New York Jets sign Alijah Vera-Tucker to rookie deal

alijah vera-tucker, jets

The New York Jets have finally signed Alijah Vera-Tucker to his rookie deal, making him the first of their top-three picks to do so. It’s a four-year deal, with a fifth-year option, fully guaranteed for $15.8 million. He also has a signing bonus of $8.9 million.

Vera-Tucker is expected to be the starting guard alongside Mekhi Becton on the left side of the line from the get-go. The former USC guard has high expectations coming in as a rookie and now the contract talk can finally be pushed into the rearview mirror.

The Jets, who traded up to draft Vera-Tucker with the 14th overall pick, made acquiring him a priority in April.

“We felt we had a unique opportunity to get a top-10 player in our minds as our board was stacked,” General Manager Joe Douglas said after making the trade to move up in the draft. “To go up and get a guy like Alijah Vera-Tucker, a player that has started at tackle, has started at guard and has been highly productive at both, that versatility and that production is something we really value.”

The Jets will now move their focus to signing their other top-two picks: Zach Wilson and Elijah Moore.

New York Giants: Can Andrew Thomas have a career similar to All-Pro OT Lane Johnson?

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants spent the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on left tackle Andrew Thomas. Last offseason, the Giants made it a point of emphasis to upgrade their offensive line. They drafted Thomas in the first round, offensive tackle Matt Peart in the third round, and offensive guard Shane Lemieux in the fifth round.

Despite this, the Giants still had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. In 2020, according to ESPN, the Giants’ pass-block win rate ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. New York’s hefty investments in their offensive line did not pay off in year one.

High expectations were set for Andrew Thomas after the Giants made him a top-five draft pick last year. Unfortunately, Thomas failed to live up to those expectations for the majority of the year. But when comparing Andrew Thomas’s shaky rookie season to that of an All-Pro offensive tackle within the NFC East, there are reasons for long-term optimism.

Comparing Andrew Thomas’s rookie season to Lane Johnson

The stats on Andrew Thomas’s rookie season leave quite a lot to be desired. Thomas was drafted with the hope that he would step in and secure second-year quarterback Daniel Jones’s blindside, reducing the amount of unseen pressure that the young signal-caller would be forced to endure. However, the amount of pressure Daniel felt sky-rocketed.

In 2020, Andrew Thomas gave up 14 more pressures (57) than any left tackle in the league and also surrendered more sacks (10) than anyone at the position (PFF). This sounds terrible but does not necessarily mean Andrew Thomas will be a bust. These stats are actually quite comparable to those of Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro offensive tackle Lane Johnson’s rookie season.

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Somehow, Andrew Thomas and Lane Johnson’s rookie season statistics are identical. The only difference between the two is that Johnson played five more pass-block snaps in 2013 than Thomas did in 2020. Both of these tackles were the fourth overall pick in their respective draft classes.

Like Andrew Thomas, Lane Johnson entered the NFL with high expectations as a top-five pick. Johnson failed to meet those expectations as he struggled throughout his rookie season, just like Thomas. Lane Johnson went on to have a wildly successful NFL career that includes three Pro Bowl selections and a First-Team All-Pro selection. There is no reason to believe that Andrew Thomas, being as talented as he was coming out of Georgia, can’t have a similar career turnaround.

New York Giants: Manning brothers to headline alternate Monday Night Football broadcast

New York Giants, Eli Manning

New York Giants fans looking for more of Eli Manning, and his brother Peyton too, will get their wish courtesy of ESPN. The network has been working with both brothers for a while now after their retirements from the league, and the latest development in that is a new deal that will see the Manning brothers host an alternate megacast of Monday Night Football.

ESPN announced the news on Monday, revealing that the deal is set to last three seasons for now and that the brothers will cover 10 games per season. Aside from them, the broadcasts are also set to feature celebrity guests including current and former NFL players.

