New York Giants Rookie Mini Camp: Main Takeaways

wan'dale robinson, giants

The New York Giants hosted their first rookie minicamp practice on Friday afternoon, featuring the team’s new draft picks. The team had 85 players listed on the rookie minicamp roster, with Brian Lewerke as the only quarterback. That is probably why general manager Joe Schoen was seen throwing footballs around the field and participating in individual drills.

First-round picks Kayvonn Thibodeaux, and Evan Neal were on full display, showcasing their awesome attributes and athletism. Thibodeaux, specifically, spoke about the importance of camp and how excited he was to finally get started.

“I put it on and i feel like I’m not there yet,” Thibodeaux said, via NJ.com. “There’s still some hoops and hurdles I gotta go through to be part of the team … It still hasn’t hit me.”

Thibodeaux has eagerly digested Wink Martindale’s defensive playbook, and while there’s plenty of work left to be done, he is well on his way to making an impact in his first season as a professional football player.

The drills were all non-contact, given the nature of the practices, but seeing how massive Evan Neal is at 6’8″ and 365 pounds is astounding. The Alabama stand-out is preparing to take over at right tackle and help stifle some of the NFC East’s dominant pass rushers.

Wan’Dale Robinson Vs Cor’Dale Flott:

One of the more exciting matchups this off-season will be second-round receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and LSU defensive back Cor’Dale Flott, who was chosen in the third round with the 81st overall pick. Both players faced off against each other in 2021 when LSU traveled to Kentucky.

Robinson got the better of Flott in the game, but both players acknowledged how talented one another was. After an exciting matchup last season, they will have an opportunity to face off daily in multiple alignments. Robinson is capable of lining up in the slot and outside, and I imagine Flott will also travel to the boundary despite projections he will play the nickel position in the NFL.

Luckily, there were no disappointing mishaps like last season when Kadarius Toney had the size of the wrong cleats. Everything went smoothly in Joe Schoen’s first rookie minicamp practice, setting the tone for the rest of the off-season.

Report: Ex-Nets Alize Johnson, Reggie Perry lead Knicks’ free agent tryouts

The New York Knicks held a minicamp for free agents in preparation for the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in July.

Former Brooklyn Nets’ big men Alize Johnson and Reggie Perry led the 12-man field that also included returning Westchester Knicks gunner Louis King, per Forbes Sports’ Adam Zagoria.

Johnson earned a standard contract with the Nets in 2021 after a pair of impressive 10-day contracts. His best game as a member of the Nets came in a 130-113 win over the Indiana Pacers on April 29, 2021, with 20 points and a career-high 21 rebounds.

But despite showing flashes, Johnson was waived in September to make a roster spot for LaMarcus Aldridge. After his short stint with the Nets, he bounced around the league on 10-day contracts.

Meanwhile, Perry is a former McDonald’s All-American who has yet to find his footing in the league. The 2019 FIBA U-19 World Cup MVP failed to crack the Nets’ rotation in 2021 and got cut. He last saw action for the Portland Trail Blazers this past season.

Free-agent players who also attended the minicamp are Devon Dotson, John Petty, Craig Randall, George King, Chris Clemons, Carlik Jones, Aaron Henry, AJ Lawson and Daquan Jeffries.

Perhaps the best players from this minicamp will reinforce the Knicks’ NBA Summer League team featuring their young core.

Marc Berman of the New York Post recently reported that the Knicks’ youngsters, led by Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin, were already back at their Tarrytown practice facility gearing up for the next season. Cam Reddish, who just recovered from a season-ending shoulder injury, was also back in harness. Incoming sophomores Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride and Jericho Sims also joined the workouts.

 

The Knicks are stacked with 12 returning players on guaranteed contracts for next season. Jericho Sims’ two-way contract will likely get converted into a standard NBA contract hiking that list to 13, not counting their two picks in the coming NBA Draft. They also have decisions to make on Mitchell Robinson, who has until June 30 to agree to an extension with the Knicks. Otherwise, Robinson becomes an unrestricted free agent. Then there’s Taj Gibson, who has a team option for next season.

