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Chargers sack Jets' McElroy 11 times in 27-17 win

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Chargers sack Jets' McElroy 11 times in 27-17 win

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Sack after sack, the San Diego Chargers made things downright miserable for Greg McElroy.

The Chargers took McElroy down 11 times, tying the team record and ruining the New York Jets quarterback's first NFL start in place of the benched Mark Sanchez in a 27-17 victory Sunday.

McElroy, the third-stringer, moved the offense for the Jets (6-9) early but faced pressure all game. With a chance to get New York back into it with less than 5 minutes remaining, McElroy was taken down by Shaun Phillips - the Chargers' eighth sack of the game - and lost the ball. Phillips, who had 2 1/2 sacks recovered and San Diego sealed the win, but not before sacking McElroy three more times.

Kendall Reyes finished with 3 1/2 sacks and Corey Liuget two for the Chargers (6-9), who also had 11 against Dallas in 1986 and finished one off the NFL mark set by several teams, last by the Giants in 2007.

With Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith facing uncertain futures, it was a dominant effort for the defense with one game left.

McElroy became the first Jets quarterback to be sacked 11 times since David Norrie by Dallas in 1987, a game played by replacements.

``It was great on their part,'' said Rex Ryan, guaranteed his first losing season as Jets coach, ``but ridiculous on our part.''

With most of the pregame drama centered around whether Sanchez or Tim Tebow would back up McElroy - turned out, it was both - Philip Rivers threw touchdown tosses of 37 yards to Danario Alexander and 34 yards to Antonio Gates to lead the Chargers.

It was the 82nd touchdown catch of Gates' career, snapping a tie with Lance Alworth for the franchise lead.

Rivers was a modest 11 of 22 for 165 yards, while McElroy finished 14 of 24 for 185 yards with an interception and the lost fumble. Both offenses struggled, though, as San Diego went 2 of 12 on third downs, while New York was 2 of 11.

Ryan had Sanchez and Tebow active for the home finale, the first time all three quarterbacks were available for a game. With the decision, Ryan avoided having to designate either Sanchez or Tebow as the No. 2 quarterback Sunday. Both were listed as the backup on the team's flip card in the press box.

Ryan benched Sanchez after the quarterback had five turnovers in New York's 14-10 loss at Tennessee last Monday night. Tebow was leapfrogged on the depth chart earlier this week when Ryan chose to start McElroy over the popular backup for Sunday's game.

Ryan announced after the game that McElroy would start the season finale next Sunday at Buffalo.

The Jets ran the wildcat a handful of times - but with wide receiver Jeremy Kerley instead of Tebow, who stood on the sideline the entire game without getting a snap.

Several times throughout the game, with the defense on the field, McElroy and Sanchez often sat with offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, while Tebow was off to the side talking with other teammates.

McElroy jogged onto the field to big cheers from the crowd that filled MetLife Stadium only halfway.

Moments later, the fans were booing as Micheal Spurlock took a punt 63 yards for a touchdown to put the Chargers up 7-0 just under 2 minutes into the game.

Spurlock caught the punt, got some good blocks and then stiff-armed Robert Malone before zipping into the end zone.

It was the first punt returned against the Jets for a touchdown since Oakland's Phillip Buchanon took one 78 yards in 2003 - a span of 150 games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

The Jets came right back, though, to tie it at 7 on Shonn Greene's 1-yard touchdown run - two plays after McElroy nearly ran it in from the 8 but was ruled down just short of the goal line.

Throwing another wrinkle into the Jets' quarterback quandary, after McElroy completed a short pass to Greene, who turned it into a 30-yard rumble, Kerley - out of the wildcat - took the direct snap and lofted a 42-yard pass that hung up in the air but was snagged by Clyde Gates.

After a three-and-out by San Diego, McElroy led the Jets back into the end zone as Greene plowed in for another 1-yard score to give New York a 14-7 lead.

It was the first time the Jets had at least two touchdowns in the opening quarter since 2009 at Oakland.

San Diego got to the New York 16 on a fourth-down conversion by Alexander, who caught a short slant pass from Rivers and took it 18 yards.

But consecutive holding penalties on tackle Mike Harris pushed the Chargers back to the 36. Four plays later, Nick Novak kicked a 46-yard field that was negated by yet another mistake, this time because the Chargers had 12 men on the field.

Punter Mike Scifres ran out onto the field, and then Turner took a timeout before sending Novak out again. Novak tied a season high by making a 51-yarder to cut the deficit to 14-10.

The Chargers opened the second half with a 37-yard touchdown catch by Alexander that gave San Diego the lead.

McElroy made his first costly mistake of the game late in the third quarter when his long pass intended for Gates was intercepted by Corey Lynch. Novak kicked a 27-yard field goal moments later to make it 27-14.

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Not everyone thinks the Redskins need to invest more at wide receiver

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Not everyone thinks the Redskins need to invest more at wide receiver

While the rumors about the Redskins potentially trading for Marvin Jones from over the weekend were total nonsense, a reason they resonated so much with fans is because many believe Washington needs major help at wide receiver.