Produced by ESPN, in conjunction with Omaha Productions, the unique MegaCast option will originate from a remote location. Fans will be treated to a mix of in-the-moment analysis, big picture NFL dialogue, knee-jerk reaction, historical perspective, and more. Peyton and Eli will be joined each week by a to-be-determined host. Iconic and current athletes, as well as celebrities, are expected to appear throughout the season. Fans will never miss any of the action, as a multi-box viewing experience will ensure the game is always visible.

The format seems to be based on the mutli-box megacasts that ESPN has previously used for certain major events such as the College Football Playoff, which display multiple angles and show insights that aren’t on the main broadcast.

It’s just another thing to add to a busy year for Eli Manning. He’s already set to host one ESPN+ show as well as rejoin the Giants organization in a business role.

But considering Eli’s absence from football following his retirement, where not much in the way of news came out about him during that time period, it’s not surprising that he’s added plenty of things to his schedule after his return.

And for Giants fans that want to see more of him after his retirement, there should be no shortage of chances this year as Eli embraces a role in the media more fully.

New York Jets coach Greg Knapp in “critical condition” after bicycle accident

New York Jets

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh has put out a statement following a bicycle accident that has left Knapp hospitalized.

New York Jets assistant coach Greg Knapp is in critical condition after he was hit by a motorist in California while riding his bike on Saturday. The news was first reported by Mike Klisof KUSA’s 9News in Denver.

A report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini claims that the incident occurred near Knapp’s home in Danville and that drug or alcohol did not play a role in the incident.

The 58-year-old Knapp was named the Jets’ passing game coordinator in January, preparing to work with a quarterback room headline by second overall pick Zach Wilson. Knapp’s family has released a statement through the Jets, as has Saleh.

“Greg is an amazing father and husband whose passion for life can be felt in all his interactions with people,” the Knapp family, consisting of Knapp’s wife Charlotte and their three children, said. “He is our rock and biggest supporter, pushing us to all strive to better ourselves each day with constant love and inspiration. While many know him for his achievements as a coach, his impact as a father and husband is far greater.”

“Greg is such an amazing individual it is hard to imagine the challenge facing him and his family,” Saleh added. “Greg’s fun nature, kind disposition, and wealth of knowledge has allowed him to make genuine connections with all of our coaches, players, and staff since he has been here.”

Knapp has been involved in NFL coaching since 1997. He is perhaps best known for his endeavors with the Denver Broncos, assisting in Peyton Manning’s strongest career numbers in 2013 and winning a Super Bowl two years later. Immediately prior to his New York hire, Knapp was the Atlanta Falcons’ quarterbacks coach.

ESM send its thoughts and prayers to the Knapp family and wishes him a full recovery.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Recapping The New York Mets 2021 Draft Picks (Rounds 11-15)

Round 11 Selection: OF Rowdey Jordan (Mississippi State)

Jordan is the first outfielder the New York Mets selected in this year’s draft. He was a member of the National Championship winning team at Mississippi State and had a terrific season. Jordan batted .323 with ten home runs and 45 runs batted in. He has good speed out of the leadoff spot and was successful in nine of ten stolen base attempts. Jordan joins J.T. Ginn, Jake Magnum, and Cole Gordon as former Bulldogs in the Mets farm system.

Round 12 Selection: OF Jack-Thomas Wold (UNLV)

Wold was the second consecutive outfielder the Mets selected, and what he lacks in height, he packs in muscle. He is just 5’10” but is 220 pounds, and it helped lead to a monster offensive season. Wold batted .429 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs over 33 games in his senior season. His 19 walks to 14 strikeouts showed his newly found ability to control the strike zone. Defensively, he only made one error on the entire season.

Round 13 Selection: OF Matt Rudick (San Diego State)

Rudick is a 5’9″, 170-pound outfielder who is known for his speed. He spent all four years of his college career at SDSU and slashed .341/.424/.859 with his career-high .410 average this past season. Rudick also 17 stolen bases, 41 RBIs, and 26 walks to just nine strikeouts. While not containing a stunning figure, Rudick’s steady improvements at the plate and great speed show the potential for a versatile outfielder in the future.