The Knicks are expected to trade Kemba Walker and maybe some of their veterans to declog the roster logjam and reshape their roster following a disappointing 37-45 season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC Vegas 54 Preview: Katlyn Chookagian – Amanda Ribas

Tomorrow night on the main card of UFC Vegas 54, we are going to see a fun matchup in the women’s flyweight division. Former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian (17-4) will be taking on top strawweight contender Amanda Ribas (11-2).

Ribas will be moving up to 125 pounds for this fight at UFC Vegas 54. When Ribas first came onto the UFC scene, she started off very strong with five consecutive wins. Those wins included wins over the likes of Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos, and Paige VanZant.

Then, Ribas was stopped by Marina Rodriguez at UFC 257. After taking some time off, she returned in October where she defeated Virna Jandiroba. Now, she’s moving up to 125 pounds to take on one of the best in the world.

It’s pretty clear that Katyln Chookagian is becoming a bit of a gate-keeper at 125. Blonde Fighter is definitely one of the very best in the world and her resume shows that. She’s 6-2 in her last eight UFC fights.

The only losses came against Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade. Since the Andrade loss, she’s won three in a row and she’s hoping to get another crack at the UFC flyweight title.

UFC Vegas 54 Prediction

I was really impressed with what I saw from Amanda Ribas in her last fight. She looked much better on the feet and she’s going to need to be sharp at UFC Vegas 54 if she wants to defeat Katlyn Chookagian.

One thing we know for sure about Chookagian is that she’s going to throw with a lot of volume. She’s become so successful at just outworking her opponents and winning decisions. If the fight goes to the scorecards and Chookagian is involved, she’s likely going to get the win.

Ribas is sensational on the ground, but I wonder if her ground skills would get neutralized by the size advantage of Chookagian. For the most part, I see this fight staying on the feet. Now, Ribas’ speed could play a factor in getting her the win at UFC Vegas 54.

However, I’ve seen Chookagian over and over again land just the right amount of shots to win rounds and win fights. Ultimately, I think this is a close one, but Blonde Fighter takes the decision.

Prediction: Katlyn Chookagian by Decision

UFC Vegas 54 Main Event Preview: Jan Blachowicz – Aleksandar Rakic

Corey Anderson

Tomorrow night in the main event of UFC Vegas 54 we have a massive matchup in the light heavyweight division. Former champion Jan Blachowicz (28-9) returns for the first time since losing his title when he takes on the surging Aleksandar Rakic (14-2).

As mentioned, this is the first time we are seeing Blachowicz since UFC 267. That night, he lost his light heavyweight title against Glover Teixeira. Prior to that loss, Blachowicz had gone an impressive five-fight winning streak to capture the title where he had knockouts over Corey Anderson and Dominick Reyes.

Most impressively was his win over UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Standing in his way tomorrow night is Aleksandar Rakic. Rakic is going to be looking for his seventh UFC win and the biggest win of his professional career.

The last time we saw Rakic was over a year ago at UFC 259 which was headlined by Blachowicz and Adesanya. That night, Rakic defeated Thiago Santos by decision. In his career inside the octagon, Rakic has only tasted defeat once and it was a razor close and controversial split decision.

UFC Vegas 54 Prediction

This is an interesting matchup and one where I’m not entirely sure what the game plans will be. If the two fighters at UFC Vegas 54 decide to keep things standing for the most part, that part is easy to predict.

You’re going to see Rakic play the range-game and look to stay on the outside. Meanwhile Blachowicz will look to get on the inside and use that legendary Polish Power that won him the UFC title in the first place.

It’ll be interesting to see if Rakic tries to use wrestling at all to limit the threat of Blachowicz’s power. It wouldn’t shock me and I see him going to the takedown some in this fight. Thus far, we really haven’t seen how Rakic handles getting hit.

I think he’s going to get hit in this one. However, will he get hit with a shot that can put him away? That, I’m not entirely sure about. I think we are in for a slower fight where Rakic controls where the fight takes place.

