Capitals

Cowboys-Redskins on Thanksgiving? No biggie to RG3

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Cowboys-Redskins on Thanksgiving? No biggie to RG3

IRVING, Texas (AP) Robert Griffin III, the Texas-bred quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor, comes to his home state for the first time as a pro for the most traditional of Thanksgiving rivalries - Cowboys vs. Redskins.

Hold on a minute with all that drama and emotion building for Thursday's game. The Washington rookie grew up in Central Texas rooting for the Denver Broncos.

``It's one game and that's what we've got,'' Griffin said. ``We've got the Dallas Cowboys, and that's what I'm going to play like.''

Hold on another minute before deciding he is completely blowing off the pretty cool idea that he's coming home for a big game on a unique stage. He gets it.

``It will be fun. I'll see a lot of familiar faces,'' Griffin said. ``It's Cowboys-Redskins or Redskins-Cowboys, whatever way you want to put it. Me being a Texas kid, I know how big the rivalry is and I get my fair shot at it.''

Griffin has practical reasons for approaching Thursday's game as one Washington needs to win. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo does, too.

The Redskins (4-6) kept themselves in the playoff conversation by coming off the bye with a 31-6 blowout of Philadelphia, sparked by 14 of 15 passing and four touchdowns from Griffin. A win puts the Cowboys (5-5) a half-game behind the New York Giants in the NFC East five days after they risked ruining their season against last-place Cleveland before winning 23-20 in overtime.

``It started for us two weeks back,'' Romo said. ``We've been putting our head down and grinding, going forward and trying put together win after win.''

The Cowboys have played the Redskins more than any other team in their annual Thanksgiving home game, and Dallas has won all six previous meetings. The Cowboys also are trying to win their fourth straight against Washington, which would be the longest streak in eight years.

But the Redskins haven't brought a quarterback like Griffin into this game in a long time. Statistically, he's ahead of the other four rookies who began the season as starters, and he's right there with most of the veterans. He's one of six quarterbacks with a rating of at least 100, completing 67 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

The Redskins lost six of eight after Griffin's remarkable debut in a win at New Orleans, so maybe it was easy to forget about him. He sort of reminded everyone by picking apart the Eagles. He's also in the top 20 in rushing in the NFL with 613 yards. The next quarterback is Cam Newton at 394. The Cowboys have faced both.

``You can't really go into a game worried about this guy scrambling because it will slow you up and probably put you in a worse situation than just trying to go after him,'' said Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears. ``Obviously, we have to have awareness of where he is and where he can escape.''

Griffin isn't the only runner the Redskins have. Another rookie, Alfred Morris, is fifth in the league with 869 yards rushing, and Washington is one of four teams with two games of 200-plus yards on the ground this season.

The Dallas running game is struggling through the extended absence of starter DeMarco Murray and an offensive line that is also battling injuries.

Murray is likely to miss his sixth straight game against the Redskins, and backup Felix Jones is battling a knee injury that could limit him. Without those two, the Cowboys would have to rely on a pair of undrafted players in rookie Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner. In five games without Murray, the Cowboys have rushed for 100 yards once.

``We've shuffled guys through, but it hasn't just been there, it's been everywhere really,'' Romo said. ``Our offensive line, we've had to move guys around and do different things.''

Romo was sacked a career-high seven times by the Browns behind a line that started the game with a new center and a replacement guard, and ended up having to fill in for left tackle Tyson Smith when he sprained an ankle. One of the few constants, right tackle Doug Free, has been the focus of questions all week after he was beaten repeatedly by Cleveland.

``Every game you can look at it and say I did this wrong, I did that wrong,'' Free said. ``Some are worse than others, but I mean every game you've got things to work on, things to fix. You've got to stay focused on the task at hand.''

The Washington defense has lost several starters to injury, and even linebacker London Fletcher is in danger of missing a game for the first time in his 15-year career. He's tied with Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber for the league's longest active streak at 234 straight games, but he injured an ankle last weekend against the Eagles and faced the short week of recovery time.

``It matters to London. It matters to us, not necessarily the streak, but playing,'' Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. ``And there is a reason why he has played all those games because he plays when he is hurt and hopefully he will be able to play.''

