New York Giants: Daniel Jones has seemingly turned the corner

daniel jones, new york giants

The New York Giants are 1-3 coming off of their first win in Week Four. Last year, the season also started slow and much of the blame fell on the shoulders of quarterback Daniel Jones. This year, however, the tune has changed regarding New York’s starting signal-caller.

Now, fans and analysts alike are acknowledging Daniel Jones’s talent. Through the first four weeks of the 2021 season, Daniel Jones is an exponentially better quarterback than he was through the first four weeks of the 2020 season. It is early, but after this strong start to the season, Daniel Jones has fans believing that he has turned the corner.

2020 Daniel Jones vs 2021 Daniel Jones

The New York Giants finished the 2020 season 6-10 after an 0-5 start. The vibes surrounding the team were much different than they are through the first four weeks of this season. The Giants did not have to wait as long to get their first win of the year as they came away with their first victory in Week Four this season. Daniel Jones had a career game that saw him win NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

In Week Four, Daniel Jones threw for 402 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Giants topped the New Orleans Saints on the road with a thrilling 27-21 overtime victory. After this game, Giants fans seem sold. They all seem to believe that Daniel Jones is a franchise quarterback. Through four weeks of the regular season, he sure is playing like one.

Daniel Jones 2020 Stats (Weeks 1-4)

  • Yards Per Attempt: 6.0
  • TD-Int: 2-5
  • Total QBR: 45
  • Turnovers: 7

Daniel Jones 2021 Stats (Weeks 1-4)

  • Yards Per Attempt: 8.2
  • TD-Int: 4-1
  • Total QBR: 60
  • Turnovers: 2

Daniel Jones has improved in every major statistical category since last season. He is throwing the ball accurately downfield, creating big plays, and keeping the ball clean. Jones’s turnover total is down tremendously. Throughout the first two years of his career, the biggest criticism of Daniel Jones has always been his turnover issue. It seems like Daniel Jones has gotten that issue under control now.

The Giants have not come away with many wins, but they have been hanging in every game this season. Thanks to Daniel Jones, the New York Giants are competitive. If Daniel Jones continues to play at this high level, the Giants will win more games, and he truly will establish himself as a franchise quarterback.

New York Giants: Jason Garrett identifies major area of improvement for Daniel Jones

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Winning isn’t the only task for the New York Giants this season. This year also serves as an evaluation for quarterback Daniel Jones at the individual level. After two previous seasons of Jones at QB, and with a new General Manager potentially coming in this offseason, this seems like the year the Giants will make a decision about the player.

So far, Jones has offered mixed results but displayed improvement against Washington and New Orleans, against whom he delivered his best games of the season. His play so far was enough to draw several praises from offensive coordinator Jason Garrett when Garrett was asked where Jones had seen the most progress.

“You have to take care of the ball and I think he’s done that. Starting from about midseason last year, he’s done a great job taking care of the ball. He has made really good decisions, he’s played decisively,” Garrett said on Thursday about Jones.

Jones only has one fumble lost since the season opener, where he lost the ball against Denver. While he does have one interception this season, it only came on a Hail Mary before halftime in week 4.

While Jones hasn’t been perfect, and the unlucky interception could be considered karma for luckier moments earlier in the season, he has yet to throw a legitimate interception this season.

“When things aren’t there, he’s made good decisions to get rid of the ball. Two or three times in the game the other day, maybe a rusher came free, or something didn’t come up exactly like we wanted to, he used his feet, he threw the ball away, we went to the next down,” Garrett continued.

A better environment for Jones

What has caused the improvement in play from Daniel Jones? One thing that Garrett mentioned is a better environment around him compared to last season.

“As the environment gets better around him as we protect better and we get some guys outside who can make some plays for him, he’s going to continue to play better. That’s been my experience with quarterback play.”

In the case of Jones, the improvement in his environment has come in the form of new receivers and better offensive line play. The upgrade was perhaps most visible against New Orleans, when the Giants utilized Kadarius Toney more in their gameplan. Furthermore, a healthier Kenny Golladay was able to make more of an impact in the receiving game.

