The Jacksonville Sharks (0-1) travel to Columbus, GA to take on the Columbus Lions (0-1) in a National Arena League Week Two matchup. Both teams are coming off of heartbreaking losses to expansion teams, but only one will be able to redeem themselves this week. The Sharks have some bad history in Columbus that they will look to try to erase this week.
Sharks in High Hopes to Break History This Week
Who: Jacksonville Sharks @ Columbus Lions
When: Friday, April 19, 2019 at 7:00 pm (E.T.)
Where: Columbus Civic Center, Columbus, GA
The Sharks and Lions both enter this week with 0-1 records. Some good news is that one of these teams will walk out with a win or a very rare tie. The Sharks, however, don’t have history on their side. They have not won a single game in Columbus since the inaugural 2017 NAL season. That was when the Sharks defeated the Lions on March 17, 2017 with a 56-41 score.
Both teams have changed dramatically since that date, so that small statistic doesn’t really mean anything at the moment. To be fair, the Lions technically haven’t beat the Sharks in Jacksonville a single time in franchise history. That’s beside the point because this game is not in Jacksonville.
Both teams have some powerfull offenses, but who ranks the best when it comes to the offense?
Top Receivers at Full-Strength
Like mentioned in last week’s preview, the Sharks have the top three receivers from the NAL last season. That didn’t seem to phase the Streets, as they nearly shut down all receivers except Devin Wilson.
Wilson finished with 140 yards and one touchdown on 11 receptions. Former Lions receiver, Jarmon Fortson, looked great in the first drive for Jacksonville, catching both passes that were in his direction, one of which he took to cash in some points.
Other former Lions receiver Durron Neal suffered an injury and did not play, but he should be good to play this week against his old team. Neal led the league in receiving yards last season and he should be hungry for revenge on his old team for letting him go.
With all of this said, there can only be one receiver targeted per play and there are only so many offensive plays in a game, so these receivers aren’t all going to see all-star numbers this week or every week.
One or two players might see great numbers, but definitely not all three, especially when there are other receivers such as Chris Gilchrist and Cody Saul taking reps. Gilchrist actually led the Sharks in receiving touchdowns last week with two.
Sluggish Defense but still forcing turnovers?
For the Sharks defense, their Defensive Backs looked a tad bit tired on the field ast week, but were still able to force two turnovers. Saul at Linebacker also caught a controvercial interception last week, as he caught the ball but didn’t maintain possession before the ball popped out. The officials ruled the play as a fumble and the game continued, crediting Saul with an interception.
Defensive Lineman Keith Bowers looks to make his return debut with the Sharks after suffering an injury in training camp, less than two weeks before the home-opener. With him back in the swing of things, the Sharks defense should be back to normal with their high-powered sack machines. Nick Woodman also came down with a sack last week, the Sharks’ only last against the Streets.
Touchdown Galore Lions Offense
Last week, the Lions offense had a field day against the Orlando Predators defense. One player alone scored five touchdowns. That player was Wide Receiver Bones Bagaunte. Bagaunte previously played for the Massachusetts Pirates and totaled 54 receptions for 524 yards and 14 touchdowns in nine games.
After making the move to the Lions, he showed that he was willing to be their top guy. Their quarterback, Luke Collis, may be far from Mason Espinosa, but he has tons of arena football experience, starting with the Spokane Shock in 2012. Losing Fortson and Neal to the Sharks didn’t seem to phase the Lions at all, as they were just two points short of the Predators.
They looked strong all game, but didn’t have a kicker to boot the ball through the uprights. This forced Columbus to attempt a 2-point conversion after every single touchdown. After a while, this can be very predictable and can put the opponents at an advantage.
Same-ish Defense from Last Year
The Lions lost a key member of the defense from last year when Defensive Back Chris Pickett. He was named First Team All-NAL selection in 2018. That won’t slow the Lions down this season because they almost have the same exact defense as last year.
Other key players to stay with the Lions this season include Defensive Lineman Kendrick Washington, Defensive Backs Shattle Fenteg, Martay Mattox, and Kyle Griswould.
There is no saying that this defense will be unstoppable after what happened last season in the championship game (Carolina beat the Lions 66-8), but this defense is pretty close to being an unstoppable force.
It will be interesting to see if they will be able to keep up with this fast-paced Jacksonville offense or if they will be one step ahead and win the third and fourth down game.
Conclusion and Closing Thoughts
This game will be tough to pick a winner because nobody really knows what to expect from either team. Both teams are really good and they have shown that, but there are obviously some bumps in the road so far.
For Jacksonville to win this game, they must target more receivers than just one. Last week, they started off great by getting the ball to multiple receivers to start the game. That resulted in points on the board. Once the ball consistently got to Wilson, things got very predictable and that is where Jacksonville fell apart.
For Columbus to win, they must shut down the Sharks offense and get past the offensive line to get to the Quarterback. When the QB has no time to think about what he is going to do, mistakes will happen. That is exactly what Columbus has to do in order to win.
When it comes down to it, both teams have learned each other more since last week. Both teams also have what it takes to win. They say defense wins championships and right now, Columbus has the scariest looking defense.
Jacksonville only got to the QB once last week and forced two of the three turnovers in “garbage” time. Unless the Jacksonville defense can turn things around, this Lions team will make Columbus real proud.
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