Thursday, June 26, 2008
Fittingly, Rush have one of the top running games
By Gary Horton
It's often overlooked, but a good running game can be the difference between moving on and going home. So who has the best run offense in the playoffs? Here's the breakdown:
1. Cleveland Gladiators
Led by Marlion Jackson, the best FB in the league, the Gladiators have scored a whopping 33 TDs on the ground. Jackson has rushed for 356 yards and 23 TDs. The Gladiators have an effective and creative run game in the red zone.
2. Chicago Rush
Dan Alexander is an excellent FB and gives the Rush stability and toughness, but he is only part of Chicago's ground attack. He's scored 12 of the team's 35 rushing TDs. QB Russ Michna has scrambled for 14 TDs and even LB DeJuan Alfonzo has produced five TDs when he spells Alexander at FB. This is a very versatile run game.
3. Grand Rapids Rampage
They have a very effective run offense (35 TDs) but do it without a dominating FB. The Rampage's production has come from QBs James MacPherson (eight TDs) and Adrian McPherson (six TDs) and WRs John Fitzgerald (eight TDs) and Kenny Higgins (five TDs). This team is really good on QB scrambles, reverses and gimmick plays.
4. Philadelphia Soul
The Soul do not have a typical dominating FB, although Clifton Smith has 10 TDs, but they get production in different ways. QB Matt D'Orazio has been effective with 11 rushing TDs, and the Soul have scored 25 rushing TDs running behind a good offensive line.
5. Dallas Desperados
The Desperados have a good FB in Josh White, who piles up yards, but he's not a prolific scorer and has just eight TDs. They make up for it with reverses and gadget plays by their wide receivers in the red zone, and backup QB Chris Sanders is also an effective scrambler. This group produced 25 rushing TDs.
6. Georgia Force
The Force have a sneaky and innovative run game. FB Matt Huebner is dependable and has 13 TDs, but Georgia also gets production from QB Chris Greisen on scrambles (eight TDs) and will even use WR Troy Bergeron on some reverses.
7. Orlando Predators
The Orlando run game is pretty effective, but also diverse. FB Marlon Moye-Moore is the red-zone scoring option (he has 13 TDs) while Odie Armstrong does the heavy lifting in short-yardage situations. The Predators, who have 26 rushing TDs this season, also use two receivers -- T.T. Toliver and Kevin Nickerson -- on runs and reverses.
8. Arizona Rattlers
Behind a so-so offensive line, the Rattlers have not established an explosive run game. They do have a physical FB in Chris Robinson and even use lineman Johnanthan Ingram in some short-yardage situations. They two have combined for 11 of Arizona's 23 rushing TDs.
9. Utah Blaze
They don't try to be a great run offense, but they are still surprisingly effective. FB Rodney Filer is solid, dependable and has 14 TDs, but when this offense needs a big play in the red zone it usually goes to its spread passing game. The Blaze love to strike quickly and are not patient with their run game.
10. Colorado Crush
The Crush don't even really try to run the ball and their 77 attempts are among the fewest in the AFL. They have a decent FB in Robert Thomas, who has six TDs, and even have five TDs from immobile QB John Dutton.
11. San Jose SaberCats
For a high scoring and very creative offensive team, the SaberCats do not have a very good run game. They have scored only 20 rushing TDs and instead spread the field with passing plays in the red zone.
12. New York Dragons
The Dragons have one of the least potent run games in the AFL with only 14 TDs. They do not have a dominating rusher at fullback and Ricky Hall is their rushing leader with only 42 yards and one TD. Part of the problem is a shaky offensive line, but this is a one-dimensional offense.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm called The War Room.