New York Giants: One stat showing Kadarius Toney’s presence in the offense

kadarius toney, giants

New York Giants rookie Kadarius Toney is having a strong opening season, but even many Giants fans might not realize that he leads all rookies in one interesting statistic.

Toney hasn’t just put up good numbers, he’s also been an all around useful weapon for the quarterback – whether that QB is Daniel Jones or Mike Glennon. In fact, Toney leads all rookies in the passer rating when targeted statistic with a score of 109.8.

In other words, Giants quarterbacks this season have just performed better when throwing the ball Toney’s way. For most of the snaps, it’s been Daniel Jones making these passes, but Glennon did receive some time in the spotlight too when Jones was out of the game against Dallas.

Toney began to pick up momentum in weeks 4 and 5, but fans are still waiting on his next breakout performance after picking up 26 and 9 yards respectively in his last two appearances.

Notably, Toney was only targeted one time in the victory over the Raiders. The lone completion resulted in a catch, but any time one of the team’s most dynamic weapons isn’t given much focus in the offense, it will raise some questions about the playcalling.

Whether the Giants’ usage of Toney during the Raiders game is questionable or not, it seems certain that the receiver will be more involved in the offense when the Giants take on Tampa Bay.

He’s one of the most efficient offensive players on the roster right now, and the Giants need all their biggest playmakers to step up against a talented opponent.

For the season as a whole, Toney so far has 352 yards but no touchdowns – something that will surely change as he gets more chances to score down the stretch this season.

Amid Knicks’ struggles, Tom Thibodeau stays positive: It’s a long season

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

A recent slide has dimmed the glow of the New York Knicks‘ 5-1 start.

Losers of three of their last four games, the Knicks’ celebrated offseason moves are now being questioned. Julius Randle, who rose to become the new King of New York last season, is getting vilified like it’s 2019 all over again. The Knicks’ reloaded starting lineup has raised more questions than answers.

For two straight games, their starters struggled to show any semblance of cohesion. After they teased with a dazzling start in Charlotte, they regressed as the game progressed.

Thibodeau, who lost his cool following their meltdown against the defending champion but shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks last Wednesday, refused to point fingers this time.

“It’s not a one-person thing,” Thibodeau said when a reporter asked what’s going on with Randle. “It’s our group. We gotta function well together as a group and so we gotta bring the best out in each other. So, everyone has the responsibility to execute, to share the ball, to be in the right spots. That’s what we have to do. When we do that, we’re very good on offense.”

Except for his yeoman’s job in Philadelphia, Randle had underperformed in the Knicks’ last three losses. In those games, Randle averaged only 15.0 points on a 36/29/55 shooting split. His other numbers are also down — 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists against 3.3 turnovers.

But it’s not only Randle.

There’s also the $78-million man Evan Fournier, who asked for more ball movement after struggling to get rhythm shots in the Knicks’ current slide. Through seven games in November, the Frenchman is only averaging 9.1 points on a 39/23/73 shooting split.

RJ Barrett has cooled off, too, after a string of five 20-plus point games. His sudden downward trend has hurt the Knicks most in their last three losses. He didn’t even reach double-digit scoring in those games and averaged just 5.7 points on an atrocious 23 percent shooting, including going 1 for 11 from downtown.

“It’s a long season, players go through these [struggles],” Thibodeau said. “I’m a big believer in being mentally tough when you face adversity. So, oftentimes, ‘hey look you just got to work your way through it. You never know when it’s going to change in the next play.’ But get back to the hustle part of it. Usually, that’s what gets you going.”

When they are not shooting well, Thibodeau again implores his struggling players to do the other things that contribute to winning: “rebounding, making plays, sharing the ball, screening, moving without the ball, cutting hard, whatever it might be.”

“We can’t get wrapped up in personal dilemmas,” Thibodeau said. “It’s a team game.”

What the Knicks starters are lacking, their bench had plenty of it.

Derrick Rose remains steady. Immanuel Quickley is finally emerging from early-season shooting woes. Obi Toppin continues his giant sophomore leap. Alec Burks is quietly putting together another solid season. Taj Gibson is an ageless wonder. Nerlens Noel, when healthy, is among the league’s top defensive big men.

Together, they have been a bundle of energy. The second unit has sparked joy among Knicks fans as they have inspired several comebacks from double-digit deficits.

“There are plays in which that they were generated from great hustle and I think when you get those plays, they unite and inspire your own team. And so, that’s how we got going with the bench in the third quarter,” Thibodeau said referring to the Knicks’ bench overhauling an 11-point Hornets deficit to grab the lead midway in the fourth quarter.

