The Giants might have a dynamic run-blocking duo on the right side of the line

evan neal, giants

The New York Giants rebuilt their offensive line this offseason. After years of misery upfront, new general manager Joe Schoen made it a point of emphasis to acquire offensive line talent. Schoen added a number of backup linemen in free agency while also making a couple of big-moves to add starters. The Giants signed veteran Mark Glowinski in free agency to a three-year deal to be the team’s starting right guard. They also made a splash in the first round of the draft when they selected Alabama right tackle Evan Neal with the seventh overall pick. The two of these linemen will combine on the right side to form a dynamic run-blocking duo.

Evan Neal is a dominant run-blocker

The New York Giants drafted a mauler at right tackle this offseason. Evan Neal is a versatile offensive lineman that started games at left tackle, left guard, and right tackle in his collegiate career. The Giants drafted Neal to be their starting right guard immediately and he will provide them with a major upgrade in both the pass-blocking and run-blocking departments. But, particularly, Evan Neal should excel as a run-blocker.

Evan Neal is a beastly 6-foot-8, 340-pound tank on the offensive line. Neal is aggressive and knows how to use his strength and power as a run-blocker. His power at the point of attack is a top-strength according to The Draft Network and they describe his ideal role as a “dominant run-blocking RT.”

Neal possesses a large frame, measuring in at 6-foot-6 and 360 pounds. Neal uses his massive frame and power to move defenders off the line of scrimmage when run blocking. – The Draft Network on Evan Neal

Mark Glowinski a quality run-blocking guard for the Giants

On the left shoulder of Evan Neal will be starting right guard Mark Glowinski. The Giants signed Mark Glowinski to a three-year, $20 million contract this offseason. Glowinksi comes to New York with seven years of experience. He spent the last four years starting 55 games with the Indianapolis Colts.

Mark Glowinski is also an exceptional run-blocker. Glowinski ranked 11th in run block win rate from the guard position in 2021 (PFF). PFF describes the Giants’ new right guard as “a plus athlete who has been an above-average zone blocker in his starting stint with Indianapolis the past several seasons.”

Where Mark Glowinski may falter in pass-protection he more than makes up for it in the running game. Mark Glowinski and Evan Neal will combine together to create a wrecking force on the right side of the Giants’ offensive line. Right guard and right tackle have been positions of weakness for the Giants over the last several years. Glowinski and Neal should turn those weaknesses into strengths as they dominate opposing defenders in the running game.

Yankees lose another bullpen arm to shoulder discomfort

New York Yankees, Jonathan Loaisiga

Injuries are starting to pile up for the New York Yankees, who were relatively healthy for the first few weeks of the season. First, it was right-hander Chad Green last week, who was lost to Tommy John surgery. Starter Luis Gil also went down with significant ligament damage in his elbow. Then, this week, Aroldis Chapman suffered an Achilles issue.

And now, the Yankees are reporting that reliever Jonathan Loaisiga, a key component of the 2021 successful team, has been placed on the 15-day injured list with shoulder discomfort.

It’s never good news when a pitcher complains about shoulder discomfort: it could be a two-week thing, or it could result in an extended absence. The Yankees won’t provide many details until they perform some tests and imaging on Lo’s shoulder, though, which should be within the next couple of days.

Loaisiga was having a nightmarish season, with a 7.02 ERA in 16.2 innings so far in 2022. His 1.56 WHIP is the perfect proof that something was wrong with him, as his command has been off all year. It’s unclear if the issue has been affecting him for a while or if it popped up this week.

Several arms needs to step up for the Yankees

Now that they are down Green, Chapman, and Loaisiga, the rest of the bullpen will need to step up for the Yankees. Clay Holmes (0.40 ERA) has been masterful, but guys like Lucas Luetge, Michael King, Clarke Schmidt, Wandy Peralta, and Miguel Castro will be relied upon heavily in upcoming weeks.

The Yankees should also reconsider their decision to use Domingo German as a starter when he is ready to return from his own shoulder injury. He has a better ERA as a reliever over the course of his career.

On Wednesday, the Yankees also announced that Joey Gallo is off the injured list and Giancarlo Stanton has been placed on it with a calf strain.

Knicks rising star RJ Barrett commits to Canada until 2024 Paris Olympics

rj barrett, knicks

New York Knicks‘ rising star RJ Barrett will be busy over the next three summers after committing to the Canadian national basketball team in their 2024 Paris Olympic quest.

