The New York Giants finally have Saquon Barkley back. At least, in a limited form. Barkley is finally on the field and participating in training camp after heading into it on the Active/PUP list, even if the strategy for the Giants has been to keep him from pushing himself too much too soon. Barkley had a limited workload because of that, but few will complain about that given Barkley’s long absence from any kind of full speed practice in pads.
This is, after all, one of the last steps in a recovery that started with a surgery during last season and a long rehab process that has lasted until now. After all of this, the Giants have no reason to rush Barkley into taking a larger role in training camp and potentially causing further problems.
Despite Barkley’s smaller role, however, the running back still earned praise from head coach Joe Judge after his return to the field.
“(It is) more an extension of the rehab. We’ve got to make sure that we control not only just what he does on the field, but then also the repetitions and the volume he gets within each period, so it’s something we’re going to keep an eye on and see how his body responds,” Judge told reporters.
He said that Barkley’s limits will be removed over time and that the progress so far was encouraging.
“We’ll look to increase it as we go through this process, but in terms of yesterday, I was very encouraged with how he came out and had a good day of work. Good excitement for a lot of people to have him back.”
The goal of Barkley’s progress
Barkley making a return to training camp is a big milestone in his recovery timeline – and also makes it look more likely that he’ll be ready for week 1 of the regular season.
As much as everyone would like to see Barkley on the field then, both Barkley and the team have refused to confirm week 1 as a return date.
However, we can use certain things to judge Barkley’s progress such as his return to full speed training as well as his route running and pass catching while working out away from the rest of the team earlier in training camp.
Based on these things, Barkley looks like a player that’s closer to being on the field at the start of the season.
Despite all the speculation about Barkley potentially missing the opener and maybe not even being available until week 3, it really shouldn’t be surprising at this point if Barkley ends up smashing the estimates and making it back in time thanks to his fast current rate of progress.
After the New York Yankees accomplished an eleventh inning win over the Kansas City Royals this morning in the wee hours, the Yankees went for the series win tonight at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Last night’s game was a hard-fought 11th inning win, and hoped for an earlier outcome with Nestor Cortes Jr. on the mound for the Yankees; he faced the Royals, Daniel Lynch. The Yankees lost the game 8-4 in a game that the Yankees had a season-high four errors.
DJ LeMahieu led off for the Yankees against Lynch and ground out. Giancarlo Stanton walked. Aaron Judge struck out swinging on a high ball. Joey Gallo went down, looking to end the half. At the bottom, Whit Merrifield led off for the Royals and got a centerfield single. Nicky Lopez flew out to Stanton in left. Salvator Perez homered to center to give the Royals an early two-run lead. Carlos Santana ground out to second. Andrew Benintendi doubled to left field. Emmanuel Rivera struck out looking, but the Royals went ahead by two runs. Kansas City 2 Yankees 0.
Luke Voit led off for the Yankees in the second and ground out to third. Rougie Odor struck out. Kyle Higashioka struck out swinging for a 1-2-3 inning for Lynch. At the bottom, Hunter Dozier skied out to Judge in right. Michael Taylor singled to right. Hanser Alberto flew out to center. Taylor stole second and went to third on an errant throw by Higashioka. With one on and two outs, Merrifield flew out to Davis in center to end the inning. Royals 2 Yankees 0.
Centerfielder Jonathan Davis led off the third inning by tapping back to the pitcher. A. Velaquez hit one to the centerfield wall for a double. LeMahieu flew out to center while Velaquez took third. Stanton with a chance to tie it up with one on and two outs, but Velaquez took advantage of the passed ball and scored. Stanton singled to left. Judge singled to right center, moving Stanton to second. With two on and two outs, Gallo struck out swinging, but the Yankees got on the board. At the bottom, Lopez flew out to Gallo in left. Perez flew out to Judge in right. Santana flew out to center for a 1-2-3 inning for Cortes. Royals 2 Yankees 1.