But during a segment of Monday's Redskins 100 show, analyst Trevor Matich assessed the position group and actually thinks that, as a whole, the team should be relatively pleased with the talent it has outside.

"I like it better than I have in recent years, especially if Paul Richardson stays healthy," Matich said.

His "especially" qualifier is a common one, and that's because Richardson is the most established wideout currently on the roster — and he still has just 1,564 career receiving yards to his name. However, a healthy Richardson (which the 'Skins never really saw in his first year, considering he got injured early in training camp and was never the same) provides Jay Gruden the field stretcher he loves to have.

Richardson isn't the only player Matich is anxious to see, though.

"Terry McLaurin, their draft choice from Ohio State, is legitimately a 4.3 guy," he said. "He gets deep down the field and catches the ball in space."

One of the biggest issues for the 2018 Redskins was a lack of speed at every single spot. In Richardson and McLaurin, the Burgundy and Gold now have a pair of pass catchers who can fly past corners, do damage 30-plus yards down the sideline and open things up for other targets as well.

Overall, in reacting to the Jones storyline, Matich really doesn't see a huge need for the organization to make any additions to that collection of pieces. 

"I think that when you take a look at all the other guys, Trey Quinn in the slot, things like that, this receiving corps is fine," he said. "It's not desperate. They don't need to invest resources to bring extra people in."

Now, is "fine" and "not desperate" the level the front office and coaches want their receivers to be? Of course not. But Matich's stance is intriguing, because he's content with who'll be lining up there while plenty of others absolutely don't see it that way and feel a trade would be prudent.

If you're in that second group, recent history indicates this is the dead zone for NFL deals. So try not to waste your time refreshing Twitter over and over and over.

Perhaps Washington gets to Richmond and, after a few weeks of practices and a couple of exhibition contests, realizes their depth chart could use another name. Or maybe an injury happens and forces their hand. But according to Matich, as of now, the offense can function with the parts it has in place.

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Free Agency Bracket: Brett Connolly vs. Devante Smith-Pelly

Free Agency Bracket: Brett Connolly vs. Devante Smith-Pelly

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s quarterfinal matchup:

Region: Capitals free agents

Brett Connolly vs. Devante Smith-Pelly
 
2018-19 stats

Brett Connolly (27 years old): 81 games played with the Capitals, 22 goals, 24 assists, 46 points, 13:20 TOI
 
Playoffs: 7 games played with the Capitals, 2 goals, 0 assists, 4 points, 13:50 TOI

Devante Smith-Pelly (27 years old): 54 games played with the Capitals, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, 10:51 TOI

Playoffs: 3 games played with the Caps, no goals, no assists, no points, 9:47 TOI

 
Hockey-Graph contract projections

Brett Connolly: 3 years, $3,536,091 cap hit
 
Devante Smith-Pelly: 2 years, $1,149,369

The case for Brett Connolly

The Capitals have already re-signed one of their third-line free agents with Carl Hagelin’s new deal. Is there room left for Connolly? Connolly has made himself comfortable in Washington. He tied his career highs in goals twice (15) and then broke through with a career-best 22. And he is one of the league’s most productive players given his limited ice time. 
 
There are just too many big names in front of Connolly to get him much power-play time. Those 22 goals wouldn’t be easy to replace and GM Brian MacLellan said scoring depth is a concern this offseason. If he is again willing to sacrifice role for a bump in pay and some security then maybe Connolly returns to a place he re-ignited his career. The talent is certainly there as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft and Connolly is headed into his age-27 season so a three or four-year deal takes care of his prime years. 
 
But the argument ultimately rests on the salary cap, which at $81.5 million is problematic. It might be out of Washington’s hands anyway. Even if the Capitals want to keep him, other teams could use money AND ice time to entice Connolly. But can they strike gold again with another cheap third-line winger as they did with Connolly? That’s not easy to replicate. They could simply sign Connolly and take care of it, but the salary cap is tight.

The case for Smith-Pelly

There is no question that Smith-Pelly can be inconsistent, but he always seems to bring it in the playoffs. Before his seven-goal performance in the 2018 Cup run, Smith-Pelly was brilliant with the Anaheim Ducks scoring five goals in 12 games back in 2014.

With Carl Hagelin re-signed and players like Jakub Vrana, Christian Djoos and other depth pieces still on the horizon, affordability is pretty much the biggest asset for any free agent available to Washington and it won’t get much more affordable than Smith-Pelly.

Hockey-Graphs can be spot on with some of its projections and outright wrong for others and this case is definitely the latter. Smith-Pelly’s contract for the 2018-19 season was a one-year deal with a cap hit of $1 million. After scoring just eight points and getting demoted to the AHL, there is no way he walks into next season with a two-year deal and a raise. The cap hit is going to be low for Smith-Pelly and that makes him a very attractive choice for the Caps – if both sides can put last year’s awkwardness behind them. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here. 

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