Are the Cobras ready for prime time? We’ll soon find out.
A week after
securing their first win in franchise history, the Cobras return home to
face the Orlando Predators, with the game televised live on national TV
by TNN. This game is the first of two in a row that the Cobras will
play in front of a national audience; next week’s clash in Tampa has been
moved up to TNN as well.
won last week, the Cobras still had their sloppy moments, and those are
hardly likely to disappear overnight, especially if big-game jitters get
in the way. And, though the Cobras are returning home, their level
of crowd support is questionable... the combination of the weeknight date
and the late start will likely hold down attendance.
are something of mysteries to each other. Orlando does not know what
to expect from the expansion Cobras. And the Predators, with significant
offseason personnel changes, have played only one game so far after having
a bye in week 2.
Out (IR*) – OL/DL
Johnnie Hicks, FB/LB Toran
James, OL/DL Scott Miller, WR/LB
Questionable – DS
Tommy Johnson (calf), WR/LB Kevin
Probable – QB Jim
Out (IR) – OL/DL
Rich McKenzie (wrist)
* Note: Unlike the NFL,
the AFL’s injured reserve is not season-long. A player placed on
IR need only miss the next two games, then can be re-activated.
In their first game of the season,
Orlando only put up 38 points, but used a dominating defense to hold New
Jersey to 21. QB Connell Maynor, replacing the departed Browning
Nagle, was only 9 of 22 for 121 yards. Orlando had a bye last week.
Orlando lost WR/DB Barry Wagner,
the Michael Jordan of the AFL, in the offseason to San Jose through free
agency. They also traded away former NFL QB Nagle to Buffalo.
Stepping into the shoes of the departed stars are Maynor and Joe Douglas,
Cliff Dell and Brett Cooper.
Maynor and WR/LB James Bowden
will both be coming home when they play in Raleigh Thursday. The
two played collegiately at North Carolina A&T.
Orlando is the only team in
the league to average more yards per game rushing than the Cobras.
The Predators average 52.0 yards per game while the Cobras average 50.5.
Orlando and Carolina are also 1-2 in rush defense, with the Predators allowing
3.0 yards per game and the Cobras 3.5.
The Predators will be playing
without their best lineman, Rich McKenzie, who injured his wrist in Orlando’s
Orlando gave up 212 yards and
a touchdown to New Jersey kick returners two weeks ago.
Jackson and OL/DL Jerry Sharp
both formerly played for the Predators. Sharp was traded to Nashville
in 1997 for the rights to current Orlando coach Jay Gruden, then selected
by the Cobras in the expansion draft. Jackson was the Cobras’ number
one expansion draft pick.
Cobras' Keys to Victory:
Good game from Jackson
Jack Jackson must take advantage
of Orlando’s poor kick coverage, giving the Cobras field position if not
points. He must also win the battle against Predators’ DS Kenny McEntyre,
who has recorded 14 interceptions – five returned for scores – in the 22
games he has been with Orlando. If MCEntyre bottles Jackson up, the
Cobras’ other receivers need to step up, as WR/DB Dexter
Dawson did last week.
Victorious trench warfare
With two air attacks that
have struggled at times, the game could come down to a ground battle, as
strange as that may seem in the AFL. If the Cobras have to resort
to pounding the ball, they have to take advantage of McKenzie’s absence
on the defensive line.
A smooth transition to
Loots, if needed
QB Jim Arellanes is listed
as probable with an ankle injury. If he re-aggravates it, Jeff Loots,
acquired in a trade from Albany, may step in – from the Cobras’ press release,
it isn’t clear whether he has been placed on the active roster. Since
the Cobras’ traded for Loots, I’ve received several e-mails from Albany
fans that said many Firebirds fans thought he should be starting over Mike
Pawlawski and that we got a very good deal.
The Predators’ offensive
line play was shaky against New Jersey, where they gave up two sacks.
With McKenzie missing, the Cobras should try to put pressure on Maynor
and force him into another 9 of 22-type performance.
Don’t get cocky
I don’t think Coach Kay
would allow his players to rest on their laurels, but just in case, my
personal message to the Cobras’ players: “Yes, you won your first game,
but it was against another expansion team, and it was hardly pretty.
You’re facing the ArenaBowl runner-up. Winning is not impossible,
but it won’t be easy.”
Predators 42 - Cobras 38
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