05/15/2014 11:27 AM
JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks return to the Shark Tank this weekend, as the team will host the Orlando Predators on Saturday, May 17. Kickoff from Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 7:00 p.m., as these two teams are set for the second of their three matchups in the 2014 regular season.
As the season hits its halfway point, Jacksonville (3-5) will take the field with a chance to pull within a game of both the .500 mark and of first place in the South Division. Orlando (5-3) currently holds a two-game edge over the Sharks and the Tampa Bay Storm. This week, the Sharks enter a critical point in the calendar, as four of the team’s next five games will come against divisional opponents.
For the first time in nearly a month, the Sharks head into a week of prep with a positive result fresh in their collective mind. Jacksonville snapped a three-game losing streak this past Saturday, picking up its first road win of the season, 68-48 over the Iowa Barnstormers. In that game, Jacksonville jumped out to a three-score lead in the first quarter, then snuffed out an Iowa rally by scoring the final 22 points of the contest.
Heading into this week, the Sharks will look to continue their recent success on the offensive side of the ball. After scoring 60 or more points just twice in their first five games, Jacksonville has crossed that threshold in each of the last three weeks. A large part of that success has come courtesy of the combination of quarterback R.J. Archer and wide receiver London Crawford.
With improved pass protection playing a part, over the last two weeks, Archer has put together back-to-back performances of eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Crawford hauled in four of Archer’s eight scores in each of those contests, as the second-year wideout now ranks in the top three among all AFL players in receptions (63), yards (834) and touchdowns (21).
It is by no means a one-man show, however, as Jomo Wilson and Jeron Harvey have each caught a pair of touchdown passes in those two games as well. In Crawford, Harvey and Wilson, Archer has the luxury of feeling confident no matter which target he looks for on a given play.
This week, the Sharks’ offense will attack an Orlando defense that has struggled to find consistency this season. The Predators currently rank second-to-last in the league in scoring defense, yielding an average of 59.5 points per contest. As a team, Orlando has totaled just three sacks in eight games, and the Predators’ pass rushers will have a tough task ahead of them against an experienced Jacksonville offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, the Sharks’ defense broke out of a recent slump with a dominant second-half performance against Iowa. Against the Barnstormers, Jacksonville allowed just 14 points in the final two quarters – and just seven in the game’s final 29 minutes. A major factor in the Sharks’ defensive performance was the all-around effort by All-Arena defensive back Terrance Smith, who forced a fumble in the first quarter, snared back-to-back picks in the fourth quarter, returning one for a touchdown, and notched a pair of pass breakups along the way.
Smith and his fellow defenders head into this week’s game with some uncertainty related to the opponent they will be facing. Orlando quarterback Jason Boltus ranks among the league leaders this season, but the signal-caller left the Predators’ last game with an injury. Even after the bye week, the exact nature of Boltus’ status is unclear heading into Saturday’s contest.
Adding to the intrigue is that Orlando activated quarterback Bernard Morris from the refused to report list on Tuesday. Morris piloted the Sharks to the American Conference Championship Game in both 2012 and 2013 before being traded from Jacksonville to Orlando this past offseason. While asking a quarterback to start in his first week with a team is a tall order, if he does get the call, there is no doubt that Morris will know what to expect from a veteran-laden defense that he competed against in practice for the last two years.
Whether Boltus, Morris or Wil Masoud gets the call for Orlando this week, that quarterback will benefit from a weapon that stands above the rest, literally. The six-foot-six Greg Carr is off to a blistering start in his first season in the Arena Football League, leading Orlando with 56 receptions, 773 yards and a total of 21 touchdowns that ties him with Crawford and two other players for the League lead in that category. There is no doubt that Smith and the Sharks’ secondary will need to be aware of Carr at all times.
Saturday’s game is the Sharks’ annual Military Appreciation Night. All military personnel, both active and retired, and their families are eligible for Buy One, Get One Free tickets for this game with the presentation of a valid military ID. Tickets to this and all future Sharks home games may be purchased by calling the Sharks Ticket Office at 904-621-0700.
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.
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 for as low as $121. To purchase 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.