New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari comes away from loss with rookie record

azeez ojulari, new york giants

There’s not a lot of light right now for the New York Giants. Not only did the offense put up another terrible performance in Miami, but the Giants are down another quarterback and may have to start practice squad pickup Jake Fromm. It’s not surprising, then, that the good news is coming from the defensive side of the ball and not the offense.

Even if the performance was, as a whole, more disappointment, Azeez Ojulari still showed up to continue his good rookie season. Ojulari had 4 tackles,  1 of them for a loss, and also picked up another sack to move to 6.5 on the season. It’s his first sack after 4 games without one and the sack gives him the edge over B.J. Hill for the Giants rookie record for sacks in a season.

What Ojulari’s performance means for the Giants

Ojulari is currently the team leader in sacks, sitting a single sack ahead of Leonard Williams.

His performance this season is further proof that the Giants made the right choice in selecting him in the second round, after he was initially projected as an upper first round prospect. Ojulari’s slide was primarily due to last minute injury concerns, but this appears to have been draft week smoke and mirrors.

With that being said, Ojulari is only one player on a defensive line that could use more production as an overall unit. Pass rusher has notably been a position the Giants have had a hard time drafting for.

B.J. Hill, the player who Ojulari surpassed for the rookie sack record, is no longer on the team after a trade this August in exchange for Billy Price. Lorenzo Carter has played in 9 games but has no sacks and only 1 QB hit.

Despite this breakout performance from Ojulari this year, don’t be surprised if the Giants still target a pass rusher such as Aidan Hutchinson with one of their first round picks come the 2022 draft.

After big win at UFC Vegas 44, what’s next for Jose Aldo?

This past weekend at UFC Vegas 44, we saw a big time main event in the bantamweight division. Former featherweight champion Jose Aldo (31-7) took on surging contender Rob Font (19-5). Whoever won this matchup was going to be in an excellent spot at 135.

Rob Font opened the fight with a ton of pressure to try and gas out Aldo. Aldo remained composed throughout, but it didn’t look great at the start of the fight. In previewing this fight, I thought the big advantage for Aldo would be in the power.

However, he didn’t have room to use that power early on. Then, near the end of the first round, the power was on display. Aldo dropped Font late in the opening frame and that set the tone for the rest of the fight.

Throughout the five rounds, Font would look great but big power shots from Aldo would completely swing the round in the former champion’s favor. This was the theme throughout and in the end, the judges gave Aldo a near sweep of the scorecards at UFC Vegas 44.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 44?

There’s no question that Jose Aldo should be near the top of the UFC’s bantamweight rankings when the rankings are updated this week. He should be back in the title conversation after three consecutive wins against top contenders.

Currently, we are in a bit of a waiting pattern at the top of the division. The champion Aljamain Sterling will be taking on the interim champion Petr Yan sometime in the spring. However, there’s still not a finalized date for that title fight.

TJ Dillashaw (17-4) was supposed to get a title fight after his win against Cory Sandhagen, however, a knee injury completely threw that off. Now with this title unification bout pending, Dillashaw needs an opponent as does Aldo.

The writing is on the wall for the UFC. There is no better fight to make than Jose Aldo against TJ Dillashaw. Whoever wins would be the clear number one contender. My guess is that the promotion makes this a Fight Night main event sometime around the Yan and Sterling fight.

New York Giants quarterback room in shambles ahead of Week 14

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants lost miserably on Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins. The Giants’ offense failed to score a touchdown in the 20-6 Week 13 loss. New York marched into Miami with Mike Glennon as the starting quarterback. Daniel Jones was out with a neck strain that is expected to keep him out of the Giants’ upcoming Week 14 matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, too.

To make matters worse, Mike Glennon suffered a concussion in the Giants’ loss to the Dolphins. Injuries and inexperience are now piling up for the Giants at the sport’s most valuable position, leaving their quarterback room in shambles.