It’s not going to be the most fan-friendly fight, but I think Rakic gets the win here.

Prediction: Aleksandar Rakic by Decision

Former Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner rejects big offer from AL East rival

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

There may not be a more loyal player than former New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, who refused to join the Toronto Blue Jays this off-season when they offered him a lucrative one-year contract.

According to Ken Rosenthal of “The Athletic,” Brett Gardner rejected a $6 million offer from the Blue Jays for the 2022 season:

Gardner, 38, turned down a one-year, $6 million offer from the Blue Jays after the conclusion of the lockout, sources said. More recently, the Braves gauged his interest after learning outfielder Eddie Rosario would miss eight-to-12 weeks while recovering from a laser procedure to correct blurred vision and swelling in his right eye. Gardner declined to pursue the opportunity.

The Yankees weren’t even considering offering Gardner a deal that excessive, and he easily could’ve cashed in and played one more season to expand his generational wealth. However, Gardner would prefer to finish his career in pinstripes, and at 38 years old covering 14 professional seasons, his job is done.

With the Yankees struggling through outfield issues the past few seasons, Gardner was forced to supplement injuries and deficiencies. He played in 140 games in 2021, posting a .222 average with 10 homers and 39 RBIs. He earned a 13% walk rate and a .327 on-base percentage.

The Blue Jays clearly viewed him as a potential starter if need be, but also as a quality reserve player who can play multiple positions in the outfield. While the Yankees haven’t re-signed Gardner just yet, if injuries mount at some point in the 2022 campaign, I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave him a call and brought him back to finish the season.

Yankees: Anthony Rizzo is not “pissed off” at the Cubs anymore

anthony rizzo, yankees

Before last year’s trade deadline, the New York Yankees acquired lefty-hitting slugger Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for prospects. The first baseman had been with the Cubs since 2011 and was an integral part of their World Series-winning run in 2016.

Rizzo was settled in Chicago, was a fan favorite, and didn’t want to leave. He is, however, over the whole issue at this point, and says he is happy being in New York and playing for the Yankees.

He was a hero in Chicago: he won four Gold Glove Awards and went to three All-Star games in addition to that unforgettable 2016. But the Cubs didn’t want to pay him a long-term deal and traded him before he left nothing in return.

The Yankees first baseman had a hard time getting over the Cubs trading him

Rizzo told the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune (link to NJ Advance Media article here): “Now that it has happened, I’m very happy with where I’m at. … I don’t think it was ever necessarily (acrimonious). It’s business. … They had to make tough business decisions. As a human being, was I pissed off? Of course. But as a baseball player who sees what happens and (knows) this is a business, that’s the way it is. As far as hashing it out, I don’t think there’s much to hash out. … I wish them well.”

The Yankees ended up giving Rizzo a two-year, $32 million contract. Thanks to a hot start, Rizzo has been well worth the money: not only he offers clubhouse presence and leadership, but he is a competent fielder and a well above-average hitter: he is tied for third in MLB in home runs with 10 and has 30 RBI.

He has said in multiple occasions that he likes being a member of the Yankees, and he has proven it with his on-field performance. The past in well in the rearview mirror.

Yankees News: Young starting pitcher sent down, Gerrit Cole toes the slab on Friday

yankees, gerrit cole

The New York Yankees executed an offensive master-class on Thursday night against the Chicago White Sox. With Chicago taking an early lead, the Yankees blew the game wide open in the 8th inning, scoring seven runs to bring the score to 14-7. In the 9th, Aaron Judge hit a sacrifice fly to right field, driving in Joey Gallo, putting the cherry on top of a 15-run performance.

However, starting pitcher Luis Gil struggled in his first major league action of the season. Over 4.0 innings pitched, he gave up five hits, four earned runs, two walks, and struck out five batters. The Yankees needed to supplement some fatigue within the starting rotation, so manager Aaron Boone called upon Gil to handle the load.