Barrett, alongside Denver Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray, leads the 14-man pool who have agreed to come to camp even if they are injured and unable to play. The 21-year-old Barrett sustained a right sprained knee in the Knicks’ penultimate game, but he is expected to be ready for the third window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 qualifiers this July.

Canada is unbeaten in the first two windows with a 4-0 record. The Canadians will host the Dominican Republic on July 1 in Hamilton and play at the U.S. Virgin Islands on July 4.

Fresh from his best season in the NBA, Barrett hopes to help Canada seal one of the continent’s seven spots in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asia, co-hosted by the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.

A former third overall pick, Barrett took another leap last season, producing a career-best 20 points per game and steady 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. His goal next season is to become an NBA All-Star.

With the heartbreaker in last year’s Olympic qualifiers serving as motivation, Canada hopes to finally develop continuity to end the curse. The Canadians have not made the Olympics since 2000. Canada’s last Olympic basketball team include RJ’s father, Rowan Barrett, who now serves as GM and executive vice-president of the senior men’s program

“Coming out of Victoria last year, we decided to make a systematic change to how we put our teams together and what we’re going to do moving forward,” Rowan Barrett said in a news conference announcing the national pool on Wednesday.

Canada fell short in the last Olympic qualifiers despite RJ Barrett averaging 20.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. They lost in overtime, 103-101, to the Czech Republic last July in the semifinals on Tomas Satoransky’s game-winner.

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse returns to helm Canada in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 qualifiers.

“If this team can get to the floor and stay together for a couple of summers, you’re going to see a really good team,” Nurse said.

Barrett leads five players returning from the Victoria tournament roster. Joining him are Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Utah Jazz), Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder), Cory Joseph (Detroit Pistons), and Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks).

Conspicuously absent is Andrew Wiggins (Golden State Warriors), who couldn’t commit three straight summers. The other NBA players who were part of the Victoria tournament roster who did not make the list are Trey Lyles (Sacramento Kings) and Mychal Mulder (Miami Heat).

“I said, ‘If you commit, you’re in. If you don’t commit, you’re going to have to hope there’s a spot or two open, and you’re going to have to make the team,” Nurse said he told Wiggins. “He said ‘Cool.”‘

Completing the 14-man pool are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder), Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies), Khem Birch (Toronto Raptors), and Kelly Olynyk (Detroit Pistons), Oshae Brissett (Indiana Pacers), and three non-NBA players, Zach Edey, Melvin Ejim and Kevin Pangos.

Barrett’s play this summer will be part of the case he’s building to become the first Knicks player to play beyond his rookie deal since Charlie Ward. Barrett is extension-eligible this summer, but he is not viewed around the league as deserving of the maximum of $181 million over five years despite making strides in each of his first three seasons.

A strong showing in July could start changing that perception.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Yankees’ star prospect is finally dominating, putting together a magisterial May

New York Yankees, Jasson Dominguez

The New York Yankees have been experiencing somewhat of a slump recently with injuries arising. Both Luis Gil and Chad Green will undergo Tommy John surgery. Several starting players, DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton, were shut down on Tuesday with specific ailments.

However, they did manage to escape with a victory against the Baltimore Orioles thanks to catcher Jose Trevino and a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning. While the Bombers have been preoccupied dealing with their own issues, one of their top prospects has been destroying Low-A ball in the month of May.

Dominguez is turning a developmental corner for the Yankees:

Over 69 at-bats, Jasson Dominguez is hitting .319 with a 41.3% on base rate and .623 slugging percentage. In other words, Dominguez is completely dominating after struggling to start his professional career in April. He’s smacked four HRs with 15 RBIs this month, tallying six RBIs over his last four games.

Tampa head coach Rachel Balkovec commented on Dominguez’s performance the past few weeks, noting a shift in mindset.

“I would say it’s more probably a mindset adjustment and an approach to his training that’s just a little bit more specific, a little bit more focused in certain areas that he specifically needs to work on,” Balkovec said, per NJ.com. “He always works hard, but it’s focusing on what he needs to get done.”

Dominguez is far from reaching the majors, but his recent stretch has proven he’s capable of putting it on the baseball diamond. It’s possible that Dominguez reached High-A ball this season with the way he’s playing.

“He’s one of those toolsy guys and we’d like to see that all come together,” she said. “I tell Jasson it’s using all of his powers, really realizing what potential he has and not being timid or afraid to really lean into that.”

