Sure, Jamar Howard, the offensive player of the game, posted three touchdowns and 119 total yards. Sure, Kyle Rowley, looking healthier than he has in years, converted six of his final seven drives into touchdowns with the lone KISS stop coming on a tipped-at-the-line interception. The real stars of the Portland Thunder’s season-opening 42-37 win over the Los Angeles KISS were the Thunder’s offensive and defensive lines, who dominated their KISS counterparts throughout the game.
Anyone who ever read Highlights for Children (or is familiar with enough memes) remembers Goofus and Gallant – they’ll be breaking down the rest of the game for me.
I have a new infographic up at ArenaFan, this time going into the player-selected top 50 players in the AFL that the league provided this offseason.
All in all, the list had a definite winners’ bias – with 11 defensive backs selected, three top-ten interception guys somehow didn’t make the list – Cameron McGlenn of the New Orleans Voodoo, who was fifth in the league with 11 interceptions, and Eric Crocker and Varmah Sonie of the Portland Thunder with 10 and 9, respectively. Sonie also forced three fumbles, but it wasn’t enough to get him on the list
They also didn’t care much about offensive linemen, as only two, Richard Ranglin and Michael Huey, managed to crack the top 50, the only position for which I couldn’t make a full first-team squad out of the votes.
The below graph shows that San Jose has amassed more Top 25 players than any other division has for 2015. If any team seems to have the talent edge coming into the season, it’s them. Position breakdowns, the color key, and more data are found on the graphic over at ArenaFan. Check back later this week for a Thunder breakdown!
Every year in the AFL, a new quarterback seems to pop up and assume a place among the AFL’s select few “solid starters.” In 2011 it was Tommy Grady, who finished third in efficiency rating after finishing outside the top 10 the year before. In 2012, J.J. Raterink got to No. 3 in the rankings as well. In 2013, Erik Meyer went from backup (okay, he spent the 2012 season, which was to be his first as a starter, injured) to league MVP. In 2014, Shane Austin jumped up from the bench and became the quarterback for a team that went 17-1 and made it to the ArenaBowl.
I have a new article up over at ArenaFan about Frank Trotter, who came to Portland via Iowa, where he played for Coach Hohensee.
Trotter is new to the Pacific Northwest and is hoping to get out during the season and make Portland a home away from home. He’d been conditioned by stories and television to believe the city was “rainy, green, and boring,” but he’s found it to be full of friendly people and great weather (well, until this weekend – he’s been informed that this year has been unusual). If you have suggestions for new places for him to explore, tweet him at @FBmyHustle62.
Heading into 2015, the Portland Thunder secondary will be depending on new faces, as two defensive backs, Eric Crocker and Dwight McLean signed to teams closer to their homes, and a third, Varmah Sonie, signed with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
Andre Martin, an Arena Football League rookie with some NFL experience and a FCS National Championship under his belt, hopes to help build a bridge from last year’s successful secondary to this season’s squad – after all, he and Sonie played together at the University of Northern Iowa as defensive backs.
“He was telling me even before he got with some of these NFL teams how much fun he was having up here, how glad he was to keep playing the game, how it was a nice city with great fans,” Martin said. It was Sonie’s endorsement of the Rose City that helped guide Martin here.
Six of the 20 players who made the opening day roster of the Portland Thunder in 2014 are back and participating in camp in 2015. While other teams might lock those six into their spots and work on building the team around them, the Thunder are working on converting nose tackle Jake McDonough into an offensive lineman.
The conversion works out for both sides, as McDonough seeks to show off his versatility for “a few NFL teams” who are interested in him as an offensive line prospect. The Thunder, meanwhile, expect to be without stalwart guard Max Jean-Gilles for a while as he recovers from an injury he sustained late in the 2014 campaign, and would love nothing more than to have a guy on the roster who can play both offensive line and defensive line at a high level.
I had some free time and mocked up a few online player cards for Instagram or Facebook profile pics. My current ability to produce is limited by photos I already have of players – if you’d like to have one of your favorite player, message me on Twitter (@BeaudryPDX) with a photo to use and I’ll turn it into a card for you as quickly as I can (life responsibilities do have a priority)!
Covering Arena Football, DFW food, and odd things that interest me, Brian Beaudry.