From Comcast SportsNetJACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- When asked what Jacksonville's top need is heading into the NFL draft, general manager Gene Smith was quick to respond."Talent," he said.No doubt, the Jaguars are lacking it on both sides of the ball.And that makes this week's three-day draft, which begins Thursday night, pivotal for a rebuilding franchise that has missed the playoffs 10 of the last 12 years. The Jaguars have the seventh pick in the first round, their fifth consecutive year with a top-10 selection.What they do with it is anyone's guess.The Jaguars, though, have made it clear they would like to trade down from No. 7 and acquire extra picks. They have been fielding calls for weeks about potential swaps, but no deal will be made until draft night."We've already received more phone calls this year than any other year," McDonough said. "There's some jockeying going on."If the Jaguars stay put, expect them to select a pass rusher or a receiver.Although Jacksonville re-signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey in free agency, the team did nothing else to upgrade a D-line that has some glaring holes.Defensive end Aaron Kampman has missed 15 games over the last two seasons because of knee injuries, a bad sign for a 32-year-old player. Defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith, a third-round pick in 2010, hasn't played a down in two years. Tyson Alualu, John Chick and Austen Lane also are coming off injuries.And then there's defensive end Terrance Knighton, who will miss the majority of the offseason following unplanned eye surgery. Knighton, who has battled weight issues throughout his career, was struck in the face during a bar fight earlier this month. It's unclear if the 340-pounder will make a full recovery and how effective he would be after missing so much time."Our hope is that Terrance has a complete recovery, but there is a little uncertainty at this point," Smith said.The Jaguars could draft South Carolina's Melvin Ingram or Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox to help bolster the D-line. Ingram is considered the best edge rusher in the draft, and Cox is considered the top tackle.Smith believes the draft is the deepest at defensive tackle, so selecting one in the first round might not be as big a priority as other positions.Jacksonville's biggest need after last season was receiver, someone who can help young quarterback Blaine Gabbert develop quickly.The Jaguars had arguably the worst receiving corps in the league, with slot receiver Mike Thomas masquerading as a No. 1 guy. Thomas led the team with 44 catches for 415 yards. Fellow starter Jason Hill was released in November, and rookie Cecil Shorts, a fourth-round pick expected to contribute right away, had just to catches."Obviously we need to upgrade," Smith said. "I think that is one area we determined in our postseason roster evaluation, but it wouldn't force us into doing something that wouldn't be good for the organization."Jacksonville signed Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans in free agency. Robinson and Evans looked sharp in the team's orientation camp last week. But Robinson still has to prove he's more than a one-year wonder after catching 53 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns last season with the Dallas Cowboys. And the 31-year-old Evans has to prove he hasn't lost a step since his numbers have decreased each of the last three seasons.Even with those additions, the Jaguars are looking to upgrade the receiving corps. Jacksonville hasn't had a legitimate No. 1 receiver since Jimmy Smith retired following the 2005 season.Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, considered the No. 1 receiver in the draft, probably would need to slip for Jacksonville to land him at No. 7. Other possibilities include Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Baylor's Kendall Wright, Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.Cornerback is another potential draft spot for Jacksonville. The team re-signed veteran starter Rashean Mathis and added former New York Giants starter Aaron Ross. They are expected to compete for the starting job in training camp, unless the Jaguars add someone early in the draft.Despite all the speculation about who the Jaguars should take, Smith would prefer to trade down and acquire more picks -- and more talent."It's a good draft to trade back," he said. "There are some players clearly in rounds 2 through 5 that could help us. Again, I'm probably a little selfish on draft picks because you put all that work in and you would like to have more draft picks. But I'm not going to move for the sake of moving unless it makes sense. I'm not about being cute, probably more about executing based on our plan going in."
BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.
“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.
“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”
Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.
Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.
That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.
“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.
[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”
It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.
The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.
It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.
“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”
The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.
It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.
They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.
“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.
“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”
It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.
Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.