For the offense, a current challenge is continuing to provide the support that Jones needs. Headed into week 5, wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are dealing with hamstring injuries and could miss another game. The team saw a step up from John Ross in their absence, but it’s unclear whether the trend will continue.

But whether the Giants enter the game injured at receiver or not, it’s clear that Jones will shoulder much of the responsibility for Sunday’s result when the team takes on a division nemesis.

Knicks Injury Update: Mitchell Robinson cleared for some contact

New York Knicks, Mitchell Robinson

On Wednesday, New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau provided an encouraging update on the status of their young center, Mitchell Robinson.

More than six months since he underwent surgery to repair a broken foot, Robinson has been medically cleared to take some contact. But the Knicks remain cautious and not in a rush to bring back the 23-year old center to the active lineup.

[He’s been cleared for] Some contact but he hasn’t gone through contact [drills] in practice,” Thibodeau said after Wednesday’s practice. “So that would be the next step. You can’t go from zero to a hundred, there’s a build-up that he has to go through.”

Robinson, according to Thibodeau, looks great in practice despite being limited to non-contact drills. He didn’t provide a specific timeline for when Robinson will progress to the last hurdle of his recovery.

“He’s coming along. Again, we’re not going to rush it. But he’s making progress every day. He’s doing more and more so we just have to be patient,” Thibodeau said.

“We work our way through it and when he’s ready to go, he’ll go. But he gives us an added dimension. So he’s done a good job with all the things that he can do. He’s picking things up in practice basically doing non-contact [drills] in practice. So the next step will be the contact and then once you can get through that then he’ll be ready to go.”

The Knicks picked up an impressive win in their preseason opener against Indiana Pacers despite the continued absence of Robinson in the lineup. Nerlens Noel also did not play though Thibodeau said he was given the day off. The plan is to rest a key rotation player in each preseason game.

“[We’re] Just letting it happen organically that when someone needs a day [off], they get it,” Thibodeau said. “Our job is to make sure everyone is ready and so every day, everyone who’s here we’re working with to prepare them for when their opportunity comes, and to Jericho’s credit when he was called upon, he was ready to go. And so we expect that of everyone.”

Rookie Jericho Sims, the 58th overall pick, came through with a solid performance in 24 minutes off the bench backing up the 36-year old veteran Taj Gibson.

Sims finished with eight points, six rebounds, and two assists, outworking the tandem of Indiana’s backup bigs Goga Bitadze and rookie Isaiah Jackson, who was selected 36 picks ahead of him.

Gibson stepped up big time as a starter. He was a game-high plus-minus +22 against the Pacers’ starting frontline of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. The Brooklyn native played a vital role in the Knicks’ sizzling first half that set the tone for the 125-104 rout. He collected 14 points (on 6-of-9 shooting), six rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block in 21 minutes.

The Knicks have three more preseason games before they open their season against Boston Celtics on Oct. 20. Thibodeau did not rule out Robinson returning in one of those games.

“If he can [return], great. If he can’t, that’s fine too. When he’s ready to go, he’ll go,” Thibodeau said. “His health is the priority and so he’s been cleared [for some contact] and that part is very encouraging. And now it’s the conditioning aspect of it to prepare him to play in an NBA game.”

The addition of Sims, who is eligible to play a maximum of 50 regular-season games as one of the Knicks’ two-way players, gives the Knicks some wiggle room to wait until Robinson is a hundred percent ready.

“I’m anxious to see what we look like when Mitch comes back. Obviously, Nerlens is a terrific shot blocker and rim protector and Taj has been great insurance for us. And I thought Jericho gave us really good minutes [Tuesday] night. And he’s a young guy that is learning and he’ll get better as we go along,” Thibodeau said.

While Thibodeau is anxious for Robinson’s return, that has to take a backseat for a while as he’s preoccupied with bringing along his new backcourt of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to his system.

So far, he liked what he saw in their preseason debut.

“They fit well because they’re interchangeable and Kemba can play with and without the ball and Julius (Randle) can play with and without it. Evan can do the same. RJ (Barrett) can do the same,” Thibodeau said.

