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Jaguars have pending free agents eyeing futures

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Jaguars have pending free agents eyeing futures

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Call them Jacksonville's unsettled seven.

The Jaguars (2-9) have seven pending free agents - key guys who opened the season as starters - who have five games remaining to do enough to land new contracts.

It's a tough spot for all of them, especially considering they have seemingly cost themselves millions on the open market.

Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, guard Eben Britton and running back Rashad Jennings were benched during the season. Linebacker Daryl Smith, fullback Greg Jones and cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox have missed a combined 22 games because of injuries.

And given Jacksonville's record and the possibility that general manager Gene Smith and maybe even coach Mike Mularkey could be fired, the future is uncertain for any Jaguars, especially these seven.

``Things start getting crazy when you aren't winning,'' Britton said Wednesday. ``All kinds of (stuff) happens. Winning and losing changes life. It changes the way things go.''

Mularkey, in his first season in Jacksonville, has shown little favoritism toward longtime starters. He benched Britton after a miserable performance against Cincinnati in September, turning the position over to undrafted rookie Mike Brewster.

He did the same to Knighton, giving C.J. Mosley the starting spot. It was the latest setback for Knighton, who fought to stay in shape in 2011 and had a scary eye injury in April.

Jennings, meanwhile, opened the season as the starter following Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout and found himself back in the spotlight when Jones-Drew went down with a foot injury. But Jennings has looked little like a capable replacement, averaging 2.8 yards a carry this season.

Mularkey benched Jennings two weeks ago, giving journeyman Jalen Parmele the job. But Parmele sustained a season-ending groin injury in Sunday's win against Tennessee, essentially giving Jennings a third chance Sunday at Buffalo (4-7).

``I've been criticizing myself in the film room and critiquing my own game,'' Jennings said. ``I'm going to finish strong down the stretch.''

Smith, Jones and Mathis have been mainstays in Jacksonville for years.

Smith, a second-round pick in 2004, owns the franchise record for tackles. Before this season, he had missed just six starts in eight years. But at age 30 and coming off a groin injury that landed him on injured reserve, it's doubtful the Jaguars would offer him much more than a short-term deal.

Same goes for Jones and Mathis.

Like Smith, Jones has been one of the franchise's most consistent players. He has been a staple of the team's running game since 2004, clearing the way for Fred Taylor and Jones-Drew. But the 31-year-old lead blocker has missed the last four games with a thigh injury.

``It's football. Everybody gets injured,'' Jones said. ``If you don't get injured playing football, then you might not be playing good football. You're going to have nicks and bruises. It comes with the territory. But you never know what's going to happen.

``They might want to go a whole new route. We'll see what happens. Each situation and each organization is different. Only time will tell.''

Mathis signed a one-year, incentive-laden contract in March that could have been worth up to $5 million. But he's missed four games and started only four, making this likely his final year in Jacksonville.

Cox, meanwhile, is the most likely to still get a lucrative deal in free agency. When he has played, he has played fairly well. But Cox has missed 16 games over the last three seasons, the kind of history that would seemingly make it difficult to give the third-round draft pick in 2009 a huge deal.

``Worrying doesn't do anything, so I don't give too much thought to it at all,'' Cox said. ``It is what it is. I can only control what I can control. After that, let it fall where it may.''

The unsettled seven won't know about their futures anytime soon, adding to their worries over the next five weeks and into the offseason.

``You can't really think about it too much and you can't bring that type of thought process into the building because it's just not conducive to what we're doing,'' Britton said. ``You hope for the best, you plan accordingly and you keep working your (butt) off.

``It's the beauty and ugliness of the NFL, where sport meets business.''

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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2018 NBA Mock Draft: What's changed after the combine

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2018 NBA Mock Draft: What's changed after the combine

Something that used to be a rare occurrence has now happened four years in a row.

The Phoenix Suns had the best odds of winning the NBA lottery, and they did, landing the number one pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. 

Over the last four years, the team with the NBA's worst record has landed that top spot each year. Before this stretch though, dating back to 1985, only four teams that had the worst record still won the lottery.

Nine teams have also jumped at least five spots to get to No. 1 during that period as well.

Now the order is set (until any trades of course) and teams have had a chance to check out many of the top players at the combine.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT 

This draft is loaded with big man prospects too, from DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley, and Mohamed Bamba, along with countless others likely going in the top-14. 

There's also the very intriguing Luka Doncic, who most still believe won't go back to Real Madrid, even with him leaving the door open. 

A few names jumped into the first round since the last mock draft, which is something we always see after the combine. 

As for the Wizards, we know they need an athletic big man, and sitting at pick No. 15, they may just get one, although he brings a lot of mystery. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT