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Giants’ Low-Profile Trio Can Help Raise Curtain in 2020, by Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Dion Lewis, Levine Toilolo, and Nate Ebner weren’t exactly high-profile Giants’ signings in the offseason.

All of them embody the blue-collar, no-nonsense approach expected from new Giants’ head coach and former Bill Belichick disciple Joe Judge.

Take care of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves.

Remember this trio and how many times you hear their names from September through December and possibly beyond. They can make the plays that won’t always be mentioned or appear on a statsheet.

They all can play pivotal roles in shaping the team’s success this fall. Each of them are seasoned vets who should fill a necessary void.

If he stays healthy and consistent, Lewis can be one of the true steals for 2020. He played a perfect backup role to league workhorse Derrick Henry, as he tallied 54 carries and caught 25 passes. The Giants signed the 29-year-old at a guaranteed basement bargain price of $225,000.

11/18/18 tampa bay bucs vs ny giants at metlife stadium east rutherford nj New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley #26 celebrates his first td during the 1st half today Nil Miller The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com copyright 2020

Lewis’ efficiency dropped the past two seasons since his last season with New England in 2017  — a career- high 896 yards — but the Giants simply need him as a breather to Saquon Barkley in the backfield and in the flat. If Barkley is bothered by another injury this season, Henry has the pedigree to carry the workload. An excellent blocker, Lewis is the alternate lead back the team has been seeking for quite some time after Paul Perkins, Jonathan Stewart, and Wayne Gallman all fizzled.

Toilolo may have gone more unnoticed than Lewis. The former Lions and 49ers massive 6-foot-8, 270-pound tight end inked a two-year deal and easily can fill the spot of retired tight end Rhett Ellison.

With Evan Engram healthy again – cross your fingers – Toilolo’s role will be strictly for blocking purposes to ignite Barkley and the rest of the Giants’ running game. He was rated the number one blocking tight end as a member of the Lions’ in 2018 by Pro Football Focus, but he only had a minor role with the 49ers last year.  

The 28-year-old also has excelled at pass protection and he can be insurance for left tackle Nate Solder, who had yet to find a solid niche there with the Giants.

Ebner is the most profound link to Judge. Since 2012, Ebner was a mainstay on the Patriots’ special teams and certainly was a key in his role to the teams’ three most recent Super Bowl championships. The former rugby player was a true Belichick find who really didn’t have a position even though he can play safety.

The 31-year-old is a special-teams grinder who recorded 98 tackles in the category. His presence can further advance a unit that was ranked seventh overall in the league last season.

Lewis, Toilolo, and Ebner may not garner major headlines in 2020, but each will do the little things to help the Giants take a step up from the depths of a 4-12 campaign in 2019.

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CollectibleXChange Is Transforming The Collectible Deal

By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

For more than 30 years, Brandon Steiner has been in the collectible business and he understands how timing and fate can be everything.

When the COVID pandemic hit in mid-March and started to quickly extend its deadly tentacles into the world of business, Steiner’s budding collectibleXchange.com, launched in December, began to feel the squeeze.

“We were starting to get some business and then it hit.” stated Steiner, whose former company Steiner Sports transformed the sports memorabilia landscape and dominated the industry for over 30 years. “Like any other business, it hit us. I had to furlough some people.”

That was then, and this is now.  

Over the past two-plus months, Steiner’s business took an abrupt U-turn and it is in full gear. His website, which creates a community of buyers and sellers and allow them to set their own prices on unique memorabilia, has topped the 60,000 mark and continues to soar. Steiner and his team of experts will verify and/or authenticate as well as determine the value of your collectibles.

His business seized the moment.

“It started at the end of April, and it has been a complete 360,” boomed Steiner. “It’s been crazy and our office has been packed. The increased activity has been holiday-like! People are calling and posting daily as they clean out their closets, garages and basements.

“There has been a huge uptick in the buying and selling of collectibles and many of the memorabilia has been vintage. By the end of August, we could have over 200,00 items.”

Aside from the usual deluge of baseball and football items, Steiner noticed a surge in Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls-related items after ESPN’s “The Last Dance” series that depicted their era. Due to the pandemic, the series garnered higher ratings than anticipated.