Round 14 Selection: LHP Nathan Lavender (Illinois)

Lavender is a 6’2″, 210-pound sophomore who had a solid season working both in the rotation and bullpen. Over 57 innings, he had a 4.11 ERA and 79 strikeouts while only walking 15 batters. Lavender features a fastball, slider, and changeup, and each has good movement. His fastball sits 90-92 MPH with good sink, the slider is 81-84 MPH with great horizontal movement, and his changeup is his out pitch at 82-84 mph with over a foot of break vertically and horizontally.

Round 15 Selection: SS Wyatt Young (Pepperdine)

Young is a 5’7″, 160-pound shortstop out of Hawaii and is coming off a terrific junior season. He batted .332 with 62 hits and drew a career high 22 walks. Young projects to be a utility infielder due to his versatility and probably will not add much in the power department. He could become another Luis Guillorme type of player the Mets can plug into multiple positions.

Report: Knicks’ Nerlens Noel opens up about Tom Thibodeau and upcoming free agency

nerlens noel, knicks

One of the more underrated players for the Knicks this past season was center Nerlens Noel, who was a first-round draft pick back in 2013 by the Philadelphia 76ers. Unfortunately for Noel, injuries have hindered his career to a degree but has played 60+ games over the past three consecutive seasons, proving his reliability and defensive prowess.

With Mitchell Robinson being the team’s starting center, Noel didn’t anticipate being such a focal point during the 2020 campaign — he ended up starting in 41 games after Robinson suffered fractures to his hand and foot.

The Knicks signed Noel to be one year, $5 million deal, and with non-Bird rights this off-season, they could increase his pay the $6 million for the 2021-22 season without dipping into cap space on the additional $1M increase. However, Nerlens has been connected to the Brooklyn Nets, who might be an attractive destination for him as he looks to join a club ready to win a championship next season.

In an interview with Hoopshype’s Michael Scotto, Nerlens Noel detailed his approach toward free agency and time with the Knicks:

It was great playing for coach Thibodeau. He’s an overall great person to be around. He takes his work seriously. Most importantly, he holds guys accountable. On a young team like that, I was able to give my leadership to the team being a veteran. Coach Thibs was right at the top of the helm, gave all his type of experiences, his gritty type of style and attitude to the team. I think it really helped my playing style, especially defensively, to really break out and be as aggressive as I could and switch out onto screens and try to change the game on that side of the ball.

Noel was asked about his time in New York and if he considered it a “success:”

I would describe my time in New York last year as a successful and great time. I feel like they gave me an opportunity that I seized. Coming into New York, I had a chip on my shoulder. We all know what this team and organization have been through. I definitely wanted to make it a focal point to be a part of something special and grasp the opportunity that was available here. I saw some of the moves they made, and I felt like they weren’t too far off. At the right time, things came together with a guy like Julius (Randle) being a great leader for the team and guys like myself, Alec (Burks), and Reggie (Bullock), the right role players to make up a complete team. I think that’s what that was. I feel like it was a great year and a great team. 

When asked about his future as a free agent this summer, Noel seemed content with being patient with a desire to make it to the playoffs:

I’ll weigh it simply off how I can further my career and be best utilized in a system both offensively and defensively, and help that team get to the next step, and myself as well. Collectively, reaching the playoffs. My individual goal, which is more team orientated, is going deeper into the playoffs. I haven’t been to the second round yet, so I want to crack through. Whether it’s a team that has or hasn’t been to the playoffs, I just want to help the team overall with my playing style and wreaking havoc defensively and catching lobs. It’s about finding the right fit. Guard play that can help a big man excel. Small things like that I think will be an ideal fit.

 

This past year, Noel averaged 5.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and recorded a career-high 2.2 blocks per contest. Overall, he had a solid campaign at 26 years old, offering more defense, which a team like the Nets could use in the paint. Based on the direction of New York, it seemed as if they might go in a different direction, looking for a more offensive-minded big man to pair with Robinson in the interior.