Gil finished with a 9.00 ERA but did record a 41.7% ground ball rate. His 42.9% left on-base percentage wasn’t exactly great, and his 41.7% hard-hit rate was also questionable. As for his pitches, he averaged out at 96.8 mph, with his fastball at 87.2 mph with a slider. His velocity is up quite a bit, which is an extremely optimistic sign for the Bombers.

Nonetheless, Boone sent Gil back down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with Gerrit Cole taking the mound on Friday.

Cole is coming off multiple quality performances, having allowed just one earned run over his past three games, and 19 innings pitched. In fact, over that same sample size, he struck out 25 batters and walked just four.

This season, Cole hosts a 2.67 ERA, 10.98 strikeouts per nine, and 88.4% left on base rate. His hard-hit percentage is up to 40.8%, a bit higher than his 38.6% number from last year, but his barrel percentage allowed has dropped to 6.6% from 9.8% in 2021.

Overall, Cole has a few differing metrics, specifically his first-pitch strike percentage. That number is down about 14% this season, which is odd considering Cole loves to test batters early in the count. In fact, his first-pitch strike percentage is the lowest it’s been in his entire career at 54.4%. Cole has also incorporated a few different pitches into the mix, including a cutter, which he’s thrown 12.2% of the time, taking a bit of action away from his curveball and changeup.

Nonetheless, the Yankees have another favorable matchup against Chicago on Friday with Vince Velasquez on the mound opposite Cole. Velasquez has a 3.97 ERA this season over 22.2 innings, giving up 22 hits and striking out 21 batters.

Yankees’ general manager discusses Anthony Volpe’s 2022 struggles: “It’s a marathon”

anthony volpe, yankees

Just when it looked like he was about to catch fire in Double-A Somerset, New York Yankees’ number one prospect Anthony Volpe went cold agan, and it’s fair to say he has been struggling in 2022 as a whole.

It’s a whole new level for him, and it’s to be expected. No one is alarmed yet, but the facts are that he is slashing .167/.291/.344 with a .635 OPS after going 0-for-5 on Thursday, according to Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media. The young infielder does have four home runs, 11 stolen bases, and 16 RBI in 26 games, but his overall performance has been disappointing.

Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman, however, isn’t worried in the slightest. He understands that prospect development is not linear and that Volpe will eventually be fine.

“There’s a ton of very talented players, even at this level, throughout the game,” Cashman told Kuty. “Fast starts. Slow starts. It’s a marathon.”

Lats year, the prized prospect had a 1.078 OPS in Low-A, and then a .977 OPS in High-A, acing two levels in one season.

“He’ll heat up,” the Yankees’ GM said. “I think he’s already started heating up. That kid’s wired right.”

The Yankees’ best prospect has the backing of the organization

But he has been cooling off some as of late: since April 28, he is hitting .111 (4-for-36) with two homers in 10 games.

“Obviously, he’s taking the next step, and we’re excited about his future,” Cashman said. His manager in Double-A, Dan Fiorito, also spoke with NJ Advance Media about Volpe and his struggles.

“He keeps grinding out at-bats,” Fiorito said about a week ago. “Even some of the times where he wasn’t putting it all together, or when he wasn’t just crushing the ball like we saw all of last year, he’s still competitive.”

Volpe should eventually be fine, but it’s not completely unexpected to see him struggle at a new, more competitive level.

UFC books Bobby Green – Jim Miller

The UFC has finalized a fun matchup between two of the more tenured lightweights in the promotion. MMA Junkie was the first to report yesterday that “King” Bobby Green (29-13-1) returns in July as he takes on Jim “A-10” Miller (34-16).

The matchup will take place on July 2nd at UFC 276. Originally, Miller and Bobby Green were supposed to fight back in February of 2021 but that fight was scrapped. Now, they will meet in July.

For Miller, He’s going to be looking for his third straight win. Jim Miller has made it clear what he wants in terms of finishing out his career. He wants to continue fighting until he gets the chance to compete at UFC 300.

