New York Giants: Patrick Graham takes blame for week 2 defensive problems

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

With two games gone by this season, it looks like the New York Giants are a step behind on defense compared to last season. The defense came into the season looking like one of the team’s main strengths, but was a letdown through the first two games after allowing 27 points to Denver and 30 to Washington.

While defensive coordinator Patrick Graham isn’t being criticized near as much as offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, it’s safe to say things have turned out very different so far than the original expectations that were placed on him coming into the season.

As the Giants prepare to take on the Atlanta Falcons, Graham will be the first one to acknowledge that underperformance.

Graham admitted when speaking to the media that his defenses had failed in the Washington game and in the early season, but believes that it’s too soon to write the defense off this season.

Despite the fact that only a couple of games have gone by this season, it’s clear that the Giants need big changes scheme wise if they want to perform better against the Falcons.

Graham’s defense was especially criticized in week 2 for playing too soft, and allowing backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke to build confidence by getting completions against a defense that was focused on deep coverage.

Considering how Heinicke was able to throw for 336 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants, it seems like there’s some merit to those complaints. While James Bradberry did get a crucial interception that gave the offense a chance to seize the win, most of the success the Giants had in that game was in spite of the defense and not because of it.

While Atlanta is known around the league this season for their own defensive struggles, their offense led by Matt Ryan and featuring names such as Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts will be a large test for the Giants.

How the Giants respond to that test will very much have a large impact in the criticisms of Graham either quieting down or getting louder as the season continues.

Knicks: Randle believes Walker-Fournier addition makes them more versatile

The New York Knicks have supercharged their offense with the acquisition of four-time All-Star Kemba Walker and Frenchman gunner Evan Fournier.

Walker and Fournier are essentially replacing the ineffective Elfrid Payton and the Knicks’ top perimeter defender but limited offensive player Reggie Bullock.

Payton has since hooked up with the Phoenix Suns while Bullock jettisoned to the Dallas Mavericks.

In theory, the Walker-Fournier tandem that played beautiful music together, albeit briefly, in Boston, is bringing more offensive punch that was sorely lacking when they fell to the Atlanta Hawks, 4-1, in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Walker and Fournier had a combined average of 36.4 points and close to 10 assists last season, a huge upgrade compared to the 21 points and close to five assists that the Payton-Bullock provided in the previous season.

When healthy, Walker is one of the better point guards in the league. A maestro in pick-and-roll who packs a deadly pull-up game and a decent outside shot (36-percent three-point shooter in his career), Walker will command the respect of the defense, which Payton never had last season.

Meanwhile, Fournier is a more dynamic playmaker and shot-creator in the wings that the catch-and-shoot specialist Bullock will never become.

Their addition is expected to lessen the offensive burden on Knicks’ All-NBA second team forward Julius Randle, who was shackled in the playoffs.

“It means a lot. Those guys are, obviously, very versatile players. They can do a lot of different things on the court. They can really shoot the ball. I’m excited about that. I think they are gonna make us more talented,” Randle said in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated

While the Knicks have addressed their glaring weakness on offense which was exposed in the playoffs, the perception around the league is that the Knicks’ top-four defense (107.8 defensive rating) would take a hit.

Payton ranked fourth among point guards in ESPN’s defensive real-plus minus with 2.5 DRPM (DRPM is the player’s estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance, measured in points allowed per 100 defensive possessions). Walker was ranked 30th with -0.30 DRPM.

Bullock was the second-best among all small forwards with 3.74 DRPM behind Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Harris (4.00 DRPM). Fournier ranked 26th among shooting guards with 0.16 DRPM, with RJ Barrett at third with 3.00 DRPM. Barrett is expected to slide to small forward and replace Bullock as the Knicks’ top perimeter defender.

“With Reggie, Elfrid, and all those guys, what they brought to our team was tremendous,” Randle said. So, obviously, [Walker and Fournier] gonna add a lot of offensively for us. But for us, as a team, our main thing has to be the main thing. And that is we come in every night and play with tremendous energy and defend. So as long as we do that, we’ll be fine.”

There is no doubt that the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau, will not let their vaunted defense dip. Collectively, the Knicks are still one of the best defensive teams on paper with the re-signing of Nerlens Noel and the return of Mitchell Robinson from injury.

