An inside look at Sunday’s Giants-Panthers Week 7 matchup at MetLife Stadium:
Panthers OLB Haason Reddick vs. Giants OTs Matt Peart and Nate Solder
Reddick owes the Giants some money. He signed a one-year deal with the Panthers for $6 million, and part of that payout is a direct aftereffect of his five-sack, three-forced-fumble domination of the Giants when he was with the Cardinals last season.
This would have been a great duel for left tackle Andrew Thomas, but the Giants’ 2020 first-round pick is on injured reserve. Peart, a third-round pick last year, must be able to prevent free rushers on the left side. Solder must hold up on the right side. Reddick, quick as can be at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, already has 6.5 sacks in six games for his new team.
Nate Solder and Haason ReddickRobert Sabo; AP
The Giants have trouble with everyone — the powerful, the mediocre, the dregs — so a visit by the so-so Panthers is a game that should be a fair fight. Forcing Sam Darnold into at least two turnovers is must, but no one prefaces “Giants defense’’ with “opportunistic.’’ So many weapons injured and out on offense makes it easy to anticipate more boos than points at MetLife. Sigh.
Panther 24, Giants 16
In with the old: Did you like the look of the Giants’ offense in 2020? Nah, we didn’t think so. They spent big bucks and used draft capital to make the attack more explosive, but Kenny Golladay (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle) are injured and out. Plus, the return to health of Saquon Barkley after he tore his ACL in Week 2 has thus far been a dud. He is hurt, and out again, this time with an ankle problem.
So, the offense is left with last year’s weapons: Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton — if their balky hamstrings hold up — as the primary targets, Evan Engram at tight end and a running back (Devontae Booker) who is not Barkley. Lest we forget, the 2020 Giants averaged a measly 17.5 points a game.
Leg man: Derrick Henry leads the NFL with 10 rushing touchdowns. Five players are tied for second with five TDs, and two of them — Sam Darnold and Jalen Hurts — are quarterbacks. Darnold has slumped after a hot start for the Panthers — he has seven passing touchdowns and seven interceptions — but he knows how to get into the end zone with his legs.
“You’ve got to make sure someone is accountable for the quarterback every time,’’ Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said, “especially down there in the red area where it seems to come up, whether it’s quarterback draws, zone read or him just making a play in the scrambles.’’
Back out: What a running back duel this might have been. Barkley for the Giants, Christian McCaffrey for the Panthers, perhaps the two most versatile players at their position in the league. Also, alas, the two most unavailable. Barkley (ankle) and McCaffrey (hamstring) are out, again, and the prudence of building an offense around a running back is once more an issue.
“That’s a pretty big article question there,’’ head coach Joe Judge said, not really addressing the subject.
“I don’t think anyone’s building it around one player,’’ Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said. “I think if you do build around one player, it has to be the quarterback.’’
That unfamiliar feeling: During Nate Solder’s seven years with the Patriots, they went 88-24, never winning fewer than 12 games in any season. He played in four Super Bowls, winning two of them. With the Giants in 2018 and 2019, as a team captain, the towering offensive tackle went 5-11 and 4-12, opted out in 2020 and is 1-5 this season. All he knew was winning, and now all he knows is losing.
“I don’t think anything in my past — just because you’ve won a lot doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not going to be difficult to regroup and all that sort of thing,’’ Solder said.
Yankees haven’t fixed anything in disappointing start to offseason
No obligation for any of us outsiders to turn up the heat on the Yankees. Just turn back to what the ultimate insider, Hal Steinbrenner, said last month after bringing back his manager Aaron Boone:
“As a team and as an organization, we must grow, evolve and improve. We need to get better. Period.”
With one day to go before Major League Baseball, barring a miracle, locks out its players and shuts down all transactions, that sits as one mission seriously unaccomplished.
Doesn’t mean it can’t happen by Opening Day 2022, whenever that occurs. It sure as heckfire hasn’t occurred yet, though.