Luke Voit led off the fourth by flying out to center. Odor walked. Higashioka homered to far left (408′) for a two-run shot powering the Yankees to the lead in the game. Davis ground out. Velaquez went out swinging. At the bottom, Benintendi flew out to left. Rivera ground out. Dozier struck out looking. New York Yankees 3 Royals 2.
The top of the Yankees lineup led off the fifth inning. LeMahieu walked. Stanton flew out to right. Judge flew out to left-center. LeMahieu went to second on a passed ball. Gallo walked for two on and two outs, and that was the night for Daniel Lynch. Luke Voit faced a new pitcher Domingo Tapia and walked to load the bases for Odor, who struck out swinging, blowing a chance for the Yankees to blow the game open, leaving three on base. At the bottom, Taylor flew out to Judge in right. Alberto lined out to Davis in center. Merrifield got a two-out double to right-center that split the outfielders. Merrifield took off for third, and Higashioka airmailed one to third, scoring Merrifield for a tied game. Lopez struck out, but the game was tied. Yankees 3 Royals 3.
Kyle Higashioka led off the sixth by striking out. Davis walked. Davis took second on a wild pitch. Velaquez went down looking. LeMahieu, with one on and two outs, lined a single to right, scoring Velaquez ending the night for Tapia. Stanton faced new Royals pitcher Josh Staumont and struck out swinging. At the bottom of the seventh, Perez got his second homer of the game. Santana went down swinging. Benintendi struck out looking. Rivera lined a single to center that ended the night for Nestor Cortes Jr. Dozier faced Stephen Ridings and doubled to left, giving the Royals the lead, but Dozier was out at third. Kansas City 5 New York 4.
Judge led off the seventh inning went down looking. Gallo struck out. Voit lined out to center. At the bottom, Taylor doubled. Alberto had a sac bunt, and a throwing error by Ridings allowed Taylor to score. Merrifield lined out, but Alberto went to third, and that was the night for Ridings. Lopez faced new Yankees pitcher Joely Rodriguez, and the Royals scored on a safety squeeze. Perez singled to left. Santana ground out to short. Kansas City 7 New York 4.
Rougie Odor led off the eighth with the Yankees behind by 3 runs and went down looking. Higashioka flew out to right. Davis flew out to right for a quick inning for the Royals. At the bottom, Benintendi reached on the fourth error on the Yankees as the ball slipped through the feet of Voit. Rivera walked. Dozier flew out to right, Benintendi moved to third. Taylor walked to load the bases for Alberto had a sac fly scoring Benintendi. Merrifield line out but the Royals tacked on. Royals 8 Yankees 4.
At the top of the ninth inning, with the last licks on the line for the Yankees, Andrew Velaquez led off and flew out to left. LeMahieu flew out to right. Stanton went down swinging for the Royals win. The final score was the Kansas City Royals 8 and the New York Yankees 4. The winning pitcher was Josh Staumont, and the loser was Nestor Cortes Jr.
Tonight on the UFC‘s Ultimate Fighter on ESPN+, we saw the final semi-final matchup in the bantamweight division. Team Ortega’s Vince Murdock (12-4) was taking on Brady Hiestand (5-1) of Team Volkanovski.
Prior to this episode, Team Volkanovski’s Ricky Turcios (10-2) punched his ticket to the UFC‘s Ultimate Finale. He did so by defeating Liudvik Sholinian by decision. Hiestand was looking to make the bantamweight finale a Team Volkanovski exclusive event.
Prior to the fight on tonight’s episode, the two coaches squared off in the coaches challenge. The challenge on this season was a good ole fashion game of cornhole. Brian Ortega seemed much more confident than the UFC champion Volkanovski going into the challenge.
The winning coach was set to receive $10,000 along with $1,500 for each member of his team. Ortega was able to win the game of cornhole then he turned to UFC president Dana White and asked if he could make his winnings $12,000.
White agreed and Ortega said that he was distributing the $12,000 to the fighters of Team Volkanovski so every fighter would get $1,500. A very classy move by T-City.
