New York Giants: Saquon Barkley gives insight on infamous QB sneaks

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

There’s plays that stand out in every NFL season, but last season for the New York Giants, their most memorable plays were notable for the wrong reason. Those plays were the back to back quarterback sneaks that the offense ran against Washington, despite being backed up near their own end zone. Understandably, many were confused by what the Giants were doing and the moment was immediately mocked on social media.

Now, of course, the season is over and Joe Judge is out as head coach. These calls were just another thing that seemed to work against him when the time came to decide if he’d stay or go. They were an example of a coach trying not to lose, rather than doing something to win.

Now, we have a bit more on the reasoning behind those calls from someone that was in the huddle.

“So the week before, we played Chicago and we were in the same situation, and we couldn’t get out and we got a safety. So the idea was ‘quarterback sneak it’ just to give us space,” Saquon Barkley told Andy Nesbitt from For The Win.

Unlike some, Barkley doesn’t place all of the blame on the coaching staff. According to him, the players need to do more to make the staff comfortable with risk taking.

Last season, the Giants didn’t do that.

“A little bit on both sides to blame but I really hate pointing fingers at anyone. But, hey, we just gotta put on the pads and learn from it.”

Fortunately, there’s little chance of the Giants running the same plays next season. They have a new offensive coordinator, and unless something goes terribly wrong, things won’t get as desperate as last year.

Yankees ponder who will play first base, there are some bright prospects in the system

The New York Yankees announced a long while ago that they would get a new shortstop before the 2022 season starts. We don’t know if they will hire a star-like player to fill the position, or go the stop-gap avenue, while they wait for Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe to develop to the major league level. With all that publicity, little attention has been paid to farm system players who could make an impact at first base in the coming years. Today we take a closer look at those up-and-coming prospects.

During the last few years, it was assumed that Luke Voit would be the Yankee’s first baseman for years to come. That reality seems like a distant thought, as Voit has been unable to stay healthy, as well, his performance at the plate, other than 2020, has been disappointing. Although the Yankees held onto Voit for 2022, it doesn’t seem likely that he will be the starting first baseman. The Yankees are interested in Matt Olson and Freddie Freeman, among others, to fill the spot.

However, looking past the 2022 season, the Yankees have some exciting young prospects already in the farm system that look appealing.

Chad Chaparro

One player who has really made progress last season and at Arizona in the fall league was Yankees’ Andres Chaparro. Although Chaparro has played a majority of the games at third base during his time with the Yankees, He became the first baseman when he was elevated to the Hudson Valley Renegades. Chaparro was selected to represent the Renegades in the Arizona Fall League. He also played first base there. He hit a combined .267/.381/.468 last season between the two Class-A levels. His pop drew eyes, which led to more power to add to his excellent plate discipline.

The Arizona Fall League seemed to be the catalyst for his new power behind the plate. Scouts took notice when he turned it on after a slow start. He started hitting for power while also hitting more frequently. Three of his hits were launched at exit velocities of 110 mph or higher. He slashed .353/.462/.686 in his last 61 plate appearances last fall.

Anthony Garcia

When Chaparro was elevated to the Hudson Valley affiliate, the Yankees promoted Anthony Garcia from the Florida Complex League. Garcia was an outfielder when he signed with the Yankees and did not play any first base during his first two seasons, in 2018 and 2019. This season he was transferred to first base, a move that turned out to be productive as he hit well and put up some impressive numbers.

Garcia has always been known for his power, Garcia slashed a combined .306/.444/.678 with 14 home runs in 153 plate appearances. Garcia does have a glaring problem to fix before he progresses, and that is his strike-out rate. He has struck out over 30 percent of the time while in the minors. To make it to the big team, he will have to continue working on that less then desirable trait. 

Tyler Hardman

The Yankees selected Tyler Hardman in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, selected out of the University of Oklahoma. He led the Big-12 conference in batting average in his final season there, hitting .397 for the Sooners. His selection was the highest in the draft since 2001 as a first baseman. Before winning the Big-12 batting crown, Hardman previously won the Cape Cod League home run derby. Although his bat has not shown tremendous power, there is enough there to show the Yankees they may depend on future progress. Although he has played some third base, the Yankees see him as a first baseman.