“So I think if we play with movement and we share the ball and make the right rim read and the thing I like about all those four guys are terrific downhill players. So if we get downhill then make the right rim reads then the game becomes easy for everyone. Just make quick decisions and I thought we did that.”

All starters finished in double figures, and their ball movement was crisp.

Walker commanded the pick and roll well — pulling up for mid-range jumpers when he was open and passing the ball when he got blitzed. He finished with 12 p points on 50 percent shooting and added four assists in 21 minutes.

Fournier moved without the ball and created opportunities off the dribble. The Frenchman swingman had 12 points and went 5-of-6 from the stripes.

Barrett benefited from his new backcourt’s scoring threat as he got wide open several times. He pounced on the opportunity and scored 17 points on 50 percent shooting, including 3-for-6 from the outside.

Randle still came away with a near double-double of 20 points and nine rebounds despite not dominating the ball as frequently as he did last season. He did that in three quarters. But the most significant impact of the addition of Walker and Fournier to the staring unit was on Randle’s game was the quality of shots. His efficiency improved as he hit 50 percent of his shots against the Pacers.

“So you’re also trying to get ready for a season because you only have four [preseason] games,” Thibodeau said. “You know we have two new guys that we have to get into our rotation along with Mitch combing back and so that’s going to be the priority.

“And then the development of the young guys, that’s going to come in practice and we have to make sure when the ball goes up at the start of the season we’re ready to go.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Jets QB Zach Wilson named Rookie of the Week

zach wilson, jets

Wilson’s efforts in the New York Jets’ comeback win over Tennessee earned him Pepsi’s ROTW award by a sizable margin.

Zach Wilson must be feeling downright bubbly after guiding the New York Jets to a come-from-behind victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon. He now has the award to prove it.

Wilson has been named the Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Week for Week 4 action, an award bestowed by the official soft drink of the NFL voted upon by fans. The Jets quarterback clobbered his competition with 77 percent of the vote with Green Bay cornerback Eric Stokes finishing a distant second (10 percent). Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith, and Najee Harris were also nominated.

Trailing 9-0 in the first half, the Jets (1-3) erased a two-possession deficit thanks in part to Wilson’s efforts. The second overall pick of April’s NFL Draft proceedings got off to a tough start, completing only two of his first five passes for six yards, coupling that with an interception that came when Corey Davis fell down while running a route. He would finish the contest by completing 19 of his final 29 passes for 291 yards and two scores that went to Davis and Jamison Crowder. New York took home a 27-24 overtime decision from the defending AFC South champions, earning the Jets’ first comeback victory after trailing by two possessions since December 2018.

With this honor, Wilson ends the two-week monopoly Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. had on the award. He also becomes the first quarterback from the 2021 draft class to win the award and second offensive player after Cincinnati receiver Ja’Marr Chase triumphed in Week 1.

Wilson and the Jets will return to action on Sunday morning as they head overseas to battle the Atlanta Falcons in London (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Why Knicks’ RJ Barrett is primed for a Year 3 breakout performance

new york knicks, rj barrett

One of the most exciting developments during the 2020–21 season was the growth of Knicks guard RJ Barrett. Barrett, who was in his second season in the NBA, saw increased statistics in multiple categories, including points, assists, rebounds, and field goal percentage.

Playing in 72 games and 34.9 minutes per, he averaged 17.6 points, 3.0 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and shot 44% from the field. He also connected on 40% of his three-point attempts, shooting 4.3 per game. Enjoying an 8% increase in three-point efficiency and a 13% increase in free-throw success rate, Barrett’s shooting enjoyed astronomical developments.

“I changed my shot, so I needed a little time to get used to it. Really just coming back at night and getting reps. Coach is always in here until 9 or 10 PM every day,” Barrett said via Sirius XM Radio. “So just coming in and shooting. Seeing coach, talking to coach at night. He’s always had my back, kept my confidence up.”

Before every home game last season, Barrett spent the night before working on his shot, putting up reps, and building his fundamentals. Having Thibs in the office until late benefited him, keeping his confidence high and presenting a unique opportunity to grow behind the scenes with extra effort.