“During and after the series, we saw a rise in Michael Jordan items,” said Steiner. “We also saw a big jump in Dennis Rodman merchandise as well as Charles Barkley. Rodman and Scott Pippen have been a hit from one great team. We can thank ESPN for that.”

Steiner also cited a hiked interest among teenagers for vintage memorabilia from the 1960s and 70s, as well as a spike in baseball cards. Along with buying and selling, his business also has been drawing interest in appraising.

“Older people may forget what they have, and they have found things while leaning and clearing things,” he said. “We are getting inquiries about what some thing is worth.”

His site has the uniqueness of involving the collegiate and professional athlete.

“CollectibleXchange is creating a platform for the players where they will be making most of the money,” said Steiner. “Former and current players, as well as the future pros now playing in college can come to us and we will guide them.

“CollectibleXchange will be the safe place to go to sell and buy collectibles. Athletes will also be able to sell directly to the collector at a price they determine without a huge mark-up.”

Steiner is exploring the possibilities of delving into the UFC, WWE, and even into the overseas markets of cricket and soccer. His optimism has been heightened with the apparent return of baseball.

“People don’t understand how powerful (baseball) is,” Steiner said. “(Baseball) is a sport that goes solo during the summer and you can add up all of the numbers that it generates. It’s a pretty explosive sport. Once it gets back up and going, it can be a great up tick.”

Steiner has been exuberant about the current higher profile, but his history in the business tempers his temporary enthusiasm.

“This is something unique and different,” he stressed. “These are items that can go up in value over time. It’s a process. People are buying from each other in a safe way.”

For more information, check out collectibleXchange.com

Is Jamal Adams The Best At His Position In Jets’ History?

By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Is Jamal Adams one of the best Jets ever? Or will he be remembered as one of the team’s top safeties in club history?

file photo NeilMiller The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com copyright 2020

Whether or not Adams gets traded over the next few months, he undoubtedly will be recognized as one of the Jets’ best all-time defensive players and indisputably high in the ranks of the team’s all-time safeties list. Adams’ position isn’t one that has been readily stocked with all-pros and consistent performers in the team’s annals.

 Here is one man’s opinion about the top five Jets’ safeties of all-time, placing them in random order.

Adams –He has been the dominate defensive figure and overall leader the Jets have been seeking for the past few years. In three years, Adams has accumulated 273 tackles and 12 sacks, 6.5 of them last season in his second of three Pro-Bowl selections. He has just three interceptions, but he has covered well and his physical nature usually can’t be matched.

Erik McMillan – He was a third-round pick in 1988 and went to two Pro Bowls, one in his rookie year when he also earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. During that season, he swiped eight interceptions – two for touchdowns — and followed with six –one for a touchdown – the following year. Overall, he made 52 starts in his 76 games as a Jet and had 22 interceptions. In many circles, McMillan is regarded as the best Jets safety since 1970 before Adams burst onto the scene.

Victor Green – When talking safeties in the 1980s and beyond, Green’s name is also one of the first mentioned. Green followed the Bill Parcells’ script to a tee, as he was a hard-nosed undrafted free agent in 1993 who developed as a fan favorite. Green, who started 108 of his 139 games in Green and White, has 24 career interceptions and 13 recovered fumbles in nine seasons. His nine seasons was the long tenure of recognized Jets’ safeties.

Burgess Owens – He arguably was the highest profile safety of the last 50 years until Adams, being the team’s number one overall pick and 13th overall in the 1973 draft. Owens was an ironman as he started all of his 97 games, missing just three in seven years. Named to the league’s All-rookie team, Owens emerged as a team captain and led the team interceptions five of his seven years, grabbing 21 overall.

Bill Baird – Baird often is forgotten for his steadiness as a starter and reserve from 1963-69. He started 80 of his 98 games, and corralled 34 interceptions that technically made him the all-time leader at the position. However, he had 13 of those when he primarily played cornerback for two years. He also excelled with kickoff and punt returns, and he always was around the ball.

