New York Giants OC Mike Kafka gets good review from Chiefs stars

mike kafka, giants, chiefs

Offense has been one of the largest problems for the New York Giants in recent years, but there’s some signs pointing to that turning around. The Giants under Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll have wisely turned to one of the league’s best offenses for their new offensive coordinator, picking Chiefs QBs coach and passing game coordinator Mike Kafka.

Sometimes, candidates from teams like the Chiefs are in demand simply for being a part of a winning organization. Arguably, the Giants fell into that trap when they hired Joe Judge with his Patriots influence playing a part in the decision. It doesn’t look like Kafka, though, is one of those coaches. If you ask some of the star players that have played under him, they’ll tell you that he’s getting this job on his own merits.

Travis Kelce has glowing review of Mike Kafka

“The New York Giants got an absolute stud,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. “You’re gonna be prepared. You’re never gonna feel like you don’t have an upper hand against the opponent, and that’s something you don’t get throughout the league with every offensive coordinator.”

Coming from one of the most successful tight ends in today’s NFL, that’s high praise. Kelce, after all, would have plenty of experience working with Kafka due to the latter’s position as passing game coordinator. During both seasons where Kafka was passing game coordinator, Kelce was named to the first or second All-Pro team.

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire claims Kafka had a larger role in the Chiefs offense than many might think.

“Man, he had pretty much the whole control of our motor, bro — he was in the room with Patrick Mahomes,” Edwards-Helaire said. “Kafka, he was one of those guys that kept everything together.”

The Giants have largely underachieved on offense with the talent they currently have, so it will be quite interesting to see how things work out when players like Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay are finally playing under an innovative coordinator.

At the very least, it should be a far cry from how the offense performed under Jason Garrett.

How the Giants’ offensive scheme will change under Daboll, Kafka in 2022

brian daboll, giants, mike kafka

The New York Giants are in the process of drastically rebuilding their offensive coaching staff. After firing head coach Joe Judge, the Giants decided that former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll would replace him. Daboll, considered by many to be an offensive guru, quickly got to work hiring coordinators for his staff. Mike Kafka was hired as the team’s next offensive coordinator, an exciting move that could see the Giants combine the two high-powered Chiefs and Bills offensive schemes.

Mike Kafka was the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs and Bills ran offenses that differed drastically from the offense that the Giants ran in 2021. Jason Garrett ran a power run-heavy scheme. The Bills ran a spread offense that relied on high passing volume. The Chiefs also passed at a high volume in a dynamic west-coast scheme.

Taking a look at personnel grouping from 2021 could shed light on just how different the New York Giants’ offense will look under Daboll and Kafka in 2022.

How the Giants’ offense will change in 2022

Brian Daboll’s offensive scheme relies far more heavily on wide receivers than it does on tight ends and running backs. Expect to see far more empty backfield sets under Daboll. In Buffalo in 2021, the Bills ran 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) on 71% of their offensive snaps (fifth-most in NFL). The Giants only spent 61% of their snaps in 11-personnel under Garrett and Kitchens in 2021 (61% also happens to be the league average).

More eye-opening than this grouping was the Bills’ frequent usage of 10-personnel. Buffalo used 10-personnel (four wide receivers, one running back, and zero tight ends) at the third-highest rate in the NFL last season. The Bills used four receivers on 7% of their snaps. For comparison, the Giants ran 10-personnel on 5 total snaps (less than one percent).

There is also reason to believe the Giants will invest far less in their second-string tight end position under Brian Daboll. The Giants invested a significant portion of their cap space in Kyle Rudolph to run an offensive scheme that featured a lot of two-tight end sets, which is 12-personnel. The Bills ran that grouping on only 8% of their offensive snaps compared to the Giants’ 26% in 2021. The Chiefs did run 12-personnel on 20% of their snaps, so maybe Mike Kafka will influence Daboll to use the grouping a bit more frequently. But, assuming the offense will be primarily built around the head coach’s scheme, the Giants will likely run far fewer two-tight end sets in 2022.

The Kansas City Chiefs also ran 11-personnel 67% of the time, a rate higher than the league average. Inevitably, the Giants will run more 11-personnel in 2022. Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka are turning the Giants into a pass-first spread offense in 2022.

UFC 271 Preview: Jared Cannonier – Derek Brunson

Tomorrow night on the main card of UFC 271, we will see a potential title elimination bout in the middleweight division. Top contenders will battle it out as “The Killa Gorilla” Jared Cannonier (14-5) takes on Derek Brunson (23-7).

