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Jaguars eager to build on 1st win in 2 months

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Jaguars eager to build on 1st win in 2 months

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Until Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars hadn't held a second-half lead at home all season.

No wonder it nearly caused problems.

Moments after Cecil Shorts III caught a pass from Chad Henne and raced 59 yards to give the Jaguars a 14-6 lead in the third quarter against Tennessee, two offensive linemen tried to jump into the stands to celebrate. Luckily for the Jaguars, rookie guard Mike Brewster was unable to leap the wall.

Officials warned coach Mike Mularkey that his team nearly drew a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

``I did not know there was a rule that you couldn't have more than one guy do the leap,'' Mularkey said Monday. ``It's a good problem.''

One the Jaguars (2-9) would gladly welcome again as they try to build on their 24-19 victory Sunday that snapped a seven-game losing streak. They play at Buffalo (4-7) on Sunday, trying to start a winning streak.

For Mularkey, it's a return to where he got his first head-coaching job.

For Chad Henne, it's the first of four consecutive games against his former division, the AFC East, and a chance to keep the offense moving in the right direction.

Henne completed 17 of 26 passes for 261 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception against the Titans. Not too shabby for a guy making his first start in more than 13 months.

Henne's first pass was tipped and intercepted, and he was sacked seven times, but he overcame those mistakes with clutch throws to Shorts, rookie Justin Blackmon and tight end Marcedes Lewis.

``He was smart with the football,'' Mularkey said. ``He just did a good job protecting the football and giving us a chance even if we had to punt the ball. He was smart there. ... I thought his performance was very gutsy.''

Henne earned the starting job last week at Houston, where he threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns in relief of injured starter Blaine Gabbert.

Henne has a chance to keep the gig going into 2013 if he continues to play well down the stretch.

But the Jaguars aren't ready to anoint Henne as the franchise quarterback just yet. After all, it's only been two games and Henne's performances surely seem better coming on the heels of Gabbert's 24 mediocre starts.

``He's made some really good plays for us,'' Mularkey said. ``He's made some good throws and some good reads for us. Players have made plays for him very well. ... He's made some throws. He's done a great job of some of the reads we've asked him to do. He, too, has things he can get better at in both games that he's played so far, but he's being very smart with the ball, especially in the pocket.

``When it's not there, a sack is better than a sack-fumble or throw it away and get a pick. He's eliminating the worst thing that can happen on plays.''

Shorts, rookie Justin Blackmon and tight end Marcedes Lewis have benefited the most with Henne under center.

Shorts has seven receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Blackmon has 12 catches for 298 yards and two scores. And Lewis has hauled in seven passes for 96 yards and two TDs.

``I feel like more of an experienced quarterback,'' Henne said. ``I think you learn a lot about yourself, especially in your first four years, so I've been through a lot. Really only had two years underneath my belt as a starter, so I'm still learning a lot of things about myself and working on things that I can improve on.''

Inconsistency was Henne's main issue in Miami, so playing well over the final five games could be the difference between locking up the starting spot and leaving the Jaguars still looking for answers at quarterback.

``I think a lot of it has been confidence,'' Mularkey said. ``I am happy that he is performing like he is right now. We brought him in here was to do what he's doing right now.''

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The longterm case for the Wizards to not trade Bradley Beal is more compelling than you might think

The longterm case for the Wizards to not trade Bradley Beal is more compelling than you might think

We know teams remain interested in snagging Bradley Beal.

There’s no explanation required why true contenders or wannabes would covet a 25-year-old two-time All-Star coming off a near All-NBA season. With Anthony Davis dealt to the Lakers, Beal becomes arguably the top prize in the trade market.

Before shipping the Wizards’ leading scorer out of the DMV for long-term assets that would signal a rebuild, consider the alternative. No talking points are needed for the concept of keeping Beal, but doing so brings up the larger picture.

Assuming the Wizards remained fiscally disciplined this off-season, the team can enter the summer of 2020 with a relatively clean balance sheet and actual roster optimism.

At that point the Wizards would have Beal possibly coming off a third All-Star appearance along with 2018 first-round pick Troy Brown, a player selected with the ninth overall pick in Thursday’s Draft and a 2020 lottery pick.

Add to that the return of John Wall. It’s conceivable the five-time All-Star rejoins the team late next season, but it likely would take additional time to gauge his physical status following the devastating Achilles injury that required surgery in February. If Wall appears close to his prior form, the Wizards have an interesting starting point with those pieces.

In addition, the expiring contracts for Ian Mahinmi ($15.4 million) and Dwight Howard ($5.6) come off the books. Beal, Wall and Brown are the only current players under contract beyond next season.

This season also provides the next front office leader a chance to establish a cultural baseline for a team that dealt with locker room squabbles last season. The Wizards remain without a general manager after firing President of Basketball Operations on April 2.

Tommy Sheppard has run the front office on an interim basis since. While logically the Wizards would hold off making any splashy moves like dealing Beal until a permanent GM is named, owner Ted Leonsis is the one needing convincing regardless.