UFC’s Bantamweight Finale Set
After the coaches challenge, it was time to move on to the fight. Again, the winner was going to be fighting at The Ultimate Finale with a shot to earn a contract with the UFC.
When the fight started out, Hiestand immediately moved forward with pressure. Murdock looked to strike on the outside, but Hiestand did a really good job of closing the distance.
Hiestand was able to get in deep on a double leg and he took Murdock to the ground. Once the fight was on the ground, it was all Hiestand. Hiestand passed Murdock’s guard with relative ease and eventually found himself in an extremely dominant position.
He started raining down punches and the referee called a stop to the action in the first and the UFC featherweight champion has two fighters competing at the finale. After the fight, we learned that Murdock suffered a knee injury early on in the round.
UFC Bantamweight Finale – Ricky Turcios vs Brady Hiestand
The New York Giants received a huge boost to their offense this week as superstar running back Saquon Barkley was activated off the PUP list and returned to practice. Fans are excited for Barkley to rejuvenize the Giants’ rushing attack in 2021 and give them the ability to move the ball efficiently on the ground. But Saquon’s return not only impacts the running game. His return also opens things up for Daniel Jones in the passing game.
Saquon Barkley as a receiver
Saquon Barkley is one of the best running backs in the NFL. Every time he has the ball in his hands, there is a chance he will take it to the end zone. This is true for Barkley is a rusher, and even as a receiver. In his historic rookie season, Saquon set a franchise record with 91 total receptions as a rookie. He also notched 721 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns.
The Giants have one of the NFL’s best receiving backs in Saquon Barkley. Even in his banged-up 2019 season, Barkley totaled 438 receiving yards. Through one-and-a-half games in 2020 he caught 6 passes for 60 yards.
With the improvements that the Giants made to their receiving corps this offseason, Saquon might see less volume as a receiver. But less volume could lead to greater efficiency. The ball will be spread out more to New York’s talented weapons. As the defense keys in on a receiver like Kenny Golladay, they could forget to cover Saquon out of the backfield as he rips them down the sideline on a wheel route. This same principle works inversely, too.
More one-on-one opportunities for wide receivers
If a team stacks the box to try to slow down Saquon Barkley, they leave wide receivers like Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton in one-on-one coverage. These are talented wide receivers that absolutely have the ability to win one-on-one matchups. As teams hone in on stopping Saquon, they will squeeze their defenses into tighter formations to defend against the run, allowing the Giants’ offense to spread out and attack the defense through the air. Daniel Jones will have a fun time throwing to more open wide receivers in 2021 after his previous group failed to create separation in 2020. There is no understating the impact that Saquon Barkley will have on the New York Giants offense.
The New York Mets return to face the Washington Nationals after the Mets’ ugliest series of the season. They were swept by the Philadelphia Phillies and dropped all the way down to third place in the NL East. Their path to redemption starts at 7:10 p.m. ET from Citi Field.
The Mets’ offense barely existed, and they scored in just three of 27 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. While the Mets tried to “smile through the pain,” it is clear that this offensive slide is affecting the team’s morale. Without their steady hand of Jacob deGrom on the mound and charismatic Francisco Lindor at shortstop, no one has stepped up as a leader. Javier Baez is also unavailable for tonight’s game as he deals with a hip injury.
The Nationals have lost six of their last seven as they have fully entered rebuild mode. Without Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, and Kyle Schwarber, Juan Soto is the only star left on the roster. Soto could play tonight after dealing with a knee injury but is having another solid year. While he is not lighting up the power numbers, he is slashing .297/.427/.499 with 18 home runs and 58 runs batted in.
Carlos Carrasco makes his third start of the season and has been as good as advertised during his first two outings. In 8.1 innings, he has allowed three runs and punched out nine. During his last outing against the Miami Marlins, he only threw 62 pitches, which was four higher than his first start. Hopefully, Carrasco can get to the 75 pitch mark in tonight’s outing.