Brunson made headlines earlier this week when he announced that win, lose, or draw, UFC 271 will be one of his final two fights. With that, there is a ton of pressure on him to get the job done. He comes into tomorrow night riding a five-fight winning streak.

He’s become a bit of a gate-keeper at 185, but the UFC has finally given him a good opponent that can vault him into title contention. However, in order to get into title contention, he’s going to have to defeat the very tough Jared Cannonier.

Since moving down to the middleweight division, Jared Cannonier has been sensational. He’s 4-1 with the lone loss coming to Robert Whittaker at UFC 254. In his last fight, he won a decision over Kelvin Gastelum. If he picks up the win tomorrow night, he’s sitting in a good spot to get his UFC title shot that he’s been aiming for.

UFC 271 Prediction

I’m the first to admit that there’s not been one fighter I’ve been more wrong about than Derek Brunson. I picked him to lose to Edmen Shahbazyan, Kevin Holland, and Darren Till. Derek Brunson went out and won all three of those fights.

I’m not trying to disrespect Brunson, it’s just that he doesn’t do anything that really wows you. That said, ahead of UFC 271, he’s shown everyone just how effective he is. If he’s able to get ahold and control Cannonier, it’s going to be a long night for The Killa Gorilla.

The key to this fight is going to be the range. If Cannonier keeps this fight at range, he can easily put Brunson to sleep. However, if he can’t keep Brunson off of him, Brunson is going to grind his way to a decision victory.

Part of me wants to pick Brunson just because he’s proved me wrong so many times. However, I just can’t do it. Call me crazy, but I’m going to pick against him again. I think he will have moments, but I also think he gets caught with a big shot in the second round and Jared Cannonier will win at UFC 271.

Prediction: Jared Cannonier by TKO – Round 2

UFC 271 Preview: Derrick Lewis – Tai Tuivasa

Two of the biggest and baddest knockout artists will battle it out tomorrow night at UFC 271. The heavyweight knockout king, Derrick Lewis (26-8) returns to his hometown of Houston to take on fellow knockout artist Tai Tuivasa (14-3).

This is a quick turnaround for The Black Beast as he just fought in December against Chris Daukaus. That night, Lewis was looking to bounce back and he did in a big way when he knocked Daukaus out in the first round. The win was able to get Lewis back on track after his poor performance at UFC 265.

At UFC 265, Lewis fought Ciryl Gane for the interim heavyweight title in Houston. Lewis wasn’t able to really get going and was stopped in the third round. He’s admitted that pressure got to him. He’s looking to right the ship tomorrow night against “Bam Bam”.

Tai Tuivasa burst onto the UFC scene a few years ago and he was knocking out everyone. After reaching 10-0, he had a fight with former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos. Tuivasa was knocked out in the second round of that fight. That loss started a three fight losing streak.

After this streak, Tuivasa started taking his UFC career more seriously and he drastically turned things around. Heading into UFC 271, Tuivasa is riding a four-fight winning streak and only one of those fights had reached the second round.

UFC 271 Prediction

There is really no secret as to what is going to happen at UFC 271. Both of these men are going to come forward and they are both going to swing until someone goes down. That said, you might see a more technical approach from Tai Tuivasa.

Tuivasa doesn’t do nearly as well when he’s being pressured. There’s no one that pressures better than Derrick Lewis. To hold off this pressure, you might see Tuivasa invest in some leg kicks on the outside early on. If he’s successful, he can use these to try and slow Lewis down and time him with a big shot on an advance.

However, I don’t think he’s going to have enough time to do enough damage. I think this fight ends in the first round and when two guys swing like these two will, I can’t bet against The Black Beast. I think he finds Tuivasa’s chin and puts him away in the first at UFC 271.

Prediction: Derrick Lewis by KO – Round 1

UFC 271 Preview: Israel Adesanya – Robert Whittaker 2

Tomorrow night in the headliner of UFC 271, we will see a rematch for the middleweight title that is two and a half years in the making. The middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (21-1) will be defending his championship against the former champion Robert Whittaker (23-5).

Whittaker has waited patiently and he’s finally getting his second crack at Adesanya for UFC gold. Back in 2019, Whittaker lost his title to Adesanya when he was knocked out by him in the second round. After that loss, Whittaker went back to the drawing board.