The New York Giants quarterback room is in shambles

Daniel Jones and Mike Glennon being injured leaves the Giants with extremely limited options at the quarterback position. The 4-8 Giants are down to backups, practice squad players, and newly-signed players in line to start. Even the Giants’ quarterback coach, Jerry Schuplinski, is dealing with an ailment (COVID-19). This group of signal-callers is in disarray. Here’s a breakdown of the quarterback room:

  • Daniel Jones (neck strain, not cleared for contact)
  • Mike Glennon (in concussion protocol)
  • Jake Fromm (just signed last week)
  • Brian Lewerke (practice squad)
  • QB coach Jerry Schuplinski (COVID-19 positive)

With Daniel Jones and Mike Glennon both expected to be out on Sunday, Jake Fromm is in line to start for the Giants. The Giants just signed Fromm off of the Buffalo Bills practice squad a few days ago. But now the young quarterback has gone from the practice squad to being expected to start in a rapid amount of time.

If Fromm is not ready to go, which would not be surprising considering how long it takes to learn NFL playbooks, then Brian Lewerke would be the next man up. Lewerke has spent the season on New York’s practice squad after playing in the preseason for the Giants and looking less than promising.

If indeed Jones and Glennon are out, the most experienced regular season passer on the Giants’ roster would be Kadarius Toney. New York’s first-round pick has thrown three passes this season, giving him the highest career total of the remaining quarterbacks on the roster.

When the most experienced passer on a team is the wide receiver, you know that roster is in bad shape. The Giants will prepare this week with the thought that Jake Fromm takes the start under center. But regardless of who starts on Sunday, it is a longshot that the Giants’ offense takes any steps forward from where they have been,.

UFC booking Michelle Waterson – Amanda Ribas

The UFC is currently working to finalize a big time women’s strawweight matchup. MMA Fighting was the first to report this afternoon that the promotion was working to finalize Amanda Ribas (11-2) and Michelle Waterson (18-9).

The proposed matchup would take place at a UFC Fight Night on March 26th. Ribas will be looking for her second consecutive win after suffering her first loss in the UFC. That first loss came back in January when Ribas was stopped in the second round by Marina Rodriguez.

That loss snapped a five-fight winning streak for Ribas which included four wins in the UFC. In her last fight against Virna Jandiroba, Ribas looked sensational on the feet. Her striking was her downfall in the Rodriguez fight. However, she completely outclassed Jandiroba on the feet.

Originally, Ribas was supposed to take on Waterson back at UFC 257 when she fought Rodriguez. However, Waterson had to pull out of the fight. Now, these two top contenders will finally meet in a highly anticipated matchup.

UFC Fight Night

Standing across from Ribas is the UFC’s Karate Hottie, Michelle Waterson. Waterson has always been a really tough contender at 115, but she’s never quite reached the pinnacle. Recently, she’s fell on some tough times in the strawweight division.

Over her last four fights, Waterson is just 1-3. That said, two of the losses came against former UFC champions. The other loss came against Marina Rodriguez in a main event back in May. Waterson held her own, but Rodriguez proved to be too much for The Karate Hottie.

This is another tough test for Waterson. Ribas is going to be dangerous wherever the fight takes place. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that Waterson would have the advantage on the feet. However, Ribas’ improvement there might make you think twice.

This should be a tremendous strawweight fight and whoever wins will put themselves in a really good position to move up the rankings.

Knicks’ Kemba Walker opens up about being benched, unsure what the future holds

knicks, kemba walker

The New York Knicks got a bit too excited this past off-season, adding offensive playmakers, but they completely forgot how dominant their defense was during the 2020–21 season, which created a new identity for the team.

They elected to spend big money on acquiring Evan Fournier on a four-year, $72 million deal and landed Kemba Walker on a two-year, $17.9 million contract. However, both Fournier and Walker have been awful contributors on defense, failing to get into proper positioning and guarding the perimeter.

This led to head coach Tom Thibodeau pulling Walker from the rotation, especially after an abysmal November, where he shot just 29.6% from three-point range and 39% from the field. He posted more single-digit production games than double-digit scoring, shooting over 33% in just four contests.

However, the benching didn’t derail Walker’s attitude and confidence, indicating he would always be a team-first guy and support in any way he can. It’s not a bad gig for a player to earn $8 million to hang out on the bench and remain healthy for his next opportunity.

“I’ve always been a team guy first,” Kemba said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the team. So if he feels that’s what’s going to make the team better, then so be it. I’m just going to be here for my teammates. I’m here to help in any way, shape or form that I can.”

