UFC: Colby Covington would welcome a fight with Dustin Poirier

UFC, Colby Covington

This past Saturday at UFC 264, Dustin Poirier (28-6, 1 NC) picked up his second win over Conor McGregor (22-6). The fight ended after McGregor snapped his lower tibia at the end of the first round and couldn’t continue.

Regardless of what happened, it still goes in the book as a win for Poirier. Poirier’s former training partner and top welterweight contender Colby Covington (16-2) had some things to say about the fight and The Diamond as well.

Covington is currently waiting for the date for his rematch with Kamaru Usman (18-1) for the UFC welterweight title. That said, he already has his eyes on his personal rivalry with Poirier and he had some things to say.

In speaking with James Lynch, Covington called Poirier’s win at UFC 264 a fluke. In addition to that, Covington made it clear that he would love Poirier to come up to 170 pounds to fight him. He also made it clear that he doesn’t believe the fight would be competitive.

Would the UFC book this fight?

Covington told Lynch, “His (Poirier) best money opportunity if he wants to do good business is to come up to 170 and see daddy. This is a personal rivalry James… There is deep deep personal issues with this drama and I hope they get settled in the octagon some day. If they don’t then fans know who daddy is. They’ll know I’m really Parker’s daddy and I’m Jolie’s husband.”

When asked how the potential UFC matchup would go, Covington said, “I just see myself giving him a wedgie in the middle of the octagon and just slapping him all around the octagon. Throwing him from one side of the cage to the other until he quits.”

In reality, this is a matchup that could easily happen. Poirier has long talked about being interested in fighting at welterweight. Of course, Poirier is fighting for the UFC lightweight title next and Covington is fighting for the welterweight title next.

Perhaps if all works out, there could be a champion vs champion fight that could materialize between the two men. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see Colby Covington fight Dustin Poirier eventually.

New York Giants: Is Matt Peart this real deal at right tackle?

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants have a competition battle brewing at right tackle, but the expectation is that veteran Nate Solder will push for the starting job. Solder, who opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, is looking to make a heroic return to form after struggling during the 2019 season.

Solder allowed 11 sacks, 36 hurries, and 56 pressures, per PFF, showcasing one of his worst performances to date. However, a year off from football might have benefitted his mindset, which could lead to an improved 2021 season. While we can remain optimistic, Solder has a big challenge ahead of him, dethroning Matt Peart at right tackle; a second-year player out of the University of Connecticut vying for the starting gig.

Peart had himself an adequate rookie season, despite several factors working against him. Ranging from the loss of preseason as a result of Covid and the transition to a new coaching staff, Peart didn’t exactly have an ideal situation to help him adapt to the NFL.

Listed at 6’7” and 301 pounds, the sophomore tackle undoubtedly added size to his frame this off-season to help as a force in the running game. Improving his strength was one of his biggest priorities, and it seemed as if he accomplished just that over the past few months.

According to Patricia Traina of SI, Matt Peart looked to improve one of his more prevalent deficiencies, adding more strength to his frame:

He also needed to get stronger to improve his anchor against stronger opponents seeking to put him on roller skates. Again, this seems to be something Peart did address as he appeared to be bulkier in the upper body.

Last season, the 24-year-old tackle allowed 2.0 sacks, five hurries, and nine pressures over 150 offensive snaps. He was far more efficient in run blocking but did post a few solid pass blocking performances over a smaller sample size. The maximum amount of pass-blocking snaps he experienced was 14 against Baltimore in Week 16, in which he allowed a sack and two pressures.

However, with more muscle mass and a year of experience under his belt, Peart is expected to take a sufficient developmental leap. With quick feet and the ability to reach the second level, running back Saquon Barkley will benefit tremendously from his qualities, but his pass blocking is where things need to improve drastically.

Ultimately, Peart and Solder offer different qualities, as the traditional left tackle (only played right tackle during his rookie season back in 2011) is a more proficient blocker in the passing game, whereas Peart appears to dominate in run blocking. Depending on the Giants’ scheme, we could see a rotational approach at right tackle to start the season, and if Peart takes the jump we anticipate, he could end up starting sooner rather than later.

New York Jets offseason recap 2021: Cornerbacks

New York Jets, Bless Austin

The New York Jets opted to wait until the latter stages of the NFL Draft to address their issues at cornerback.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 campaign. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. Our focus on the defense continues by looking back on the cornerback position…

Sep 20, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws a pass during the first quarter as New York Jets cornerback Blessuan Austin (31) defends at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

Over the past two seasons…a pair of campaigns that could be informally referred to as the post-Trumaine Johnson era when it came to the cornerback depth chart…the Jets have tried to solve their cornerback issues in two different ways. First, they tried throwing veterans at the problem, but former Colts like Pierre Desir and Nate Hairston failed to resolve them. Both Desir and Hairston were part of the Jets’ autumn exodus of 2020, turning the primary corner slots over to younger talents.