“When they started hustling and getting deflections and getting stops and we got into the open floor, then we started feeling good and we started playing well. That’s what we need to do.”

Thibodeau still believes his starters can figure this out together. After all, their second unit did not become this cohesively good overnight.

As one wise man once said, “It’s a long season.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants throwing the ball deep at lowest rate in the NFL

daniel jones, new york giants

The New York Giants are 3-6 this season coming off of a big win last Sunday. This week, the Giants have no matchup scheduled as they are on their Week 10 bye. The bye week is a perfect time for NFL teams to make adjustments to their game plans and regroup. For the Giants and their inept offense, there is a clear adjustment that needs to be made. Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense needs to start throwing the ball downfield.

General consensus believes that Daniel Jones has had a decent season thus far. The third-year quarterback has done all he can behind a poor offensive line and a battered group of skill position players. These factors have led the Giants to go with an ultra-conservative approach this season.

Jason Garrett is rarely dialing up deep shots. The Giants’ offense is not making attempts to push the ball downfield. In fact, the New York Giants are throwing the deep ball at the lowest rate in the NFL this season.

Daniel Jones deep-pass percentage ranks 35th

In 2020, Daniel Jones was the best deep passer in the NFL according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Daniel’s passer rating on deep throws in 2020 was the highest in the league at 134.3, and his completion percentage on such attempts (48.7) was the fourth-highest mark. This would lead many to believe the Giants would put an emphasis on deep passing in 2021. However, that emphasis has not been placed, as the Giants have thrown the ball deep at an incredibly low rate this season.

Only 7.2% of Daniel Jones’s passing attempts in 2021 have traveled 20+ yards downfield (PFF). Out of all quarterbacks with at least 10 deep passing attempts, Daniel’s attempt percentage is ranked 35th (dead-last) in the NFL. Only 21 of Daniel Jones’s 293 passing attempts this season have been 20+ yard passes.

Daniel Jones is throwing 20+ yard passes at the lowest rate of all quarterbacks in the NFL this season. This is truly perplexing considering the quarterback’s elite accuracy and statistics on deep passes in 2020. If the Giants want to turn their season around after this bye week, they need to start dialing up more deep shots and letting Danny Dime.

New York Giants legend Sam Huff dies at 87

sam huff, nfl

Huff played eight seasons with the New York Giants and is seen as one of the best defenders in team history.

Former New York Giants linebacker Sam Huff passed away on Saturday at the age of 87. Huff’s passing of natural causes was first reported by the Associated Press.

“Sam was one of the greatest Giants of all time,” Giants President/CEO John Mara said in a team statement. “He was the heart and soul of our defense in his era. He almost single-handedly influenced the first chants of ‘Defense, Defense’ in Yankee Stadium.”

Born in Edna, WV in 1934, Huff burst onto the national football scene at West Virginia University, where he earned All-American honors in 1955. The Giants chose Huff in the third round of the 1956 NFL Draft. Working alongside defensive coordinator Tom Landry, Huff became one of the first stars of the 4-3 defense.

Their collaboration guided the Giants to an 8-3-1 record in 1956, a year that ended in the NFL Championship Game, where Huff became a rare rookie starter. Behind a dominant defensive effort, the Giants crushed the Chicago Bears by a 47-7 final. Huff and the Giants visited the NFL title game five more times, the most famous appearance being the overtime loss to the Baltimore Colts in 1958, a contest often referred to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”.

In eight seasons with the Giants, Huff earned 18 interceptions and appeared in four Pro Bowls. He earned MVP honors during the 1961 exhibition alongside Baltimore quarterback Johnny Unitas. Huff became one of the faces of the NFL’s pre-Super Bowl era, notably appearing on the cover of Time magazine in November 1959.

Huff’s New York career ended in 1964 through the controversial purge of the Giants’ defense by head coach Allie Sherman, which also bid farewell to defenders like Rosey Grier and Don Chandler. The Giants traded Huff to the Washington Redskins in exchange for running back Dick James and defensive lineman Andy Stynchula, each of whom were off the team by 1966. Huff could go on to play four seasons in Washington before retiring in 1967. Former Giants coach Vince Lombardi convinced Huff to partake in one more season when he assumed head duties in 1969.

After retiring from on-field endeavors for good, Huff spent time in both the Giants and Redskins’ radio booths. Away from the field, Huff made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the House of Representatives before enjoying a lucrative career with the Marriott Corporation. Huff helped facilitate a deal that would book NFL teams into Marriott hotels for away games. He’d be inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honor during its debut year in 2010, 28 years after he was enshrined in Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Huff is survived by two of his children, Catherine and Joseph. His son Robert Jr. previously passed in 2018.