Chad Bell

The Yankees have something to look forward to. Chad Bell is a powerful left-hander. He slammed 21 home runs last season while rising from Low-A Tampa to Double-A Somerset. At the two Class-A levels, he posted a combined 138 wRC+. He does strike out more than the Yankees want but has also shown the ability to crush homers with power, making him a productive hitter. He will likely start with the Somerset Patriots again this season.

Other prospects

The Yankees also have some other prospects that are further away from the majors. Yankee fans should also keep their eyes on Connor Cannon and Spencer Henson, who are returning from injuries. Cannon was the player to be named later in the Mike Tauchman trade with the San Franciso Giants. Then there is Eric Wagaman, a player who made significant strides with in-season adjustments this past year. Wagaman has been a fixture with promise since he was drafted in 2017.

 

 

Yankees players work out in high school fields to stay in shape: ‘We can’t just be sitting on the couch’

gleyber torres, gio urshela, yankees

The nature of the MLB lockout prevents players from using their team’s facilities to train or rehab. A couple of New York Yankees players, therefore, have been using high school fields to keep themselves in top shape, per the New York Daily News.

Yankees infielders Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela had to pick up their things and leave a HS field around noon, because there would be a game there in a few hours. It’s not an ideal setting, but they are just happy to be training.

“We’ve been working out here [all offseason],” Urshela said to Kristie Ackert after fielding some grounders and hitting on the field. “We’ll just keep doing it. We want to play, we’re ready to go. We can’t just be sitting on the couch. We have to keep ourselves ready.”

On a normal year, pitchers and catchers would have reported to camp by now. But MLB owners and players haven’t come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), so the lockout is still in place.

The Yankees’ third baseman “just wants to play”

For the Yankees, the first spring training game is on February 26, which is nine days from now. That date is in serious jeopardy.

“We just want to play. Hopefully, the negotiations will move [along],” Urshela said. “We want to get back.”

“It’s like 2020. That helped us [figure out] how to do this now, for sure,” Urshela stated.

Urshela was asked how long do players need to get in shape for the new season. “I think four weeks would be OK,” he said. “I am ready to go now, but four weeks for everyone.”

That timeline means that there is still some time for the league and the union to overcome their considerable differences in negotiations, but time is quickly running out. The Players Association will reportedly make an offer today.

Report: Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau could be on the hot seat with team bottoming out

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The New York Knicks blew a 28 point lead on Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets, a game they should’ve handily won at MSG.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has failed to piece together competent player combinations that can help the Knicks get over the hump. In fact, his decision to keep RJ Barrett in a blowout with just seconds left on the clock resulted in an ankle injury that put his team further in disarray.

Piled on top of that, Thibodeau used a second illegal challenge against the Oklahoma City Thunder, costing him a timeout with seconds left on the clock. Consistent mistakes from your head coach are a sign of systemic issues, which likely has people questioning his capabilities running the team at a productive level.

Ian Begley of SNY reported that confidence is diminishing in Tom Thibodeau among executives at MSG:

What we know: Even before the brutal loss to the Nets, confidence in Thibodeau had diminished among some people of influence at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks have been inconsistent in all aspects of the game – except blowing double-digit leads.

It is understandable to think that confidence is beginning to dwindle regarding Thibodeau, especially after consistent mistakes and poor maximizing of player talents. Julius Randle seems like a shell of himself this season, and his young players from last year aren’t taking the necessary steps forward to help the team win games.

Second-year shooting guard Immanuel Quickley has seen his statistics degrade compared to his rookie season, and Obi Toppin hasn’t fully been able to extrapolate on his capabilities, averaging just 15 minutes per game and 7.3 points.

With the season seemingly lost as we head into the All-Star break, the Knicks need to begin trusting their youth more proficiently. With point guard remaining a significant issue, keeping Miles McBride in Westchester seems like malpractice.

Most expected the Knicks to take a step forward after an impressive 2020 campaign led by elite defense. However, it seemed as if they got a bit too overzealous with their free agency plan, acquiring Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, both of whom have failed miserably to contribute at a high level.