Griffin will play, and plenty of folks from the hometown of Copperas Cove, Texas, will be at Cowboys Stadium, where he's 1-0 after beating Texas Tech in a neutral site game for the Bears last year, although he left early with concussion-like symptoms.

``He's kind of a different guy,'' Shanahan said. ``He's pretty relaxed no matter where he goes or who he's with. It just seems like he's pretty cool, calm and collected. He handles different stages as good as anybody I've been around.''

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2016 NHL Draft: How much does a successful draft depend on the first round?

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2016 NHL Draft: How much does a successful draft depend on the first round?

The NHL Draft takes place on June 21 and 22. The Capitals hold the 25th overall pick and will be looking for future stars among all the hopeful prospects.

But just how successful has Washington been in finding those stars? How much value have the Caps found through the draft?

NBC Sports Washington will be looking at how Washington has drafted over the last 10 years. Today’s draft: 2016

26th overall pick (first round): Traded

The St. Louis Blues elected to trade up in the draft sending Washington a first and giving back their third-round pick which the Blues acquired as part of the package for T.J. Oshie. St. Louis used the pick for forward Tage Thompson who ended up playing 41 games for the Blues in the 2017-18 season. St. Louis ultimately traded him away to the Buffalo Sabres as part of the package that got them the now Conn Smythe-winning Ryan O’Reilly.

28th overall pick (first round): Lucas Johansen D

This Caps moved only two spots back in the trade with St. Louis and selected Johansen, a talented but undersized defenseman. Johansen has spent the last two seasons in Hershey. He has added some size, but that no longer is the biggest concern with his play. Despite being a talented puck-mover, Johansen seems uncomfortable with the puck on his stick, almost jumpy. Getting a quick first pass off is an important skill to start breakouts, but it does not appear like he makes quick, smart decisions up the ice, he is just trying to get the puck off his stick quickly whenever it gets close which leads to some bad decisions. Some of this could be due to the upper-body injury that forced him to miss significant time this past season. Either way, he desperately needs to learn to be more comfortable with the puck.

If you take away the puck-moving skills, then you just have an undersized defenseman. He needs to get the puck skills back if he hopes to make it to the NHL.

57th overall pick (second round): Traded

Washington traded this pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in February 2016 as part of the package to get Brooks Laich’s contract off the books. The Leafs used the pick on forward Carl Grundstrom who Toronto sent to the Los Angeles Kings as part of the package to land defenseman Jake Muzzin.

Grundstrom ended up playing in 15 games with the Kings with five goals and an assist so he is definitely a player to watch heading into next season.

87th overall pick (third round): Garret Pilon F

This was the pick attached to the first-round pick St. Louis swapped with the Caps to move up. Washington used it to select Pilon, son of former NHLer Rich Pilon.

Pilon had a strong WHL career with Kamloops and Everett and was impressive in his first season in Hershey with 10 goals and 23 assists in 71 games. He has potential as a third-line NHLer, maybe second line but that would be a real reach. He has a great hockey IQ. You can see the plays he is trying to make on the ice, he just can’t always finish the job whether it is getting a cross-ice pass over to an open teammate after drawing the defense to himself or getting enough power behind a shot from a high-danger area. Another year in the AHL to hone his skills and he should have a real shot of making the jump to the NHL.

117th overall pick (fourth round): Damien Riat F

Riat has yet to make the jump from Europe to North America, but Swiss Hockey News reports that he will participate in development camp and training camp for the Caps this year.

145th overall pick (fifth round): Beck Malenstyn F

When the Caps packaged Laich with Connor Carrick and a second-round pick, they did not just receive cap relief. They also got Daniel Winnik and a fifth-round pick. Washington turned that pick into Malenstyn.

Malenstyn has a solid mix of skill and physical play that led Hershey Bears head coach Spencer Carbery to declare, “he’s our Tom Wilson.”

Now let’s temper expectations here. While Malenstyn may play a similar role for the Bears as Wilson does for the Caps, do not take that to mean Malenstyn is a top-six NHL forward. He’s not. He scored seven goals and nine assists in his first professional season, but the way he was able to have an impact on the ice is certainly impressive. There is some potential here for him to be an NHL fourth-liner.