The modern Giants return to action on Nov. 22 against Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Ex-Jets/Giants DL Damon Harrison announces retirement

New York Giants, Damon Harrison

Harrison built a nine-year career in the NFL after entering as an undrafted free agent out of William Penn in 2021.

Former NFL defensive tackle Damon Harrison, whose career began with stops in both New York football posts, announced his retirement on Twitter over the weekend. Harrison, often affectionately referred to as “Snacks”, last played with the Green Bay Packers last postseason.

Leaving out the same way I came in…with my head held high and unapologetic. It’s been real, NFL,” Harrison wrote in his departure tweet. “(T)hanks for giving a kid from the projects of New Iberia & Lake Charles Louisiana a chance. I made history!!! They said I couldn’t do it but I did it!”

Harrison’s career is indeed a gridiron story of perseverance and strength, one that began in his hometown of New Iberia, LA. After a knee injury ended his basketball career at Lake Charles-Boston High School, Harrison embarked on a football journey in his senior season and caught on at William Penn University, an NAIA school in Iowa. Harrison made his way onto the radar of draft counts and eventually signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent.

After a strong preseason in 2013, Harrison earned the Jets’ starting defensive tackle job in his second season. He’d go on to start all 48 games over the next three years, earning 105 tackles (12 for a loss). His first career sack came against Tom Brady in an October 2013 win over New England.

Harrison’s resiliency and talents were rewarded with a five-year deal from the New York Giants, a contract that was worth $24 million guaranteed. In a career-best season (86 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Harrison earned All-Pro honors and a reputation as one of the best run defenders in the league. His efforts guided the Giants to an 11-5 record and, to date, their most recent playoff appearance.

Harrison would play parts of three seasons with the Giants before they traded him to Detroit in October 2018, a year that saw him become the first defensive lineman in league history to appear in 17 games. He was added to the Seattle Seahawks’ roster in October before ending his career with the Packers, appearing in both of their playoff contests.

Shortly after he went undrafted in 2012, Harrison declared he would become the “best damn Undrafted Free Agent the NFL has ever seen”. While he admits he fell short, he undoubtedly served as an inspiration in the metropolitan area and beyond. He departed with one last word of wisdom, also on Twitter, before stepping away.

“I fell short but I shot for the stars,” he said. “(S)peak what you want into existence!”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Where do the Knicks currently sit in the Eastern Conference standings?

After 13 games, the New York Knicks likely expected to be a bit higher in the Eastern Conference standings, but they have plenty of time to turn things around after a tumultuous start to the season.

The Knicks have enjoyed their fair share of success early on when firing on all cylinders, but inconsistencies have begun to plague them despite strong offensive production. The starting team has struggled considerably over the past few games, notably third-year guard RJ Barrett, who has contributed just nine points in the last two games combined.

The players have indicated they are being out-hustled and lack energy, which is an inexcusable justification for poor play. There should never be a lack of energy and effort as the primary reason for losing games, especially with a team as talented as New York.

“I definitely think there’s games where we’re being outworked, outrebounded,’’ Julius Randle said. “Our identity’s not our defensive end [like] how it has been. But we know that. We know we got to fix it. We just got to keep working at it, just keep coming together and stay together’’

Tom Thibodeau’s squad currently sits 7th in the Eastern Conference rankings, behind the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat. Luckily, they are just 2.5 games back from first place, a number they can easily change on a small winning streak and some luck.

Eastern Conference standings:

  1. Wizards (9-3)
  2. Nets (9-4)
  3. Bulls (8-4)
  4. Cavaliers (9-5)
  5. Heat (8-5)
  6. 76ers (8-6)
  7. Knicks (7-6)
  8. Hornets (7-7)
  9. Raptors (7-7)
  10. Celtics (6-7)

The Knicks went into the regular season with a focus on three-point shooting, and they are currently hitting 37.1% of their attempts, good for 4th in the NBA. They also rank 9th in three-point attempts per game at 37.8, displaying Thibodeau‘s strategy on paper.

Giving opponents good shooting opportunities and clean looks has led to the Knicks fighting back from significant deficits early in games. However, their perimeter defense has made them susceptible to great three-point performances from mediocre shooting teams. While they have shown resiliency and thought their way back, they run out of gas in the fourth quarter when they need to be on top and pressing forward.

The strategy of early holes and resilient comebacks is not sustainable throughout the season. They need the starters and second team to be playing in unison with efficiency, which they have done at times this year.