There are plenty of other worthwhile candidates, and this list definitely could have been expanded with the likes of Kerry Rhodes, Ken Schroy, and Darrol Ray. Here are two other standouts who should be mentioned:

Jim Hudson – He was signed as a free agent in 1965 and soon became a starter. Hudson endured three knee operations and a bad back in his six seasons in which he had 14 interceptions. He was named the ALL-NFL team by the Associated Press in 1968. Hudson’s second-quarter interception in the Super Bowl probe to be an early game changer.

Dainard Paulson – Truly a forgotten player, Paulson spent his last four seasons with the Jets after his debut with the Titans in 1961. Paulson began his career as a Titan for two years and spent four years with the Jets. Twenty-five of his 29 career interceptions were with the Jets, having 12 in 1964. In 1964 and 1965, Paulson was named to the AFL All-Star Game.

Over the next month, Adams’ fate will be decided. Whatever the outcome, Adams will be remembered for his exceptional play at a position with a smaller collection of standouts than the others.

Yankees-Dodgers World Series Can Rekindle Game

By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Baseball is back, and let the prognostications begin.

With just 60 games, every one is crucial and there may not be predictable winners in each division. In the American League, the safe picks would be the Yankees, Twins, and Astros coupled with National League version of Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers.

Still, anything could happen. A team can get hot at the end of August and ride the wave. How about a  Philadelphia-Los Angeles Angels World Series? Or better yet, Pittsburgh-Texas? Uh..nah..

For our sakes, let’s envision the Yankees and Dodgers meeting in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1981. Yes, you are wondering why I wouldn’t propose a Yankees-Mets series, but a coast-to-coast series would be better for the game. Seeing some of the games from that series on recent YES reruns should provide some fodder. It was an interesting and captivating series.

The two teams have met more than other any other in the World Series, and the Yankees have won eight of 11 contests, the Dodgers winning the last one in 1981 in six games. On paper, these are the two best teams in the game playing in their iconic ballparks.

07/23/15 la dodgers vs ny mets at citifield queens ny Los Angeles Dodgers win 3-0 Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 in the dugou during the 7th innning Neil Miller The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com copyright 2020

With fans unlikely in the stands, this could be a TV rating bonanza. You have the aging Dodgers’ star pitcher Clayton Kershaw reaching back for one of his final hurrahs with rising superstar Mookie Betts squaring off against top free-agent acuisition pitcher Gerrit Cole and the Bronx Bash Brothers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Needless to say, there will be plenty of subplots along the way.

Ironically, the 1981 Yankees’ and Dodgers’ seasons had some uncanny comparisons.

The 1981 year was a split season due to a strike and the Yankees won the first half comfortably with a 34-22 mark then they slipped to fifth in the second half with a 25-26 mark.

They faced the Milwaukee Brewers, winners of the second half, in the divisional series, and the Yanks outlasted them in five games. From there, the Yanks silenced Oakland in three straight in the AL Championship series.

 These Yankees didn’t have the glaring offensive stats, but the likes of steady Bob Watson, Rick Cerone and Jerry Mumphrey along with stock stars Dave Winfield, Graig Nettles, and Reggie Jackson, who was in his final year of pinstripes.

The current Yankees lineup of Judge, Sanchez. DJ LeMahieu, and Gleyber Torres could garner a slight edge based on power and average.

Ron Guidry still had some of his late 70’s magic left and he was joined by Tommy John, Rick Reuschel, Rudy May, and Dave Righetti. Goose Gossage was nearly unhittable and registered 20 saves.

Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ would have more overall depth than their predecessors. The current Yanks’ bullpen also gets the check mark with their interchangeable parts.

In case you forgot, legendary Gene Michael managed the team until Sept. 5, and then Bob Lemon took over and won the pennant.

The ’81 Dodgers followed a similar script to the Yankees’ log, as they finished first in the opening half with a 36-21 mark and then fourth in the final section with a 27-26 record.

However, the Dodgers’ still had a leftover productive 70’s pack of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, and Dusty Baker paired with upstarts Mike Scioscia, Pedro Guerrero, and Ken Landreaux.

Grizzled veterans Burt Hooton and Jerry Reuss blended perfectly with budding Bob Welch and lights-out rookie Fernando Valenzuela. Steve Howe was on top of his game in the bullpen.