This upcoming season, the Knicks have a ton of new weapons to utilize, including Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. Their main utilities will apply directly to the offense, as Fournier is capable of creating his own shots, something Reggie Bullock struggled with last season, and Walker is a massive upgrade over Elfred Payton.

The idea is that with more offensive weapons, opposing defenses won’t be able to single out a specific player like the Atlanta Hawks did to Julius Randle in the playoffs.

“I actually saw something on Twitter: RJ Barrett going into the lane this year,’’ Barrett said. “And there’s somebody else by themselves, wide open. That’s how it’s going to be this year. There’ll be attention on other people. All of us can make a play. I’m looking forward to that opportunity.’’

RJ hit it right on the head, as his teammates will be open more frequently, with attention being spread out among the starting five.

The Knicks should be loving the growth of RJ as a special offensive player:

The third-year player remains an aggressive offensive playmaker, with 64.7% of his field goals made last season were unassisted. Interestingly, from three-point range, he was able to find more efficient shooting spots rather than trying to create long-range opportunities for himself. He spaced the floor well, attacking the corner as his most lethal shooting spot. His overall points coming from three-point range rose from 23.5% in his rookie season to 29.4% last year, and I expect that number to continue rising as he develops as a shooter.

Barrett was also more efficient with the ball in his hands, turning it over on just 20.1% of his possessions compared to 24.6% in his rookie season (Turnover rate (TOV%) is calculated by multiplying 100 times the total number of turnovers, which is then divided by the team’s field goal attempts).

Ultimately, in all of the most important categories for a scorer, Barrett saw improvements, representing his potential. At 21-years-old, this could be his year to break out and prove he can be a No. 2 if not No. 1 one player alongside Julius Randle.

In the Knicks’ first pre-season game, Barrett went 7-14 from the field and 3-6 from 3-PT range, scoring 17 points. He didn’t turn the ball over once in 25 minutes of play.

Do you think that RJ Barrett has the potential to be an All-Star this upcoming season? Comment here!

Yankees: YES’ Michael Kay defends Aaron Boone and implies front office is the problem

The New York Yankees’ 6-2 loss in the Wild Card game to the Boston Red Sox is still being talked about in the city and the country. Of course, the media is not an exception, and the coverage doesn’t stop because the game signaled the end of the Yankees’ season.

Even YES Network’s Michael Kay has strong opinions about what happened on the 2021 campaign for the Yankees, a year filled with disappointments, COVID-19 outbreaks, injuries, and all kinds of obstacles.

Speaking on the Rich Eisen Show (link to NJ Advance Media articl here), Kay referred to the future of Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone. Understandably, he has been under a lot of heat recently because of some of his decisions, his bullpen management, lineup construction, and, to some, his passivity.

Will the Yankees change the manager?

Some fans feel the Yankees need a change at the managerial position. Here is what Kay thinks about that:

“Do they sacrifice Boone to the baseball fan gods to give them something? If they did that, I think it would be disingenuous. He is doing the bidding of the front office. There are scripts that are written that he of course can deviate from somewhat, but it’s essentially from up top the way this game is played by the Yankees. So, if they get rid of Boone, and that’s what Yankees fans seem to want when they call into my show, if you get Boone 2.0, what difference does it make? Boone’s a great guy, he represents the organization very well. I think if they go with something different, like a (Bruce) Bochy, or a (Mike) Scioscia, or a (Buck) Showalter, then I think that indicates a seismic change, because there’s no way any of those three guys take that job and are still allowing the front office to be as influential on their decisions. I think they want information, those guys, but they’re going to make the final decision.”

If the Yankees decide to end their working relationship with Boone (his contract is up after the season, so technically, they don’t have to fire him), it’s highly unlikely they go to an old school manager like Showalter or Scioscia.

“So I think that’s what they have to decide. It’s not Brian (Cashman) that’s going to decide it. It’s going to be Hal Steinbrenner and his family. Is it time to change? They’ve won one title in 20 years. So I’m not quite sure what’s going down because I think that Brian Cashman thinks that Aaron Boone does a great job. And for what Brian wants in a manager, Aaron is doing exactly what he’s supposed to do. So maybe the information that Aaron is getting isn’t as good. That’s something to consider.”

