Crush counts on Floyd to be stopper
When the Colorado Crush needs a defensive stop, it usually can count on defensive back Rashad Floyd, William Bendetson writes.
Ask an Arena Football League coach about the key to playoff success and his answer likely will be defense.
Sure, AFL scores more closely mirror those of college basketball games than traditional outdoor football games. But the teams that create turnovers and make defensive stands are most likely to win, which is why Colorado Crush defensive back Rashad Floyd is so valuable.
"I don't think there is ever such a thing as a shutdown cornerback," said Colorado coach Mike Dailey, whose team plays the host San Jose SaberCats in a divisional round game Saturday (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET). "But Rashad might be as close as you can come."
Dailey said Floyd is smart and has a great understanding of the game, a trait that comes from watching lots of hours of tape.
Floyd has the ability to disrupt an offense's timing and can hold his ground against a motion receiver. In the AFL, motion receivers are allowed to start many yards behind the line of scrimmage and move before the ball is snapped, allowing them to break free from the cornerback.
"AFL games rely 100 percent around offense ," Floyd said. "Many defensive backs are content with giving up three or four touchdowns a game. I am only content if I give up one or zero touchdowns."
In Colorado's 49-42 wild-card playoff win last weekend against Kansas City, Floyd had a game-high 14 tackles and the Crush held the Brigade to one defensive TD in the second half.
"He is as good as anyone at recognizing the route that the receiver is running," San Jose QB Mark Grieb said of Floyd. But Chicago QB Matt D'Orazio paid Floyd perhaps the highest compliment.
Colorado defensive back Rashad Floyd, whose position is arguably the toughest to play in the AFL, provided ESPN.com with his five-step technique to covering the motion receiver. Floyd understands that if he completes all but one of these steps, the receiver is still likely to get open.
1. Understand where the offense is on the field as well as the down and distance.
2. Concentrate on the motion of the route.
3. Recognize what type of route the receiver is running.
4. Break when the receiver breaks.
5. Make a play on the ball.
"With a small field in the AFL, you can't really stay away from a defensive back," D'Orazio said. "But he is the type of player who you always have to account for and if you can throw the ball away from Floyd's side of the field, you try to do that."
Said Floyd: "I am willing to wait the eight or 10 yards necessary to see what type of route the receiver is running. That is where my film study and the preparation work helps. I like to call it an educational forecast." Floyd watches about seven hours of game tape a week.
Floyd doesn't hesitate to credit those who have helped refine his skills. The former Portland State star played his first two years with the Orlando Predators and learned from coach Jay Gruden, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden's brother, and Kenny McEntyre, one of the best defensive backs in AFL history.
Practicing against teammate Damian Harrell, the AFL offensive player of the year in 2005 and 2006, has helped Floyd, too.
"When you practice against Damian during the week, the games become like practice and practice becomes like the game," Floyd said. "You can do everything right and he will still catch the ball."
Floyd is also one of the best tacklers in the AFL. In 2006, he had one of the best seasons in AFL history, finishing with a league-record 136.5 tackles. In 2005, Floyd made 129.5 tackles. That effort came on the heels of his 2004 campaign, when he set a then-league record with 123 tackles -- 30 more than the runnerup that season. Floyd attributes his strong tackling numbers to his desire to be involved on every play.
"It is something that I take tremendous pride in," Floyd said. "Oftentimes the offense will turn a five-yard pass into a touchdown. You can't assume the other guy is going to make the tackle because he might not and then your team will really be in trouble.
"You can't be afraid to stick you nose into anything."
William Bendetson is an intern for ESPN.com.