Paolo Espino gets the nod for the Nationals and comes off a six-run, five-inning outing against the Phillies. In his only outing against the Mets, he pitched five shutout innings, which has become a ritual for every pitcher these days. Overall, Espino has a 3.66 ERA in 25 outings (9 starts) this season.
This past Saturday at UFC 265 in the co-main event, Jose Aldo (30-7) took on Pedro Munhoz (19-6). Aldo was looking to pickup his second win in the bantamweight division while Pedro Munhoz was looking for the biggest win of his UFC career.
Heading into this fight, the betting odds were basically dead even. We’ve seen Pedro Munhoz perform at a high level in the bantamweight division for a while now. Munhoz held wins over the likes of Jimmie Rivera and former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt.
While Aldo is a legend of the UFC, he’s still relatively unproven at bantamweight. The former featherweight champion was 1-2 in three fights leading into UFC 265. Granted, he should be 2-1, but he was robbed against Marlon Moraes.
This fight with Munhoz was going to tell us a lot about the former champion and the fight did just that. Aldo put on one of the best performances he’s had in a long time at UFC 265.
For all three rounds, his lightening fast combinations proved to be too much for Munhoz. Munhoz had success here and there, but for the most part, Saturday night was all about The King of Rio.
What’s next after UFC 265?
After the fight was over, there was one name that Aldo had in mind. Aldo wanted a shot against former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw (17-4). He wanted the two of them to fight in a title eliminator.
While that doesn’t sound like a bad idea, it won’t be able to happen. Dillashaw tore some ligaments in his knee during his win over Cory Sandhagen a couple of weeks ago. Dillashaw is sidelined three months and when he returns, he’s getting a UFC title shot.
With that, Aldo will have to look at a different opponent. To me, there are two names that make a lot of sense. Rob Font (19-4) is one of the names that stands out. Font has won four fights in a row to put himself right into the title picture.
He’s known for his sensational boxing and a matchup between him and Aldo would be must-see. Another option for Aldo could be a fight with Dominick Cruz (23-3). At one point, Cruz vs Aldo was considered to be a UFC superfight.
However, both are in much different spots in their careers now. Aldo is near the top of the division at 135 and Cruz is making his way back up the latter. Perhaps the UFC decides to have these legends fight it out for a shot at a title eliminator next.
It’s been four years since Monta Ellis stepped on an NBA court.
The Indiana Pacers still owe him $2.25 million this coming season, the last of the stretch provision they applied when they waived him and his $11.2 million salary in 2017.
“I believe I still have a lot in my tank. I can still play five years,” Ellis told Empire Sports Media on a zoom call.
Ellis was under the heat in a soccer field somewhere in Dallas, Texas, the entire zoom call. He was at the sidelines cheering for his kid in a soccer game last weekend.
Not long ago, his weekend schedule is focused on him — either practicing with his team or playing in an NBA city.
These days, it’s no longer about himself. Away from the spotlight and the dizzying NBA lifestyle, Ellis has grown as a man, a husband, a father, and a coach. But deep inside, he still yearns to be in the middle of the action watching how the NBA spacing could cater to his uptempo game.
At his prime, Ellis was a wrecking ball who blitzed his opponents with blazing speed and athleticism. A former McDonald’s All-American, he entered the NBA straight from high school as the 40th pick in 2005. He spent his first six and a half years with the Golden State Warriors improving each year. Soon after, the 2007 Most Improved Player became their franchise player. He was until he got traded to the Milwaukee Bucks at the trade deadline in the 2012-13 season to make way for rising shooting star Stephen Curry.
That broke his heart, and he lost himself in the process.
Ellis still led the Bucks to a playoff appearance — his first since 2007 — but got swept in the first round. He went to Dallas, where he found a home and became the first player other than Dirk Nowitzki to lead the team in scoring during his time there. He was instrumental in the Mavericks’ two playoff runs, averaging 26.0 points in a first-round loss to James Harden and the Houston Rockets in 2015. But ultimately, Ellis left the Mavericks for financial security after not picking up his $8.7 million player option.