“I love being around my teammates,” he said. “I’m going to cheer them on until I can’t anymore. That’s what it’s about.”

Ultimately, the Knicks haven’t been much better in the absence of Walker, losing their last three games against Brooklyn, Chicago, and Denver. They will look to turn things around against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, but the squad has to find a new home for Walker at some point this year, which could come in a potential trade.
Kemba indicated that he is not sure what the rest of the season holds, but it is possible the Knicks need him down the line if injuries begin to mount. However, Thibodeau seems to be more reliant on Immanuel Quickley and even Miles McBride in a worst-case scenario rather than pulling walker back into the mix.

Yankees News: Yankee Jim Kaat selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame

The New York Yankees have many illustrious players who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Today you can add Yankee pitcher and broadcaster Jim Kaat to that list. Others inducted were Gill Hodges, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, a teammate of Kaat’s when with the Twins, Buck O’Neil, and Bud Fowler.

The selections were made on Sunday in Orlando, Florida. The six will be honored on July 24, 2022, in Cooperstown, along with the Baseball Writers Association of America’s selections for the class of 2022. Kaat, Hodges, Minoso, and Oliva were selected by the Golden Days Era Committee (1950-1969), Fowler and O’Neil from the Early Baseball Era Committee (before 1950).

Flower is considered to be the first black professional baseball player. He played second base for over a dozen teams in the Negro Leagues. He died in 1913. O’Neil played 10 seasons with the Memphis Red Sox and Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League and was named to three All-Star teams. He passed away in 2006. Hodges played first base for the Mets and the Dodgers and was an 8-time All-Star. Minoso was a 9 time All-Star for four teams during his 17-year career. Oliva was a teammate of Kaat and was an All-Star 8 times in his 15 years with the Twins.

Although Jim Kaat spent most of his career with the Minnesota Twins, he was also a fan favorite with the New York Yankees, both on the pitching mound and in the broadcast booth at Yankee Stadium. After the 1978 season, the Philadelphia Phillies sold Kaat to the Yankees. For the Yankees, he was a reliable arm out of the bullpen. The lefty obtained free agency after the season but resigned with the Yankees for a big $150k contract, which was a huge amount for a 40-year-old. Before the season was over, the Yankees sold him to the Cardinals.

Although Kaat was a solid reliever for the Yankees, he is more known for his time in the broadcast booth. He announced for the Yankees two separate times, in 1986 and again for a longer stint between 1998 and 2006. He was noted for his baseball knowledge and candid presentation. Kaat’s candor was an enduring element of his analysis. During his broadcast career, he did play-by-play for some important games on ABC, CBS, NBC, and ESPN. Of the six inductees, Kaat and Oliva are the only living players. Kaat is 83 years old. He won 283 games over four decades from 1959-83.

Kaat had this to say about his selection:

“I never was a No. 1 pitcher,” Kaat said. “The Hall of Fame rewards dominance. [Sandy] Koufax, [Bob] Gibson, [Juan] Marichal. I wasn’t dominant. I was durable, I was dependable. I was your No. 2 guy or No. 3 guy. But I’m grateful to the committee that they chose to reward some durability. I really didn’t think this day would ever come,” Kaat said. “It comes as more of a gift to me, and I’m so appreciative of the guys that I played with and against that I think rewarded durability and dependability along with dominance, which the Hall of Fame usually rewards — rightly so.”

 

Chicago Bears: Week 13 takeaways, tidbits, and more

bears, matt nagy

After losing to the Arizona Cardinals at home, the Chicago Bears have dropped six of the last seven games, and continue to be on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Let’s recap week 13 for the Bears.

1) Running back David Montgomery was the Bears’ best playmaker on Sunday. The third-year pro had 21 carries for 90 rushing yards and one touchdown. Montgomery was also involved in the passing game with eight receptions for 51 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per reception. The weather certainly factored into the Bears using Montgomery heavily but Sunday also proved that for the final five games of the season, the offense needs to revolve around Montgomery, which means shifting to a pass-first philosophy.

