New York Giants send multiple players to OL Masterminds summit

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The offensive line has been one of the biggest problem areas for the New York Giants in recent seasons. This year, the Giants will try again to get it right. That process will likely include an offseason position battle at the right tackle position, and it will also require a step forward from Andrew Thomas in his second season.

Another part of the process is offseason training, and the offensive line also seems to be on top of that. The Giants had several players in attendance at the OL Masterminds summit, on top of their usual training.

It’s the fourth edition of the summit, which has become an annual event and features some of the bigger names at the position sharing expertise. In recent years, events like this have become more common in the NFL. After the OL Masterminds summit proved the concept, a similar ‘Tight End University’ began this offseason and had multiple Giants attending.

The players from the Giants specifically that were in attendance were Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, and Andrew Thomas. Hernandez in particular likely has a lot to gain from the extra training, as the popular narrative about him falling out of favor with the arrival of the new coaching staff seems to be true.

Thomas, on the other hand, has a more secure position but has higher expectations as the much higher draft pick and the player the Giants are trusting at left tackle.

If there’s one thing this says, though, it’s that the team’s roster this season isn’t just waiting around to improve through training camp. We’ve seen multiple position groups take proactive steps like training on their own, and in a high pressure season like this one, that could make a big impact in the results that are to come.

NASCAR: Kurt Busch takes home a family affair at Atlanta

After his team made a major announcement, Kurt Busch held off his younger brother Kyle to earn the 33rd win of his NASCAR Cup Series career.

With Vin Diesel’s Fast and Furious mantra turned meme embarking on a relentless invasion of social media, it was only appropriate that Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series affair would take on a familial theme.

Kurt Busch, driver No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, held off his younger brother Kyle to win the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The elder Busch made the fateful pass with just over 23 laps to go in the 260-circuit event to become the 12th different winner of the 2021 Cup Series season.

“We beat Kyle! I taught that kid everything he knows; he should be grateful,” Kurt Busch jokingly remarked, per notes from NASCAR. “What a battle. What a genuine, awesome, old-school racetrack.”

Kurt Busch’s victory comes at a crucial time for his team. All properties of Chip Ganassi Racing, including equipment and characters, were sold to Trackhouse Racing on June 30, a sale that will fully take effect after the 2021 season. Trackhouse is owned by former driver Justin Marks (who previously partook in Ganassi’s defunct Xfinity Series program, winning the 2016 Mid-Ohio event) and philanthropist/recording artist Pitbull, who field the No. 99 Chevrolet driven by Daniel Suarez.

Sunday’s event at Atlanta was thus poetic in more ways than one: Kurt Busch may have had some assistance from teammate Ross Chastain.

As the Busch brothers battled for the lead in the final stanzas, they approached Chastain’s slower No. 42. While Chastain didn’t appear to actively block Kyle, he more or less mimicked his draft, cutting off his access to clean air. Kurt was thus able to get by and build a healthy lead before his brother made one last push to no avail. The final margin of victory was 1.237 seconds.

Kyle was reportedly upset with Chastain’s apparent interference but nonetheless ventured to victory lane to congratulate his brother. Afterward, Kurt defended his teammate’s actions. Chastain is running his first season in Ganassi’s No. 42, previously piloted by Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kyle Larson.

“He did stop by Victory Lane and do the Kyle Busch grumpy. That’s what I expected,” Kurt Busch said of Kyle’s reply. “What happened on track was the perfect scenario for a teammate to do the work that he needed to do. If I’m running third, Ross isn’t part of the equation. That was exactly what a teammate needs to do, and Ross did that in a way that gave me a sense of pride in the education and the mentorship that I have helped Ross with this year. It was a perfect give-back.”

Chastain, who finished 21st, was among the first to congratulate Busch after he crossed the start/finish line. He’ll likely need a win to join the No. 1 in the Cup Series postseason as he sits 145 points out of the final playoff spot, now held by sixth-place finisher Tyler Reddick.