Baseball is back, and the games soon will begin. It won’t take long before each of us is entrenched again.

A Yankees-Dodgers World Series can rekindle plenty of memories from fans from 40 to 80, as well as showcasing some of its younger stars to same generation.

Baseball needs to mend its fracture, and it can regain its popularity with its two biggest pieces on the top shelf.   

Slayton Can Develop Into Legitimate Deep Threat

By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

For Darius Slayton, timing was everything in his debut. Now, he has to work on his encore.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 10, 2019. Darius Slayton makes a catch in front of Jamal Adams. Photo by David L. Pokress The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Last season, the Giants’ fifth-round pick wide receiver from Auburn began to prove his worth at the team’s minicamp in June as the deep-threat they had envisioned. He began to build a chemistry with fellow rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, a script that couldn’t have been better written. When minicamp ended, Slayton already was viewed as the team’s number three receiver behind Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate.

However, a recurring and nagging hamstring injury sidelined him late in the preseason as well as the first two regular season games. With Tate dealing with the final stretch of a four-game suspension, Slayton made his debut with three catches for 82 yards against Tampa Bay in Week Three.

From there, Shepard’s production was limited to 10 games due to a pair of concussions, and Tate wasn’t as consistent as his previous seasons over 11 games.

In turn, Slaton’s deep-ball presence started to surface, and the Giants believed they had found their Odell Beckham Jr. replacement. Slayton steadily averaged better than 12 yards a catch into the late fall, gaining major recognition for his 10-for-121 yard, two-touchdown effort against the Jets in early November, and a 5-154-yard, two-touchdown show against Philadelphia in early December.

Furthermore, the Slayton-Jones combination continued to develop late in the season as stuffing with a Thanksgiving turkey. He finished with 48 receptions for 740 yards, accruing 15.4 yards per catch. Six of his eight touchdowns were from Jones. Slayton also etched his performance in the Giants’ rookie annals in several categories, and his eight touchdowns tied for most among last year’s rookies.

So, what about the encore?

“My confidence is something that built as the year went on last year,” said Slayton recently on Giants.com. “Hopefully this year, I’ll be able to hit it Week One running. It’s mostly internal. It’s just all in your head to me. Especially for receivers, to get the ball you’ve got to catch it, catch it low, high, behind you. I think it just starts from having unwavering faith in your hands basically.

“[The chemistry] is growing. Right now we’re working on him consistently answering the phone. That’s kind of the next step in our relationship. He’s gotten better. I know he’s working hard. I’m working hard where I am, and I know we’re both ready to be back together [at the facility].”

Slayton’s growing harmony with Jones will be one of the several interesting topics this summer. It is still yet to be determined if Slayton and Jones can enjoy a better relationship than Beckham and Eli Manning did, yet the incoming second-year players had the advantage of taking their first steps together.  

If Slayton is the true deep threat, Jones will have the luxury of possession and mid-range threats of Shepard and Tate as well as the multi-faceted tight end Evan Engram.

Manning had regarded major threats such as Hakeem Nicks, Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burress and Victor Cruz.

Jones has his first one in Slayton, and he has the potential to emerge as a true game-breaker, counting Shepard and Tate can have a clean, healthy slate in 2020.

If so, Slayton can make the Giants and their fans further forget that once all-world playmaker who still is on the Cleveland Browns’ roster, and Slayton likely won’t have any of his baggage either.

Players, Owners Need to Realize Game’s Presence

By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

It was mid-to-late June in your life as a kid, and you knew what was ahead.

School was over, and your life flipped to summer and baseball. Yes, whether you’re in your 60’s, 50s, 40, 30s, or 20s, there were other options, yet baseball and summer was smacked together as well as a S’mores. Some of your most memorable sports memories were those days or nights at the ballpark or sitting on your deck or in your pool and watching or listening to a game on a cool summer night.

Keep those memories until next year. The game apparently has failed us for the summer of 2020 due to the pandemic and greed. Whether it is a 50-, 60-, or 70-game season, don’t let us down.

