Thursday, June 26, 2008
Stopping the run an overlooked talent in AFL
By Gary Horton
In a passing league, it doesn't seem like stopping the run would be a big deal. But in a game in which every possession counts, it's very important. So who has the best run defense in the playoffs? Here's the breakdown:
1. Arizona Rattlers
The Rattlers have the top-rated run defense in the league, but the statistics could be misleading. Opposing teams don't run that much against them, so either they're having success throwing the ball or they know they can't run very well. The opposition has only run for 162 yards on a league-low 90 attempts.
2. Georgia Force
The Force have a solid run defense, giving up only 207 yards (second in the league) and 1.9 yards per carry. They are also really good in the red zone with only 20 TDs allowed.
3. Chicago Rush
The Rush are a very solid defensive unit and even though they are in a middle of the pack, statistically, stopping the run, they are the best in the league in the red zone with only 19 rushing TDs allowed. They make key stops when they need them.
4. Dallas Desperados
The Desperados are a good, veteran defense but not a great run defense. They have given up 351 yards (3.0 average per carry), which is 14th in the league. They are at rushing the passer than stopping the run.
5. Cleveland Gladiators
The Gladiators are a better run defense than the statistics indicate. While they struggle in pass coverage, they close well versus the run and they are pretty physical.
6. New York Dragons
The Dragons have an excellent attacking defense, but are a "middle of the pack" group against the run. They don't give up a lot of big plays, but don't make a lot of key stops either.
7. Utah Blaze
As bad as the Blaze are on defense, they are decent versus the run. But it is probably because teams are able to throw against them so easily that they don't have to run the ball.
8. Colorado Crush
The Crush are a decent run stopping defense, but they are not great in the red zone and give up too many TDs. This is not a real physical unit.
9. San Jose SaberCats
They are an excellent pass rush defense but only adequate versus the run. They give up a league-high 3.4 yards per carry, but are decent in the red zone.
10. Philadelphia Soul
As good as the Soul are on defense, they are not a great run-stopping group. They have given up 372 yards, which is 15th in the league, and opposing offenses have surprising success in the red zone when they run.
11. Orlando Predators
The Predators have a defensive front that is better in pass-rush situations and struggles versus the run. They have given up 419 yards (next to last in the league) and are not a real physical group.
12. Grand Rapids Rampage
The Rampage have an average run defense, but give up a lot of TDs in the red zone (32 rushing TDs). They really struggle to make defensive stops in key situations.
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.