Thibodeau is undoubtedly a key component in the team’s struggles, but the front office shouldn’t get a pass either for their poor decisions.

Yankees may not be the favorites to land Freeman, but the slugger will ‘listen to them’, per Hall of Famer

freddie freeman, yankees

The New York Yankees’ first base situation is far from settled at the moment. Yes, we don’t even know if there will be a season in 2022, but the Bombers still don’t know who will be there manning the cold corner. They do have some options, though.

Luke Voit remains on the roster, and while he isn’t good defensively and is somewhat injury-prone, his bat speaks for itself. The last time he was fully healthy, he led the league with home runs in 2020, with 22.

Of course, the Yankees can also employ DJ LeMahieu at first, Gleyber Torres at second, and Gio Urshela at third. They still need a shortstop, though.

However, the most attractive options for the Yankees to deploy at first base is, by far Freddie Freeman. And the reigning World Series champion and 2020 MVP will reportedly be willing to listen to what the Yanks could offer.

Could the Yankees land Freeman?

Atlanta Braves Hall-of-Fame third baseman Chipper Jones appeared Tuesday on the Dukes & Bell podcast (link to NJ Advance Media article here) and talked about Freeman.

“I haven’t talked to Freddie in quite some time, but I’m sure he’s probably a little frustrated this wasn’t done in spring training last year. … The bottom line is, Freddie I believe before it’s all said and done will be playing where he wants to play. I know he’s a West Coast guy. I know he has a home here in Atlanta. But Freddie, if he wants to play for the Atlanta Braves, will be playing for the Atlanta Braves. … The Braves have made some offers, didn’t make him happy. He’s being courted by some of the prettiest girls on the block right now, he’s gonna listen to them.”

The takeaways from Chipper’s words is that New York may not be his most likely destination, but he will listen closely if they approach him with an offer.

Freeman hit 31 homers in 2021, with 120 runs scored and a .300/.393/.503 line.

Knicks front-office may have made a massive mistake with Mitchell Robinson

The New York Knicks held on for dear life at the trade deadline on February 10, failing to unload any big contracts and acquire more assets for the future. The only deal they managed to complete was with the Atlanta Hawks regarding Cam Reddish, who has made a minimal impact since joining the team.

One player, the Knicks, received calls about was center Mitchell Robinson, who fouled out against the Brooklyn Nets in a devastating defeat after holding a 28 point lead at one point in the game.

Robinson has dealt with foul troubles in two of the last three games but is still having a phenomenal season with the Knicks putting together some consistent performances thanks to a positive health trend. Last year, Robinson struggled with a fractured hand and foot at different points in a season, impacting his flow and rhythm.

The problem is, the Knicks had an opportunity to unload Robinson for assets or include him in a more lucrative deal, but now the Knicks may walk away without getting any value from their homegrown big man.

Marc Berman of the NY Post reported that the Knicks could lose Mitchell Robinson in free agency:

Four teams went after Knicks center Mitchell Robinson at Thursday’s trade deadline, including the Bulls and Pistons, according to an NBA source.

Ultimately the Knicks pulled back, didn’t make any trades, and now risk losing their longest-tenured player as an unrestricted free agent this July.

According to the source, two of the teams who had contacted the Knicks about Robinson got the impression they will lose him if he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The source said the relationship between Robinson and the Knicks currently isn’t on firm ground.

The Bulls were intrigued by Robinson, according to the source, because they were looking for another defensive center to go along with Nikola Vucevic as they eye a long playoff push.

The Knicks’ decision to not trade Robinson for assets shows they at least feel Robinson would accept a contract extension if one is offered. They can offer him an extension of five years, $55 million.

If the Knicks really allow Mitch to walk without offering him an extension following the end of the season, they will have made a massive mistake. If they never planned on extending him, extracting any value at the deadline would have been a more efficient move.

Robinson will have plenty of suitors looking to add him as a key component to their team, especially if more proficient clubs come calling. Robinson could have a far better situation on the table, notably with the Chicago Bulls, who could use his physicality inside.

Alternatively, the Knicks still have Nerlends Noel, who’s made next to no impact this year struggling with injuries. The front office struck out miserably in free agency last off-season, and if they continue with this trend, they will once again be staring rock bottom in the face.

