo hit into the force, with Stassi taking third. Iglesias got a two-run homer to left. Schebler struck out. Taylor Ward, with two outs, flew out to Gardner to end the half. At the bottom, Gleyber Torres popped out to short. Gio Urshela walked. Miguel Andujar singled, moving Urshela to third base. Brett Gardner sac flew out to left with Urshela scoring. Andujar moved to second. LeMahieu got a long single to right driving in Andujar for the Yankee lead. Aaron Judge got a two-run homer (434′) into Monument Park. Gary Sanchez flew out. Yankees 5 Angels 2.

Fletcher in the third grounded out to third. Ohtani hit his second home run in as many nights. Rendon singled to left. Walsh hit into the force out. Stassi ground out to end the half. Giancarlo Stanton led off the bottom by walking. Luke Voit flew out to deep center field. Torres continued his slump, striking out. Urshela went down looking. Yankees 5 Angels 3.

At the top of the fourth, Renfigo flew out to Judge in right. Iglesias singled. Schebler went down on strikes. Ward flew out to end the half. Miguel Andujar led off the bottom of the fourth by homering to the short porch in right. Gardner walked. With a new pitcher on the mound, LeMahieu faced James Hoyt, and he flew out to right. Aaron Judge flew out to left. Gary Sanchez doubled driving in Gardner from first. Stanton walked. Luke Voit doubled, driving in Sanchez as the Yankees poured it on in the inning. Torres got a two-run single driving in Stanton and Voit as the Yankees went double digits. Urshela struck out to end the inning. New York Yankees 10 Angels 3

Fletcher led off the fifth inning by singling to center. Ohtani hit his second home run in the game and his third home run in the series. Rendon walked. Walsh struck out. Stassi hit into a round-the-horn double play to end the half. Andujar led off the bottom and popped back to the pitcher. Gardner walked. LeMahieu walked. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Judge walked. Sanchez, with the bases loaded and one out hit into an inning-ending double play.  New York Yankees 10 Angels 5.

Rengifo flew out to open the sixth. Iglesias singled to left, and that was the night for Jameson Taillon. He was replaced by Nestor Cortes Jr. Schebler was pinch-hit for by Gosellin, who struck out. Ward singled but got run down at second to end the inning. Stanton led off the bottom and struck out. Voit ground out to third. Torres singled to center. Urshela faced the new pitcher Jose Quintana and singled, moving Torres to second. Torres stole third. Andujar with men on the corners and two out doubled going 3 for 4 in the game. Torres scored. Gardner struck out to end the inning. Yankees 11 Angels 5.

The seventh inning was led off by Fletcher, who struck out. Ohtani, who has homered twice in the game, flew out to Gardner in center. Rendon struck out to end the half. At the bottom, LeMahieu ground out to right. Aaron Judge ground out to short. Gary Sanchez popped up to the catcher to end the scoreless inning.

At the top of the eighth, with Albert Abreu on the mound, Walsh walked. Stassi struck out swinging. Rengifo flew out to Judge. Iglesias hit Abreu, but he recovered and fired for the out. At the bottom, Stanton, against new Angel pitcher Alex Claudio flew out. Voit flew out to left. Torres walked. Urshela struck out. Another fast scoreless inning.

With last licks on the line for the Los Angeles Angels, Gosselin took to the plate and ground out to Torres at short. Ward went to first on a hit by pitch. Fletcher sent a bullet down, first caught by Voit. Ohtani ground out to Voit to end the game. The final score was 11-5. The winner was Jameson Taillon, and the loser was Andrew Heaney. With the win, the Yankees broke their four-game losing streak.

 

 

 

Knicks’ RJ Barrett powers Canada over Greece, Rick Pitino left impressed

new york knicks, rj barrett

RJ Barrett led Canada’s big second-half surge to open their Olympic quest with a 97-91 win over Greece Tuesday in Victoria, B.C.

The New York Knicks’ vastly improved wing poured 19 points in the second half, including 12 in the final quarter.