Holly Holm out, Aspen Ladd in against Norma Dumont at UFC Vegas 40

UFC Vegas 40’s main event is changing once again. Originally the promotion was planning on next weekend’s card being headlined by Miesha Tate and Ketlen Vieira. However, the UFC scrapped that after Tate tested positive for Covid-19.

From there, the UFC shifted the featherweight contest between Holly Holm and Norma Dumont (6-1) as the main event. However, we learned last night from Ariel Helwani that Holly Holm has injured her knee and is out of the UFC Vegas 40 main event.

Holm’s injury is not considered to be severe. The former champion is wanting to get back into the cage either at the end of this year. The UFC has already moved on from this news and they’ve found a replacement for Holm.

ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report last night that the UFC has tabbed Aspen Ladd (9-1) as the replacement for Holm. Ladd was supposed to fight last weekend at UFC Vegas 38, but her fight was cancelled after an alarming weigh-in where Ladd came in heavy.

UFC Vegas 40 New Main Event

Aspen Ladd has been considered to be one of the top female prospects in the UFC since making her debut a few years ago. Her lone loss came against former UFC champion Germaine de Randamie.

However, outside of that loss, she’s been sensational. Now, we haven’t seen Ladd compete in almost two years. She’s always struggled to make 135 pounds. That was evident last week when she tried to hit the scales.

She’s not going to have to worry about the weight which might produce the best Aspen Ladd we’ve ever seen. That said, she’s going to have a tall order in front of her next weekend.

Norma Dumont will come into UFC Vegas 40 having won back-to-back fights since losing her promotional debut. Her last win was a victory over former title challenger Felicia Spencer. If she’s able to defeat Ladd next weekend, she could perhaps only be a win away from giving Amanda Nunes a new featherweight contender.

Yankees’ third base coach explains controversial decision to send Aaron Judge home

New York Yankees, Phil Nevins

The New York Yankees were eliminated in Tuesday’s Wild Card game at the hands of their biggest rivals, the Boston Red Sox. They lost 6-2 at Fenway Park, in a game in which the Yankees’ offense went missing yet again. Gerrit Cole couldn’t complete three innings, and besides Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo, the bats couldn’t get much going.

There was a pivotal play in the sixth inning, though. With one out, Rizzo belted a solo home run that brought the score closer, 3-1. Aaron Judge got on base via infield single, and that’s when Red Sox manager Alex Cora took out Nate Eovaldi, his starter, who had been dealing.

Stanton came to the plate and hit one off the Green Monster. With Judge’s sprint speed only slightly above-average, Boston outfielders’ knowledge of their home park and how the ball bounces off the Monster, and the 114.9-mph blast, it made sense to hold Judge at third.

Yankees’ third base coach Phil Nevin waited a long time, perhaps too much, and sent him home when he was almost at third base. He was called out on a beautiful defensive play by the Red Sox that included quickness and precision from Kike Hernandez and Xander Bogaerts.

A costly mistake by the Yankees’ coach

Had Nevin held Judge, the Yankees would have had men on the corners and one out, down two runs. The outlook could have been different.

Former Yankees’ star Alex Rodriguez said on ESPN: “You don’t have to overthink that one. I’m surprised of the magnitude of that mistake [by Nevin] in this situation.”

Nevin talked to the New York Post and fought back: “The guy has never been in that situation, but thinks he has a good idea of what baseball is in that spot and he’s wrong. He’s never been in that position.”

Nevin then explained his thought process: “I know what it looks like. I know what the situation is. I know what kind of third-base coach I am. I made a play to win the game. It didn’t work out. It was a great baseball play on their side. In a big moment, it didn’t go our way. … I was in the right position, made the right read [and] had conviction in my send. But I get it. I get why people are upset and people are mad.”

Joey Gallo popped out to end the threat and the Yankees could only score again in the ninth on a Stanton’s solo homer. That was it.