Nonetheless, retaining him would be a sufficient move, simply based on the incredible blocks he displayed throughout the course of the season supplementing the loss of Mitch.

Would you be happy if the Knicks retained Robinson? Comment below! 

After another dominant win at UFC Vegas 31, what’s next for Islam Makhachev?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 31, all eyes were on Dagestan’s Islam Makhachev (20-1). Makhachev was going for his eighth consecutive win in the lightweight division, and it wasn’t going to be easy. He was taking on top fifteen ranked Thiago Moises (15-5).

Like Makhachev, Moises is looked at as one of the bright prospects in the lightweight division. Three years younger than Makhachev, Moises was looking to shock the world by derailing the Dagestani Hype Train.

However, at UFC Vegas 31, Islam Makhachev showed the world why he was so special. Thiago Moises had some bright spots here and there, but for the most part, Saturday night was all Islam Makhachev.

Even when Moises would do something well, Makhachev would immediately counter with something better. In the middle rounds, it was Moises that actually engaged in the grappling. Moises actually landed a takedown, but was immediately reversed by Makhachev.

For the most part, it was a mauling from Makhachev at UFC Vegas 31. In the fourth round, Makhachev got in deep on a takedown and put Moises on his back. Makhachev transitioned to the back and locked in a rear naked choke for the submission win.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 31?

With this win, it’s clear that Makhachev needs a step up in competition in the lightweight division. There should never be a scenario where he’s fighting guys outside of the top ten moving forward and I think the UFC realizes that.

Dan Hooker called out Makhachev for a fight in September today and that is a fight that I really like. However, I think there’s a better matchup at lightweight for Makhachev. I believe he should fight former UFC champion Rafael Dos Anjos (30-13) next.

RDA was just the backup at UFC 264 and he’s ready to go. Makhachev needs a step up and it would be perfect for him to fight a former champion. The fight would say a lot about both men. It would tell us whether or not RDA is still a title contender and it would tell us whether Islam Makhachev is ready for a title shot.

I believe we are looking at a situation where the UFC will likely have Makhachev get at least two more wins before a title shot. If he gets a win over RDA, expect the promotion to push him straight into a title eliminator with one of the top guys.

After successful return at UFC Vegas 31, what’s next for Miesha Tate?

This past Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 31, we saw the return of Miesha Tate (19-7). After nearly five years away from the octagon, Tate made her return as she took on top fifteen contender Marion Reneau (9-8-1).

Reneau was making her final UFC appearance while Tate was making her return. Both of these ladies had a lot on the line and both wanted to win more than anything else. For the former UFC and Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate, Saturday was about proving she still belonged.

Tate retired at UFC 205 just one fight removed from losing the bantamweight title. She cited a lack of passion and mental fatigue for her reasoning. Tate walked away at just 29 years old and she started her family.

Now, that competitive fire is back and Tate wants to make another run at UFC gold. Saturday night, Miesha Tate proved that she can still hang in the top fifteen. Tate used her wrestling and her pressure to have a lot of success against Reneau.

Reneau put up a very tough fight, but ultimately, it was the night of Cupcake. Tate used her signature wrestling and in the third round, she secured a takedown along the fence. After securing a dominant position, Tate rained down punches and ultimately got the TKO win at UFC Vegas 31.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 31

UFC Vegas 31 was a big first step for the former champion. It was very important for Tate to get back in the cage and get in the swing of things after so much time off. People are already pondering what will be next for the former bantamweight champion.

I’ve seen some say that the UFC should move her right up to the top to take on the likes of Irene Aldana (13-6) or even a rematch with Holly Holm (14-5). If the promotion moves her up the latter quickly, I think both of those ladies would be great matchups for Tate.

Personally, I would like to see her fight one more mid-tier ranked contender first. I’m looking at the matchup between Ketlen Viera (11-2) and Sara McMann (12-6) that is scheduled for the UFC Fight Night on August 28th.