Larry Bird and Frank Vogel convinced Ellis to sign a four-year, $44 million contract despite Sacramento Kings offering four million more. The Pacers sold him the vision of becoming Paul George’s running mate.
“For him to get one last really big deal, to me, was a no-brainer,” Dirk Nowitzki said when he left. “I would’ve liked to kept him [in Dallas], but you know how it is in this league. Once people hit free agency, it’s tough to call.”
It proved to be Ellis’ undoing as his career started to go downhill. And when the Pacers traded away George and started a rebuild, the writings were on the wall.
Ellis tried to work out a buyout with Pacers. But when they couldn’t agree, the Pacers waived him.
“The 2017 Monta Ellis had a lot of things going on mentally that started to affect me physically. That’s one of the reasons why I walked away from the game. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play the game anymore,” Ellis told Empire Sports Media.
“It’s just felt like that my mental health was way more important. I felt like my family and kids needed me more. There’s a lot of things that affected me off the court. I haven’t had a father in my life and I have to balance fatherhood with my NBA professional life. It was challenging.”
Ellis took care of his battle off the court because he felt that held him back on the court.
“So, my family was the most important to me. I had to get my household, my family in order and get my mind back. So once my mind got back, I started lifting and running and my body started to feel good. I was able to release that mental pressure and really get back and re-focused,” Ellis said.
“So, the 2017 Monta Ellis, he was balancing a lot of things. I didn’t feel like it was healthy for me and for the team as well. If they couldn’t get into the Monta Ellis flow, I had to get away from it. I did that and it was a good decision because I’m in a better mindset. My wife and kids, they were happy to get to see me more, be around more. That was the blessing.”
It was indeed a blessing. But it was also a curse.
When Ellis felt he’s ready for an NBA comeback, the league has moved on from him.
But he’s not yet losing hope. Ellis is determined to find his way back to the NBA as he did with his life.
These days, he keeps himself in shape by working out four days a week, coaching his kids and other kids in his AAU program, Ellis Elite. He still trains with an NBA trainer while waiting for the right opportunity.
“We’ve been training four days a week. We take Fridays off. He works out in Michael Johnson Performance – the top athlete’s performance institution here in Dallas. So he does that two-hour workout every Monday, Wednesday Friday, the whole four years he was out of the league. You could check Michael Johnson’s record,” long-time NBA trainer Djamel Jackson told Empire Sports Media.
Jackson, who has trained Mo Williams, Julius Randle, Draymond Green, Jeremy Lin, Emmanuel Mudiay, Isiah Austin, Rashad Butler, Terrance Ferguson, Malik Newman, saw up close how Ellis had grown a lot as a person during his NBA hiatus.
“I have been working with kids all my life. There’s certain patience that you develop, you become compassionate. Once you get a little older, some of the things that you love or you walked away from, you kinda appreciate a little bit more. He got young kids. He got young sons that are really good basketball players. Being able to watch their pops in the league a couple of more years will help lift them up. He definitely has grown as a friend, as a father, as a player. Once you get a little older, you kinda get to mature,” Jackson said.
Derrius Nelson, a FIBA-certified agent and an NBA scout from Serbia-based DaggerBasket Agency, is now Ellis current business manager. They have spent many nights talking about what-ifs and mapping out a way back to the league. Nelson got Ellis a $2 million offer to play in China, but Ellis turned it down because he wanted to be with his family during the pandemic and stay closer to the NBA.
Ellis acknowledged the mistakes of his youth, and he had made amends. He’s been working hard for that elusive second chance.
“I’ve been trying for a couple of years. I just got nobody take a chance on me, bringing me for the training camp to show what I can still do. The way how I walked away from it kind of hinder that a little bit because they didn’t know the mindset I was in, the things that were going on,” Ellis said. “But it is what it is. If I have an opportunity to do it, it is what it is. If I don’t, I’ll still be a husband and a father and I have an AAU program. I’m good either way. But to come back, to be able challenge myself and do the thing that I haven’t done in a while, that will be a big challenge that I am willing to accept if it comes.”