To that end, the Jets have turned to the services of day three picks like Bless Austin and Bryce Hall. Austin was, for all intents and purposes, born to play metropolitan football as a Queens native and Rutgers alum. He’s been more than capable of playing an elite level, evidenced by the fact he was second in the Big Ten in pass breakups (14) during his sophomore season, though injuries have stunted his development. Over his first two NFL seasons, Austin has developed a reputation as a strong, aggressive hitter but he has struggled in coverage. Quarterbacks have tallied a 96.1 rating when targeting his receivers over his first two campaigns. Austin’s football story is one of the more inspiring in recent Jets memory, but he’s facing a make-or-break year in terms of on-field production.

Fellow projected starter Bryce Hall has a bit of a longer leash to work with. The Virginia alum was projected to be a top ten pick in 2019 by CBS Sports, but saw his stock fall after a season-ending ankle injury in his senior season. His personal plummet could work to the Jets’ benefit. Hall missed the first eight games of last season but provided a spark of hope for the future in the midst of a lost campaign by earning 36 tackles and an interception (a jaw-dropping one-handed takeaway in the Jets’ first win over the year against the Rams) over the second half of the year.

“He’s got length, he’s got a great brain and he’s got a thirst for the knowledge of the game,” new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said of Hall, per notes from the Jets. “That’s where eventually he’ll set himself apart I think because he’s just so detailed and he’s a guy that’s like got the callus on his finger from taking notes in practice.”

After the departures of Desir and Hairston, the Jets also employed the services of undrafted depth options like Javelin Guidry and Lamar Jackson. The former was particularly strong in slot coverage and could well play his way into another term with the team this summer. Former New York Giants draft pick Corey Ballentine arrived in November but made a far greater impact as a returner than a defender.

Sep 8, 2018; Evanston, IL, USA; Duke Blue Devils safety Michael Carter II (26) tackles Northwestern Wildcats running back Jeremy Larkin (28) in the first half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

How It’s Going

One would assume a defensive-minded head coach like Robert Saleh would try to bolster the cornerback group. Saleh, if anyone, would know the benefits of acquiring veteran help in the secondary from his days in the Bay Area. For example, San Francisco foe-turned-friend Richard Sherman became a valuable mentor to Emmanuel Moseley during the 49ers’ Super Bowl run in 2019.

But the Jets’ 2021 offseason, despite several bastions of hope, was doomed from the start in the sense that so many areas needed adjusting that some position group was almost guaranteed to be neglected. The cornerback slot was made to bite the proverbial bullet.

The Jets were mostly quiet on the free agency front, re-signing journeyman Bennett Jackson and adding Justin Hardee, a former New Orleans Saint better known for his efforts as a gunner than a defender. They finally addressed the cornerback spot in earnest on the final day of last spring’s NFL Draft, adding Michael Carter II in the fifth round before picking up Jason Pinnock and Brandin Echols in the sixth. Carter (no relation to his fellow New York draft pick of the same name) could immediately contribute in the nickel and slot, while Pinnock and Echols are likely long-term projects whose immediate futures lie in special teams coverage. Each rookie, however, could be pressed into action if the top veteran names falter.

New York Jets, Brian Poole
Oct 27, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; New York Jets cornerback Brian Poole (34) jogs on the field before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Are They Better Off?

The 2021 Jets’ cornerback endeavors are currently the definition of youth in revolt, as Hardee is the oldest representative at 27.

Much like the damage Le’Veon Bell left behind in the running back slot, the aftermath of the Johnson disaster possibly scared the Jets from bestowing big bucks on the free agent market. The 2021 class wasn’t exactly a game changer: the most notable names were either inked to expensive short-term deals (Kyle Fuller, one year for $9.5 million in Denver) or even pricier long options (Adoree Jackson to the Giants at $39 million over three years). None of the available names (William Jackson, Levi Wallace, and Shaq Griffin also among them) were going to push the Jets over the postseason threshold, so general manager Joe Douglas might deserve some kudos for not making a panic purchase.

Having said that, it’s surprising to see the Jets hold their ground with their current, unproven corner depth chart with veteran names like Sherman (one of Saleh’s most ardent supporters) and Brian Poole (a very serviceable green slot option over the last two seasons) lingering in free agency [EDIT, 11:55 a.m. ET: Sherman has been booked on charges of “Burglary Domestic Violence” in Seattle and has been denied bail]. It’s understandable that the Jets probably wish to ring in a new era with young, mostly homegrown talent, but that doesn’t mean that they should have to go about it alone.

Final Offseason Grade: C

Will the Jets regret waiting so long to address the cornerback slot? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation

Knicks Mock Offseason: 3 center pieces to consider via trade or free agency

knicks, myles turner

With both Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson preparing to hit free agency, the Knicks will need to prioritize acquiring a big man for the upcoming season. In fact, the team has several needs, at the 1, 3, and 5 spots.