2) The Bears led the Cardinals in four key categories: Time of possession, first downs, total yards, and turnovers. Arizona averaged just five yards per play but having a short field on the first two possessions as a result of Andy Dalton’s interceptions is what led to an earlier-than-expected Arizona lead. The Bears’ defense isn’t good enough to overcome mistakes made by the offense, which means both sides of the football need to play a near-perfect game to have a chance at winning.

3) Jakeem Grant being the Bears leading receiver on Sunday shows how much the WR room needs to be overhauled during the 2022 offseason. Arizona locked up Darnell Mooney all afternoon and without Allen Robinson or Marquise Goodwin, the Dalton was forced to throw to the likes of Grant and Damiere Byrd. Chicago traded for Grant to be an impact player on special teams, not in the passing game, despite having some speed.

4) Center Sam Mustipher had two fumbles on Sunday. In other words, the Mustipher experiment needs to end for the Bears. With rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins officially active, the Bears can reshuffle the offensive line, inserting Jenkins into the starting lineup while moving James Daniels or Cody Whitehair to center. The Bears need to see what they have in Jenkins during the final five games of the season as Chicago believes it finally got an OT with the potential to develop into a franchise cornerstone on the OL.

5) Montgomery’s postgame presser was one of the best I’ve ever heard since I started covering the Bears in 2017. “I’m a fighter, I’m never going to stop fighting,” said Montgomery. “I’m never going to stop giving it everything I got.”

Talk about someone who’s a leader of men and is intrinsically motivated. With the chance of making the playoffs bleak, Montgomery’s positive energy should radiate throughout the locker room.

6) For the second straight game, cornerback Artie Burns posted some solid numbers with six tackles, one tackle for loss, and one pass breakup. Burns may not be a long-term solution but he’s a good enough security blanket to finish out 2021 before the Bears have to make a decision on his future with the team during the 2022 offseason.

7) The Cardinals’ offense is everything Matt Nagy hopes his offense can be someday. Arizona had the ball for just over 25 minutes but averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray carved up the Bears’ secondary all afternoon with explosive plays in the passing game to keep the Bears defense on its toes. Kliff Kingsbury has emerged as one of the smartest offensive minds in football and the Cardinals are finding their groove with the postseason right around the corner.

8) The Bears were 3-for-3 in the redzone and 4-for-4 on fourth down yesterday. Rarely does that ever happen but Matt Nagy found a way to get it done yesterday. Nagy is on his way out but at least converting in the redzone and on fourth down mattered in a game that Chicago tried to keep competitive.

9) One way to slow the Cardinals down is creating turnovers. And the Bears’ defense had none on Sunday. While Roquan Smith was hampered due to a hamstring injury, the Bears need to be better in this category to have a chance at being able to play complementary football and give the offense a chance at scoring more points.

10) The Bears had two drives on Sunday that lasted more than seven minutes. While this may not seem noteworthy to some, it is progress for an offense that’s been through growing pains over the last four seasons. Long drives aren’t the issue now but execution is still lacking as the Bears are unable to cap off these drives with touchdowns, instead of field goals.

 

BREAKING: New York Liberty, Walt Hopkins part ways

Hopkins spent two seasons at the helm of the New York Liberty, guiding the team to its first playoff appearance since 2017.

The New York Liberty announced on Monday afternoon that the team mutually agreed to part way with head coach Walt Hopkins Jr. New York has already begun the process of searching for the ninth head coach in franchise history.

Hopkins, previously an assistant coach with the Minnesota Lynx, spent two seasons at the New York helm, amassing a 14-40 record. His time in seafoam was defined by youth, notably working with seven rookies during the Liberty’s time in the Bradenton bubble in 2020. Under his watch, the Liberty produced three WNBA All-Rookie representatives (Jazmine Jones, Michaela Onyenwere, DiDi Richards) and one Rookie of the Year (Onyenwere in 2021). Others to make their WNBA debuts under Hopkins included Sabrina Ionescu, Megan Walker, Jocelyn Willoughby, Kyle Shook, and Leaonna Odom.

Though Hopkins’ first year (dominated by an Ionescu injury) saw the Liberty stumble to a 2-20 record, the team improved by 10 wins in 2021, their first as full-time tenants of Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Hopkins was named May’s Coach of the Year for his efforts and guided the Liberty to its first playoff appearance since 2017.

