Georgia looks to match its lofty numbers from '07
It remains to be seen whether the Force can again put up lofty numbers with a new offensive coordinator.
This was the hottest offensive team in 2007, and the Force posted a glittering 14-2 regular-season record before being upset in the playoffs. They are a well-run organization, led by Arthur Blank, who also owns the Atlanta Falcons. Their facilities and staff are top notch, and they are run like an NFL team. Georgia is a perennial playoff team, with division titles in 2005 and 2007, and it is poised to remain one of the more stable franchises in the league.
Coaches and front officeDoug Plank was the coach of the year in 2007. He knows the AFL inside and out, and he has a great coaching resume. Jim Kubiak, director of football operations, also has taken over at offensive coordinator for Steve Thonn, who ran the most explosive offense in the league a year ago. Defensive coordinator Bob Kronenberg is solid, and wide receivers/linebackers/special teams coach Dialleo Burks is an ex-AFL star. The question remains if this offense can get back to its 2007 form without Thonn.
Key playersQB Chris Greisen -- After being a backup in Dallas, Greisen had a breakout season in 2007 in Georgia, throwing for a whopping 4,851 yards, 117 touchdown passes, only 12 interceptions and a QB rating of 132. He makes excellent decisions and reads the field well, but two-thirds of his outstanding receiving corps from last year is gone, and he will be hard pressed to put up those kinds of numbers in 2008.
WR Troy Bergeron -- With Chris Jackson and Derek Lee gone, Bergeron has to become the go-to guy in this once-potent offense. In 2007, he caught for 1,736 yards and 42 TD passes, and he must repeat or improve on those numbers. That will not be easy, because he will face a lot more double coverage this year. He also can contribute as a kick returner. Keep in mind, he didn't play any football in college.
WR Willis Marshall -- The veteran free agent from Dallas is expected to step up and have a big year in Georgia. He caught 15 TD passes last year, and he is good at separating from press coverage. He also has some return ability.
DEs Ernest Allen and Jermaine Smith -- The AFL veterans have 20 years of experience between them. They are smart pass-rushers and excellent technicians who combined for 14 sacks last year. But can they hold up for an entire season?
DBs Willie Gary and David Crocker -- They are solid players who complement Hamin Milligan, and they play with good instincts. Gary registered 59 tackles last year, while Crocker posted 60.5. Both have good ball skills.
Players to keep an eye onWR Brent Holmes -- The speedster has limited experience, but he could be the deep threat this offense needs. However, he needs time to develop chemistry with Griesen.
DE R-Kal Truluck -- He is coming back to the AFL after spending the past six seasons in the NFL (Kansas City, Arizona and Green Bay). He is a quick, explosive edge pass-rusher and will team with Allen and Smith to give Georgia a potentially ferocious pass rush.
WR Carl Morris -- He is a big, physical young player with a degree from Harvard to fall back on. He has been in two NFL camps, and the coaches hope he develops into a legitimate red-zone target.
OutlookThis was the most explosive offensive team in the AFL a year ago, leading the league in passing and scoring. Repeating those numbers in 2008 will be tough, though, as the Force lost WRs Chris Jackson and Derek Lee -- and their combined 2,801 yards and 71 touchdowns -- to free agency. Wide receiver Troy Bergeron is now the go-to guy, but this no longer looks like an offense that can stretch the field and dictate matchups, although dynamic QB Chris Greisen gives the Force a chance in every game.
The changes on offense mean the defense will be feeling more pressure. The Force have a solid overall unit and led the league with 29 sacks in 2007, but the special teams and cover units must get better. This is a well-coached team but one without a lot of explosive playmakers that won't be able to simply outscore opponents. The Force will be competitive, but unless the receiving corps improves quickly and the pass rush dominates they will fight to make the playoffs. Last year's 14-2 record looks out of reach.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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