Even though MLB is a big business, we all need to remember it is still a game. It is an outlet for fans. Without delving into the specifics for both sides, the coffers still will have plenty for everybody.

The Players Association and the league still may be able to get a deal done, but they have entered the bottom of the eighth. It can be a fans’ buffet if the season begins in September, but why do we have to wait that long? Are we really thinking about watching the Lions’ and Cowboys’ games and a World Series game on Thanksgiving?

More than any other outlet, this country itself needs the game back. Americans need to focus on the national pastime again and argue about who should be in the lineup and not argue with each other over created tensions.

Baseball could alleviate today’s climate that is simmering as quickly and dangerously as a low-water, car radiator running on a sun-scorched humid July day. Add the water before it steams and stifles.

Both sides need to park their egos and their greed and give the country some type of abbreviated season. The NBA has been ironing out the final creases toward their appearance, and the NFL will continue forward with blinders on unless the Coronavirus claims too many victims in August.

With players’ rep Tony Clark and commissioner Rob Manfred apparently waiting for the other side to blink, someone may need to step in and solve the issues.

Several players tweeted the slogan “tell us when and where,” and hope was on the horizon. But it wasn’t enough as the ongoing battle over finances suddenly clouded the rising sun.

 Don’t forget how the minor leagues have been affected. One of my favorite events of the summer was to visit a minor league park along the eastern seaboard for a story or just a game, and revel how those environments reveal the game’s fundamental steps and nature. There also were the economic and emotional boosts for the towns.

 America surely has many voids, but the one shared by nearly everyone is baseball. The labor disagreement can be handled unlike the pandemic, which recently struck at the Phillies’ training site in Clearwater claiming five players and three staff members. Provisions can now be made to move forward.

If there isn’t a season, fans will forgive after a lusty amount of boos next year. A note to Clark and Manfred – don’t wait until then.

Baseball is a game that has developed a life of its own. Don’t fail us.

However, the game and the relief it brings, is what we all really need.

Williams Has The Capacity To Make Further Impact

By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNewYorkExtra.com

credit twitter

If the Mayan calendar is correct and the end of the world occurs within the next two weeks, it will be ashamed for Jets’ fans who didn’t see a second season of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

For the, the best is yet to come. Forget the Mayans. Are you ready for some more Williams-defensive football?

Williams took over the reign last season and tuned up a relatively solid unit from former head coach and fellow defensive guru Todd Bowles. The 61-year-old’s hire raised some eyebrows, but the longtime controversial, colorful and animated coordinator and former head coach easily could be considered the team’s MVP last season, waving his magic wand through an injury—riddled season on his side of the ball.

The Jets played with a non-descript contingent that featured just lone and deserving Pro-Bowler Jamal Adams and transformed them into the leagues’ seventh overall defensive battalion. More important, they allowed just over 86 yards rushing per game that placed them first in the AFC and second overall—yes, first and second – and 17th against the pass.

The defense’s performance and his rise back into the spotlight diffused took away some of the glare from first-year head coach Adam Gase’s critics.  

Remember, this was defensive secondary that saw their cornerback situation have as much traffic as a typical five o’clock on any major thoroughfare in the tri-state. Starter Trumaine Johnson was a bust, injured and benched, and fellow starter Darryl Roberts was inconsistent and hobbled all season. Rookie Bless Austin and former Saint Arthur Maulet eventually panned out as the most productive pair.  Williams infused the likes of unknowns Kyron Brown and Maurice Canady along with veteran Nate Hariston to add to the effect. Brian Poole became a stellar nickel back.

Adams and Marcus Maye stayed the course at safety, and free-agent Matthias Farley made the most of this short time.

Up front, Williams elevated the stats of once-project Nathan Shepherd into a weekly, solid run-stopper. Underrated Steve McLendon and Henry Anderson played through injuries and developed the rotation. Top pick Quinnen Williams showed some flash, but depth reduced the pressures around him.

In Williams’ 3-4 alignment, the linebacking core was his strength. However, it will be his biggest puzzle to piece together in 2020.