***THIS STORY WILL BE UPDATED***

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the Knicks consider trading Mitchell Robinson at the deadline?

mitchell robinson, knicks

With the New York Knicks dipping below .500 on the season, management could be looking to make big changes ahead, specifically at the trade deadline as they potentially target a star player to pair with Julius Randle.

However, the team still needs to correct several issues within their own ranks, one of them being the inconsistent play of Mitchell Robinson this season. Robinson, who is preparing to turn 24 in a few months, is averaging 6.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game.

Robinson is averaging his lowest points total in his career through 20 games this season and has seen a considerable regression compared to his sophomore campaign back in 2020. During that season, Robinson averaged 9.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game.

The biggest negative that Robinson presents is poor health, dealing with a myriad of injuries this season, including ankle, hip flexor, and primary lower-body issues.

While most fans love Mitch and what he brings to the table, including physicality and blocking proficiency, he’s essentially a nonexistent scorer that relies on put-back dunks as his catalyst on offense.

Seeing some of the more sufficient scoring centers in the league should indicate that a change might be necessary for the future. The Knicks have been tantalized by players like Myles Turner, Nikola Vucevic, and Nikola Jokic in recent days, showcasing what scoring big men can provide for a team.

It is clear that Robinson isn’t contributing a ton toward the team’s defensive efficiency, given the Knicks currently rank 23rd in defensive rating at 109.8. In addition, they’ve dropped to 17th in total rebounds per game but host the third-best interior defense in basketball.

Nonetheless, teams have tortured them from the perimeter, driving into the paint and kicking the ball out to the corners for easy shots. While Robinson isn’t responsible for this, the communication with his teammates has been poor.

The question is, should tom Thibodeau and the front office consider Robinson a trade piece of the deadline? Given he’s in the final year of his rookie contract, earning 1.8 million this season.

The only way this makes sense is if the Knicks pursue a scoring big man with solid defensive attributes. Of course, acquiring a player like Myles Turner would be a luxury, but it would also cost them young talent they may not be willing to part with.

However, based on Robinson’s growth and consistency issues, the Knicks may be better off utilizing him as a trade piece instead of banking on him as a long-term solution given stamina struggles and inefficient scoring.

Alternatively, Robinson gives the team much-needed physicality inside and still has plenty of untapped potential to exploit. Robinson has seen an increase in field goals made unassisted this season, hitting 42.9% compared to his 37.4% last year. An increase in muscle mass has hurt his stamina and effort at times, but that theoretically should improve as the season progresses.

Do you think the Knicks should consider trading away Mitchell Robinson? Comment here!

Gil Hodges, manager of the ‘Miracle Mets’, is elected to the Hall of Fame

New York Mets’ fans got some good news on Sunday, when Gil Hodges, the skipper of the Amazin’ Mets, or Miracle Mets team if you prefer, was deservedly elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Golden Days Era committee of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame elected four new members for enshrinement in Cooperstown on Sunday: Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso and Tony Oliva.

Additionally, the Early Baseball Era committee of the Hall elected two new members for enshrinement: Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neill.

Led by Hodges, those 1969 Mets finished 100–62, eight games ahead of the Cubs, taking the National League pennant. Five games were enough to take the first World Series in the franchise history.

The Mets’ legend as a manager had a nice playing career, too

During his playing days, Hodges was universally regarded as one of the better defensive first baseman of the 1950s. As it turns out, he had some thump in his bat, too, hitting 370 career home runs with a .273/.359/.487 line and a 121 wRC+. He played most of his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, then was in Los Angeles for the franchise’s first four seasons after moving to the west coast, and was a member of the Mets’ first season, in 1962.

The Mets’ legend had a nice playing career, too

Hodges is an eight-time All-Star (1949–1955, 1957), a three-time World Series champion (1955, 1959, 1969), a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (1957–1959), is in the Mets’ Hall of Fame, and had his number 14 retired.

He had six seasons with 30 home runs or more, and a couple with more than 40. He was a six-win player in his prime, in 1954 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and that’s the year in which he hit a career-high 42 home runs.

Hodges is truly a Mets legend, and his enshrinement is backed by numbers and accomplishment as a player and as a manager.