Some are starting to argue that the Knicks dropping out of the play-in tournament is their best course of action, securing a premium draft pick, which could be an enticing factor in landing an established star in free agency.

Rex Ryan says Giants landed ‘tremendous coach’, Daniel Jones will benefit the most

Rex Ryan

One of the key reasons the New York Giants hired former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to be there new head coach is because of his experience developing quarterbacks. Witnessing the unbelievable job he did with Josh Allen, ownership envisioned Daniel Jones experiencing a similar jump, even if their skill sets are quite different.

Jones has struggled in his first three years as a professional quarterback, tossing just 10 touchdown passes last season under Jason Garrett’s leadership. Despite quality tangible traits, a massive dip in his production suggests that the Giants have done a poor job building a system around him, including a competent coaching staff.

After firing Garrett midseason and letting Joe Judge go at the end of the year, ownership has put their trust in Daboll to turn things around, building a scheme that maximizes player strengths instead of hiding them behind an outdated strategy.

Current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan spoke highly of Daboll, stating that Jones will thrive under Daboll’s leadership, which is likely music to John Mara and Steve Tisch’s ears.

“That’s a tremendous coach,” Ryan told Darryl Slater of NJ.com. “A guy with a great work ethic, but a great f—ing dude. I really like Brian, and I think he’s going to do a great job.

Daboll is known for his ability to curate relationships with players. He was extremely close with Allen, Stefon Diggs, Isaiah McKenzie, and a variety of different players with Buffalo. He makes an impact wherever he goes in the NFL, and if Daboll has made it his personal mission to bring the best out of Daniel Jones, that is a huge step in the right direction.

“I’m excited to see him — and I know he said don’t compare Daniel Jones to Josh Allen. But I’m not kidding you: I know for a fact Brian Daboll really likes Daniel Jones. And I do, too. He’s an athlete. He’s got the physical skill set you look for. And he’s got the mental makeup. So I think the kid is going to do well with Brian.”

Jones’s strengths have been hidden by poor schematics and offensive line blocking. As we’ve seen, it all starts with the coaching staff, and if they cannot bring the best out of players, it doesn’t matter who you have at quarterback. The Giants, fortunately, have plenty of draft capital to spend on talent for Jones’s protection scheme.

Transitioning to a spread-style offense should do Jones plenty of good, allowing him to throw down field and not settle for short routes, staring down receivers as we’ve seen in the past. However, avoiding injury should also be a priority for the coaching staff, as Jones has missed eight games over the past two years, picking up a concussion, neck injury, and hamstring injury during that time span.

Most of these issues have resulted from overcompensating for poor offensive production, but if the Giants can run a disciplined unit that executes properly, Jones shouldn’t have to do too much and put himself in harm’s way.

Could the Giants go after elite Notre Dame safety in 2022 NFL Draft?

kyle hamilton, giants

Reflecting on the 2021 NFL draft, the New York Giants elected to trade back with the Chicago Bears, adding a first-round selection for 2022 and acquiring Kadarius Toney at 20th overall.

Toney had an inconsistent season, dealing with a number of injuries and incompetent offensive schematics deployed by coordinator Jason Garrett. With a lack of aggression and poor concepts, the Giants hope to revolutionize their approach, modernize the system, and get more creative with their playmakers.

The offensive line stands out as an immeasurable need, but there’s one star defender who could slip to the 7th overall pick, putting new general manager Joe Schoen in a tough spot.

Notre Dame star safety Kyle Hamilton stands out as one of the best players in the 2022 NFL draft. He finished with 34 tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions, and four passes defended over seven games this past season.

Hamilton possesses elite physical attributes, standing at 6’4″ and 220 pounds. Comparably, Xavier McKinney, the Giants’ starting free-safety stands at 6’0″ and 201 pounds. Hamilton has a massive frame, capable of moving up into the box and attacking running backs with unbelievable force and quickness.

Many are coining Hamilton as a unicorn player, capable of executing in a variety of different roles and responsibilities. Allowing him to be versatile with his playstyle is preferable, something that new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale could likely extrapolate on.