However, the point guard market will be flush with talent, and acquiring a small forward could involve retaining Reggie Bullock or targeting options like Duncan Robinson or Kelly Oubre. The center position is a bit more conspicuous, as the better options involve trades and the free-agent market is slim-pickings.

Ideally, the Knicks can acquire a solid scoring center to complement Mitchell Robinson or even compete with him for starting minutes. While most are optimistic that Robinson can have a bounce back 2021-22 season, he has yet to take that big developmental leap we’ve expected. It is entirely possible that the injection of a top point guard will help him reach his potential, serving him lobs and finding him down low in the paint. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at a few options that could fit the bill to compete with Robinson or offer a reserve piece.

Three centers to consider this offseason to replace Nerlens Noel/Taj Gibson:

1.) Trade for Myles Turner

One of the more intriguing trade options at center is Myles Turner out of Indiana. The Knicks were connected to Indiana a few weeks ago regarding Turner, and with the presence of Domantes Sabonis, he could be on the trade block.

Turner averaged 12.6 points last season, including 6.5 total rebounds and career-high 3.4 blocks. Aside from offering double-digit points per game, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the NBA and was even offering value as a three-point shooter, hitting 33% over 4.4 attempts per game. The Knicks would likely have him refrain from shooting three-pointers, focusing on his abilities in the paint, and playing strong defensive basketball.

With Turner comes a four-year, $80 million deal he signed with the Pacers two seasons ago and is set to earn $17.5 million this upcoming year. He has two years remaining on his contract, so the Knicks would have to absorb that lofty price tag, which would undoubtedly put him in the conversation to be the starter. With Robinson in the final year of his rookie deal, the Knicks are looking to realize his potential, but having a strong front court with two above-average centers would play right into Tom Thibodeau’s style of hard-nosed ball.

2.) Sign shot-blocker Hassan Whiteside

If New York wants to settle for a cheaper option, Hassan Whiteside could be an alternative. The 7’0” center and nine-year NBA veteran averaged 8.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.3 shots blocked this past season with Sacramento. However, he is only two years removed from a 2.9 block rate per game with Portland. There’s no doubt he has a bit of value left to offer at 32 years old, and he would be a much cheaper option compared to Turner.

Whiteside signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal last season, and considering his production over 36 games, the Knicks could probably snag him at an even cheap price-point.

3.) DeMarcus Cousins

Another offensive center is DeMarcus Cousins, who spent time with Houston and Los Angeles last season, averaging 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and shot 42.6% from the field. He also posted a 35% clip from range over 3.3 attempts per game. His block rate was a dismal 0.6, indicating little defensive prowess. He signed a one-year, $335K deal with the Clippers after being released by Houston.

At 31 years old, there might be some value left to extract, but the Knicks likely don’t want to go down this route given his troubled past and inability to stick with any given team. A more suitable option would likely be Jarrett Allen of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs have the opportunity to match any offer sheet an alternative team submits, so the Knicks might be unwilling to play that game.

Do any of these options interest you or have alternative suggestions? Comment below!

Saquon Barkley represents New York Giants in PFN top 100 list

The New York Giants aren’t the most represented team on top player lists, although they have improved in that regard this year. That’s understandable since the team’s record in the past few years has been less than outstanding. The Giants have had some big individual performances go under the radar simply because the team’s record hasn’t been good enough to attract widespread attention to them.

However, one name that has come up repeatedly on these lists is Saquon Barkley. Despite not playing most of last season due to injury, Barkley has found his way onto a few top 100 lists at this point including the one from Pro Football Network.

75) Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

Saquon Barkley might be the most physically gifted football player in the world. Nobody his size should be able to move as he can. The knee injury he sustained in Week 2 of the 2020 season affected his ranking going into 2021. I wouldn’t expect the fourth-year player to be down this far on the list heading into 2022.

Barkley wasn’t as big a part of the passing attack in 2019 as he was as a rookie, but offensive coordinator Jason Garrett loves using backs in the passing game. The young runner has insane big-play ability when in space. Using him as a pass catcher allows him a bit more freedom to use the vast creativity he possesses with the ball in his hands. If the Giants OL improves in 2021 and Barkley’s vision continues to progress, he could end up as a top-three running back in the league this season.

Assessing Saquon Barkley’s ranking

The addition of Barkley on this list over other Giants players such as James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, or Leonard Williams is surprising – he’s the only Giants player on the list, and it’s undeniable that others have done more for the team recently thanks to Barkley sitting out with an injury.

However, with Barkley’s higher name value around the league than these other players, it’s also not hard to see why he’s been favored in offseason articles like these compared to other players that mainly have a reputation with the Giants rather than nationally.

We’ll find out whether the ranking is deserved or not soon enough when the Giants take the field this season. We don’t know if Barkley will be available at the start, but given his importance to the Giants rushing attack, there will certainly be quite a lot of external pressure to play the entire year and justify the faith that the franchise and others have placed in him since his entry into the league.