He’s come back better than ever and he’s rattled off three straight wins. Not only has he won three straight, but two of the three men were guys that Adesanya was interested in defending the middleweight title against. Those two men were Darren Till and Jared Cannonier.

Adesanya last fought at UFC 263 when he defeated Marvin Vettori. That was a bounce back win after his loss to Jan Blachowicz where Adesanya failed in his attempt to become a two-division champion. That said, Adesanya has remained perfect at 185 and he’s looking to continue that at UFC 271.

UFC 271 Prediction

Robert Whittaker said something yesterday at the UFC 271 press conference that is extremely true. Whittaker said that there’s him and Adesanya and then there’s a big gap to the rest of the division. If I’m being honest, that’s exactly the case.

These two men are so good and they are both better than everyone else. If Adesanya wasn’t around, Whittaker would still be the UFC middleweight champion. However, Stylebender is still around and he’s got a good style that will give Whittaker problems.

In this fight, I’m expecting Whittaker to try and mix in his wrestling. However, I don’t think his wrestling is good enough to take Adesanya down. That said, the threat of takedowns could mix in well with his striking attacks and it could throw off Adesanya.

I’m not expecting a one-sided fight at UFC 271. I think both men are going to have their moment and I think the fight goes the distance. I also believe the fight is going to be razor close. That said, I think the belt stays where it’s at tomorrow.

The timing and precision of Adesanya’s attacks are going to score him enough points to get the win. Expect a high-level technical chess match tomorrow night and expect Israel Adesanya to leave the cage with the UFC middleweight championship.

Prediction: Israel Adesanya by Unanimous Decision

Cam Reddish earns solid minutes in crucial Knicks win over Warriors

On the day he almost got traded, Cam Reddish showed promising signs that perhaps he’s a keeper.

Reddish scored 12 points off the bench and did plenty of other things to help the New York Knicks score an upset win over the Golden State Warriors Thursday night at Chase Center in San Francisco.

Reddish hit 4 of 8 from the field, and his crucial free throw with 6.2 seconds left was enough as a buffer to stave off the Warriors’ late rally. He added three assists and two steals in 19 minutes of play — easily his best game since the Knicks acquired him last month for a future first-round pick and Kevin Knox.

Oozing with potential, the 6-foot-8 Reddish was reportedly pursued by the Los Angeles Lakers a few hours before Thursday’s deadline. But the deal did not push through after the Toronto Raptors, and the Knicks couldn’t agree on the draft compensations, per The Athletic. Alec Burks, who was also solid with 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists off the bench, should also have been part of the foiled three-team trade.

Luckily for the Knicks, the deal fell through.

Reddish got an extended run with RJ Barrett out due to an ankle injury. Reddish didn’t disappoint.

“Cam has been terrific, and we knew when we made the trade that there was a logjam, but his attitude has been terrific, and that’s what I go by,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after the game.

“He’s going to play based on performance. It’s how you practice that’s important, it’s how you conduct yourself that’s important, and you get what you earn. That’s for everyone.”

 

Thibodeau referenced rookie Quentin Grimes’ rise from the end of the bench to a borderline starter as the Knicks navigated COVID-19 and injuries in a challenging sequel to their surprising playoff run.

Grimes produced only six points and three rebounds in his third career start, but he offered a lot of intangibles that Thibodeau liked.

“That’s why Quentin’s (Grimes) in there, started off with Quentin and the way he practiced, and then when he got his opportunity, he played great for us. He plays tough on every possession,” Thibodeau said.

Reddish played exactly like that as he competed on both ends of the floor, although there were a couple of times he got caught on switches. But overall, his solid play inspired the Knicks’ bench.

The Knicks improved to 25-31, snapping a four-game losing skid that coincided with their bench’s poor play. For the first time in their last five games, their second unit outscored their counterparts. The Knicks was +22 (45-23) in bench scoring against the Warriors. And Reddish was a big part of that.

“To win in this league, you have to have competitiveness. That’s a big part of it,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t buy into like the thing about potential and all that. You get what you earn in this league.”

Reddish certainly earned those 19 solid minutes, and there could be more coming.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

 

Mets: Francisco Lindor willing to lose games if that means players get a fair deal

New York Mets’ star Francisco Lindor is very much involved in the talks between MLB and the Players Association for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Negotiations, so far, have been rough, with owners refusing to concede even the slightest piece of the pie in favor of the union.