At Tuesday’s deadline to tender contracts, the Yankees made news with their lack of news, a distressing development for their fans already anguished by the team’s decision to stand back as big names like Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Starling Marte and Max Scherzer came off the board in a pre-lockout frenzy, the last two going to Steve Cohen’s Mets. Steinbrenner’s club retained Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit and Miguel Andujar, each candidates to be non-tendered in the realm of public speculation if nowhere else, along with other slam dunks like Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery and Chad Green.
Keeping Sanchez justifiably generated the biggest headlines and most social media agita, and to reiterate my opinion, it’s a significant mistake to bring back the source of so much tension and drama, no matter how much of that reflects New York’s drawbacks as much as Sanchez’s own, no matter if he can dominate offensively for a month. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman spread the word this week that he was working on a trade for a catcher. Perhaps such a transaction still can occur to find a better partner for Kyle Higashioka, although now the Yankees find themselves on the hook for about $8 million, albeit only a portion guaranteed, to Sanchez.
Gary Sanchez and Brian CashmanChristopher Sadowski. USA Today Sports
Voit, too, appeared in jeopardy after a miserable, injury-plagued 2021 during which he went to the plate 241 times, a mere seven more than during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign when he won the big-league home run title. He’s back, for now, maybe as much as a designated hitter option (with Giancarlo Stanton preferring the outfield) as first base. Andujar, meanwhile, has totaled -1.9 wins above replacement — that’s 1.9 wins below replacement, if you prefer, as per Baseball-Reference.com — since he finished second in the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year voting. He has tallied three straight seasons of sub-replacement performance. Yeesh.
The Yankees haven’t answered their questions at shortstop or center field, and they could use another starting pitcher (they offered one year and $25 million to Justin Verlander, who accepted two years and $50 million from the Astros) plus some more bullpen depth. Moreover, the Yankees jettisoned the speedy trio of Greg Allen, Andrew Velazquez and Tyler Wade after acknowledging their desire to get more athletic.
There hasn’t been a first act this discouraging since the start of “Superman III.”
Now, before you plunge yourself into a months-long funk as the sport goes dark, don’t miss the key words there: First act.
Even after this past week’s flurry of activity, the free-agent pool features a bevy of appealing options from shortstop Trevor Story to Swiss Army knife Chris Taylor to high-end starting pitcher Carlos Rodon to a pair of lefty-hitting ex-Cub first basemen, one of whom (Anthony Rizzo) handled New York quite well, the other of whom (Kyle Schwarber) thrived in Boston. The A’s have not yet begun to sell off their veterans, including first baseman Matt Olson. And if the Yankees somehow wrested Freddie Freeman from the Braves, my hunch is you’d be just fine with Andrelton Simmons manning shortstop until Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe are ready.
(Yes, you want Sanchez gone, even if the Yankees figure out how to clone Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Jeter. Understood. And I still don’t see Carlos Correa or Marcus Stroman as fits.)
That Steinbrenner issued his mandate despite his team qualifying for the 2021 playoffs underlined the frustrating journey to a quick October exit. Growth, evolution and improvement still reside on their to-do list. If they can’t accomplish those goals in time, an angry owner will represent the least of their problems.
Tom Thibodeau, Julius Randle ‘pissed’ at refs after Knicks’ loss to Nets
The Knicks’ first game following the benching of Kemba Walker didn’t end with a victory, but it came with promise in taking the first-place Nets down to the final seconds in a 112-110 thriller at Barclays Center.
However, instead of taking the close defeat and gleaning the positives, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau and Julius Randle railed about the officiating while overshadowing the Knicks’ move to Alec Burks (25 points, five assists) as the starting point guard.
There was a lot of holiday whine in the postgame in Brooklyn.
Thibodeau ended his press conference early, saying he’s “pissed’’ and “something’s wrong,’’ referring to the foul calls. Randle then said the officials need to brush up on basketball.
Both Thibodeau and Randle could be fined by the NBA after the Knicks shot 12 free throws to the Nets’ 25.
Randle picked up a late technical foul during a timeout arguing his case and then needed to be restrained after the final buzzer.