With more shooting and talent around him this time, Randle worked on his rim attacking and off the bounce game this summer with his trainer Tyler Relph as he expects less double team.

“I think we’ll see great improvement so we just have to make sure that we’re coming in locked in and play defense, get stops because the rest of the league doesn’t like doing that. Offensively, honestly, that’s really the easy part,” Randle said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC 266 Preview: Marlon Moraes – Merab Dvalishvili

Saturday night in the featured prelim at UFC 266, we will see an incredible matchup in the bantamweight division. Former title challenger and top contender Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) will try to get back on track as he takes on the surging Merab Dvalishvili (13-4).

Just a couple of years ago, Marlon Moraes was looked at as potentially the best bantamweight in the UFC. After submitting Raphael Assuncao in the first round at a Fight Night in 2019, Moraes got a title shot against Henry Cejudo.

After starting well in that fight, Moraes faded badly and it’s been all downhill sense. Cejudo would finish him and then Moraes would go 1-2 in his next three after with the one win being a very questionable decision. In the eyes of the public, Moraes has lost four straight.

While his career has gone down, Merab Dvalishvili’s career has surged. After losing his first two fights in the UFC, Dvalishvili has really taken off. The bantamweight from Georgia has won six fights in a row including wins over Casey Kenney, John Dodson, and Cody Stamann.

UFC 266 Prediction

It is truly crazy how quick the narrative change change when it comes the UFC. If this fight was two years ago, I would’ve laughed at anyone saying that Dvalishvili would defeat Marlon Moraes.

Now, I’m almost finding myself on the complete opposite side. I really don’t know what to expect from Moraes right now. When he’s at his best, he’s fantastic. Incredible striking technique with good power in his hands and feet.

He also has very good grappling. Dvalishvili is going to bring a ton of energy into this fight and he won’t stop moving forward. I’m expecting a lot of takedown attempts from Merab in this fight.

Ultimately, I think the energy level of Dvalishvili is going to be the key at UFC 266. We’ve seen Moraes break a number of times and I think Dvalishvili’s suffocating style doesn’t match well with him. I think you’re going to see Dvalishvili take a big step forward on Saturday.

Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili by Unanimous Decision

UFC 266 Preview: Dan Hooker – Nasrat Haqparast

Tomorrow night on the prelims at UFC 266 we are going to see a banger of a matchup in the lightweight division. Entertaining lightweight contenders Dan Hooker (20-10) and Nasrat Haqparast (13-3) will battle it out in one of the featured prelims at UFC 266.

This is a fight that almost didn’t happen this week as both men had visa issues getting into the US. Hooker struggled to get in from New Zealand given the extremely limitations due to covid restrictions. Haqparast struggled to get back into the US after visiting Germany for his mother’s funeral.

That said, both men were able to make it and their fight will go on at UFC 266. This is a huge fight for Haqparast who will be looking for his third straight win. After losing his UFC debut back in 2017, Haqparast has gone 5-1 in his last six fights.

A win tomorrow night would be massive for his career. However, it won’t be easy as he’s taking on one of the best in Dan Hooker. Hooker is looking to get back on track after back-to-back losses.

That said, those losses came against two of the best in the UFC in Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier. Hooker is without question one of the better lightweights in the promotion and tomorrow is about getting back on the winning path.

UFC 266 Prediction

I think this fight is going to be sensational tomorrow night. I think you’re going to see two guys go out there and throw down on the feet. I was incredibly impressed with the boxing that I’ve seen from Haqparast in his recent fights.

His hand speed and accuracy would play well tomorrow at UFC 266. That said, Dan Hooker is a sniper on the outside and he has a much wider range of weapons in terms of his striking arsenal.

I’m really looking for him to use kicks tomorrow and potentially knees as Haqparast tries to close the distance. I think that Haqparast will make it interesting, but a big shot in round two will get The Hangman the win at UFC 266.

Prediction: Dan Hooker by TKO – Round 2

Foco to release New York Rangers’ Adam Fox Norris Trophy bobblehead

New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox will be the focus of the next bobblehead to be released by sports memorabilia company Foco.

Foco has announced they will be releasing its next bobblehead, one which every New York Rangers fan will definitely want to get their hands on.