“Can we do that in the playoffs? No,” Kurt Busch said. “Can you do that in a regular season where one guy has won and one guy is trying to run hard? Today was a perfect scenario for that to unfold, and Kyle will get over it pretty quick.”

“I believe that no line was crossed, and it was that right finesse to make it happen.”

The Busch brothers each took home the victories in the first two 80-lap stages of the race. Kurt, the 2004 Cup Series champion, earned the 33rd win of his career to tie Fireball Roberts for 25th place on the all-time wins list. His return to the playoffs guarantees Ganassi at least one more shot at a NASCAR championship. CGR has earned 18 major racing championships (including nine in IndyCar) but none at the NASCAR level, its closest attempt coming in 2001 with Sterling Marlin (3rd).

Busch’s victory, his first since last September at his home track of Las Vegas and his fourth all-time at AMS (most amongst active drivers), also comes at the final NASCAR event at Atlanta before the track is repaved and reconfigured for next year’s visit. The old surface required repairs shortly after the end of the second stage, necessitating a red flag period that lasted about 20 minutes.

Martin Truex Jr. finished third, while Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action on July 18, as the Foxwoods Resort Casino will be held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

For full Sunday results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Mets Draft Vandy’s Kumar Rocker With The 10th Pick Of The MLB Draft

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The New York Mets get their man in the 2021 MLB Draft as they take Kumar Rocker with the 10th overall pick. Rocker was the projected number one pick heading into this year’s college season. Inconsistent fastball velocity and Jack Leiter’s emergence forced him to slide to the Mets’ pick.

Rocker is 21-years old and is 6’5″ and 245 pounds, and was a dominant force during his time at Vanderbilt. Despite falling to ten in the draft, Rocker is still one of the top prospects not just in the Mets organization but in all of baseball. In his final season at Vandy, Rocker went 14-4 in 122 innings with 179 strikeouts and a .170 batting average against. His 2.73 ERA usually keeps a potential #1 pick in the draft, but nine other teams felt differently.

Rocker features a fastball sitting anywhere from 92-97 with a power slider that he can manipulate to move in different directions. His fastball velocity was a major question due to some starts varying from the low to mid-90s but working in the Mets organization will maximize his potential. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and the rest of their staff have done a terrific job with their pitching this year and potentially being in the same locker room as Jacob deGrom will do plenty to help him.

Before Rocker even throws a pitch for the Mets, this seems like the steal of the draft. Rocker is loaded with potential, has glowing reviews as a teammate, and is a terrific worker. Adding him is the beginning to revamping a weakened Mets farm system and finding sustained future success.

WATCH: Knicks’ Luca Vildoza hits half-court shot on buzzer-beater against Australia

luca vildoza, knicks

When the New York Knicks signed Argentinian point guard Luca Vildoza to a four-year contract, they envisioned he would be a focal point for the offense in the future. With Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton preparing to hit the open market, Vildoza remains one of the only true PGs on the roster, but the expectation is that management will bring in another established player if not retain Rose this off-season.

However, Vildoza is playing with the Argentinian national team as they prepare for the Tokyo Summer Olympics in Las Vegas. In an exhibition game against Australia, Vildoza connected, and a half-court shot as the first half buzzer sounded, giving his team a 47-42 lead.

Showcasing yet another impressive attribute, clutch shooting, Vildoza is already making waves as the Knicks gauge his talents ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Vildoza finished the contest with 11 points, hitting on 37.5% of his shots from range and 33% from the field. Australia ended up winning the game on a buzzer-beater by Patty Mills, but Vildoza played sufficiently over 18 minutes.

At 25 years old, Luca has drawn glowing reviews from players like Pablo Prigioni, who coined him as a better player than he was when he first entered the league. Luca simply lacks experience at the NBA level. With a fluid shooting motion and quality court vision, he can hopefully be an impact player moving forward for the Knicks.