A Barrett three-point play with 4:22 left gave the Canadians a 12-point spread, 91-79. But the hard-fighting Greeks who missed Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo came within four with under a minute left.

Barrett hit two clutch free throws with 34.5 seconds left that sealed their opening victory in one of the four Olympic Qualifiers.

Barrett, who celebrated his 21st birthday in quarantine while training for this tournament, finished with 22 points. He shot 8-of-14 from the field though he missed five of six three-point attempts. A much-improved free throw shooter this season in the NBA, Barrett went 5-for-7 from the line. He also had five rebounds and three assists in almost 30 minutes of play.

Rick Pitino, a former Knicks coach who is now mentoring the Greeks’ Olympics quest, was left impressed.

“RJ Barrett in college couldn’t really shoot a 12-foot shot and I absolutely love players that work at their game and get better… I’m obviously a big Knicks fan so I’m a big RJ fan, but the fact that he’s improved so much is amazing to me,” Pitino said in the postgame, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.

Barrett was tentative in the first half, feeling his way with this newly-formed Canadian team filled with NBA players.

Golden State Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins led all scorers with 23 points while New Orleans Pelicans’ guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker added 18, doing most of the damage in the first half.

Barrett took over in the second half repeatedly attacking the rim.

“It was kind of everywhere, but we did a good job of figuring it out,” Barrett said.

Five Greeks scored in double figures led by Konstantinos Mitoglou but it was not enough. Kostas Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ younger brother who is a two-way player for the Los Angeles Lakers, scored four points in limited action off the bench.

Barrett will try to lead Canada to a sweep of their group against China tomorrow to advance to the semifinals.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Tuesday’s loss at Atlanta

Courtney Williams’ late teardrop allowed the Atlanta Dream to the season series from the New York Liberty.

Courtney Williams had one more nightmare for the New York Liberty.

Another last-minute shot, a floater with 58 seconds to go, gave the Atlanta Dream the necessary points to escape with a 73-69 victory over New York (8-9) on Tuesday night at Gateway Center Arena.

Williams previously had an overtime triple that gave Atlanta a win in Brooklyn on May 29. She led the Dream (6-9) with 18 points, assisted by 14 from Crystal Bradford off the bench. Atlanta wins the season series 2-1 after splitting a back-to-back set with New York on their home court, coming back from a 23-point loss on Saturday.

3rd Star: Kylee Shook

8 points. 8 rebounds

The Liberty were befallen by a tough offensive rebounding margin, as Atlanta took advantage of second chances in the 12-7 victory. That didn’t stop Shook from continuing her fruitful tallies, as she is now averaging 10 a game over her last three.

2nd Star: Betnijah Laney

16 points, 7 assists, 1 steal

Though her former compatriots in the Peach State had the last laugh, Laney still managed to lead the Liberty in scoring once again, falling just three helpers short of a double-double.

1st Star: Michaela Onyenwere

13 points, 3 rebounds

If anyone’s going to miss playing the Atlanta Dream, it’s probably Onyenwere. She ends her first trio against Atlanta with an average of 20 points, including an infantile career-best 29 back in May. It was her early onslaught from the outside in the third quarter’s opening stages that allowed the Liberty back in the ball game. New York had hit only two from the field in the second quarter but managed to fight back thanks to Onyenwere’s offense. She and Shook likewise united to hold Elizabeth Williams to only a single point, as the Atlanta center missed all six of her attempts from the field. 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Rangers’ Adam Fox wins Norris Trophy as best defenseman

New York Rangers’ Adam Fox has won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman.

Adam Fox has won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. The award was announced by the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion and two-time Norris winner Brian Leetch.

Fox finished second among defensemen with 47 points (five goals, 42 assists), He was plus-19 in 55 games and led the Rangers in average ice time per game (24:42), more than three minutes more than defenseman Jacob Trouba, who was second (21:29).