Whoever wins that matchup would be a great fight for Tate. They’d be ranked around six or so and it would be a nice progression for Tate. If she were to win that fight, then you could put her in a potential title eliminator against the likes of Holm, Aldana, or even a Aspen Ladd.

UFC: Dan Hooker calls for September fight with Islam Makhachev

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 31, Islam Makhachev (20-1) picked up his eighth consecutive win. Makhachev completely mauled Thiago Moises and submitted him in the fourth round of their fight.

Islam Makhachev is the protégé of Khabib Nurmagomedov and he looks like he’s picking up right where the former UFC champion left off. Makhachev is turning into the boogeyman of the division and he’s had a tough time getting people to accept a fight against him.

One of the men that Makhachev has called out is Dan Hooker (20-10). Hooker is ranked just above Makhachev in the lightweight division and he’s been in there with some of the very best that the UFC has to offer.

Makhachev said that Hooker has been dodging a fight with him and that he declined the fight. Most recently, Makhachev took to Twitter to say he’s not interested in fighting Hooker now that he’s 3-3 in his last six.

Granted, his last two losses came against Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler. Hooker clapped back today and said if Makhachev wants a fight, they can make it happen with the UFC in September.

UFC 266 lightweight contest?

With COVID still a reality for the world, it makes fighting hard for New Zealand based fighters. Fighters like Hooker, Israel Adesanya, Alexander Volkanovski, and others have to abide by strict quarantine rules.

Because of that, City Kickboxing likes for the UFC to book their fighters all around the same time. UFC 266 at the end of September is being headlined by Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega.

With Volkanovski headlining, Hooker has been trying to get on the UFC 266 card. For now, the main card appears to be full. However, the UFC could always add another lightweight showcase between Hooker and Makhachev.

If not at UFC 266, I certainly wouldn’t rule out a Fight Night headliner between the two men. Makhachev might’ve sounded uninterested, but I would definitely take this fight if I was Makhachev. A win over Hooker would be massive for his progression.

A win over the surging Makhachev would put Hooker right back in the mix at the top at 155. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see these two paired against each other.

Yankees News, 7/20: Luis Severino takes huge step in recovery, the time is now for Bombers to spark run

New York Yankees, Luis Severino

The New York Yankees have been forced once again to rely on their depth as a primary focal point of their team. Luckily, it seems as if their reserve pieces are playing better than the starters, having beaten the Red Sox in two consecutive games, scoring 12 runs, and allowing just four.

With a short two-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies starting on Tuesday evening, the Yankees will then take on Boston once again over four games, which could be their opportunity to climb back into the AL East standings.

Currently, the Bombers are 7.5 games back from Boston in the East, also sitting 4.0 games back behind the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card race. There is still a chance for them to make a postseason run late in the year, but they need to be firing on all cylinders from here on out.

Luis Severino is making great progress after suffering a setback:

Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino suffered a Grade 1 groin strain a few weeks ago during a rehabilitation outing in the minors. This cost him a few extra weeks, but he’s still expected to make a return this year. Severino has only pitched 12 innings over the past two seasons and is desperately looking to make his way back to the starting team.

Luckily, over 30 pitches in a simulated game, skipper Aaron Boone indicated that Severino looked solid.

“I thought he threw the ball really well,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after Severino’s sim game. “Looks strong, healthy, which I think syncs up with everything the first go around before he hurt his leg.”

He’s still working his way back up to facing live hitting, but they are going to take his process slowly, given how many times he’s been re-injured over the past two years.

“That’ll be something that we decide if he’s at 50, 60, 70 pitches, there’s a chance he could be here at that point,” Boone explained. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves in that regard. We’ll see where we’re at three and four and five weeks from now.”

The last time the Bombers had Severino for a full season was in 2018, when he recorded a 3.39 ERA, 10.35 strikeouts per nine, and won 19 games. They desperately need that version of Luis back if they want to make a deep run this year, despite the team’s obvious struggles.