New York Giants: Jabrill Peppers establishing himself as one of the best safeties in the NFL

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers

The New York Giants have the best type of problem on the defensive side of the ball. Patrick Graham’s unit is filled with so many talented players that some of them might not see as much playing time as they truly deserve. Arguably the strongest positional unit on the Giants’ roster is at the safety position, led by Jabrill Peppers.

Safeties like Julian Love and Xavier McKinney might see more playing time as starters on other teams. But with talents like Logan Ryan and Logan Ryan on the roster, Love and McKinney might not see full playing time in 2021. Jabrill Peppers, however, will be on the field as frequently as possible.

Entering his fourth season in the NFL, Jabrill Peppers is establishing himself as one of the best safeties in the league. Peppers is a versatile Swiss Army Knife on the Giants’ defense that impacts the game at every level and lines up any and everywhere.

Jabrill Peppers stats and highlights

Jabrill Peppers had a career year in 2020. He totaled career-highs with 91 combined tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 11 passes defended. Jabrill also added 1 interception and 1 forced fumble. Peppers was acquired by the Giants in the 2019 offseason via the infamous Odell Beckham trade with the Cleveland Browns.

In his rookie season with the Browns, Jabrill Peppers was playing mostly free safety in Cleveland’s defense that frequently utilized single-high safety. This did not exactly fit Peppers’s skill set, as he is more of a downhill thumper that thrives as a linebacker. That is the role he started playing full-time for the Giants in 2020.

In 2020, the majority of Jabrill Peppers’s snaps came in the box (383 snaps). He only played 143 snaps as a free safety (PFF). Many of Jabrill’s snaps came lined up as a linebacker in the Giants’ speedy zone-coverage heavy defense.

This upcoming season, expect to see Jabrill Peppers continue to play a lot of linebacker. The Giants play a lot of nickel and dime packages, which means they run extra defensive backs onto the field. Logan Ryan should be a constant at free safety. But when the team looks to get Xavier McKinney on the field, they will plug him in at strong safety and have Jabrill Peppers shift to linebacker.

Not many safeties in the NFL can play multiple positions the way Jabrill Peppers can. He lines up all over the field and still makes plays. Jabrill Peppers is the ultimate chess piece in the New York Giants’ defense and with a big year in 2021, he could earn himself a lucrative contract extension.

New York Yankees Recap: Astros shock the Yankees with walk-off win

New York Yankees, Chad Green

After the New York Yankees shut out the hated Houston Astros in the first two games of the series, the Yankees looked for the sweep. Jameson Taillon coming off his best start of the season, was to face the Astros’ Framber Valdez. With Gerrit Cole’s complete-game shutout last night, the bullpen was completely rested.

DJ LeMahieu led off the game by walking against Valdez. LeMahieu, on a passed ball, tried to advance all the way to third but was called out. Aaron Judge also walked. Gary Sanchez flew out to left field. Giancarlo Stanton chopped over the first baseman for a single, with Judge moving to third. Luke Voit struck out swinging, stranded two. At the bottom, Jose Altuve flew out to Locastro in left. Michael Brantley singled in front of Gardner in center. Yordan Alverez popped out to Urshela. Yuli Gurriel lined out to short to end the inning scoreless.

The top of the second was led off by Gleyber Torres who flew out to right. Gio Urshela singled on a late throw by Altuve. Tim Locastro flew out to right. Brett Gardner got a two-out single to left with Gio holding at second. LeMahieu bounced out to short. At the bottom, Kyle Tucker led off by tapping into the shift. Chas McCormick got hit by a pitch for a free pass. Abe Toro popped out to first. Robel Garcia struck out swinging for another scoreless inning.