 

“There’s definitely too many people to thank just from growing up, youth hockey coaches, skill coaches, skating coaches, everyone who helped me get to this point,” Fox said. “Of course, the Rangers organization just allowing me to play and giving me the opportunity, of course my teammates. It’s an individual award, but without those guys none of it’s possible.”

NHL.com

A first-time finalist for the award, Fox is the fourth different Rangers player to win the award and first since Brian Leetch in 1996-97. Doug Harvey (1961-62), Harry Howell (1966-67), and Leetch (also 1991-92) are the others.

Yankees’ general manager doesn’t rule out the possibility of being sellers if they can’t right the ship

Before Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels, the New York Yankees are 40-38 and in fourth place of the tough AL East. General manager Brian Cashman talked to the media again before the contest, and reassured that he has faith in manager Aaron Boone and his coaching staff to turn things around.

Cashman did, however, acknowledge that the Yankees aren’t having a good time at the moment. “We suck right now, as bad as you can be. Trying to knock ourselves out of that is obviously the effort. Until we get online and start flying high again, it’s going to look bad. It plays bad and it stinks to the high heavens,” he stated, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.

The Yankees could use additions in the outfield, where they lost Aaron Hicks and have had to endure prolonged slumps by Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, and Miguel Andujar. They could also improve the starting rotation given the uncertainty surrounding the return of injured stars Luis Severino and Corey Kluber.

The Yankees are not close to completing any trades

Cashman, however, was asked if he was close to any trade and he said: “no, not right now. Whenever and if ever something presents itself that I can pull down, we’ll be able to do something. Other than that, it’s just conversations right now that we’re trying to push through on.”

The next couple of weeks will be crucial for the Yankees, because Cashman didn’t rule out the possibility of being sellers at the deadline if they aren’t able to right the ship.

“If we fall like a stone, you have to regroup and reassess. We’re trying to fix what we’ve got, to self-correct what we have and add to it. But if it’s unworthy at some point, then you have to have different conversations,” he explained.

It would be a huge letdown to see the Yankees sell eventually, but they did it in 2016 and were highly competitive the very next year.

Do you think the Yankees should be buyers or sellers at the deadline?

An ailing J.G. Pageau was a major turning point in the Islanders’ season coming to a close

It’s been a few days now since the dust has settled on the Islanders’ devastating Game 7 defeat to the Lightning. The loss, which ended the team’s spirited run towards a Stanley Cup, now has led the focus to shift to what will be a very busy offseason for the organization.

Still, because the end to the season was so abrupt, it’s not hard to take a moment and look at where things didn’t fall in place for the Isles before they bowed out.

Looking back at the last series, the Islanders were clearly hindered by not having J.G. Pageau fully intact.

Word came out this morning from Islanders’ g.m. Lou Lamoriello that Pageau was ailing from a hand injury and had surgery yesterday.

Pageau, who had most likely suffered that injury in the series-clincher against the Bruins in Game 6 of round two, was a shell of himself against the Bolts. That setback probably got worse when he stretched out for a homerun pass that missed him in the Isles’ Game 2 loss.

“I was a little banged up,” Pageau said during the club’s exit interviews on Sunday. “I think everyone goes through it in the playoffs.”

Having Pageau at less than 100% — everyone is that way in the postseason — made things even more of an uphill battle for the Isles to overcome Tampa Bay, as if it wasn’t going to be a tall task already. The Ottawa native going into the series was one of the few players who had the speed and skill to match what the Lightning brought. That’s one of the reasons the Isles were so successful against Pittsburgh and Boston. Pageau was one of the team’s best players in both series with his three goals and ten assists.

Without that presence, the Islanders had to rely on other forwards whose style don’t match up well to make up for his production. And it didn’t work out well. Pageau’s linemates — Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac — were invisible in the final round and were outmatched heavily at times.