Julius Randle and Tom ThibodeauGetty Images; N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg
It’s not the first time Randle had an incident at Barclays Center, as last season he was fined for charging at referee Scott Foster after the game.
“You saw what happened, everyone saw what happened,’’ said Randle, who scored 24 points. “No need for me to talk about it. Everybody saw what was going on.
“I’m not going to talk about them. I’m going to talk about the game and what the players are doing. I’m not going to talk about those guys. They clearly don’t understand the game.’’
Told the Knicks shot just 12 free throws to the Nets’ 25, Randle said, “I shot two, right? Yeah.’’
Randle talked to the officiating crew after the game and got further incensed by the explanations.
“I don’t know what they’re watching or seeing,’’ Randle said. “I’m aggressive attacking the paint. I can’t be penalized for just being stronger than people. That’s the answer I got today.
“They said certain contact doesn’t affect me like it affects other players because I’m stronger so they missed the calls. It pissed me off even more, to be honest. It’s not how you officiate the game.
“You know when smaller players guarding bigger players, they get away with a lot more. But certain things are more blatant. If you just slap a guy, I don’t care who it is, it’s going to affect him.”
Julius RandleN.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg
The Knicks’ moping was started by Thibodeau, who was asked about the Nets’ final possession in which Mitchell Robinson was called for a clear hacking foul on a driving James Johnson that produced the winning free throws.
“I don’t know,’’ Thibodeau said, pausing.
Unsolicited, Thibodeau then mentioned the discrepancy in free throws and Randle taking just two shots at the line.
“I don’t care how the game is called,’’ the Knicks coach said. “I really don’t. You call it tight, call it loose. But it’s got to be the same.
“I want to watch the film. But something’s not right. I’m watching what’s going on both ways. They’re a good team. But I know Julius was driving the ball pretty darn hard. And I’m pissed. Thank you.”
Last week, Thibodeau made an offhanded remark about the officials missing a foul call when Robinson got a concussion against the Rockets.
The TNT broadcast crew never made the officiating or foul calls an issue the entire broadcast.
Randle said he has to curtail his technicals though mouthing off probably doesn’t win friends among the striped shirts.
“I can’t let my techs affect whether we win or lose,’’ Randle said.
Devils whipped by Sharks in Jack Hughes’ return to lineup
The Devils had no answers for the San Jose Shark’s top gun.
Sharks’ leading scorer Timo Meier scored twice, James Reimer made 32 saves and San Jose defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Tuesday night at Prudential Center in Newark, spoiling Jack Hughes’ return.
Noah Gregor, Jacob Middleton and Erik Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have started their five-game road trip at 2-0.
Tomas Tatar and Jesper Bratt scored for the Devils, and Mackenzie Blackwood had 26 saves.
Gregor opened the scoring at 4:26 of the first, beating Blackwood for his first goal of the season. Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic assisted.
Middleton made it 2-0 at 4:14 of the second period with his second goal this season, with assists going to Gregor and Alexander Barabanov.
Meier poured it on to make it 3-0 midway through the second on the power play, and Karlsson followed not long after to make it 4-0 San Jose.
Jacob Middleton scores a goal on Mackenzie Blackwood during the Devils’ 5-2 loss to the Sharks.USA TODAY Sports
Despite having Hughes back in the lineup for the first time since the second game of the season, the Devils offered a minimal offensive attack against the Sharks until the third period.
Tatar ruined Reimer’s shutout bid with his fourth goal at 9:12 of the third. Pavel Zacha and Devils captain Nico Hischier assisted, the 100th career assist for the 22-year-old.
Bratt then made it a 4-2 game with his sixth goal at 12:49, and Andreas Johnsson had the lone assist.
Meier’s second goal of the game (his team-leading 11th goal of the season) came with three minutes left in the third.
The Devils announced earlier Tuesday that the 20-year-old Hughes agreed to an eight-year, $64 million contract extension that starts next season after his three-year entry level pact expires. Hughes was the first overall pick by the Devils in the 2019 draft. He missed 17 games after suffering a shoulder injury on Oct. 19 against Seattle.