Aaron Judge led off the third, striking out. Sanchez walked. Stanton struck out, but Sanchez advanced on a passed ball. Voit walked. Torres lined to left, scoring Sanchez from second. Urshela, with two still on and two outs, struck out, but the Yankees took the lead in the game. Martin Maldonado led off the bottom by homering to right field. Altuve struck out. Brantley flew out to Locastro. Alverez ground out to DJ. Game tied at 1.

Locastro led off the fourth inning, and he provided the Yankees with their second home run. Gardner ground out to Altuve. LeMahieu walked. Judge ground out to short. Sanchez struck out, but the Yankees regained the lead. At the bottom, Gurriel ground out. Tucker walked.  McCormick struck out swinging. Tucker stole second. Toro walked. Tucker stole third.  Toro stole second. Garcia struck out, getting Taillon out of a jam. New York Yankees 2 Astros 1.

Giancarlo Stanton led off the fifth inning by singling to center. Voit walked again. With no outs and two on, Torres singled to left, scoring Stanton for the Yankees’ two-run lead, and that knocked Valdez out of the game. Urshela faced the new Astros pitcher Andre Scrubb and flew out to left, holding the runners. Locastro struck out for the second out. Gardner chased on for the final out of half and stranding two. At the bottom, Maldonado flew out to left. Altuve also flew out to left. Brantley popped out to center for a 1-2-3 inning for Taillon. New York Yankees 3 Astros 1.

LeMahieu led off the sixth against new pitcher Joe Smith and flew out to right. Judge smoked on but right to Altuve. Sanchez struck out swinging for a quick inning for Smith. At the bottom, with Taillon still on the mound, Alverez flew out Gardner in left-center. Gurriel flew out to Judge. Tucker deposited one deep into the right-field stands. Then, McCormick flew out to Judge at the wall.

The seventh inning was led off by Stanton, who faced the Astros’ fourth pitcher Brian Abreu drove on to the warning track in right for the first out. Voit struck out. Torres walked and stole second to get into scoring position. Urshela doubled to center, and Torres scored. Locastro ground out to second, but the Yankees picked up an insurance run. At the bottom, against Domingo, German Toro struck out. Garcia flew out to center. Maldonado struck out for a 1-2-3 inning for German out of the pen. Yankees 4 Astros 2.

Brett Gardner led off the eighth inning, and facing the fifth, Astros pitcher Blake Taylor tapped back to the mound for the first out. LeMahieu walked. DJ moved to second on a passed ball. Judge walked. Sanchez sent a three-run bomb into the upper seats in left. Stanton walked. Voit walked for the third walk of the inning, knocking out Taylor. Torres faced the sixth Astros pitcher Ralph Garza Jr. and struck out. Urshela got another walk. Locastro with the bases loaded and two outs struck out, leaving the bases loaded. At the bottom, with German on for a second inning, Altuve ground out. Brantley singled. Alverez hit into a double play. New York Yankees 7 Astros 2.

Brett Gardner led off the ninth by walking for the Yankees thirteens walk of the game. LeMahieu walked for the fourth time. Judge struck out. Sanchez ground into a double play to end the half. At the bottom, with last licks on the line for the Astros, Gurriel, with German in for the close, singled on a slow roller in the infield. Tucker doubled with Locastro slamming into the left-field wall. McCormick faced reliever Chad Green and got a two-run double off of Green. Toro doubled to Judge, and another run scored. Still, with no outs, Garcia singled to center. Maldonado ground out to short. Altuve hit a home run, driving in three runs, and the Yankees lost the game.

The final score was the Houston Astros 8 New York Yankees 7. The winning pitcher was Ralph Garza Jr., and the loser was Chad Green.

 

 

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Sunday’s loss vs. Connecticut

A one-sided third quarter doomed the New York Liberty in their last showing before the WNBA’s month-long All-Star/Olympic break.

The Connecticut Sun shined a little too bright for the New York Liberty on Sunday afternoon, particularly in the third quarter.