That line ran because of Pageau and it was quite apparent they couldn’t do anything because of how he was compromised. Head coach Barry Trotz had to be feeling Pageau’s absence too. The Islanders’ were at a disadvantage from the get-go. Their offense is successful when they have all four lines going and can wear teams down with their forecheck. Both those parts of their game was a struggle as they were only able to muster up 11 goals in seven games, none of which that came from Pageau’s line. Essentially, the Isles were playing with three forward units against four.

There’s definitely other elements that can be looked at for why the Islanders fell to the Bolts. The absymal power play (1-for-17). Missed chances. Bounces all in Tampa’s favor. But an unhealthy Pageau was a major turning point from the outset.

The Islanders as a whole were affected in every aspect because of it. And it’s why they aren’t playing for a Stanley Cup right now.

It was refreshing to hear Matt Martin speak yesterday about how much the fans played a part of what was a tremendous last go-around for the Coliseum. The Coliseum put on a show for the rest of the league from the relentless chants to the singing of the national anthem before every game in the later rounds.

“It was an amazing thing,” he said on with WFAN’s Boomer and Gio. “It felt like it was getting louder and louder every game. Can’t put words to it.”

Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone: ‘Talk is cheap, we’ve got to go out and do it’

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

The New York Yankees fell to 40-38, dangerously close to .500 in a very competitive division, after losing the series opener against the Los Angeles Angels in Yankee Stadium. It’s the fourth consecutive defeat for a team that is quickly losing ground in the AL East.

The Yankees hit two home runs, one each by Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela, and they still couldn’t come away with the win. The Shohei Ohtani-led offense of the Angeles was too much for Mike King and the relievers last night.

“We just haven’t showed up every night,” Stanton told MLB.com. “We’ll have spurts of it. But this game, these seasons, this uniform isn’t about spurts. It’s about showing up every night, so we’ve got to pick it up.”

The Yankees are now in fourth place

The fourth-place Yankees are now 7 1/2 games behind the division-leading Boston Red Sox and fell behind the pesky Toronto Blue Jays. The Tampa Bay Rays are also above them in the East.

“Talk is cheap,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We’ve got to go and do it. As disappointing and as frustrating as it is to not grab this first one, especially coming off the weekend we had [in Boston], we’ve got to go play and try and dig ourselves out of this.”

The Yankees finished over 100 victories in each of Boone’s first two full seasons at the helm. They are not only dangerously close to fall off that pace entirely, but they could miss the playoffs if there isn’t a reaction soon.

Stanton still believes the Yankees can meet the huge expectations people have in them.

“Absolutely. We have in the past,” he said. “We’ve shown plenty that we’re capable of doing it. It doesn’t really matter, anything that I say right now. We’ve got to go do it. Words aren’t going to do anything.”

What happened between the UFC and Francis Ngannou?

Francis Ngannou

Yesterday we all saw some shocking news in the world of mixed martial arts. We learned that UFC 265 in August will be headlined by an interim title fight between top contenders Derrick Lewis (25-7, 1 NC) and Ciryl Gane (9-0).

The two men will battle it out in Houston on August 7th. However, this move was incredibly puzzling to say the least. It’s puzzling due to the fact that Francis Ngannou (16-3) just became the undisputed heavyweight champion at the end of March.

After Ngannou became the champion, he spent a considerable amount of time in Africa to celebrate. Ngannou recently returned to the United States and resumed training in preparation for his first title defense.

For the last month or so, the UFC has been trying hard to book Ngannou against Derrick Lewis for the August PPV. However, with Ngannou’s travel schedule, he told the UFC that he wouldn’t be ready by the beginning of August.

The promotion then came back to Ngannou and asked about UFC 266 in September. Ngannou and his representatives accepted the fight for the end of September and moved forward with their preparations. However, everything changed yesterday.

UFC’s Change of Plans

The UFC had been moving forward with the September fight, but Ciryl Gane’s performance over the weekend made them hedge. After seeing Gane remain perfect by defeating Alexander Volkov, the promotion tried to use it for leverage to get Ngannou to fight in August.

