JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks (2-4) return to the field against the Arizona Rattlers (6-0) in Week 8 action on Saturday, May 3. Kickoff from Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 7:00 p.m.
These two teams have already met once this season, as Arizona emerged on top of a 63-38 result on their home turf back in Week 4. Saturday’s game will air live across the country on CBS Sports Network, and will be the first of the Sharks’ four showcases on national television this season. Playing in front of their biggest audience to this point in 2014, the Sharks will take the field looking to reverse their current trend and get back on the winning track.
Last Saturday, the Sharks dropped a 69-62 decision to the Portland Thunder, suffering their first home loss of the season. In order to get back in the win column against a talented Arizona team, the Sharks will need better all-around play in all phases of the game.
Entering last week among the league leaders in defense, the Sharks yielded the most points the team had allowed in a regular season game since Week 12 of the 2013 season. Though Jacksonville still ranks in the top half of the league in scoring defense (49.7 points allowed per game), the Sharks’ defensive unit faces a tough task against an Arizona offense that is racking up better than 65 points per game, averaging nearly a touchdown more than the second-place team in that category.
On the offensive end, the Sharks turned the ball over five times against Portland, significant swings in what turned out to be a one-score game. Quarterback R.J. Archer and the rest of the offense can ill afford those mistakes against this undefeated Rattler squad.
One factor that should help the Sharks’ offense is the emergence of Jomo Wilson, who has racked up 207 receiving yards and three touchdowns in two games since returning to the Sharks two weeks ago. Wilson, Jeron Harvey and London Crawford each caught two touchdown passes against the Thunder. Jacksonville will need that type of balance when attacking an Arizona secondary that features a trio of players (Arkeith Brown, Jeremy Kellem, and Marquis Floyd) that have earned All-Arena honors in their respective careers.
The potent Arizona offense features a number of familiar faces, led by veteran signal caller Nick Davila. The fifth-year southpaw currently leads the league in pass efficiency, and has fired 47 touchdown passes against just four interceptions this season. Davila benefits from a loaded receiving corps, as Maurice Purify (18), Tysson Poots (12) and Rod Windsor (10) have all caught at least 10 touchdown passes through Arizona’s first six games.
Though Poots was placed on inactive reserve on Tuesday, and thus his status for Saturday’s game remains in question, the Rattlers made a key addition this week, trading with the Iowa Barnstormers for wide receiver Jared Perry. Earning Net10 Rookie of the Year honors with the Chicago Rush in 2012, Perry returns to the Arizona team for which he grabbed 20 touchdown passes a year ago.
In addition to their talented secondary, the Rattlers’ defense also brings a potent pass rush. Arizona’s total of four sacks belies the effectiveness of the team’s front four, as the group led by veterans Cliff Dukes, Tyre Glasper and Anttaj Hawthorne is one of the league’s best at affecting the pocket and forcing quarterbacks out of their comfort zone. The Sharks’ offensive line will certainly review the teams’ first matchup of the season to get a sense of what to expect from the Arizona front four.
A third of the way through the season, the Sharks find themselves two and a half games behind the Orlando Predators in the South Division. Though taking down the Rattlers will require the home team to bring its A-game, a win this week would go a long way towards getting Jacksonville back to where it wants to be.
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 2014 season are now available, two tickets as low as $153. 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 season. The AFL schedule then culminates with the ArenaBowl Championship game live on ESPN.