147th overall pick (fifth round): Axel Jonsson-Fjallby F

Jonsson-Fjallby has NHL speed and is a similar type of player as Carl Hagelin. He is not going to light up the scoresheet, but his speed always makes him a threat and he can be a strong, bottom-six player and penalty killer at the NHL level.

I thought there was a legitimate chance he could compete for the Caps this year if Hagelin left. Hagelin, however, is back for another four years. That’s not to say it is time to move on from him, just that there was room for Jonsson-Fjallby to be a Hagelin replacement and now he can go back to Hershey and work on his game and adjusting to the North American style of play. That’s good news for Washington since Jonsson-Fjallby chose to go back to Sweden early last season and has only 16 games of North American experience.

177th overall pick (sixth round): Chase Priskie D

Priskie just wrapped up a fantastic college career at Quinnipiac where he won a national title, was a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and scored 17 goals and 22 assists in his senior season…as a defenseman.

Unfortunately for Washington, since Priskie just wrapped up his fourth season in college he is eligible to become a free agent in August if he does not sign with the Caps before then. Priskie informed management in April that he would not sign with the team and that he intended to become a free agent. Priskie is a right-shot, puck-moving, offensive defenseman who would be a high-end third pair defenseman, but could also develop into a second-pair guy. His decision not to sign with Washington is a definite blow to the Caps and the pipeline.

207th overall pick (seventh round): Dmitriy Zaitsev D

After two seasons in the WHL, the Capitals chose not to sign Zaitsev to an entry-level contract prior to the 2018-19 season thus forfeiting his rights. He elected to return to his native Russia and split time over the season in the KHL, MHL, and VHL.

Takeaways

First the good news. The Caps found a lot of value in this draft. Past the second or third round, you are basically drafting lottery tickets and hoping your number gets called. I am not quite sure what to make of Riat, but besides him, Pilon, Jonsson-Fjallby, and Priskie all have NHL potential. Malenstyn could as well but may be a reach. Sure, these would all be depth guys, but that’s a lot of NHL potential in one draft.

Now on to the bad news. First, the defenseman with the highest upside is probably not their first-round pick, but Priskie and the Caps know they are going to lose him as a free agent. That is his right as written into the CBA so you cannot fault him for taking advantage. Having said that, it really stinks for the Caps who snagged him in the sixth round of the draft just to see him walk after showing off his potential.

Second, the Caps may have found a lot of potential NHLers in this draft, but if they miss on Johansen, was this draft a bust for them? That is not to say Johansen is a bust or that he will never live up to expectations as a top-four defenseman. But if he does not learn to be more comfortable with the puck and learn the difference between quick thinking and panicked reaction, he is not going to make it to the NHL. At this point, it looks like he will need another year in Hershey and if he does not improve, then it is time to wonder whether he has a future at all.

How do you evaluate this draft if you find value in the later rounds—which is extremely hard to do—and miss on your first-round pick? It’s a tough question to answer.

 

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Premier League Roundup: Everton parting ways with captain Phil Jagielka

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Premier League Roundup: Everton parting ways with captain Phil Jagielka

Premier League teams are making grandiose plans for the upcoming 2019-20 season. For Everton, those plans are coming with a new captain as Phil Jagielka will leave the team after 12 years in Goodison.

Here's the latest news about the Premier League:

Player Notes

Burnley: Goalkeeper Tom Heaton rejected a contract extension from the club after a strong second half to the season. Coming off a dislocated shoulder injury a year ago, Heaton looks to be fielding options elsewhere. 

Chelsea: It was widely reported that defender Antonio Rudiger could miss the start of the 2019-20 season as he continues to recover from knee surgery. There were no complications with his procedure but that the club has no intention of rushing him back.

Everton: Two of the Toffees defenders, Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams, will leave the team after their contracts expire this summer. Jagielka has been the team's captain since 2013 and played in 386 games for Everton. 

Arsenal: Defender Hector Bellerin will miss the start of the 2019-20 campaign as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury.

Arsenal: Goalkeeper David Ospina is signed on a permanent transfer after a successful year-long loan from Arsenal.

Source: Rotoworld

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