Commentary

It's ArenaBowl or bust for Dallas

Anything less than a trip to the ArenaBowl will be a disappointment for Dallas.

Originally Published: February 26, 2008
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.

The Desperados were the best team in the AFL a year ago, finishing the regular season with a 15-1 record before being shocked by Columbus in their first playoff game. That was the second straight year they were bounced early after a big regular season. This is a model front office, run much like the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones Jr. (president, GM, CEO) does an excellent job of overseeing all aspects of the organization. As good as the product is on the field, they are not afraid to make bold decisions and turn over their roster and they also do an excellent job of being involved in the community.

Coaches and front office

Will McClay is one of the most successful coaches in the AFL and he's been phenomenal in Dallas. He runs the offense and James Fuller runs the defense and also coaches special teams, Steve Criswell assists with the OL and coaches the FB, Adriel Fenton helps on special teams and handles the quality control duties. McClay is involved in all aspects of the coaching staff and also has all the benefits of the Dallas Cowboys resources at his finger tips.

Key players

QB Clint Dolezel -- He threw for 4,447 yards and 107 TDs and only nine interceptions in 2007 for a 128.2 QB rating. He may be the smartest QB in the league and is like another coach on the field with his ability to read defenses and find the right matchups. He has an excellent supporting cast and should have a great 2008 season.

WR/DB Will Pettis -- He was the 2007 AFL Ironman of the Year and is the best two-way player in the game. Offensively, he had 130 receptions for 46 TDs while recording 59.5 tackles, seven sacks, and three interceptions on defense and even scored four TDs on kick returns. He may be the best all-around player in the AFL.

DL Colston Weatherington -- He is an All AFL player and one of the most dominating players in the league. He had 10 sacks a year ago and is tough to block off the edge.

FB/LB Duke Pettijohn -- A true Ironman and two-way player, he posted six sacks in 2007, plays with terrific aggressiveness and is also a good short yardage runner.

WR Marcus Nash -- Nash caught 77 passes for 1,080 yards and 20 TDs in 2007 and is a quality veteran receiver.

WRs Josh Bush and Adrae Thurman -- Bush will be a role player for Dallas. He had 48 receptions and six TDs a year ago, but has excellent speed and big-play ability. Thurman is another role player and part of a deep receiving group. He had 19 TDs a year ago.

DB Jermain Jones, Johnnie Harris, and DeShane Dennis -- These are three key pieces of a deep secondary. Jones had 87.5 tackles and seven interceptions in 2007 and is always around the ball, Dennis was the leading tackler for New York with 81 tackles and two interceptions and Harris is simply a playmaker.

PK Remy Hamilton Ė One of the most consistent kickers in the league, he will give Dallas stability in the kicking game.

Player to keep an eye on

DB Damien Robinson -- Although he is 34 years old, Robinson is trying his luck at the indoor game after 65 starts in a seven-year NFL career. He is big and physical and could be in intimidating force in the middle of the secondary, but coaches are looking at him as a possible Jack linebacker because of his range and cover skills. Robinson knows that his ticket back to the NFL may go through the Desperados. He could be an interesting player.

Outlook

This is the most talented team in the AFL, but frustrations are running high after being ousted from the playoffs two years in a row in their first game after cruising through the regular season. The Desperados have been able to keep the core of their team together, but it wonít last forever and you sense some urgency in this organization to bring a championship to Dallas. They have won 28 of their last 32 regular season games, but donít look like the same team in the playoffs. The good news for Dallas is that they have the easiest schedule in the AFL in 2008 and they are a veteran team with no glaring weaknesses. Dolezel runs a great offense and has a lot of weapons. He is protected by an offensive line that only gave up four sacks in 2007. Defensively, they have talent and depth at every position and play excellent pass defense. With an offense that led the league in scoring a year ago with 63.5 points a game, the defense does not have to be perfect every week ... but they are usually close. They will dominate again in 2008, but anything less than a championship will probably be considered a disappointment.

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.