Two teams struggling early in the 2013 season will square off Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center as the Pittsburgh Power (1-4) host the Orlando Predators (0-5)

Both teams have seen their share of struggles offensively, especially at the quarterback position and have made roster moves heading into this game. Power quarterback Jordan Jefferson remains the starter although backup Shane Austin got into the game late last week and led the Power on two straight scoring drives.

Austin suffered a hand injury and was placed on IR this week so the Power brought in Derek Cassidy. Cassidy should be familiar to Power fans as he was the winning quarterback in last season’s 31-point comeback win over the Predators. Cassidy has a career stat line of 60 for 103 (58.3%), 13 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, and a 74.74 QB rating. No word yet if Cassidy will play a major role in this game or not.

Whoever plays quarterback will likely continue to find ways to get the ball to Mike Washington who caught four touchdowns last week in a losing effort. Wide receiver Shamar Graves should be active in this game for the first time all season and Head Coach Derek Stingley seems eager to see what he can do for this offense.

Orlando’s roster move is a lot more significant as they traded WR Amarri Jackson to the San Jose SaberCats and received legendary quarterback Aaron Garcia, who holds every major passing record in the league. Garcia should be ready to start this week and should immediately improve a passing attack that features Prechae Rodriguez, T.T. Toliver, and Jason Geathers.

Orlando’s defense is very physical and will try to impose their will on the rookie Jefferson. Keep an eye on the linebackers Marcus Everett and Tim Cheatwood. Everett was a second team all-arena jack linebacker and part of the All-Ironman team last year with 9 interceptions (three for a touchdown) as well as 7 offensive touchdowns. Cheatwood was a 2011 2nd team all-arena mac linebacker when he had 12.5 sacks. Both are capable of being disruptive forces. The Predators secondary features Simeon Castile (two interceptions), Dominic Jones (34 tackles leads the team), and Levy Brown who has gotten off to a slow start but had 9 interceptions last year.

Pittsburgh’s defense continues to keep the Power in games by forcing turnovers. Last week it was Chris LeFlore and Christian Wise with interceptions and the team forced some turnovers on down. The pass rush up front has improved, led by Dominie Pittman with 3 sacks, but they still need to improve in this area if they want to become an elite defense. Jack linebacker Alvin Jackson, who led the AFL in interceptions last year, is still looking for his first pick of the year and will help spearhead the Power’s attempts to keep Garcia in check.

Overall, as with any AFL matchup, it comes down to the quarterbacks and that means the Predators have a huge advantage on paper. Garcia has had his struggles with the Sabercats this year and leads the league in interceptions so the Power must take advantage of that to win this game.

Jordan Jefferson has to continue to improve making his reads and hitting open receivers down the field. They in turn need to reward a good throw by holding onto the ball. Of course none of that can occur if the offensive line doesn’t provide adequate protection. Coach Stingley hinted that lineup changes were coming in terms of starting personnel so it will be interesting to see how that all plays out this week.

It should be a competitive game but also an opportunity for Jefferson to watch an AFL legend in action. Let’s hope he is a quick learner this week.

Posted in Sports Talk Radio

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