It starts with improving their defensive efficiency, as the team currently ranks 25th in defensive rating at 109.7. They have struggled with rebounding at times, primarily as Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson deal with personal injuries. However, they do rank in the top five in blocks per game with 6.2, showcasing their rim discipline. Interestingly, the Knicks do show decent statistics in most defensive categories, but their perimeter defense has been the most significant issue this season but should give Thibodeau a hyper-focused approach on a solution.

Despite sitting in 7th place, the Knicks can be a middle-of-the-pack team in the 1-6 seed range. They currently allow the second-most points per game out of any team in the top 10 in the Eastern Conference with 109.2. If their defense doesn’t improve, we can expect them to be a play-in tournament candidate.

Yankees Rumors: Carlos Correa injury could derail Cashman’s pursuit

carlos correa, yankees

The New York Yankees are in heavy pursuit of a shortstop ahead of an expected December 1 lockout. The expectation is that both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien will sign prior to that date, putting a bit more pressure on general manager Brian Cashman. However, it is likely the Yankees will land either Seager or Houston Astro star infielder, Carlos Correa.

There are minor concerns with both, but one former GM believes the Yankees will select Seager as their new SS:

“Am I concerned a little bit about (Correa) hitting the high-end velocity? Of course,” Jim Duquette said, per NJ.com. “Am I worried about the back? … Yeah, the back’s an issue. He was getting extra treatment on it this year as we found out. I think it was good. I think he was being proactive about it. But, over time, that does tend to be a concern for me.”

The Yankees have dealt with their fair share of injuries in the past, so finding a reliable player would be advisable. However, every option comes with its knocks, and
Duquette still believes either would be a good selection.

“It’s something (where) you’ll sit there and go, ‘All right. They both have had health issues in the past.’ But I’ll take either one. Whatever one I can sign. I think Correa on the big stage I don’t have any concern. I don’t have any concern about Seager. I think if you look at Correa in the postseason, he’s already one of the best postseason players that we’ve seen in the sport. So is Seager. Seager has a World Series MVP. So sometimes we talk about this guy, or that guy, or that guy, but I feel like we’re splitting hairs with either one. I’ll take either.”

As stated, Correa is one of the best postseason hitters in baseball. He’s coming off a post-season where he hits .283 with a 19.1% strikeout rate and .400 slugging percentage. During the regular season, he posted a .279 average with 26 homers and 92 RBIs, showcasing his elite power and fantastic patience at the plate with an 18.1% strike-out rate.

Ultimately, both Corey Seager and Carlos Correa will likely earn similar amounts, so it comes down to analytics and if the Yankees feel they can get more out of one player. The factor of Seager’s lefty bat and the short report in Yankee Stadium may be a big variable in this decision.

3 problems the Knicks are facing after consecutive losses

julius randle, knicks

The New York Knicks are coming off a disappointing defeat to the Charlotte Hornets, their second consecutive loss. They now look ahead to the Indiana Pacers, who have a 5–8 record on the season and have won two of their last three games.

The Knicks need to do a bit of reflecting, though, remembering their elite defense from 2020 and how far the apple has fallen from the tree in just one off-season. Despite New York ranking 9th in overall points per game and 4th in three-point percentage, their defensive rating has been abysmal this season, landing at 25th.

The Knicks have various issues, but most of them correlate to a lack of consistency and chemistry between several new teammates.

Three problems the Knicks are facing as they prepare for Pacers:

1.) Starters are having cohesion issues

The Knicks’ starters have been poor the last few games, relying on the second team to pick up the slack after early deficits accrued. Julius Randle scored just 10 points in the most recent loss to Charlotte, and RJ Barrett has contributed just 11 points over the team’s past two games.

“The bench played well, but we need everyone to play well,” Thibodeau said after Friday’s game. “It’s a team, so you need your starters to play well, you need your bench to play well. You need them to play well together.”

When both the starters and bench players are playing cohesive basketball and portraying an efficient strategy, they’re more than capable of blowing out any team and picking up wins at a fast pace.

However, when one of the units is grappling to get off the ground, the entire team is put at a disadvantage. The worst part is that the team has plenty of talent to work win in both the first and second-team units, but the chemistry and effort ebbs and flows.

2.) Julius Randle-Kemba Walker combo isn’t working

When the Knicks acquired Kemba Walker on a two-year, $8 million deal, they envisioned a totally different player at point guard after letting Elfrid Payton walk in free agency. Walker has had moments of brilliance, but his defense has lacked, and the ability to play off power forward Julius Randle has become a problem. Both players are scoring-oriented, so they need to find ways to balance the workload and opportunities.

Walker has proven to be a high clip three-point shooter while Randle looks to use his isolation moves inside. If they can work off one another and use their talents and strengths to maximize efficiency, they can be a fantastic duo, but they simply lack communication and chemistry at this point in the year, which was expected.