James Burgess, Neville Hewitt, B. J. Bello and Blake Cashman all excelled. Burgess had 80 tackles and Hewitt had 75 stops with three sacks, while Bello and Cashman were both productive in their shorter stints.

Consensus stud C.J. Mosley was gone in the first game against Buffalo last year and fellow starter Avery Williamson was lost in the preseason. Sack leader Jordan Jenkins – eight of the team’s 35 – was brought back from free agency. In addition, the Jet added former Raven Patrick Onwuasor, who had 8.5 sacks over the last two years.

Williams also has third-round pick and highly touted safety Ashtyn Davis to roll the dice with in situations.

While he and Gase will need a sharp eye for roster spots, Williams surely still will have the luxury of some intricate scheming. When the focus is narrowed in early September, it will be interesting.

The key, once again, will be keeping his platoon healthy. If so, it likely won’t be “The Sack Exchange” of years past, but it will be an all-out front led by one of the game’s finest defensive minds who will have Jets’ fans checking the late-season calendars.  

Can Giants’ Core Produce An Effective Pass Rush?

By Jeff Moeller The New York Extra/thenyextra.com

The Giants’ virtual workouts have ended, and there are roughly six weeks until the projected start of training camp July 28.

With that, the thought process begins and the questions start swirling around in the heads of Giants’ brass and fans alike. Among the biggest cringes and debates will be the Giants’ defense. In spite of acquiring some talent and making seven of his 10 draft choices defensive ones, has GM Dave Gettleman found the right pieces to solidify the puzzle? Specifically, can Gettleman, head coach Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham find the solution to fix the team’s inept defensive line?

Last season, the Giants recorded 36 sacks, good for 22nd overall on a unit that ranked 25th overall in the league – 20th against the run and 28th against the pass. An inconsistent pass produced the site of a wide-open receiver or one being chased by a Giants’ defender as he was headed to the end zone too often. To their credit, the Giants did rid themselves of veteran safety Antoine Bethea and a few others to revamp the secondary.

Graham has the daunting task of finding the right scheme for beefy defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson (2nd round, 2017) and Dexter Lawrence (1st  round , 2019, both of whom were high picks with lofty aspirations, and blending them together with the franchise-tagged Leonard Williams, whose trade from the Jets still remains controversial. Together, all three can stop the run well, but they combined for 6.5 sacks last season.

Third-year player BJ Hill also is in the rotation and needs to return to his 2018 form when he had 5.5 sacks as opposed to his lone sack last season that reduced his playing time. Gettleman added bulky free-agent tackle Austin Johnson from Tennessee who can stop the run, but he didn’t have a sack last season.

Graham has mentioned multiple looks, but he likely will employ a 3-4 alignment in which the Giants can deploy their stockpile of 12 linebackers, four of them draft choices from the spring. He has a niche at his former stomp in Miami as favoring the blitz, which could be the primary generator of sacks.

Free agent Kyler Fackwell has 10.5 sacks in Green Bay two years ago, and he is viewed as the edge rusher they sought in the draft. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines also are expected to increase pressure. Fellow Packer free agent Blake Martinez was a tackling machine and will be turned loose in a blitz package. Ryan Connolly was promising before an injury ended his season last year, and former Panther David Mayo also had plenty of highlights with his pair of sacks.

Sacks will be essential to overall improvement of the unit and allow veterans James Bradberry and Jabrill Peppers to orchestrate a budding secondary. The quantity surely is there, but is there enough quality?  The triumvirate of Gettleman, Judge, and Graham will discover if their defensive unit can close the gap this fall.

Give Thomas and Gase A Clean Slate for 2020

By Jeff Moeller The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

10/21/19 Patriots vs Jets at metlife stadium east rutherford nj Head coach Adam Gase looks dejected during the 4th quarter tonite Neil Miller /The New York Extra

Joe Douglas did the shopping. Now Adam Gase has to do the cooking. It is time to set the table for the 2020 season.

The Douglas-Gase era officially will begin their first full year together in late July when the Jets hopefully will open training camp. Last July, Douglas was hired as the new Jets GM, and many saw it as a power move by Gase to reunite with his former associate and slash the reign of former GM Mike Maccagnan.