The sports memorabilia’s next bobblehead will be of the 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox. The New York Rangers defenseman won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman when the league awards were announced during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Fox won the Norris Trophy in only his second NHL season. He is just the second NHL defenseman to win the trophy in his second year. The 23-year-old played in 55 games last season registering 42 assists with 47 points.

The eight-inch bobblehead, limited to 221 pieces, has Fox in his home white uniform. He is standing on a black platform with gold trim, a New York Rangers logo is on the front with the words “2020 Norris Trophy Winner Adam Fox” written under it. To the right of him is the Norris Trophy and to his left is his number 23 in gold.

The bobblehead will be available to purchase on September 23 at 12 p.m. Their website can be found at www.Foco.com

Fans can also follow Foco on their Twitter account @Focousa

 

Francisco Lindor believes Mets can re-sign Javier Baez this offseason

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The 73-79 New York Mets are essentially out of the playoffs race at this point, which is a shame considering they led the NL East division for much of the first half and actually a sizable portion of the second. That’s not, however, Javier Baez’s fault.

While he wasn’t perhaps the best fit for the Mets, they acquired Baez in a deadline deal with the Chicago Cubs. His tenure in New York didn’t start particularly well, and there was a spat with fans over the constant booing towards players at one point, but there is no denying that the dynamic shortstop has made a positive impact in Queens.

In 39 games and 147 plate appearances, Baez is hitting .307/.383/.555 with a .938 OPS with the Mets. He also has nine homers and five stolen bases over that span, with 19 RBI and 29 runs scored.

The Mets could be able to afford Baez, according to Lindor

Seeing how he can produce in the Big Apple, Mets’ superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is friends with Baez, believes that the team can re-sign his fellow countryman in the offseason to a long-term deal.

“I know Javy does fit in, in what we’re trying to accomplish here. He’s a winner, he’s plays the game as hard as he can day in and day out. He gives it his best, and he’s my boy too. That helps. At the end of the day, I know what he’s capable of doing, we’ve all seen it. His approach has been outstanding, and he’s definitely helped us win a couple more games in September for sure,” Lindor told SNY on Wednesday.

Baez has been on a tear since returning from the injured list on August 22, hitting .343 (34-for-99) with 23 runs, seven doubles, seven dingers, 15 RBI, nine walks, a .420 OBP, a .626 SLG and a 1.046 OPS.

Media members asked Lindor if he thought Mets’ owner Steve Cohen could afford pairing the two infielders together for the long term.

“Yeah, yeah, of course, of course,” Lindor said, smiling.

It’s believed that Baez could command between $125 million and $200 million in free agency.

The New York Yankees nine games will decide their season, if they fail who should go? Poll results

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone, Brian Cashman

The New York Yankees have a day off today to reflect on their whole season and what lies ahead of them. The Yankees rose to the occasion this week and, with great urgency, swept the Texas Rangers, keeping them in the running for a wildcard berth. But what lies ahead is far more daunting and will decide the whole season. After the sweep, the Yankees now hold the second wild-card berth.

In the final nine games of the regular season, the Yankees will face the most challenging situation they have faced all season long. They will only face teams that are statistically better playing teams. Starting tomorrow, they hit the road to face the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. It doesn’t get easier after that when they play the Blue Jays at Rogers Center in Toronto.

Finally, the last three games of the season will be played back at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The problem with this schedule is that the Yankees have not prevailed over these teams all season long and now must be able to do that if they have any hope of a 28th World Championship.

This season the Yankees have won 6 of 16 games against the Toronto Blue Jays. They have won only 7 of 16 against the Red Sox. They have won 7 of 16 against the Tampa Bay Rays. All three of these teams do not have the challenging last nine games that the Yankees have, making it even more difficult to succeed.

There are many things the Yankees can’t control. For instance, all three opposing teams could go on a nine-game losing streak, which is unlikely. However, the one thing the Yankees can control is how they play over the next nine games. If the Yankees win more games, then they lose the whole season could come down to the last three games at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will be playing the Rays; the Red Sox will be playing the Blue Jays. The Yankees will also have to scoreboard watch the Oakland Athletics that are just 2.5 games back in the wild card standings.

