08/03/2016 7:41 AM -
JACKSONVILLE - After finishing the regular season with two consecutive wins, the Jacksonville Sharks are set to open the 2016 postseason against the Orlando Predators on Saturday, August 6. Over the course of the team’s 16-game regular season campaign, several of the team’s players put together seasons worthy of candidacy for individual Arena Football League awards and selection to the League’s All-Arena teams.
WR Joe Hills
Candidate: AFL Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Wide Receiver of the Year and All-Arena
A model of consistency throughout his entire career, wide receiver Joe Hills took his game to even greater highest in 2016, putting together one of the best individual seasons in the AFL’s 29-year history. Hills led the league in every major receiving category, finishing with 161 receptions for 2,020 yards and 58 touchdowns. Hills ended the regular season with 16 more catches, 353 more receiving yards and 10 more touchdowns than any other player in the AFL, and finished tied for second-place all-time on the League’s single-season touchdown list, two scores shy of matching Damian Harrell’s record of 60.
In the process, Hills shattered the previous franchise record for receiving touchdowns in a season (44 by Jomo Wilson in 2011) and broke his own franchise mark of 150 receptions set in 2015. It is worth noting that both of those previous marks were set with an 18-game schedule. Hills also became just the second player in franchise history to record 2,000 or more receiving yards in a season, and extended his personal streak of consecutive games with a touchdown catch, as he has now found the end zone in each of the last 68 games in which he has played.
What elevates Hills to potential MVP status is his consistent production. In addition to crossing the 100-yard mark 11 times, Hills caught multiple touchdowns in 15 of 16 games and scored three or more times on 12 separate occasions. Hills accounted for 44.7% of the Sharks’ receiving yards and 61.7% of the team’s touchdown catches this season, far and away the biggest contribution among any player in the AFL. With all of this taken into account, it is impossible to find a more valuable player in the 2016 season than Joe Hills.
DB Greg Reid
Candidate: Defensive Player of the Year, Defensive Back of the Year and All-Arena
After breaking onto the scene with a Rookie of the Year and First Team All-Arena performance in 2015, Greg Reid entered the 2016 season with sky-high expectations. He delivered on those, leading the Sharks in interceptions (8) and pass breakups (27) for the second time in as many seasons. Playing the demanding safety position, Reid patrolled the middle of the field with authority despite being at a size disadvantage on nearly every snap.
Reid’s totals rank extremely favorably among the entire league, which establishes his candidacy for Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Back of the Year. Reid led the AFL in tackles (101.5) and passes defended (35), finishing one interception shy of tying for the league lead in that category. With the absence of a truly dominant defensive lineman this season - Philadelphia’s Jake Metz led the AFL with 8.0 sacks - Reid is certainly a prime contender for the AFL’s top defensive player of 2016.
QB Tommy Grady
In his second season as the Sharks’ starting quarterback, Tommy Grady continued to build on his reputation as one of the league’s top quarterbacks. Grady finished the 2016 season with the lowest interception total of his career (7) and put together the second-best completion percentage (68.1%) of his seven seasons in the AFL. Grady also finished with just one fewer touchdown pass in 2016 (94) than he did a year ago despite the drop from an 18-game to a 16-game schedule.
Grady threw fewer interceptions than any full-time starter and led the AFL in both pass efficiency (125.4) and passing yards per game (280.9). When put together, his 2016 season is certainly worthy of his second career All-Arena selection However, other factors mean that Grady is likely not a major candidate for more lofty honors. First, he finished third in the league in passing touchdowns, 16 behind the league leader. And Philadelphia’s Dan Raudabaugh and Arizona’s Nick Davila each piloted their teams to 13-3 marks during the regular season, the Sharks finished at 7-9. Several turnovers in the fourth quarter cost Jacksonville in close games, and that inability to finish at times (and the performance of teammate Joe Hills) will likely cost Grady in the race for Offensive Player of the Year.
FB Derrick Ross
In terms of postseason awards, Derrick Ross has been the surest thing in the Arena Football League. While Ross has been far and away the post productive fullback in the AFL since beginning his career in 2011 - his five consecutive First Team All-Arena honors speak for themselves - the gap has closed somewhat in 2016. Ross once again led the AFL in rushing with 399 yards, 79 more than Philadelphia’s Jeramie Richardson. However, in terms of getting into the end zone, Ross did not separate himself from the pack.
Ross, Richardson and Arizona’s Mykel Benson each finished with 20 rushing touchdowns - double the amount of any other fullback in the AFL. The lack of separation at the top means that there are three legitimate candidates for the two All-Arena spots. While one of the three will end up empty-handed, Ross’ edge in the yardage race and previous track record means that he his very likely to take home his sixth consecutive All-Arena honor.
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and four-time South Division Champions are presented by Sea Best Seafood and play all home games on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Season Tickets for the 2017 season are now available, two tickets as low as $99. To reserve your season tickets or for more information, please call (904) 621-0700. Follow the Sharks on facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.