Miller would have fought then on the 100th, 200th, and 300th PPV for the promotion. A-10 went through a rough stretch in 2020 and 2021 where he went 1-3 in four fights. Wasn’t sure if he’d be able to make it to UFC 300, but he’s really turned things around.

He has scored back-to-back finishes over Nikolas Motta and Erick Gonzalez. If he can beat Bobby Green, it will go a long way in showing that Jim Miller still has plenty in the tank.

UFC’s King Returns

Entering 2020, Bobby Green wasn’t sure if he wanted to keep fighting. He had gone through a rough stretch in his UFC career that saw him go 1-5-1 in seven fights. However, he wanted to keep fighting and started his 2020 in June against Clay Guida.

Starting with the Guida fight, Green won three straight UFC fights. Those three wins earned him fights with Thiago Moises and Rafael Fiziev. Now, he lost both of those, but he had good showings especially against Fiziev.

After that, he won another two fights and these were even more impressive. He knocked out Al Iaquinta at UFC 268 and then completely pieced up Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 271 in February.

After that, he took a very short-notice main event against Islam Makhachev. Now, he was finished in the first round, but I’m throwing that fight out due to the extreme short-notice.

This is a big fight for Green to get back on track and get back to his winning ways. This should be a fun one for fans.

Ranking the Giants’ top 5 games of the 2022 regular season

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The NFL released the 2022 schedule on Thursday evening, and the New York Giants have one of the easiest in the entire league. This presents a good opportunity for Daniel Jones to dominate against lesser teams, putting his best foot forward and proving he can be a long-term solution at quarterback. A lighter schedule should ease the coaching staff into the season and help them enjoy some success and progress before taking on a far more difficult group of opponents in 2023.

Nonetheless, the Giants have some exciting games on the docket, so let’s take a look at which ones rank as the best.

Ranking the top 5 New York Giants regular-season games:

Week 12 – Nov. 24:  at Dallas (Thanksgiving), 4:25 p.m., FOX

The Giants haven’t enjoyed a Thanksgiving game in quite some time, and playing Dallas makes it even more exciting.

The Cowboys have struggled to make any noise in the playoffs, but after drafting stand-out pass rusher Micah Parsons last year, the Giants certainly will have their hands full. Big Blue made a concerted effort to address the offensive line this off-season, drafting Evan Neal with the 7th overall pick to plug right tackle.

This will be an exhilarating matchup in the trenches between the Giants and Cowboys, and with a turkey leg in hand, this is one of the most stimulating games of the season.

Week 3 – Sept. 26:  vs. Cowboys, (Monday Night Football), 8:15 p.m., ESPN/ABC

Nine weeks prior to the Giants taking on Dallas on Thanksgiving, they will play Monday Night Football in Week 3 on September 26. Any time the Giants get to play Dallas in primetime is a good one, and given this is one of the Giants’ only primetime games this year, it must be high on the list.

Week 5 – Oct. 9: vs. Packers (London), 9:30 a.m., NFLN

It was announced that the Giants would travel to London to face off against the Green Bay Packers several weeks ago. The last time Big Blue made the trip across the pond was against the Rams when Landon Collins took an interception to the house. This time around, the Packers will offer an entirely different quality of opponent, so Daniel Jones must be at the top of his game.

Week 16 – Dec. 24:  at Minnesota, 1 p.m., FOX

Another interesting game this season is against the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Eve. A little bit of football action to smooth over the holiday is exactly what we needed, making this the fourth-ranked game of the regular season.

Week 18 –  Jan. 7 or 8: at Philadelphia, TBD

The Giants always finished the season with an NFC East opponent. This time around, it is the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles had to show up on this list at least once, and the Giants seem to be in a far better position with their coaching staff to hopefully compete at a higher level.

With AJ Brown being traded to the Eagles during the draft, the Giants will have a tough task ahead of them, limiting him and his size. Matching Adoree Jackson up against Brown seems to be a match made in hell, but second-year corner Aaron Robinson has the height and size to attack him in press coverage. This could end up being one of the more exciting games of the season, and the Giants will be looking to close out the season strong.