The Maccagnan-Todd Bowles era had a few productive years, and Maccagnan had an open checkbook a year ago. He filled some of the open spots in the Jets’ cupboard. Through it all, the duo was given a chance by Jets’ ownership.

In July, owner Christopher Johnson has to give the Douglas-Gase combo a long leash. Gase came under fire last season. Give him an opportunity to develop the team. Douglas already has developed a pedigree through his front office stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Jets’ fans expected Thomas to make

When Gase was hired last January, he was generally seen as a consolation prize after a deal for former Packers’ and current Cowboys’ coach and fan favorite Mike McCarthy apparently fell through. Current Carolina head coach Matt Rhule was the hot college commodity, but reports were mixed whether he was offered the job.

Gase took over with a 23-25 overall record in three seasons in Miami, the previous two seasons being losing campaigns after a 10-7 playoff season in his debut. He had a falling out with ownership over  team decisions.

It seemed to follow him with the Jets, as he was the de facto GM under Johnson that ended Maccagnan’s run. The initial reaction to Thomas’ hire was linked to Gase. However, the Jets upper echelon hierarchy was apparently united for the first time in a while. It wasn’t the situation where Maccagnan and Bowles separately reported to Johnson.

Gase arrived as the quarterback whisper from his time as an assistant and was handed promising Sam Darnold. But he didn’t have the luxury of Darnold for full season as well as stud linebacker CJ Mosley and others on the other side of the ball. Yet, Gase drew the ire of critics for being too passive despite a 6-2 slate in the second half of an overall 7-9 season.

One major issue was his handling of Le‘Veon Bell, who also has to prove that he is still an elite back. Rumblings surfaced of a rift between the two, and Gase has been a pass first/run second coach. Still, Gase will have to find a way to properly get the most mileage out of Bell.

Clean the slate for Thomas and Gase for 2020. Expectations have a louder blip for this fall, but let both of them get further settled in the ride before we cast any more aspersions.

Healthy and Productive Giants’ Trio Will Raise Bar

Picture Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, and Evan Engram lined up on the field for a late October game this fall.

Evan Engram file photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com copyright 2020

The Giants have envisioned that thought of a healthy Barkley and Engram together over the past two seasons.If they all can stay healthy and be productive, the Giants can finally have the winning trifecta they have sought. Together, they can produce the anticipated results that can hasten the G-Men’s transformation into NFC East contenders this fall.

Saquon Barkley file photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com copyright 2020

Certainly Jones and Barkley will be under the microscope for the 2020 season to see if they can further mature and stay on the field.

Danile Jones file photo Neil Miller/The New York extra/TheNYExtra.con copyright 2020

The real enigma is Engram.

When he was drafted in 2017, Engram showed how he could be the new prototype tight end with the size of a linebacker and the speed of a wide receiver. He caught 64 passes and made 11 starts in 15 games.His panache earned him a spot of the Pro Football Writers All-Rookie Team.

The Giants believed they had their next Mark Bavaro or Jeremy Shockey, and most indications had him better than either of them.But injuries have slowed his progress as he has appeared in 19 games over the last two years with 89 combined catches. Ironically, the CO-VID 19 pandemic has allowed Engram time away from the usual spring workouts, and he should have a clean slate in August.

For Jones, it is about the reduction in 11 lost fumbles from a total of 13 in nine games. However, he was one of only four rookies to toss more than four touchdowns in multiple games since 2000. Jones showed the composure and leadership down the stretch despite the outcomes that the Giants believed he could possess. Jones worked out with members of the receiving corps at Duke, and has asserted himself with the presence of a veteran quarterback in his second year.

 Barkley, too, will be a question mark to see if he can further endure the rigors of being the team’s prime back after a high ankle sprain shelved him last season. New offensive coordinator Jason Garrett likely will utilize Barkley in the same fashion as he did with Ezekiel Elliot in Dallas with a heavy workload. A family source told me that Barkley has been extremely focused and ferocious in his offseason workouts.

Jones, Barkley, and Engram can solve all the Giants’ issues, as the team has other areas that need to be addressed in camp. But the trio both healthy and productive can pay huge dividends down the stretch in the coming season.