You could make the argument that Patrick Graham’s system would’ve been more advantageous for Hamilton, given his desire to play zone coverage and disguise looks for opposing quarterbacks. Martindale’s system relies heavily on man coverage and blitz-heavy schematics. Putting Hamilton in that type of role with his big frame could unearth a portion of his capabilities that weren’t explored at the collegiate level as frequently.

However, when looking at Hamilton as a plug-and-play option, he’s not only an impact player in coverage, but he can settle in the box, roaming around the line of scrimmage and reading the quarterback’s eyes. He can feature in a nickel role and as part of pressure packages. The question is, how would the Giants utilize McKinney and Hamilton together in a heavy cover 1 scheme?

During the 2021 draft, the Giants passed on Micah Parsons and Rashawn Slater, two players they would’ve loved to have as building blocks for the future. However, they bet on the 2022 draft, in which they can still land a premium prospect and commence their rebuild in a strong way.

Packaging McKinney and Hamilton together could provide Martindale with another element in the defensive backfield. McKinney showcased sideline-to-sideline speed last year, picking up five interceptions, tied for the most at the safety position. With SS Jabrill Peppers preparing to hit free agency and coming off a torn ACL, Hamilton could replace him and offer above-average play on day one.

When looking at the Baltimore Ravens defensive roster, they had three safeties listed, with only Chuck Clark receiving starts throughout the season. Suppose Martindale doesn’t use a strong safety in his system but prefers to deploy more corners/linebackers. In that case, Hamilton might not be the best selection for the Giants, but building a system that incorporates him could be beneficial. Remember the term “money-backer,” Hamilton could be used in a similar fashion as a de-facto linebacker who can drop into coverage but also play the run effectively.

There’s also a legitimate argument to make that a pass rusher would be more productive in a system like Martindale’s, who depends on a great pass rush to force quarterbacks to make impulsive decisions, equaling more mistakes.

Being the unicorn that Hamilton is, Martindale wouldn’t have any problem utilizing him in creative ways, but they’re more pressing issues than a luxury safety who could end up being an All-Pro. Nonetheless, they may regret passing on him if available with the 7th overall pick.

Luke Voit has tough words for the Yankees if they won’t give him shot at first base

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

The New York Yankees have several different directions they can go at first base next season, given the lockout finally ends and players return to work.

The Bombers have been connected to a myriad of players, including Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, and Matt Olson of the Oakland Athletics. One name that has continuously been passed by is Luke Voit, who has showcased quality talent in the past but dealt with injuries that have interrupted his progress.

Last season, Voit played in 68 games, hitting .239 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs. As a starting first baseman in 2020, Voit smashed 22 homers during the Covid abbreviated season, providing a 56 game sample size.

The Yankees went into last season with Voit as their primary starter, but they were forced to acquire Rizzo for the remainder of the campaign due to his injury restraints. The former Chicago Cub hit free agency this off-season, and he could end up going back to Chicago on an extension, making his time with a Yankees short-lived.

However, Voit has made it abundantly clear that he will take his talents elsewhere if the Yankees don’t give him an opportunity to start.

Dan Martin of the New York Post spoke to Luke Voit, who made it clear he would go elsewhere if he can’t play first base:

“I want to play first base for the Yankees,’’ Voit said. “If that happens, great. If not, I’ll go somewhere else.”

Trading for Rizzo undoubtedly left a sour taste in Luke’s mouth, but he understands the complexity of his injury and why they had to make a deal.

“I get why they did it,’’ Voit said of the trade. “I was hurt and on the [IL] a bunch last year and I get that. They want the lefty bats, too. But I also have done my fair share there and had some really good at-bats over the last four years.”

Reports of general manager Brian Cashman and ownership’s interest in Freddie Freeman likely doesn’t spur optimism for his future.

Freeman is capable of hitting 40+ homers at Yankee stadium, given his big lefty bat. However, if the Yankees want to take a more cost-efficient route, Luke Voit makes the most sense for the time being. They can reallocate those funds towards starting pitching or a stopgap shortstop. Ultimately, it all depends on how the Yankees prioritize their needs and if first base is worth spending big money on.