While the NBA is getting younger, the league’s older guys and Ellis’ contemporaries are still killing it and milking money. Kyle Lowry, 35, just signed a new $90 million deal with the Miami Heat. The Phoenix Suns locked up Chris Paul, 36, to a whopping four-year, $120 million. And then there are minimum veterans like Carmelo Anthony, now set to chase a ring with his old buddy LeBron James.
Ellis wants to come back for the challenge, not the money, at this point in his life. After all, he’s earned more than $100 million throughout his career.
“I don’t play the game of basketball for the money. Like, it’s good to get the money. I wanted to make a better life for my family and the NBA allowed me to do that. My focus is, my thing is just do what I can do, control what I can control and put everything in God’s hands,” Ellis said.
All Ellis wanted is an opportunity to show that he still has it and can help a team win.
“My main thing is, just bring me in and give me a look. Like you could make the decision on me. I just want a shot. I ain’t asking for a contract to get $5 million, $10 million, or even $1 million. All I’m asking is give me a look. That’s all and let my game speak for itself. I just want an opportunity, a workout, and that’s not the end of the world, that’s not gonna hurt anybody,” Ellis said.
Ellis built a reputation as a shotmaker and playmaker. Though he was knocked for his defense, the numbers and some eye tests suggest otherwise.
Ellis knows his days as a go-to guy are over. He’s willing to accept whatever role a team has for him to win.
“That’s a team decision if that was to happen. Whatever role that was. Whatever the coach asks me to do. I can’t control that situation. Being at the age that I am, I haven’t played in a while so being the time I was away from the game, I can’t come in and play the role that I want. It’s all about the team giving me an opportunity and what’s the best fit for them. And I gotta play that role the best way possible,” Ellis said.
Ellis played with pace in the NBA. But there wasn’t so much space during his prime. While his athleticism has started to fade with age, his wisdom grew with experience.
“It’s still basketball. It’s all about defending and putting the ball on the hoop and making plays for others,” Ellis said. “The NBA is very, very young now. So, it’s more athletic, faster, and I have always played a fast game.”
Ellis was just a 31 percent three-point shooter throughout his career, but he will not be jacking up shots as he used to be. His ideal role in a potential NBA return is to break down the second unit’s defenses to score or make plays for his teammates in sporadic minutes. But Jackson revealed how Ellis has worked on his shot not just to prepare for a potential NBA comeback.
“That’s the one that has definitely gotten better. As he aged, he’s gotten better. And he’s working with kids. So, when you’re teaching kids how to shoot, it matters that you learn how to shoot better. It could go around the low 40s, and you know, with the spacing, the new rules, and his knowledge of the game, as you get older, you get better,” Jackson said.
“The NBA tells us, the system tells us that as you get older, you get better and smarter because you know how to beat younger guys.”
Jackson believes playoff teams could use someone like Ellis on their bench to provide leadership and scoring.
“Any team right now — the league is now so young — the (Los Angeles) Lakers or Brooklyn (Nets) but aside from those teams, every team needs some veteran help. Every team I think needs at least 4-5 veterans. The league is just too young right now,” Jackson said.
The Lakers have been stacking up on veterans. The Nets could pair him with Patty Mills in their backcourt off the bench. A Mavericks homecoming could also be a perfect marriage with him as another shotmaker and playmaker to come off the bench when Luka Doncic takes a breather. The Portland Trail Blazers, who are at a crossroads with Damian Lillard’s future hanging in the balance, could use Ellis as a scoring punch and a veteran leader off the bench.
“That would be a role that I am willing to accept. I could do a lot within that role to help a playoff team. I still got a lot of gas in my tank. My body is healthy. My mind is focused. I could definitely help a playoff team with the skills and the knowledge of the game I have right now,” Ellis said.
It’s been four years since Ellis last played an NBA game. A lot has happened since. But the most important thing is he found himself again and the joy of playing basketball. He found his way back to his life. Now, he wants to find a way back to the NBA.
