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Cowboys have penalty problem, with winning twist

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Cowboys have penalty problem, with winning twist

IRVING, Texas (AP) Somewhere in the middle of six defensive penalties that gave Philadelphia first downs, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett turned to backup quarterback Kyle Orton to talk a little game simulation.

``I want to hear 800 hard counts in practice this week,'' Garrett recalled himself saying while watching jumpy Dallas defenders pile up the offsides calls Sunday.

The game was the fourth in which Dallas has committed 13 penalties this season, but here's the funny part. The Cowboys are 3-1 in those games after beating the Eagles 38-23, and they're 0-2 with their season low in yellow flags - two.

``Oh, I think there's a few different ways you can spin that,'' Garrett said. ``You know, for years the Oakland Raiders were the most penalized team and they won a lot of football games. And they used to spin it like it was an aggressive nature that they had and that's the kind of team that they wanted to be. I don't buy that completely, though. You don't want to hurt yourself as a football team.''

The penalties ultimately didn't hurt Dallas (4-5) against the Eagles because that same defense scored two touchdowns on an interception return by Brandon Carr and a fumble recovery by Jason Hatcher.

Hatcher had the first two offsides penalties, both resulting in first downs on third-down plays on the Eagles' first drive. Philadelphia was the only team in the league without points on its opening drive before getting a touchdown Sunday.

The Hatcher penalties were at least explainable because he's a defensive lineman, prone to jump when a quarterback puts some emphasis on a signal without taking the snap - the so-called hard count. It doesn't make sense when a cornerback does it away from the ball, and rookie Morris Claiborne jumped twice.

``As a defensive football team you are always teaching aggressiveness, getting off the ball, attacking and all of that,'' Garrett said. ``But at the same time you have to be disciplined.''

Maybe Claiborne was just having a bad day, perhaps his worst as a pro. He got beat for the game-opening touchdown by Riley Cooper, who had just two catches for the season before the leaping one-handed grab in the end zone. Claiborne also was called for defensive holding twice and interference once.

``It was a struggle, sort of like that third baseman when they bunt it to him early on, in the first inning, he picks it up and throws it 15 rows over the first baseman's head,'' Garrett said. ``The bunts keep coming, right? So they kept going after him, and that's an experience a lot of rookie corners have to experience in this league.''

The Cowboys, tied for second in the league with 74 penalties going into Sunday's home game against Cleveland (2-7), had 13 in three of the first five games, and most of the talk then was about an offensive line committing too many false starts and holding penalties.

Against Philadelphia, the focus of the problem shifted to the defensive line, but this was the same group that pressured Michael Vick early and sidelined him with a concussion. The Cowboys sacked rookie backup Nick Foles twice, including one that resulted in Hatcher's touchdown.

``You don't want to take the aggressiveness away from those guys,'' Garrett said. ``The best defensive lines are the ones that get off the football, and we do a pretty good job of getting off the football. For the most part we've been pretty good in this area. We just have to correct it.''

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.

With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.

Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.

The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.

Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."

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