I would like to see Walker and Randle use the pick-and-roll more frequently, drawing attention to either, which would theoretically open up more opportunities. Until those two starters begin to hit their stride, the first team will likely endure drawbacks, but they have a long season ahead to fix these issues.

3.) Inconsistencies across the board

Inconsistencies have been a significant negative for the team, as RJ Barrett went on a phenomenal five-game stretch before losing his confidence and has shot poorly the last few games. Walker, despite a strong performance against Charlotte, went four consecutive games without shooting above 33% from deep. Randle has disappeared offensively at times when his energy is lacking, and Evan Fournier is simply lost on defense, especially around the perimeter.

“I definitely think there’s games where we’re being outworked, outrebounded,’’ Randle said. “Our identity’s not our defensive end [like] how it has been. But we know that. We know we got to fix it. We just got to keep working at it, just keep coming together and stay together’’

The team needs to be firing on all cylinders for them to be considered a playoff-caliber squad, and that ultimately takes reps and action. They seem to get the hang of it one night and then take five steps backward the next, which is unacceptable for a roster with this much talent. There is no excuse for lacking effort and hustle, so starting there would be advisable.

Yankees Rumors: Cashman could make quick decision as shortstop market ‘accelerates’

yankees, corey seager

Everybody is waiting for the New York Yankees to make a move at shortstop after the Gleyber Torres experiment failed. However, with an expected lockout, there’s a reason to believe the market is accelerating, according to ESPN reporter Jeff Passan.

Passan indicated that the markets for Corey Seager and Marcus Semien could shape before December 1, when an expected lockout is anticipated to commence.

In this scenario, Cashman will have to make a decision at shortstop, buying his time and waiting for Carlos Correa or settling early on lefty batter, Corey Seager, who might be a great fit in Yankee Stadium.

Seager is coming off a solid season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .306 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs. With a short right porch in the Bronx, Seager could dominate, showcasing some of his power, after recording his third consecutive double-digit home run season. Seager does have a spotty injury history, though, playing in just 95 games this past season.

Alternatively, the Yankees will have to take a more risky approach, waiting for Correa, who could sign with a team like the Detroit Tigers if they are willing to spend upwards of $250 million. The Yankees are willing to push past the $210 million luxury tax threshold this off-season, so expect them to be incredibly active in acquiring great players to fill vulnerabilities. However, if Seager and Semien are off the board, the Yankees might put themselves in a tough spot if they fail to land any of the top names.

So the question is, would Cashman prefer to settle early on Corey Seager or take a considerable risk and wait for Correa if a lockout does happen come December?

In a perfect world, if you’re willing to look past the cheating scandal, which Cashman undoubtedly seems to believe, the Bombers will push hard to sign Correa before December 1.

Chicago Bears: What did the first half of 2021 teach us?

david montgomery, bears

With the Chicago Bears officially on a bye week, the first half of the season has wrapped up and with just eight games remaining, the Bears face an uphill climb to make the playoffs in 2021.

Much has been made of the first half of the Bears season. There have been ups but also downs and while 2021 is all about the development of rookie quarterback Justin Fields, the Bears 2022 offseason is taking shape.

The Bears’ first half has shown us that looking ahead to 2022, much of the roster remains unresolved with impending free agents that include WR Allen Robinson, guard James Daniels, and DE Bilal Nichols. Chicago’s best hope is that Daniels and Nichols market is cheaper than originally expected with Robinson likely on the way out.

While Fields continues to be a bright spot on offense, much like the Bears running game. Chicago’s offensive line has struggled with Center Sam Mustipher being a weak link. When head coach Matt Nagy mentions self-reflection, this should include looking at the offensive line and reshuffling the interior. That means moving veteran Cody Whitehair back to center and inserting Alex Bars into the starting lineup.

As a vertical passing game, Fields improved chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney was on display in week nine. This is a connection that needs more growth with the hope that Mooney and Fields are on the same page by seasons’ end.

Then there’s the defense. Without Khalil Mack for two straight games, Chicago struggled to generate any consistent pass rush while holes in the secondary were visible. Second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson has taken a leap and safety Eddie Jackson remains an asset in coverage but a liability as an open field tackler. Veteran Robert Quinn continues to have a resurgent season but still needs to be consistent during the second half of the season.

The Bears 2021 season has showed that work remains to be done. Fields makes Chicago’s future bright and the Bears have a quarterback. What remains to be seen is whether or not the Bears can build around Fields, using the rest of 2021 as a roster evaluation to build a plan around Fields as soon as 2022 arrives.