With any team being able to beat any team on any given day and the unpredictable nature of baseball, one thing is for sure. Scoreboard watching will become a new art form in the coming days. Each and every game is so important to every team in contention. It sure will be exciting and hopefully rewarding for the New York Yankees.

If the Yankees fail to reach the postseason, there will be many questions to be answered. In the words of George Steinbrenner, if the Yankees don’t win a World Series, it is a failed season. However, I am not sure Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, and Aaron Boone share that same feeling. As exhibited by manager Boone’s constant praise of the team even when not winning. Boone says he is not worried about his future with the Yankees, but with the season on the line, you can’t but wonder, tucked back in his head if he may wonder if his job is on the line.

Recently I conducted a poll of several Facebook Yankee groups, asking who should be fired if the season does not end well for the Yankees. Getting the pulse of a large group of Yankee fans was eye-opening. The choices I gave were Aaron Boone, Brian Cashman, Gary Sanchez, and Gleyber Torres. I must say the results were not unexpected.

First, a little about the poll, it is certainly unscientific and doesn’t represent the view of all Yankees fans, only of those responding to the poll. There were 1,526 responses, with some only commenting and not voting. All of the responses from the different groups were similar. However, one group really targeted Boone compared to the others, and one group really didn’t believe Sanchez should remain the Yankee catcher. One thing that was universally true was that Yankee fans are not ready to give up on Gleyber Torres.

Aaron Boone: 38% of respondents want Boone gone at the end of the season. Some mentioned his lack of ability to motivate, while others criticized him for not being his own man. Some mentioned his inability to manage the bullpen. A few offered that he can’t win in the postseason. Some said to bring back Girardi or Showalter. Two said to give Phil Nevin a chance. (third base coach)

Brian Cashman: 23% think his time should be over. Several mentioned that Hal Steinbrenner tied his hands; others complimented him on giving the team what they needed this season.

Gary Sanchez: 24% think Gary Sanchez will not carry the team into the future and should be replaced. Some sighted his passed balls and inconsistent hitting, while others praised his arm. A few said he was clueless.

Gleyber Torres: 14% think Torres has had his chance but failed. But most that commented stated that he is still young and will improve.

Marcus Thames: 1% although not on the ballot, 12 respondents added him for his lack of getting a powerful team hitting.

Other comments said all of the above. A few said none of the above. Some had a defeatist attitude and said whatever they do, it won’t make a difference.

After reviewing all of the votes and comments, it leads me to believe that the Yankees win or not need a shakeup or even a complete overhaul top to bottom. However, some suggest the Yankees need a new owner.

Yankees’ Jameson Taillon made his first rehab start after ankle injury: What’s next for him?

New York Yankees, Jameson Taillon

The New York Yankees are about to enter a crucial nine-game stretch that will virtually decide their fate this season. At the moment, they are two games behind the Boston Red Sox for the first Wild Card spot in the American League, but hold the second one with a 0.5-game advantage over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Fate is an incredible thing: the Yankees will face both teams in their next two series: first, the Red Sox at Fenway Park starting on Friday, and next week, Toronto is next, also on the road.

The Yankees will need all the help they can handle. They have actually welcomed back two pitchers this week in Luis Severino and Domingo German. Next week, two more could follow: Jameson Taillon and Jonathan Loaisiga.

Loaisiga is already throwing and could advance to bullpen sessions this week, depending on how his shoulder responds to throwing at 120 feet.

Taillon, on the other hand, had his first game action in 16 days, per NJ Advance Media. He pitched for Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, in the postseason, against fellow rehabber Noah Syndergaard, a member of the New York Mets.

What will the Yankees do with Taillon?

Taillon has been away from the Yankees since partially tearing his right ankle tendon on September 9. The starter was decent in his first rehab start, covering three innings and allowing two runs.

The right-hander threw 51 pitches, 36 of them for strikes. He will likely slot right back in the rotation whenever he is ready to return, as evidenced by his workload in last night’s outing.

Taillon finished his outing by retiring six batters in a row after four of the first six batters had hits against him. He ended up getting better as the night went on, and struck out two with a couple of walks.

The next step for the Yankees would be deciding if Taillon needs another start in the minors or if he will return to the active roster. If that’s the case, he would pitch the series opener against Toronto on Tuesday, but if they decide to hold him a bit longer, he would take the ball against Tampa in the last series of the season.

