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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Soul D-line finds a way to pressure QBs

By Gary Horton
Scouts Inc.

Editor's Note: This analysis is one in a series as Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton looks at the key matchups in ArenaBowl XXII.

San Jose O-line vs. Philadelphia D-line

The SaberCats have an under-rated offensive line and it does not get the credit it deserves. The line is anchored by center Dan Loney, who is one of the best in the league at using his hands in pass protection. He is not overly physical or big, but he wins most of his battles with position and techniques. Loney is durable and a big key at protecting against the inside pass rush, which is an area of vulnerability for QB Mark Grieb. But one concern is he can struggle versus a bull-rush type NT and that is what he will face in Philadelphia's Bryan Save. Flanking Loney are Julius Gant and Jason Thomas. Both guys have good size and adequate quickness, but they are still developing as pass protectors. This can be a problem at times as they play for an offense that asks its QB and WRs to read defenses and make adjustments on the move and that can take more time for the QB to get the ball out, forcing the line to hold its blocks longer. This is a solid unit, but they are not elite.

Philadelphia has a fierce pass rush led by DE Gabe Nyenhuis, who led the Soul with 9.5 sacks during the regular season and had a league-high 12.5 tackles for loss. He is not overly physical and his athleticism won't dazzle you, but he is tenacious, never quits on a play and uses his hands well. A lot of his production comes late because offensive linemen can't seem to match his ability to play to the whistle. San Jose is vulnerable on the edges to tenacious rushers like Nyenhuis and it will have trouble containing him. On the other side, DE Kevin Carberry is a young, developing player without great stats, but he is a steady guy and will keep Gant or Thomas busy. A big key for the Soul will be the play of Save. He is a strong, interior rusher with solid experience and gets an excellent inside push. He had 5.5 sacks during the regular season, which is impressive for an inside guy. His matchup with Loney will be an important one to watch. Loney is an excellent technician with great hand use and Save is an aggressive, move-the-pile guy who plays with leverage. If the pocket collapses, Grieb could be in serious trouble. Philadelphia also gets good pass rush production Jack linebacker Anthony Dunn, who collected five sacks during the regular season. As a whole, the Soul posted a very respectable 24 sacks. Part of the success of the guys up front is due to an excellent secondary with good cover skills. The Philadelphia defensive backs make is to tough for receivers to separate and because of their tight schemes, QBs are forced to hold on to the ball an extra second or two, and that gives the guys up front extra sack time.

ADVANTAGE -- Philadelphia Soul

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.