Leonsis famously told reporters last season the team “will never, ever tank.” Rebuilding doesn’t have the same negative connotation as that four-letter T-word, but dealing Beal would offer the perception of a team focused on the long haul above all.

That’s not necessarily the wrong approach. The Wizards can always head into that direction ahead of the 2020-21 season. Beal’s value would remain high. Holding him now also allows Washington to wait on Wall, clean up their salary cap and restart the contention process. The organization can also explore signing Beal to an extension this season (3-year, $111.8 million) or next.

None of this means anything to other NBA teams hoping to pry Beal away.

The New Orleans Pelicans dialed up the Wizards. The San Antonio Spurs are interested.

Logically so are the Celtics, Nets and several other teams looking to make a bold move now that the Warriors suffered two crushing injuries and the Lakers already went all in. The Knicks could enter the trade talks should Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant bypass the Big Apple.

Regardless, the Wizards appear cool with keeping their best player and with good reasons.

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On the move? Why moving up or down in the 1st round of the draft is a realistic possibility for the Caps

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On the move? Why moving up or down in the 1st round of the draft is a realistic possibility for the Caps

The NHL draft is fast approaching. The first round will take place on Friday and it could be a busy night for the Capitals.

Washington currently holds the 25th pick in the draft. It will be the highest pick this team has had since taking Ilya Samsonov 22nd overall in the 2015 draft. The question, however, is will they stay there?

The more you look at the team’s situation, the more a move in either direction looks like a realistic possibility for the Caps. Here’s why.

Why the Caps could move up

In most situations, an NHL team should pick the best player available. Since most NHL prospects, including most players taken in the first round, will take years to develop before they see NHL action, it does not generally make sense to draft for an immediate need. When teams become fixated on drafting a certain position, it can lead to those teams passing on elite talent at other positions.

For Washington, however, they no longer can afford to ignore the team’s need for a difference-maker at forward.

You have to go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time the Caps drafted a forward in the first round when they drafted Jakub Vrana. Since then, however, they have drafted a goalie, two defensemen and have traded out of the first round completely.

The dearth of forward talent among the team’s prospects is starting to catch up to it. In a year in which the Caps need forward depth but have very little money to fill it, an ideal solution would be to plug any holes on the bottom six with cheap prospects.

Without any top-end forwards in the system, however, that is not really an option.

Riley Barber (sixth-round pick) is an unrestricted free agent and said he does not see himself re-signing with Washington. Nathan Walker (third-round pick) is also a UFA and, though he sounded more open to re-signing with the Caps than Barber, there is no guarantee he does not leave in free agency. Shane Gersich (fifth-round pick) and Garrett Pilon (third-round pick) still look like they need another year in Hershey. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby (fifth-round pick) has a whopping 16 games of North American experience and it is hard to know what exactly to expect from him. Kody Clark (second-round pick) and Riley Sutter (third-round pick) still need time to develop.

This team needs a high-end forward prospect, if not for this year then for the near future. It needs that guy who can infuse a bit of youth and excitement, as well as skill, back into the lineup when he gets a call-up. We are not talking about the next Connor McDavid here, just a top-six forward to add to the system because right now it does not appear Washington really has any top-six forwards besides the guys already in the NHL.

That needs to change.

There is value to be found late in the first round of the draft—Marcus Johansson was taken 24th overall in 2009, Evgeny Kuznetsov was 26th overall in 2010 and Andre Burakovsky was 23rd overall in 2013 just to name a few—but waiting for a good forward to drop into their laps this year may not be the ideal strategy knowing they need to pick a forward in the first round.

Moving up the draft will ensure they can grab one of the top forwards available. If they move up high enough, perhaps they could even snap someone who could potentially be ready to help the team in the latter half of the season, though that is a lot to ask of a young forward.

The point is Washington cannot afford to go with the usual “best available” mentality and see who falls to 25. General manager Brian MacLellan will have to get proactive and move up to ensure he gets the best available player at the position of need. We may not be talking Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, but even moving up to the mid-round can dramatically affect the quality of prospects available.

Why the Caps could move down

Elliotte Friedman had an interesting note on the Caps in his latest 31 Thoughts column. He listed Washington among one of the most aggressive teams in trade talks saying generally of the NHL “we could see some frenetic attempts to move up and down.”

Friedman also wrote, “Other teams believe the Capitals are in total ‘go for it’ mode.”

When a team is in “go for It mode” and trying to win a Cup, the first-round draft pick can be useful trade bait to help bring in a significant piece and bolster the roster. Granted, Washington has very little cap room available so any trade would likely include sending salary with the pick which would, in turn, lower the value of return, but this team is just one year removed from winning the Cup. It is not as if they need to make a major addition to be a contender.

Trading away a first-round pick would be the exact opposite of addressing the team’s need for high-end prospect forward talent as written above, but it is hard to build a team for now and for the future. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Co. all in their 30s, it would be understandable why MacLellan would choose to go all-in on winning another Cup in the next few years.

Whether the Caps move up, down or stand pat, we will have all the latest analysis on NBC Sports Washington’s coverage of the draft starting at 8 p.m. on Friday.

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