Offenses forced to adjust

Ex-NFL quarterbacks Shaun King and Joe Germaine have looked very good so far, writes Scouts Inc.

Updated: March 14, 2007, 4:22 PM ET
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.

In a league where quarterbacks seem to play forever, and a lot of veteran signal-callers get recycled, there are two ex-NFL QBs who have looked good early in the season -- Joe Germaine (Utah) and Shaun King (Las Vegas).

King had 10 touchdown passes last week versus Grand Rapids, and although he has been a career underachiever, he is starting to look comfortable with the indoor game. Physically, he can make all the throws, and he also has the mobility to avoid the rush.

Germaine has 15 touchdown passes in two games compared to one interception, and his passer rating is 132.1. While we probably should wait a little longer to pass judgment on King, Germaine looks like the real deal, especially with Danny White coaching him.

• It seems like several offenses in the AFL have figured out the best way to slow down a superior defense and pass rush is to resort to a short passing game, getting the ball out before the pressure gets there. That may be why we are not seeing a lot of sacks in the first two weeks of the season. It isn't typical AFL strategy, but with more athletic pass-rushers because of the free substitution rule, less explosive offenses are forced to use this tactic.

• The Los Angeles coaching staff employed a great game plan in its stunning road win at Orlando. Offensively, the Avengers were very creative in the red zone with a variety of formations and personnel groupings, and they were not afraid to run the ball a lot in close. Defensively, L.A. surprised Orlando with a lot of man-to-man coverages, and the Predators' receivers really struggled to separate. In a league many people think lacks strategy, this game was full of it.

• Winning the time-of-possession battle does not necessarily ensure success in the AFL. As I look at the stats each week, I see several teams that dominate time of possession but lose games. The reason? There are a lot of quick-strike teams in the AFL that score so quickly, they put the other offense right back on the field with very little rest.

The teams that lack explosive offenses must run more plays to get the same results as their opponents. That is one reason so many games are decided in the last minute, as teams are actually concerned about not scoring too quickly and giving back the ball. It's a little different approach than we see in the NFL.

• The three hottest teams in the AFL in the first two weeks are Dallas, Georgia and Philadelphia. While all of them have competent offenses, they are dominating by playing aggressive defense, with excellent pass-rushing schemes. Opposing quarterbacks get hit a lot and are forced to get the ball out quickly, and that pressure allows defensive backs to jump routes and make big plays.

Conversely, typically strong defensive teams like Orlando and Chicago have not yet played up to their usual standards, and that is why both already have a loss. Can a team like Utah, a one-dimensional offensive scoring machine, continue to win, or will the top defensive teams emerge as the best? In an offensively geared league, defense does matter.

• The two most dangerous teams in the AFL right now appear to be Dallas and Philadelphia. Both can move the ball on offense, but what separates them from the rest of the pack is their ability to dominate in the trenches. Both are physical and have tenacious defensive fronts, and both have veteran players who can rise to any occasion. Dallas and Philadelphia look like the only AFL teams capable of controlling the flow and pace of a game, and shutting down most offensive-oriented teams.

• With more television exposure, you get the feeling AFL coaches are feeling the pressure more quickly, and it is affecting their personnel decisions. With players being cut after one shaky game, along with quick trades, this is becoming a week-to-week league. The combination of better scouting and knowledge of players, which gives coaches a larger player pool to go after, might be creating a league that will turn over a lot more players than in the past.

• AFL coaches seem to be struggling with the new rule that requires them to be in the coaching box during live action. Unlike the NFL, coaches cannot roam the sideline (no room), and at times it becomes difficult to see the down-and-distance markers. What we may see in the future is an assistant coach up in the box to check down and distance, or more quarterbacks calling their own plays, simply because they are on the field and have a quicker handle on field position.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.

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