07/03/2014 1:28 PM
JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks will head deep into the heart of Texas this week for a tilt with the San Antonio Talons on Sunday, July 6. Kickoff from the Alamodome is set for 4:00 p.m. ET, as the game will air live on ESPN3 and via the WatchESPN app, with the Sharks’ radio broadcast available live on AM 600 WBOB.
At this stage of the season, the Sharks’ task is straightforward, as Jacksonville (5-9) must win to remain alive for postseason contention. The Sharks also need help from the Tampa Bay Storm (8-7) and Philadelphia Soul (7-8), but those teams’ results are out of Jacksonville’s hands. What the Sharks can control are the outcomes of their final four games, beginning with this week’s rematch against the Talons.
It’s been more than three months since Jacksonville and San Antonio (1-13) squared off on Sea Best Field back in the Sharks’ Week 3 home opener. In that game, the Sharks raced out to a 26-0 lead and cruised to a 63-22 victory, forcing three turnovers and several other defensive stops.
Since that matchup, the Talons made a change at quarterback, bringing in veteran Shane Boyd to replace Mitch Mustain, who started against Jacksonville earlier this year. Though Boyd did match up against the Sharks in the 2013 playoffs when he was under center with the Storm, he has not been able to reverse the Talons’ fortunes to this point. San Antonio’s lone win came back in mid-April, as the Talons have dropped eight straight games, all by double digits.
The Sharks’ defense will look to capitalize on San Antonio’s mistakes, as Talon quarterbacks have thrown for a league-high total of 35 interceptions through 14 games. In addition, Jacksonville’s defensive line is eager to make an impact. After setting a new franchise record with nine sacks against the New Orleans VooDoo in Week 15, the Sharks were held without a sack against the Pittsburgh Power last week. Constant pressure could force Boyd into off-balance throws that the Sharks’ secondary can take the other way.
Despite their inglorious record, San Antonio does remain alive for playoff contention in the National Conference, and this Talons team is desperate for its first home win of the season. San Antonio is without leading receiver D.J. Stephens, and thus will likely count on major contributions from all-purpose threat P.J. Berry, who ranks second on the team with 588 receiving yards this season.
There is potential this week for the Sharks to regain its offensive rhythm. Jacksonville has not crossed the 60-point threshold since Week 9, but this week faces a San Antonio team that has yielded at least 55 points in each of its last eight games, giving up 70 or more three times in the last four weeks.
With that said, the Sharks will need to be aware of Kelvin Rodgers’ presence in the San Antonio secondary. Though San Antonio is yielding 60 points per game, that statistic is certainly not the fault of Rodgers, whose nine interceptions are more than twice as many as any other Talon defender. Rodgers has chipped in with 11 pass breakups as well, so Jacksonville quarterback R.J. Archer will need to be mindful of where Rodgers is at all times.
Archer and the Jacksonville offense got a boost of veteran talent this week, as wide receiver Jeff Hughley returned to the squad at the beginning of this week of practice. Hughley should be able to quickly assimilate into the Jacksonville offense, as he worked with Archer during the 2013 season, and will now line up alongside Jomo Wilson for the first time since those two players worked together during the Sharks’ championship run in 2011.
What could also benefit the Sharks is the continued presence of fullback Jared McGriff-Culver as a threat in the running game. McGriff-Culver has scored a touchdown in all but one of the games in which he has played this season, and has collected five scores on the ground in three weeks since returning from inactive reserve.
In order to come away with a win, Jacksonville will need to avoid turnovers at costly times. In last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Power, the Sharks twice gave the ball away when trailing by nine points. A first-half fumble and fourth-quarter interception each prevented the Sharks from pulling within one score. With the Sharks’ margin for error reduced to zero, Jacksonville will need to strive for mistake-free football the rest of the way.
After this week’s game against the Talons, the Sharks will return to Jacksonville to prepare to face the New Orleans VooDoo on Monday, July 14. Kickoff for that game is set for 8:00 p.m. on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
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 2015 season are now available, two tickets for as low as $99. To purchase 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.