The Pittsburgh Power (1-1) hit the road for their first away game of the season when they take on the winless San Antonio Talons (0-3). Pittsburgh is coming off a 48-47 win over a tough San Jose SaberCats squad, while San Antonio was gutted 63-22 in Jacksonville.
San Antonio’s offense has struggled mightily, averaging only 35 points per game. The team cut Mitch Mustain this week and will look to go in a different direction with either Marcus Jackson or Shane Boyd as the starter this week. Boyd has started a few games in his past AFL stops so I’d have to think the Talons might go with him if he’s ready.
The Talons wide receivers have not put up huge numbers outside of D.J. Stephens (22 receptions, 278 yards, six touchdowns). Stephens also doubles as the Talons kick returner so he is by far their biggest playmaker. Jomo Wilson (124 career touchdowns, 5-year AFL veteran) has plenty of talent and playmaking ability for the Talons but just needs a quarterback to get him the ball. The third receiver position will either go to Robert Quiroga or former Power wide receiver P.J. Berry. Both receivers are still looking for their first receiving touchdown of the 2014 season.
San Antonio does have a decent running back in their arsenal in the form of Mykel Benson. The 6’1” 250 pound wrecking ball is capable of gaining some tough yards if called upon.
Tommy Grady hopes to build on a strong performance against San Jose in which he committed no turnovers. Grady was one of the finalists for the Week Three MVP. Grady will once again try to build an offensive attack built around getting the ball to Prechae Rodriguez, who leads the Power with seven touchdowns through the first two games. The Talons will likely try to stop this connection so it is imperative that Shaun Kauleinamoku and Aaron LeSue help make plays for the Power against a tough San Antonio secondary. The Power have also reacquired Tyrone Goard and David Little so expect to see one of those two players move into the lineup as the fourth receiver.
Speaking of the Talons secondary, this is a tough defense to play against. Kelvin Rodgers already has three interceptions and a touchdown this year, Jamar Ransom has a pick six and Carlton Brown has added two interceptions. Add in Fred Shaw, who led the Talons with ten interceptions last year, and you have a lot of playmaking ability you have to avoid if you’re Tommy Grady. No one has questioned how good the Talons are on defense.
Pittsburgh throws a counterpunch with strong defenders themselves. Virgil Gray has made a great interception in both games so far this year and looks well on his way to another strong defensive season. Sergio Gilliam had a strong week against the SaberCats and looks to record his first pick six of the season. The Power will have a new starting jack linebacker after Latarrius Thomas was placed on IR this week. No announcement has been made just yet but you could see newly acquired defensive back Al Phillips take on that role this week or perhaps see Arvell Nelson begin to play the position full time.
This game features two of the best kickers of the early AFL season with the Talons’ Garrett Lindholm a perfect 13 of 13 on his extra points and 2 of 4 in field goals versus Julian Rauch, whose only missed extra point so far this season came after a ten yard holding penalty pushed the kick further back. With scoring expected to be somewhat of a premium, neither kicker can afford to miss kicks.
Ultimately this game should come down to quarterback play and this is an area where the Power should have a major advantage in terms of production and experience. If Grady can limit his turnovers and take what the defense gives him the Power should be able to outpace the Talons offense. The Power defense will hope to replicate the success they had against rookie Nathan Stanley last week when the Power pounced on San Jose early 21-0. Regardless, this is a game the Power need to win to prove they belong amongst the serious contenders in the AFL.
Photo Credit Jeffrey Gamza/Pittsburgh Power Facebook