The New York Mets have dropped four straight games and have a 9-15 record in the second half. That’s usually associated with a last place team, not one fighting to make the playoffs. Frustration is building up in Queens, and fans are already worried about missing the postseason yet another time.
The Mets’ collapse, however, is not threatening manager Luis Rojas’ job, at least not yet. According to New York Post’s Joel Sherman, sources close to owner Steve Cohen told him that firing Rojas is not an option right now.
After the recent skid, the Mets are 56-55. What was once a five-game lead in the NL East has turned into a fall to third place, 2.5 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies and half a game behind the Atlanta Braves.
The source close to the Mets’ owner said that Cohen “is not holding the manager responsible for the poor play.”
The Mets owner doesn’t want to overreact
Per Sherman, “Cohen believes this is a different time with a different type of player makeup than when George Steinbrenner used to fire Yankees managers regularly in bad periods for the club and/or to try to jolt players into better play,” the source said.
It’s also fair to point out that the Mets have suffered lots of injuries, perhaps more than any other team in the league. They are currently playing without their best position player, Francisco Lindor, and their best pitcher, Jacob deGrom, just to name a couple of examples.
Players such as Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Carlos Carrasco, Jose Peraza, Luis Guillorme, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, Dellin Betances, and Robert Gsellman have all missed major playing time due to injuries, and another top starter, Noah Syndergaard, is yet to return.
The Mets are still relatively close in the NL East race, he reportedly doesn’t want to overreact, because, per Sherman, there remains a third of the season for the Mets to right themselves and win the division, the source said.
Granted one of the New York Jets’ primary cornerback roles, Austin promised to live up to the great expectations placed upon him.
If you tried to turn Bless Austin’s football career into a movie, a Hollywood studio would probably reject. Not only is Austin’s NFL journey in its infantile stages, but the screenplay could be criticized for being too on the nose.
Fortunately, Austin has been watching his fair share of film as is.
Speaking after the Jets’ training camp activities on Monday, Austin is penciled in as one of the Jets’ primary cornerbacks as their preseason opener looms this weekend. As Austin prepares for extended duties, he’s taken in head coach Robert Saleh’s San Francisco filmography, with 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley serving as his muse. Austin also admitted to taking a look at Saleh’s former division rival Jalen Ramsey out in Los Angeles.
It’s part of a personal goal of Austin’s that is anything but modest: to become one of the NFL’s best defenders.
“I think I’m the real deal. (There’s) no secret in that,” Austin said in a report from Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press. “Of course, I make mistakes, but there’s also a lot of plays I’ve made on that field that other corners in this league aren’t making.”
Born in Queens and starring at Campus Magnet in Cambria Heights (formerly known as Andrew Jackson High School), Austin stayed in the tri-state area, moving on to Rutgers during some of their earliest days in the Big Ten. He immediately made an impact with 14 pass breakups in his sophomore season but injuries ate away at his latter two seasons.
Austin nonetheless found redemption from a familiar source: a New Jersey-based club with New York branding.
The Jets chose Austin with their final pick of the 2019 draft (196th overall) after partaking in only five games in his last pair of collegiate campaigns. Entering his third professional season, Austin is now an elder statesman in Gang Green’s secondary: he’s the longest-tenured Jet in the team’s cornerback room and might be the most experienced at the position overall: special teams ace Justin Hardee is the only listed such defender who has been in the league longer.
Through his first two NFL season, Austin has developed a reputation as a physical defender, but his coverage needs work. A brutal coverage grade of 47.4, bestowed by Pro Football Focus, ranked 112th among 136 qualified cornerbacks. PFF has refused to let up, calling the Austin-headlined New York cornerback group one of the weakest units in the league back in April.
The cornerback, however, won’t hear of it. He’s not only confident in his own abilities but he also spoke glowingly of his new co-worker in the secondary.