Dominguez is considered a five-tool player with phenomenal athleticism and unparallel power at just 19 years old. As a switch hitter, he has the capability to add exponential value to the Yankees down the road, but they must be patient as he progresses through the farm system.

Report: Nets, Kevin Durant yet to speak as Kyrie Irving extension drama unfolds

There’s trouble brewing in Brooklyn.

The Nets‘ offseason drama took a turn for the worse as a report suggesting the future of superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the borough is in doubt emerged Wednesday.

According to a New York Daily News report, “Durant and the Nets front office have not spoken since they were swept out of the first round.”

While it is still early in the offseason, and GM Sean Marks earlier said Durant and the rest of the team are decompressing the turbulent season they’ve been through, there is an added layer to it.

The report added that the Nets are “outright unwilling to give [Irving] a long-term extension.”

It was not surprising as Marks repeatedly hinted at their reluctance to give Durant’s dynamic but enigmatic partner, Irving, the maximum extension worth  $247.6 million over five years.

“We know what we’re looking for. We’re looking for guys that want to come in here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but for everybody here,” Marks said during his end-of-season press conference.

Irving’s availability had been an issue since he came ‘home’ to the franchise he grew up rooting for.

Irving only played 103 regular-season games over the last three years. His refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine caused him to miss 53 games. In the 2020-21 season, he missed 18 games, including seven games, due to “family and personal stuff.” A nagging shoulder injury cost him 62 missed games in his first season with the Nets.

Marks’ intention was to set the record straight, but unwittingly, he invited drama to cloud the most crucial offseason for the Nets in the Durant-Irving era.

The posturing has already started ahead of Irving’s next contract negotiation. Marks is banking that Irving will accept whatever the organization is willing to offer — which presumably would include protection from another extended personal leave and wouldn’t include a no-trade clause — due to the scarcity of playoff teams having cap space to outright offer Irving a max extension of $183.6 million over four years.

Given the close relationship of Durant and Irving, the Nets are risking everything they’ve won in the summer of 2019. But they’re also trying to get back the culture they’ve lost since the superstars took over and underdelivered.

Their gamble to shortcut the process didn’t pay off. Now they appear willing to get back to square one and play the long game.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Would the Yankees look at a reunion with David Robertson?

The New York Yankees were able to snap their three-game losing streak last night with a 6-5 extra innings win over the Baltimore Orioles. It was a much needed win for New York considering the flood of problems that have suddenly plagued baseball’s best team.

Just days ago, the Yankees were 29-10 and riding as high as you can. However, things started to go wrong over the weekend. There was the mentioned three-game losing streak and then injuries as well as covid starting hitting the team.

Reliever Chad Green will have to undergo Tommy John surgery. Green hadn’t been as sharp this year as he has been in the past, but he was still considered one of the best arms the Yankees had.

Zack Britton had to get Tommy John last year and it’s not known whether or not he’ll even pitch this year. Luis Gil just blew out his UCL last week and he will have to get Tommy John. Aroldis Chapman, who has been horrendous lately, has hit the IL with an achilles injury.

Needless to say, after a flawless start for the Yankees, they’ve been hit hard with some bullpen injuries. Now, there are still bright spots in the pen like Clay Holmes, but New York is using their bullpen a lot and without reinforcements, it could cause a problem down the stretch with injuries and fatigue.

Will The Yankees bring back a familiar face?

All that in mind, New York is going to be looking for bullpen help at the deadline this year. Without question, the Yankees need to go out and acquire some assistance for their bullpen and I believe that Brian Cashman will do that.

There’s one name out of the potential options that’s very familiar to Yankees fans. That’s former closer and current Cub, David Robertson. The 37-year-old Robertson is off to a very solid start for the Chicago Cubs this season.

In 14 games, Robertson is pitching to a 1.76 ERA with a WHIP of 0.913. He’s also recorded six saves for Chicago. The Yankees and Cubs are no stranger to doing deals. I would expect them to be engaged at the deadline this year.

When I wrote about potential trade targets for the Yankees, one name I thought about was catcher Willson Contreras. The Yankees have liked him for a long time and with him in a walk year, I’m expecting Chicago to look at dealing him.

Ian Happ is another guy the Yankees could target. Happ fits the mold of what the Yanks love and what they need. He could fill an unproductive void in the outfield, but he’s diverse enough to flex wherever the team would need him. He has an extra year of control, so he might cost a decent chunk.

