The Pittsburgh Power (0-1) will look to rebound from a crushing 64-33 loss to the Utah Blaze this Friday as they host the Jacksonville Sharks (1-0) at Consol Energy Center.
Jacksonville's offense is led by former Power quarterback Bernard Morris. The 4th year quarterback has the ability to make plays through the air and with his legs. Last week against the Tampa Bay Storm, Morris was 24 for 31 for 269 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also rushed for 20 yards and an additional touchdown.
Pittsburgh's quarterback, rookie Jordan Jefferson, will look to improve on the mistakes that plagued him in the loss to Utah. Jefferson threw for a respectable five touchdowns, but he wilted under the relentless Utah pressure. Overall Jefferson was sacked four times, intercepted twice, lost a fumble and took a safety. The Power offensive line will have to improve this week against Jacksonville.
Jacksonville boasts a strong trio of receivers. Jeff Hughley, the reigning JLS Ironman of the year, is a dynamic multi-threat player both in the passing and return games. Hughley caught 13 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns and added six returns for 101 yards against Tampa Bay. Jeron Harvey is a 6'4" receiving threat in his 4th year with Jacksonville. He's the homerun guy the Sharks go to when they need a big play. He notched 6 catches for 62 yards and three scores last week. Markee White is a 6'7" possession/red zone receiver who makes a lot of plays for the Sharks. His size presents matchup nightmares for the shorter defensive backs in the AFL.
Pittsburgh counters with some experienced receivers of their own. Mike "The Joystick" Washington had another standout game last week with eight catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Christian Wise also made an impact on the scoresheet with two catches, both for touchdowns. P.J. "Superman" Berry was held scoreless, but did have 113 return yards. Pittsburgh's offense was nearly held scoreless in the second half and that will have to improve if they hope to win this game.
Defensively the Power did a good job holding reigning league MVP Tommy Grady under 200 yards passing, but they have to generate more defensive turnovers and stops. Sergio Gilliam had an interception as the first half expired to prevent a Utah drive. Chris LeFlore had pretty tight coverage the whole game and will be looking to intercept a few errant Morris passes. Jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson had a sack and led the team in tackles last week.
The key to this game will be the trench warfare. Pittsburgh needs more pass rush out of Neil Purvis and Dominie Pittman. If they can pressure Morris into rushing his throws, the Power have the weapons in the secondary to play takeway. If Morris has all day to throw he will find the open receiver repeatedly. Pittsburgh's offensive line must do a better job giving Jefferson time to breathe. They failed last week and as a result the Power offense stalled.
Power keys to the game
– Offensive line MUST protect Jefferson
– Find offensive rhythm and take advantage of scoring opportunities
– Pressure Morris into making mistakes
Sharks keys to the game.
– Force Jefferson into making more rookie mistakes, generate constant pressure
– Weather early homefield advantage for Pittsburgh
– Let Morris make plays and show Pittsburgh what got away.
Overall Pittsburgh has to improve on offense. 33 points and nearly being shutout in the second half is atrocious.
This team has too much talent for that to happen. Defensively, the Power should generate more takeovers this week. The big question is whether they can keep up offensively. Jacksonville has a lot of experience which could be the ultimate factor.
Bottom line, it should be a close competitive game, and the home crowd can