Austin is set to work next to Bryce Hall, another day three choice with something to prove. The Virginia alum was projected to be a first-round pick after his junior season but a devastating ankle injury relegated him to the fifth round of the 2020 draft, where the Jets scooped him up. Hall showed promise over eight NFL contests after the Jets’ in-season fire sale purged several veteran corners, even earning his first professional interception in the team’s first win of the season over the Rams.
Austin unveiled a dire warning to those disregarding he and Hall simply because of their star-crossed collegiate careers: do so at your own risk. That notice might extend to the Jets’ front office, which has rarely used the calendar as an excuse for inaction on the free agent front.
“The front office and the coaching staff does a great job of communicating to us where their head is at,” Austin said, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “A lot of people forget me and Bryce were highly rated dudes coming out of college. We just fell short to injury. There’s a reason why they didn’t bring a veteran cornerback in here. Not to knock any out there, but they see something in us.”
“I don’t pay attention to outside noise. I’m between the white lines and I know what I’m about. Other people in the league know what I’m about as well.”
The Jets’ revamped receivers, headlined by the arrivals of Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Keelan Cole, have given Austin a formidable challenge as he enters a year that could well determine the course of the rest of NFL career. It’s a challenge where he can’t “go through the motions and think I’m gonna have a successful day”, according to DJ Bien-Aime II of the New York Daily News.
But, true to the warning he bestowed to the Jets’ front office and the lingers free agent market, Austin is apparently impressing the right people as game day approaches.
“He’s got a dog’s mentality, from a football sense,” Saleh himself said of Austin’s summer endeavors, per notes from the Jets. “He is absolutely fearless, he’s very strong at the line of scrimmage, at least from the time I’ve gotten here, doesn’t look like he’s really bothered by the play before, he can move on. It’s just those attributes, the length, the strength, he’s fast enough, it’s just a matter of working the technique and understanding where you work in the defense. He’s shown everything that we want, it’s just a matter of trying to get better and see what he looks like once we get with other opponents.”
“Bless (is) long, strong, aggressive, tough,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich added in those same quotes. “He’ll challenge you. He wants to play at the line of scrimmage, he wants to get his hands on you, he wants to disrupt. He’s a proven tackler, he’s tough, he’ll show up in the run game to support.”
The Jets open the preseason on Saturday night against the New York Giants in a battle for MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC).
The New York Yankees currently have 15 players on the injured list, with starting infielders Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres joining them this week. With the majority of their ailing players being pitchers, losing position players is never an ideal reality.
Both Urshela and Torres could miss upwards of a week, as Gio is nursing a hamstring injury, and Gleyber picked up a thumb strain sliding into second-base over the weekend.
Unfortunately, the Yankees’ starting third baseman suffered a setback, which will force him to wait another week at least until a potential return.
“He felt a little something toward the end of his groundballs. He’s back in New York. I don’t anticipate him being with us this week,” Boone said.
“I don’t think it’s that serious,” Boone said. “But he was in line to probably join us and be back in the lineup on Wednesday. That’s not going to happen now. I don’t know how he’s doing today yet. I don’t know how his day went today. So whether that pushes it back later in the week or later next week, I don’t have a timeline on that yet. But i don’t think it’s back where he started.”
Clearly, the team is being extra careful with Gio, as they’ve injected Tyler Wade and Rougden Odor at the hot-corner to supplement his loss.
As for Torres, the team doesn’t expect him back for at least another 10-20 days, which Boone regarded as a positive development.
“He’s feeling better,’’ Boone said. “We were kind of expecting the worst and probably got some pretty good news.”
Losing two starting infielders who play significant offensive roles is never ideal, but the Yankees have luckily managed to squeak out wins in the meantime. A series against the Kansas City Royals certainly gives them a bit of cushion.
However, Kansas City gave New York a run for their money on Monday evening, carrying the game to 11 innings with four lead changes. The bullpen struggled to maintain leads during the bottom portion of the game, giving up five runs after Jameson Taillon blanked the Royals over 6.0 innings.
The Yankees’ bullpen has been solid this year, so an anomaly every now and then is understandable. At the end of the day, walking out with a win is all that matters.