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No. 9 LSU welcomes quick shot at redemption

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No. 9 LSU welcomes quick shot at redemption

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Zach Mettenberger insists LSU's offense is not as bad as it looks.

``We're close. We're very close,'' Mettenberger said after practice Monday evening. ``We just got to get it to where all 11 guys on offense are doing the right things at the right time.''

LSU (5-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) was unable to score a single touchdown in a 14-6 loss at No. 4 Florida last weekend, but Mettenberger said eliminating minor, correctable errors could drastically enhance the ninth-ranked Tigers' offensive output when No. 3 South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) visits Death Valley this Saturday night.

``There are a lot of different things that factor into it that fans and the media don't really see but I can assure you that all of our mistakes are correctable,'' he said. ``We've just got to take care of business and get them corrected.''

If the Tigers' fail to do as their quarterback prescribes, their hopes of playing for a national title in Miami could virtually vanish. A victory, however, would provide almost immediate redemption and inject the Tigers right back into the BCS discussion.

``It's a perfect situation,'' safety Eric Reid said. ``We had a tough loss, but at the same time, we can have a big win this Saturday.''

Reid and the rest of LSU's defense remains confident after shutting out the Gators in the first half and forcing two turnovers on fumbles before Florida broke through for a pair of second-half touchdowns. By then end of the game, LSU's defense had played an exhausting 70 snaps and had been on the field for nearly two-thirds of the game (37:24).

``We did have a couple miscues but I feel like we improved a lot,'' said LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, the SEC defensive player of the week after making 20 tackles (one short of a school record), registering two sacks and forcing a fumble. ``This was probably our best game that we played, I feel like, especially with the competition we were going against. Florida has a ridiculous amount of talent.''

LSU coach Les Miles called his defense's performance ``tremendous,'' and said both side of the ball are playing with plenty of effort.

Still, he acknowledged the anemic state of the offense threatens to undermine LSU's season if its execution does not improve.

``We have to play smarter,'' Miles said. ``We have to run it and throw it better.''

LSU has averaged nearly 200 yards on the ground this season, though much of that has come against overmatched opponents. The Tigers managed only 42 yards rushing against the Gators, and the passing game did little to offset the Tigers' struggles on the ground. Mettenberger completed fewer than half his passes for 158 yards, was intercepted once on an overthrow of an open receiver and was sacked four times.

``All of us are making our mistakes at inopportune times,'' Mettenberger said. ``It's a learning process.''

That process has been slowed somewhat by injuries, particularly to the Tigers' top offensive lineman, left tackle Chris Faulk. That has forced some shuffling up front, but Miles said LSU has recruited well and has the talent to fill the voids. The key is how quickly the new starters learn from their mistakes.

``We enjoy the fact that there are some young guys being trained and playing key football early in this season so that we can be the best later in the season,'' Miles said.

Mettenberger and quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe have discussed ways to deal with the pass rush while the reformed offensive line jells, and they decided the shotgun formation was not the answer. Mettenberger said taking the snap under center with a five-step drop allows him to read the defense better than if he has to take his eyes off the opponent momentarily to catch a shotgun snap.

Miles also said it may be time to call more plays for powerful running back Spencer Ware, last season's second-leading rusher.

``He is a guy that, in my opinion, is a pretty dangerous weapon and someone that we have to use more frequently,'' Miles said.

Miles said Mettenberger is continuing to improve, and that everything from dropped balls to fumbles like the one Odell Beckham Jr. had deep in Florida territory are as much to blame for the offense's struggles as any mistakes by the quarterback.

Jarvis Landry said he and fellow receivers plan to work extra with the quarterbacks after practice, as they did last week, in hopes of improving their timing and chemistry.

``Right now it's just trying to work on trust - trust with Zach and timing,'' Landry said. ``For an effective passing game, those things are the highest requirement. It's just being in right place at the right time and Zach trusting us to be there and letting the ball go.''

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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