New York and Chicago lining up again to do business

Robertson signed a one-year deal before the season started so if he remains solid, I would expect him to get traded. I expect the Yankees to make calls to Chicago regarding all three of these guys. Now, if Hicks/Gallo really pick things up and Jose Trevino stays hot, maybe they cool on Contreras and Happ.

However, regardless of how that interest manifests, I would expect New York to remain in on David Robertson. He wouldn’t cost the Yankees much in terms of dollars or prospects.

Robertson would be a solid arm to add and we know he can handle New York. Hell, Robertson has spent the better part of nine seasons wearing pinstripes. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him wearing them again before the deadline passes.

After winning fifth in a row at UFC Vegas 55, what’s next for Michel Pereira?

Michel Pereira

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 55, we saw an incredible showdown in the welterweight division that earned Fight of the Night honors. Top contenders Santiago Ponzinibbio (28-6) and Michel Pereira (28-11) went to battle.

Heading into the fight at UFC Vegas 55, I thought Ponzinibbio had an advantage in the striking. I figured that if Ponzinibbio moved forward and stayed technical, Pereira was going to have a hard time dealing with him.

Michel Pereira is extremely explosive, but he can be very wild. We’ve also seen his defense struggle at times due to his style. However, he looked very sharp on Saturday night. Throughout the first couple of rounds, Pereira was getting the better of Ponzinibbio.

Heading into the final round at UFC Vegas 55, the fight was close, but many had Pereira up two rounds to none. I think it was pretty obvious that Ponzinibbio won the final round, but it all came down to the first two rounds.

In the end, two of the three judges thought that Pereira did enough to secure those rounds. As a result, Pereira was given the win at UFC Vegas 55 and he extended his winning streak to five.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 55?

With this latest win, Pereira finds himself officially in the UFC welterweight rankings clocking in at 14th this week. Pereira is now 6-2 in his eight UFC fights. However, there should be an asterisks by one of those losses.

Pereira completed dominated and beat down Diego Sanchez. However, in the third round, he landed an illegal knee. Despite Sanchez appearing to be okay, he told the referee that the shot was illegal and as a result he couldn’t continue.

In my opinion, the fight should’ve been a no contest, but Pereira lost by disqualification. Throw that fight out in my opinion. The only loss he had came against Tristan Connelly. In that fight, Pereira was extremely inefficient with his energy and completely gassed out with his wild and crazy strikes.

Had he not done that or thrown that shot against Sanchez, we might be talking about a perfect UFC record. With this latest win, it’s time for the promotion to give him another contender that’s in the top fifteen.

There are several options for the UFC to pick from. An outside of the box option I like is Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Wonderboy needs a fight right now and it would be interesting to watch the evasive and technical Wonderboy take on a wild man like Pereira.

Michael Chiesa could also be an option for Pereira. One to watch as well is Shavkat Rakhmonov if he beats Neil Magny. Unlike fellow super prospect Khamzat Chimaev, Rakhmonov is likely going to get a slow build. If he beats Magny and stays undefeated, I could see the UFC booking him with the entertaining Pereira.

Valentina Shevchenko eyeing UFC bantamweight title shot at the end of 2022

Next month at UFC 275, the women’s flyweight title is on the line as the pound for pound queen returns to defend her crown. Valentina Shevchenko (22-3) will make her first appearance of 2022 as she takes on Taila Santos (19-1).

Santos is a solid challenger given her impressive professional record, but little to no one is giving her a chance. Valentina Shevchenko has been truly dominant and essentially flawless since moving to the UFC’s flyweight division.

Back in 2016, there was no flyweight division. Instead, Shevchenko fought in the bantamweight division. She was 12-1 when she took on Amanda Nunes. She lost that fight by decision. After that, she defeated Holly Holm and current champion Julianna Pena.

After that, she had another fight with Amanda Nunes at UFC 215 for the bantamweight title. She lost a split decision, however, the majority of media scorecards and folks out there, including myself, believe that she defeated Nunes.

After this loss, she went to the newly created flyweight division and the rest is history. After a dominant first win at 125, she fought Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant title. Starting with that fight, Shevchenko is 7-0 with four finishes and she’s only lost two rounds inside the octagon.

UFC Queen’s Next Steps

Make no mistake about it, the best pound for pound female fighter in the world is Valentina Shevchenko. To me, there is no argument, she’s the best. Assuming she defeats Taila Santos next month, she will have defended her title seven times successfully.

She will be closing in on Anderson Silva’s UFC record. However, there’s a chance her next fight after Santos will not be at 125 pounds. Shevchenko told Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour yesterday that there’s a very real chance she fights the winner of Julianna Pena – Amanda Nunes 2.

Those two will rematch at UFC 277 in July. Shevchenko has history with both fighters and both would create a very compelling storyline. Now, is there any chance she defends at 125 again prior to moving back up to 135.

The only scenario I see that happening at this point is if Miesha Tate wins against Lauren Murphy at UFC 276. If Tate wins, Shevchenko will have a high-profiled opponent who she’s never fought before.

Either way, I think sooner or later, Shevchenko will be challenging for a second championship. Regardless of who she fights, Shevchenko should be favored as she’s clearly the best in the world. At least in my eyes.

After falling short at UFC Vegas 55, what’s next for Santiago Ponzinibbio?

This past Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 55, we saw a helluva fight in the welterweight division. Entertaining top contenders battled it out as Argentina’s Santiago Ponzinibbio (28-6) took on Brazil’s Michel Pereira (28-11).

Entering UFC Vegas 55, Ponzinibbio was looking to bounce back after a split decision loss to Geoff Neal. It was a razor close fight and I would venture to say that a good amount of people who watched that fight thought Ponzinibbio won.

However, two judges gave the fight to Neal and it was a loss in the record books. That loss dropped Ponzinibbio to 1-2 since returning from a lengthy injury layoff. He had a willing dance partner on Saturday and wanted to show off that he’s still a top UFC contender.

However, throughout the first couple of rounds, Ponzinibbio wasn’t as crisp as I was expecting. He wasn’t moving forward and striking the way that he needed to and as a result, Pereira was able to pull ahead on the scorecards.

The fight was incredible, but entering the final round, I thought that Ponzinibbio needed a finish. He did a really solid job of landing the better shots and he won the final round. However, he was too far behind and lost another split decision at UFC Vegas 55.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 55?

Just a few years ago, many were looking at Ponzinibbio as a future UFC champion. He was 27-3 and he was coming off of a big knockout win over Neil Magny. The promotion moved him up the ranks and booked him against former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.

However, injuries kept delaying his return to the octagon. His fight against Magny took place in November of 2018. He didn’t fight again until January of 2021 when he took on Li Jingliang. Starting with that fight, he’s just 1-3 inside the octagon.

Now, you could make an argument that he should’ve won his last two fights. However, that’s not the way things work. Two judges in both fights said he lost, so he’s on a two-fight losing streak and he’s 1-3 in the UFC since returning.

With that in mind, who should be next for him? Personally, I like Ponzinibbio against someone like Niko Price next. Someone outside the rankings, but someone who will push him and give him an entertaining fight.

If he wins that one, then we can look at booking him against someone in the top fifteen again.

Yankees are giving a huge opportunity to inexperienced pitcher against Orioles in series Finale

jp sears, yankees

On Wednesday, the New York Yankees are scheduled to face off against the Baltimore Orioles in the series finale, but they will be trotting out an unfamiliar face as the starting pitcher.

After Luis Gil suffered a UCL injury that will require Tommy John surgery, the Yankees were forced to call upon a different option. This time around, it is JP Sears who has been dominating with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Sears, who is a left-handed pitcher, is 26 years old, spending the past three seasons with the Yankees farm system. Sears has dominated every step of the way. He’s completely annihilating Triple-A batters this season, hosting a 0.83 ERA, 12.46 strikeouts per nine, and a career-best 0.83 walks per nine.

FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen scouting report on Sears:

“(…) He’s got a real chance to take a turn in a big league rotation every five days (…) Of the 40-man pitchers who aren’t currently projected in the Yankees’ Opening Day rotation, Sears is arguably the most stable strike-thrower. He has a 2.6 career BB/9 and his command has weaponized his stuff enough to flummox Triple-A hitters, at least. Sears sits about 93 mph and his fastball lives off its angle at the top of the zone, which is hard to hit. He also has a swing-and-miss slider that has great back-foot angle against righties. He alters his release somewhat when throwing the slider but hitters haven’t been able to pick that up so far. A great on-mound athlete, Sears may yet develop a better changeup but for now it’s a fringe pitch. He’s a low-variance fifth starter prospect.”

This is a huge opportunity for JP Sears:

This year, Sears has made two appearances for the Yankees in a relief role. He’s pitched 2.0 innings and succeeded to stifle offensive production. The question is, can JP handle the load of a starting pitcher?

If he can put together an efficient performance against Baltimore on Wednesday, one of the more manageable opponents in the MLB, he could lock down the six spot in the rotation.