CC Sabathia torches Yankees for losing in Wild Card to ‘different’ Red Sox team

New York Yankees, Yankees, CC Sabathia

The New York Yankees will be watching the postseason from their couches the rest of the way after a disappointing defeat to the Boston Red Sox in the Wild Card game.

Despite having their primary core of players and starter/ace Gerrit Cole on the mound, the Yankees really never stood a chance against Boston, who were clearly more inspired, attacking the Bombers in various different ways to throw off their game.

Not having DJ LeMahieu available and Cole struggling to finish the year certainly spelled trouble, but there is no excuse for the team to perform so poorly. In fact, after essentially turning over the majority of the roster, Boston managed to piece together another team capable of pushing deep into the playoffs. Former Yankee, CC Sabathia, had choice words for a team that didn’t even stand a chance.

“Our core lost to a team in ’18 that’s not even the same Red Sox … Mookie (Betts), Jackie Bradley, (Andrew) Benintendi … they traded all them,” Sabathia said on his R2C2 podcast. “We still have the same core. We come back to Boston four years later and lost to a completely different core … What the f— are we doing wrong?”

Sabathia asks what the Yankees are doing wrong, and I think it is fair to point to management and a consistent string of injuries throughout the year. The Yankees have been unable to avoid the injury bug the past few seasons, with LeMahieu suffering a sports hernia at the end of the season and Luke Voit hitting the 60-day injured list with a knee issue. The team never really gained back Domingo German, and Luis Severino was just starting to get into the groove of things.

Moving forward, the Yankees need a legitimate shortstop instead of pulling Gio Urshela from his third base spot. They will likely target a few options in free agency, including Corey Seager and potentially Carlos Correa. If they can add another high-quality defender with above-average offensive talents, the Yankees will be in good shape, especially since they have Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for the foreseeable future.

The team might be inclined to go hunting for another starting pitcher as well, which might require them to push past the luxury tax threshold as they seek continuity.

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge: “We didn’t complete our mission”

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

Today out of habit, I went to the New York Yankees pitching probables; nothing was there. It’s still sinking in that the Yankees 2021 baseball season is over. What seemed like a season that would last forever because it was a 162 game season, not a 60 game one, now is over too quickly. Yankee fans yearned to be the postseason, beat the Tampa Bay Rays, go on to a Championship series and win it all for our 28th World Championship now, face disappointment and a long offseason of discontent. Yet, Yankee faithful are still hopeful we can win it all next year.

If you’re a true Yankee fan, that’s what you do; you put it all behind you and yearn for baseball to start again in the spring with new hopes, dreams, and aspirations. After the loss to the Red Sox in the wild card, slugger Aaron Judge said it best: “We didn’t complete our mission.” The somber Judge said he rests a lot of that on his shoulders, examining what he could have done better and why the season didn’t go as expected. Several other players like Brett Gardner echoed the same.

Judge, for his part, is accepting too much of the blame; he and fellow slugger Giancarlo Stanton both carried this team on their shoulders for much of the season and are the only reason they got to the winner take all wild card game in the first place. But even they failed to get the Yankees into the divisional series and beyond.

Many things went wrong this past season, some from lack of player and pitching performance, yet others caused by injuries and the ugly Covid virus. How much blame to attribute to each of those situations is hard to quantify. However, we can all agree that the 2021 New York Yankees had no consistency to the season, with playing really well at times, but more than often, not playing well.

The Yankees now have until spring training to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. There will be many questions to be answered as detailed here. For true fans, the season may be over, but there will be much to discuss over the next several months, including a new MLB/MLBPA collective bargaining agreement, which surely will be a bunch of fun unless it delays the new season or there is a strike.

Meanwhile, this sportswriter will cover all the essential upcoming games in the remainder of the postseason, but folks, it isn’t fun for a lifelong New York Yankee fan. Last night was a reminder of how long and tedious baseball is when you have no team to root for. Thanks for following me this season and every season. Thanks for the compliments, and even the disagreements, I take them all to heart. It’s undoubtedly been a roller coaster ride. Worth it? Of course, I’m a Yankee fan just like you.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.