04/17/2014 7:37 AM
JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks head back out on the road this week, taking on the Philadelphia Soul in Week 6 action on Saturday, April 16. Kickoff from Wells Fargo Center is set for 6:00 p.m., as the game will air live on AM 600 WBOB, as well as online via ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Jacksonville (2-2) enters this week fresh off a 60-41 win over the Tampa Bay Storm last Friday night, and will face a Philadelphia (1-3) that lost to that same Storm squad the previous week. With that said, the Soul got on the winning track in Week 5, handling the Orlando Predators by a 69-56 count in what was the Soul’s first win of the season.
These two teams are certainly familiar with one another, as the Sharks and Soul met five times over the course of the last two seasons, including in each of the last two American Conference Championship Games. Philadelphia has emerged victorious each time, earning back-to-back ArenaBowl trips at the Sharks’ expense. However, Jacksonville did come away with a 55-53 win in Week 6 of the 2013 regular season, which was the Sharks’ last trip to the Soul’s home arena.
Starting fast has become a significant key to victory for the Sharks in the early part of this season. In Jacksonville’s two wins, the team has built at least a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter. In the team’s two losses, the opposite is true, as against both the Orlando Predators and Arizona Rattlers, Jacksonville fell behind by multiple scores and could not recover.
The need to start fast is especially true this week, as the Sharks take on a veteran Soul team that features an offensive core that has played together for the last several seasons. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, fullback Derrick Ross and wide receiver Tiger Jones have played under Soul head coach Clint Dolezel since their days with the Dallas Vigilantes in 2011. Adding to that veteran core is second-year receiver Ryan McDaniel, who has emerged as a top target that leads Philadelphia with 36 catches for 437 yards and nine touchdowns.
On the other hand, Philadelphia’s defense has proven to be vulnerable to this point in the season. The Soul are giving up an average of nearly 63 points per game, which currently ranks last out of the AFL’s 14 teams. Philadelphia is allowing opponents to convert 57 percent of their fourth down attempts, and the Soul have forced just three turnovers through four games.
The Sharks will attack that Soul defense with a bit of a re-tooled offensive group this week. The team is undergoing transition at wide receiver, as Jomo Wilson has made his return to the team after spending the last two-plus seasons with the San Antonio Talons. In addition, the team has brought in veteran Andrae Thurman, who actually last played with the Soul during the 2013 campaign. Wilson and Thurman will be called on to replace the production of Mardy Gilyard, who has signed with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes. Gilyard had led the Sharks with 29 receptions through four games, and was tied for the team lead with nine total touchdowns.
The other player with nine touchdowns is London Crawford, who has emerged as one of the league’s most potent deep threats in just a short time on the field. As a rookie in 2013, Crawford spent the first two-thirds of the season on injured reserve, appearing in five games during the latter part of the year. Through the first nine games of his career, Crawford has used his size and speed to rack up 18 total touchdowns in those contests.
On the other side of the ball, the Sharks’ defense will aim to repeat what was an impressive all-around effort against the Storm. Last week, the Sharks forced five turnovers, including a fumble recovery and an interception by Jack linebacker Charlie Hunt, who saw his first action since the end of the 2012 season. Against Tampa Bay, Jacksonville set new season highs with three interceptions and six sacks, a sign that the front four and secondary were working as one cohesive unit.
The Sharks will need that type of collaborative effort to slow down Raudabaugh and the Soul’s passing attack, but must also stay disciplined and ready to defend the run. The most productive fullback in the League over the last several seasons, Ross currently leads the AFL with 102 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. He is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, having grabbed six receptions so far this season. Shutting down Ross is always a key to stopping the Soul offense.
After Saturday’s game, the Sharks will return home for back-to-back contests on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The first of those two games is on Saturday, April 26, as the Sharks will face the expansion Portland Thunder for the first time. Kickoff for that game is set for 7:00 p.m.
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 2014 season are now available, two tickets as low as $153. 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.
About the AFL
Since its inception in 1987, the Arena Football League has showcased a fast-paced and exciting game to millions of fans in a myriad of markets across the country. The ESPN family of networks and CBS Sports Network will nationally broadcast AFL games each week for the entire season. The AFL schedule then culminates with the ArenaBowl Championship game live on ESPN.