Paced by 17 points and 17 rebounds from Jonquel Jones, the Sun held off the pesky Liberty to the tune of an 18-9 advantage in the third quarter, allowing them to roll to a 71-54 victory at Barclays Center. Despite the loss, the Liberty (10-11) are among the league’s eight playoff teams as the WNBA embarks on a month-long hiatus to allow its players to partake in both the WNBA All-Star Game and the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Thus ends a New York odyssey that featured several changed commercials flights and hours of delays due to heavy rains brought about by Tropical Storm Elsa. Liberty owner Joe Tsai has vowed to fight the travel problems.

New York’s Betnijah Laney will appear alongside the rest of the Association’s All-Stars as they battle the United States Olympic unit on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) while Sami Whitcomb will partake in the three-point contest on that same night. In Tokyo, Rebecca Alen will represent Australia while overseas holdover Han Xu is set to appear on China’s squad. The Liberty return to action on August 15 at Minnesota (7 p.m. ET, YES/Facebook).

ESM has three game balls to send the Liberty into the break…

3rd Star: Reshanda Gray

8 points, 5 rebounds

Adding Gray for the remainder of the season could be huge for the Liberty, who have come to adore her physicality in the paint. Though Gray posted  relatively pedestrian numbers in her final pre-break showing, she set some personal history by sinking each of her two attempts from three-point range after sinking only 1-of-8 over her first four WNBA seasons.

2nd Star: Michaela Onyenwere

12 points, 4 rebounds

As one of only two New Yorkers in double figures, Onyenwere did her best to keep the Liberty in the game by getting to the foul line, hitting five of her six visits. At the break, Onyenwere is the runaway favroite for the league’s Rookie of the Year, leading all first-years in scoring (9.8 per game entering Sunday) and posting a runner-up finish in rebounding (2.9).

1st Star: Kylee Shook

16 points, 2 assists, 1 block

Shook set a new career-best in scoring for the second straight game. Thrust into the starting lineup for all but one game this season thanks to Natasha Howard’s injury, Shook’s development has been one of the most promising storylines of the first half. Alas, her development was the brightest…and perhaps only…the Liberty could’ve taken from Sunday. Taking away Shook’s 6-of-8 showing, the Liberty shot 11-of-48 (23 percent) from the field.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

After UFC 264, Dustin Poirier confirms he will fight Conor McGregor again in the future

dusin porier, conor mcgregor

What a night it was last night. In the headliner of UFC 264, we saw the third installment of the rivalry between Dustin Poirier (28-6, 1 NC) and Conor McGregor (22-6). While the fight was meant to provide closure, the result gave us anything but.

The fight started out with a fast pace and McGregor was throwing a ton of kicks. Much like the second fight, McGregor controlled the striking early on at UFC 264. In the middle of the round, Poirier blitzed and the two men came together in a clinch.

Poirier went for a takedown and McGregor tried to lock in a guillotine. However, Poirier was able to defend and get top position. Once on top, Poirier rained down bombs on McGregor. McGregor landed some good shots here and there from the bottom, but overall, it was all Poirier.

Late in the round, Poirier let McGregor up. The two men missed with big shots and as McGregor stepped back, his ankle gave out. McGregor suffered a break to his lower tibia and the main event of UFC 264 ended with a doctor stoppage.

Poirier confident him and McGregor fight again after UFC 264

It was clear that the two men still had bad blood after UFC 264. Dana White said in the post-fight press conference that the two men will fight again whenever McGregor heals. However, Poirier will be fighting for the UFC title next.

When it was Poirier’s turn to talk at the press conference, he echoed Dana White. Poirier said, “We are going to fight again whether it’s in the octagon or on the sidewalk.” McGregor also said in the cage that he would fight Poirier in the octagon or on the street after UFC 264.

Between all the words and the lack of a true finish, it does appear that we are destined to see the fourth fight. That said, we won’t be seeing it anytime soon. McGregor is going to have surgery tomorrow and will be out for a considerable amount of time.