The Mets’ shortstop, who signed a 10-year, $341 million contract just before the start of last season, expressed his feelings about the current CBA dispute, one that resulted in owners locking players out on December 2.

If there isn’t a new agreement soon, there is a high chance spring training is pushed back and the start of the season is delayed. If games are indeed lost, that means players will lose money: if they don’t play, they don’t get paid.

The Mets’ star is ready to defend the players’ rights

It’s certainly a problematic situation for players, but Lindor is prepared to fight for their rights until the last consequences. He spoke with Andy Martino of SNY, just after the owners’ meeting on Thursday.

“At the end of the day, we just want a good deal,” he told SNY. “If that’s what it comes down to… (missing games) We don’t want to do it. We want to play the full season. But if that’s what it comes down to… We continue to come to the table and bring good things, so we’re ready.”

It’s clear that losing games payments is not the same for Lindor, an accomplished veteran who has made millions in his career, than to a rookie that made the prorated amount of $570,000 last year, but the Mets’ star recognizes that sometimes, good things involve great sacrifices.

“The players are very aware of everything that’s happening,” Lindor said. “They’re very educated. Everybody’s together.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred said that he is hopeful games aren’t lost. “I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry,” he stated, saying that a deal is “always one breakthrough away.”

New York Yankees: Will the Chicago Cubs’ interest in Anthony Rizzo benefit the Yankees?

anthony rizzo, yankees

More than other teams, the New York Yankees have been highly affected by Rob Manfred’s baseball lockout, as they didn’t make any moves to improve the team before that lockout was imposed. The Yankees still have their major priorities unmet. They still need a quality shortstop to replace Gleyber Torres, they need to bolster the starting rotation and to make a decision on who will be the starting first baseman.

Opinions on social media have swung wildly during the lockout regarding the retention of Luke Voit at first base or to re-sign Anthony Rizzo, who was acquired last season at the trade deadline. There has been interest in Freddie Freeman, especially after his struggle getting a new contract with the World Series-winning Braves.

The Braves offered him $180 million over six years to stay with the team, an offer he rejected. At the same time, the Yankees may have been internally discussing a trade with the Athletics for first baseman Matt Olson. Those seemed unlikely, Freeman for the cost and Olson as the A’s would like to strip the Yankees of prime prospects.

Now things have taken another turn as the Cubs have apparently been discussing bringing Rizzo back for another year. Rizzo was a star for the Cubs for many years, actually all of his career, before being traded to the Yankees last season. This might be more competition for the Yankees, with no decision one way or the other, it might be a bidding war that the Yankees probably won’t be interested in, with their other needs.

Make no mistake about it, Rizzo, although approaching the later part of his career, is still a quality defensive first baseman and a pesky lefty at the plate. Any team would happy to have him in their starting lineup. But with interest increasing for Rizzo, it may leave the Yankees to reconsider Freeman or Olson.

Earlier in the month, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Freeman is on their radar:

“The Yankees are expected to take a run at Freddie Freeman, who they love. Though 1B isn’t their real need, they’d love to fit one of the game’s best lefty hitters into their lineup. With the Braves not quickly wrapping up their star, all are options are on the table for Freeman.”

With Rizzo’s likely salary being in the $14-18 million range for next season, Freeman does not seem out of the question. The decision regarding Matt Olson is far more complicated. The Yankees have made it clear that they will not be dealing Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza in any trade this season. That would mean the Yankees might have to nearly strip the farm system of prospects to reign in Olson from the A’s. 

However, all of this might be moot if the sides in the CBA negotiations can’t come to a compromise and new agreement. Presently, it looks as if the start of spring training will be delayed. One thing is for sure, and that is that the Yankees are going to have to pounce when the lockout is over, as half of the prospects they need to fill the teams’ holes have already gone to other teams. At the present, Voit, after the lockout, may be traded, taking him out of the equation and making the search for a new first baseman even more intriguing.

Considering all of this, there is at least one other option. General Manager Brian Cashman, who is always secretive in his workings, may surprise us all with a pick that no one has thought off, just like he did with DJ LeMahieu.

 

Giants trade up to snag top offensive tackle in Lance Zierlein’s 2022 NFL Mock Draft

ikem ekwonu, giants

The New York Giants have several different directions they can go in the 2022 NFL draft, but one thing is for sure, they desperately need to improve their offensive line. Hosting the 30th overall ranked pass blocking unit in 2021, the Giants have an easy decision to make early in the draft, but in Lance Zierlein’s mock, they actually move up to ensure they get the best player possible.