Ngannou’s camp remained firm in their stance that he would defend the title in September, but not at the beginning of August. The UFC ultimately decided to pull the plug on Ngannou all together and booked the interim title fight.

In the history of the promotion, this is the quickest that they’ve ever instituted an interim title. It’s also incredibly interesting that it was made in the heavyweight division considering the title has been defended on average once a year over the past few years.

So now, the UFC’s superstar heavyweight champion is sidelined. This move makes no sense and to me the promotion just cut their nose off to spite their face.

The Chicago Bears Might Have a Cornerback Problem

The Chicago Bears front office had a fantastic offseason. From high praise at the draft to some solid free agency signings, there seemed to be little holes in Ryan Pace’s plan to ensure the survival of his tenure as general manager. However, as we rapidly approach the regular season and begin to look at the rearview mirror, hindsight begins to kick in. The Bears brought in talent to fill several gaps on the roster yet didn’t fill the most glaring hole: the vacuum left by Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller’s departure. For all the great work the Bears did in the 2021 offseason, one has to wonder, what is the front office thinking in their handling of the cornerback position?

Fuller’s departure from the Bears had to happen. Unfortunately, Pace had little to offer Fuller to keep him in Chicago as an extension would cause a $20M cap hit and the organization was struggling, shrinking cap space. As a result, Fuller was officially cut from the organization on March 20th, 2021.

When you let one of the best talents on your roster go, common sense would reason that you look to replace that talent. To replace Kyle Fuller, the Bears brought in Desmond Trufant. You read that correctly. In a free-agent cornerback market that carried affordable talents such as Desmond King III, Malcolm Butler, Breshaud Breeland, and Xavier Rhodes, the Bears brought in Desmond Trufant on a 1yr $1.075M deal. I won’t take our cap space as an excuse to bring in a different talent as none of the names listed signed a contract above $4 million.

Scheme Fits

Fuller is a textbook zone cornerback. Finding an abundance of success under Vig Fangio’s secondary zone schemes, things were a bit different when Chuck Pagano came into town. No, the Defense didn’t see that much of a change, but the personnel did. The Bear’s current cornerback room is very much “man” oriented. For example, former Steelers and second most veteran cornerback Artie Burns primarily dominated man coverage during his time at the University of Miami. Still, he struggled in heavy zone schemes in Pittsburgh.

Rookie standout Jaylon Johnson and Bear’s 6th round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft Thomas Graham Jr. also excel at man coverage.

Desmond Trufant has played both man and zone effectively, although he struggled in a man-heavy scheme last year in Detroit. At the same time, Kindle Vildor struggled at man coverage but found his step in zone.

There’s an interesting mix of coverage strengths in this group of cornerbacks. Some speculate that new defensive coordinator Sean Desai will blow up the previous regime’s zone schemes for man coverage. However, considering the Bears’ talent at the safety position, It may not be a terrible idea to rely on Trevis Gipson and Eddie Jackson more. Regarding Desai’s defensive scheming, Jackson saw shades of Fangio. It is any fans or analysts guess how Desai schemes his secondary – that is until we see it in action.

The Bears are resting a lot of confidence in Jaylon Johnson and the young core of cornerbacks assembled on the roster. Bringing in Trufant was most likely nothing more than a move to add a much-needed veteran voice to assist the development of potential prospects. Regardless, we must hope that these prospects can develop quickly, as the Bear’s schedule in 2022 has them facing off against a selection of the league’s best passing attacks.

Wrapping it up

Fuller is gone. Our lockdown outside zone corner is back with Vig Fangio and that amazing group of cornerback talent in Denver. The current arms race in the NFL is centered on speed at the wide receiver position and lock down ability at the cornerback position. The Chicago Bears have the second cheapest cornerback room in the NFL. Hopefully, this low financial risk with a high potential reward pays off shortly. However, if it doesn’t, and the Bears secondary struggles to perform, it will not be surprising if the cornerback position is the Bear’s top priority entering the 2022 off-season.