Yankees News, 9/23: Bombers make big move in Wild Card, Aaron Boone provides confidence

yankees, nyy, gary sanchez, aroldis chapman

The New York Yankees are in control of their own destiny as they fight for a Wild Card spot with the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. Currently, the Tampa Bay Rays have the AL East locked up with a six-game lead over Boston, but the Yankees have taken a slim lead in the Wild Card with just a 0.5 game advantage over Toronto. Boston has two games over New York, so that last spot in the WC is up for grabs.

Luckily for the Bombers, Toronto fell to the Rays on Wednesday night by a score of 7-1, which represents the only time the Yankees actually want one of their biggest rivals to win a game. Toronto is headed to Minnesota to take on the Twins in a four-game series before taking on New York up north.

The Yankees understand they have complete control of their future, as skipper Aaron Boone mentioned after Wednesday’s victory over the Texas Rangers.

“We’re in control of things,” manager Aaron Boone said. “And there’s some comfort in that. It’s on us, it’s right in front of us.”

“There’s some comfort in knowing we don’t have to get help from anyone else,” Boone said.

With Corey Kluber on the mound, the Yankees rallied to overcome Texas 7-3. Kluber, who is slowly getting back into shape, pitched 4.1 innings giving up eight hits and three earned runs. He currently holds a 3.82 ERA, but the bullpen also played exceptionally well, striking out four batters and not giving up a hit over the final 4.2 innings.

Offensively, the Yankees recorded nine hits, with four coming from Gio Urshela and Kyle Higashioka. However, when Gary Sanchez entered the game late over Higashioka, he launched a two-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Bombers a healthy lead. The offense was silent until the fifth inning when Higgy launched a double to deep centerfield, driving in Gio end Gleyber Torres.

You get the sense that the Yankees are forcing themselves to play at a high level, still struggling at times but posting 14 runs over the last two games. The upcoming series against Boston could be the biggest one of the year, and with the Red Sox winning seven straight games, the Yankees undoubtedly have their work cut out for them.

New York Knicks: Reacting to a proposed Karl-Anthony Towns trade

rj barrett, julius randle, new york knicks

The New York Knicks front office did exceptional work this off-season, bolstering multiple positions and providing head coach Tom Thibodeau with more player combinations to work with during the 2021-22 season.

While rumors circled this off-season regarding potential trades for players like Damian Lillard, the Knicks elected to retain some of their own free agents and sign others to replace Reggie Bullock and Elfred Payton. The team also drafted several contributors with upside, including Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride.

However, the Knicks are never left out of the rumor mill, as Stefan Bondy of New York Daily News presented the idea of trading Julius Randle and RJ Barrett for Karl-Anthony Towns.

Anthony Towns is going into his seventh year in the NBA, averaging 24.8 points during the 2020-21 season, including 10.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and shot nearly 49% from the field. He also connected on about 39% of his shots from range, averaging 6.3 attempts per game. Despite missing out on the All-Star game, having only played 50 contests last season, Towns is a bonafide superstar.

Despite his statistical woes and production, trading Randle and Barrett is simply far too much for a Knicks team that is expecting both players to take another step forward this season. Randle, who had his best campaign to date last year, averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and shot 45.6% from the field. He also connected on 41% of his three-point attempts, averaging 5.5 shots per game.

Comparing Randle and Towns’s numbers, they are quite similar, so throwing Barrett into the mix pushes the comparisons over the edge. RJ Barrett is just entering a stage where his numbers could see All-Star level production, posting 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and shooting 44% from the field last year. He also connected on 40% of his three-point shots, showcasing the ability to create for himself but also act as a spot-up shooter.

In addition, Towns recently signed a five-year, $158 million deal in 2019, earning over $30 million per season. The Knicks managed to retain Randle at less than $30 million per year, and Barrett is only set to earn $8.6 million this upcoming season.

Based on the statistical and monetary value of all three players, we can confidently say, sticking with Randle and Barrett is an easy decision, especially since we haven’t seen the best of RJ yet.

What do you think of this proposed trade? Would you consider trading Randle and Barrett for Towns? Comment below!