Dustin Poirier will now turn his attention towards Charles Oliveira and the UFC lightweight title. If Poirier wins the title and McGregor recovers quickly, don’t be shocked if next summer’s big UFC PPV is headlined by the fourth fight between McGregor and Poirier.

New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko confirms he had Coronavirus, looks for more responsibility in upcoming season

New York Rangers F Kappo Kakko confirmed to Finnish news outlet YLE.Fi that he had Covid-19 last season.

In a recent interview with Finland’s national public broadcasting company, YLE.FI, New York Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko confirmed that he was infected with COVID-19 last season.

Kakko says that he himself had a corona.

 Everyone had Corona and was anesthetized to play against the same teams all the time, says Kakko.

YLE.FI

Improving His Game

Kakko finished the season with nine goals and 17 points. he would have liked to have scored more points, but he was happy with the season.

Of course you would like more points. When I played in Finland, then it worked. Now a few seasons have been a little quieter. I am pleased with last season. I was able to improve my game. Personally, I think that points are starting to come and I’m going to take  [more] responsibility.

The team’s number one selection (2nd overall)  in the 2019 NHL Draft has been working out in Turku, Finnland going to the gym and running.  He will begin his on-ice program in a few weeks once his new equipment arrives.

For now, he will look to tackle the Stairs of Moon Mountain which he said was a must on his workout program.

New Coach

The hiring of new head coach Gerard Gallant gives the club some fresh energy with the same expectations of making the playoffs next season. Kakko hopes to be one of the stars that can get the team to the postseason in search of the elusive Stanley Cup.

For now, he will take it a day at a time in his home country enjoying his time with family and friends before the grind of an 82 game NHL season resumes beginning with training camp in September.

Yankees News, 7/11: Gerrit Cole shuts up the haters, curses out Aaron Boone in process

yankees, gerrit cole

In one of the most dominant pitching performances for the Yankees this season, ace Gerrit Cole completely shut out the Houston Astros over 9.0 innings. Cole tossed 129 pitches, allowing three hits and striking out 12 batters to take down a strong Astros team that has now lost three consecutive games, including two against the Yankees.

The Yankees clearly view the series as momentum-changing and having won five of their last six games with the final game against the Astros on Sunday afternoon. The bombers have an opportunity to claw their way back into the AL East standings with another victory.

Currently, they have a lot of work ahead of them, sitting 8.0 games behind the Boston Red Sox, who are 55-35. In the Wild Card standings, they are 3.5 games back from the Oakland Athletics to secure the second spot; the Tampa Bay Rays are +3 in the category, putting a cushion between themselves and the rest of the competing teams.

However, the Red Sox lost to the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday and have fallen in three of their last four games, potentially opening the door for the Yankees to make a comeback.

The Yankees needed Cole’s energy to reinvigorate the team:

The passion that Cole showed in the win was something the team desperately needed, especially after dealing with an illness this past week, requiring IV drips to keep him active. In fact, with one out left in the ninth-inning, skipper Aaron Boone went out to check on Cole as the ace fired back curses and F-bombs, indicating his desire to stay in the contest.

“I said the F word a lot, and I kind of just blacked out,” Cole said. “I don’t really remember what I told him to be honest.”

After the game, Boone suggested he wasn’t going out to pull Garrett but rather calm his nerves and gauge how much gas he had left in the tank.

“I wasn’t going out there for sure to take him out,” Boone said. “I just wanted to take his temperature a little bit, see where he’s at.”

Ultimately, the decision was a good one, after Cole allowed a ninth-inning hit to Jose Altuve to open an opportunity for Houston to steal the game in the final moments.

Nonetheless, the Bombers walked away victorious and will feature Jameson Taillon on the mound against Framber Valdez on Sunday. Valdez has a 2.86 ERA this season, so the Yankees will have to be on top of their game if they want to emerge victorious and sweep Houston in a massive change of momentum.