05/28/2015 8:40 AM
JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks return to the road this week, as the team travels to face the Los Angeles KISS on Sunday, May 31. Kickoff from Honda Center in Anaheim is set for 6:00 p.m. ET, as the game will be available to stream live via ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN app.
Winners of three in a row, Jacksonville (4-5) sits one game behind the first-place Orlando Predators in the South Division standings, and has moved ahead of the 3-5 Tampa Bay Storm. Even with games against their two divisional foes on the horizon, the Sharks cannot afford to overlook Sunday’s game against a Los Angeles (0-8) team that will surely be desperate for its first win.
Now in their second year as a franchise, the KISS have struggled to find a consistent winning formula, as Los Angeles has dropped each of its last seven games by double digits. The KISS have undergone extensive transition at the quarterback position, as starter Adrian McPherson was placed on injured reserve after the fifth game of the season. In all, five different players have thrown at least 25 passes in a game for Los Angeles this season. By contrast, Jacksonville quarterback Tommy Grady has thrown 314 of the Sharks’ 317 pass attempts to this point in the campaign.
Despite the constant change at quarterback, the KISS offense does feature one of the most dangerous receivers in the league. Morgan ranks second in the Arena Football League with 960 receiving yards, recording that total in one fewer game than the Sharks’ Tiger Jones, who leads all players with 1,017 yards. Dating back to last season, Morgan has been on the receiving end of 55 of the 104 touchdown passes in the history of the Los Angeles franchise. Clearly, stopping Morgan will be a primary objective of the Jacksonville secondary on Sunday.
Overall, the Shark defense enters this week in rhythm, as Jacksonville has held each of its last three opponents under 50 points. Consistent pressure from the front four and opportunistic play from the secondary has helped the Sharks force a total of 12 turnovers in that three-game stretch. One of the major pieces of that defense is Joe Sykes, who added two more sacks last week to bring his league-leading totals to 14.0 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks. Facing a KISS team that has allowed 25 sacks through eight games – far and away the most in the League – Sykes and the rest of the Sharks’ pass rush will look to make life rough for Los Angeles quarterback Danny Southwick.
It is not just the Jacksonville defense that enters this week’s action in good form, as the Shark offense put up a season-high total of 70 points in last Saturday’s victory over the New Orleans VooDoo. In that game, the Sharks scored on 10 of 11 offensive possessions and faced just five third-down situations. Grady looks to continue his efficient play, as he threw more touchdown passes (eight) than incompletions (five) in that game.
With the help of an offensive line that has given up just five sacks – tied for fewest in the AFL – Grady will look to exploit a Los Angeles secondary that has allowed opposing signal-callers to compile a 125.5 passer rating. Additionally, the KISS’ pass rush has struggled to consistently get after the quarterback, as Los Angeles’ front four has totaled just four sacks this season. If his line continues to give him plenty of time, Grady should be able to effectively spread the ball around to his downfield targets.
In the course of an arena football game, one of the biggest ways that a team can gain the advantage is to score last in the first half and first in the third quarter. In each of the last three games, the Sharks have won the toss and deferred their choice to the second half. Thanks to solid clock management on offense and disciplined play on defense, Jacksonville scored last in the first half in each of those three games. Each time, the Sharks then took the opening kickoff of the third quarter and engineered a touchdown drive. While winning the toss is simply the luck of the draw, the Sharks will aim to once again set themselves up for a similar mid-game swing.
Finally, another key to success is winning the turnover battle. As mentioned above, the Sharks’ playmaking defense has forced 12 turnovers in the last three games. By contrast, the Sharks have turned it over just one time in that span. Entering this week’s action with a plus-11 turnover margin that ranks third-best in the league, the Sharks will look to protect the ball on offense and create game-changing takeaways on defense.
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 2015 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.
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 2015 season. The AFL schedule culminates with ArenaBowl XXVIII Saturday, August 29, 2015 on ESPN.