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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Soul line might be best in league, but no stopping San Jose D-line

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.

Philadelphia O-line vs. San Jose D-line

The Soul offensive line is one of the highest paid units in the AFL and the expectations for success are very high. The trio of C Mike Mabry and OTs Phil Bogle and Martin Bibla are outstanding pass blockers and also solid versus the run. They also have a fourth member of their posse, Wes Ours, a big fullback who helps out a lot in pass protection and adept at picking up loose rushers. They have given up 19 sacks, which is a little surprising for a couple reasons. One is because when you watch them on film they really look sound in their pass protection. Secondly, the Soul has a mobile QB in Matt D'Orazio, who can use his feet to get out of trouble, but some of those sacks come when he gets outside and the OL can't protect him. However, they are doing something right because the Soul have the best offense in the AFL and scored a league-high 104 TDs during the regular season and their QB completion rate is 70.6 percent. They also are an underrated run blocking group that gets a nice push. The Soul averaged a league-high 3.4 yards per rush. The outside guys, Bogle and Bibla, are also decent outlet receivers and have combined for seven TDs through the air. This is probably the most stable OL in the AFL and is very consistent on a weekly basis.

San Jose does not have a lot of glamour names on its defensive front, but as a group they pile up great numbers and are the best pass rush in the league. The SaberCats led the league with 30 sacks in the regular season. DEs Ron Jones (five sacks) and Alan Hemper (four sacks) are good edge rushers with quickness and agility, while NT George Williams (three sacks) is also very physical and does a nice job of collapsing the pocket inside. Also, backup DE Garret McIntire has six sacks and he can also play some Mack linebacker if needed. The wild card up front is All-AFL Mack LB Steve Watson, who leads the defense with nine sacks. He does a great job of timing his attack, has an excellent feel for blocking angles, is very smart in his pass rush and can also play the Jack LB. Not only is this group talented, but they are also tenacious and never quit on a play. The SaberCats also get a big boost from a great secondary that has shut down a lot of good pass offenses. Usually, we think great pass rushes make the secondary look better because the QB is forced to get the ball out quickly, which leads to mistakes and turnovers. However, for San Jose it might just be the opposite. The SaberCats' secondary is so good in coverage that it forces QBs to hold on to the ball because the receivers cannot get separation and that leads to coverage sacks.

ADVANTAGE -- San Jose SaberCats

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.