After Evan Neal is selected first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Giants get spooked and move up to the number three spot, trading with the Houston Texans.

The Giants move up to land Ikem Ekwonu out of NC State, shoring up the right tackle spot opposite Andrew Thomas:

The Giants move up in a deal with the Texans to ensure they land Ekwonu. He would give the team a tackle/guard option with a nasty playing demeanor and huge upside.

Ekwonu is capable of playing both inside and out. He’s an advanced pass blocker coming out of NC State, offering Daniel Jones immediate protection at right tackle.
While Ekwonu predominantly plays left tackle, many players make the shift to the right side once they transition to the NFL. Ikem is believed to be a universal scheme fit, which is exactly what the Giants are looking for as they develop a new system around Jones under new head coach Brian Daboll.
After featuring Nate Solder and Matt Peart at RT in 2021, the Giants finally lock down a long-term solution with incredible upside.
Realistically, Ekwonu could be a Pro Bowl level player by year three, but if they can get average play out of him during his rookie season, Jones will see an astronomical leap in production, having been tormented with protection issues the last few seasons.
Nonetheless, the Giants still have several spots inside they need to fix, notably both guard positions and center with Nick Gates suffering a career-threatening injury last year.
With the 7th overall pick in Zierlein’s mock, the Giants end up snagging Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Oregon. As Zierlein mentions, new general manager Joe Schoen had previously spent two first-round picks in 2021 on defensive ends and their first pick in 2020 at the same position. Creating a pass rush is essential, especially after hiring Wink Martindale and his incredibly aggressive blitz-heavy scheme.
The Giants also landed assistant head coach and defensive line maestro Andrea Patterson from the Minnesota Vikings, directly responsible for the development of Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. Allowing a coach like Patterson to get their hands on a player like Thibodeaux is exactly with a Giants are hoping for.
Big Blue would walk away with the top pass-blocking offensive tackle and arguably the best pass rusher in the draft class. To make matters even better, Thibodeaux is a perfect fit in their 3–4 scheme that features outside linebackers.

Knicks News: Randle, Fournier detail team’s struggles this year and staying put at the deadline

Just across the bridge in Brooklyn, the Nets were looking to finalize a blockbuster trade including James Harden. The Knicks, on the other hand, were engaged in several trade talks that didn’t come to fruition, but the team still went out on Thursday evening and overcame a tough Golden State Warriors squad.

Nearly every player on the Knicks was considered a trade piece at one point, but the front office elected to stay put and instill more confidence in their players. Alternatively, they couldn’t find trade partners for players like Kemba Walker or Evan Fournier, who signed big money deals this past off-season.

Fournier, who was rumored to be on the trade block, was extremely happy to remain with the Knicks, especially after a 22 point performance against Golden State, where he shot 7 of 17 from the field and recorded a +7 +/-.

“Obviously to know we’re going to finish this season with this group, there’s a relief for sure,’’ said Fournier, who was the subject of trade talks, per Marc Berman of The Post. “I’m not going to lie.’’

Head coach Tom Thibodeau spoke about his team’s great play against the Warriors, stealing a victory by just two points, 116–114.

“It’s important because of where we are,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The thing I liked about it was the resolve of the team tonight. We played really well today, but can’t feel too good about it. I loved the unselfishness of the team. We drove the ball and weren’t trying to shoot over their size. It was a real solid team win.’’

The Knicks had been struggling considerably before the trade deadline, losing seven of their last eight games, but they might be able to change the script during the second half of the season. The pressure must’ve been mounting as the deadline grew closer, especially with Julius Randle being rumored as a potential departure.

The Knicks will look ahead to the Portland Trailblazers on Saturday evening at 5 PM, a team who sits at 22–34 and recently traded away CJ McCollum.

I would be remiss not to mention Randle’s stellar performance against Golden State, recording 28 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists. This was one of Randle’s best games of the season, showcasing his aggressiveness driving to the basket and physicality in the paint.

“I just had to adjust to the way we’re being played,’’ Randle said. “We’ve been trying to adjust and be uptempo all year and haven’t been able to figure it out.’’

The Knicks were extremely aggressive in this game, overpowering a smaller Golden State team, attacking the rim with intensity. Despite not having RJ Barrett, the bench stepped up valiantly in the effort, combining for 45 points including 12 from Cam Reddish, who played a season-high 19 minutes with the Knicks.