Commentary

Soul already prepared for QB loss

Marcellus Wiley talks about how the Soul were ready for the loss of Tony Graziani.

Originally Published: March 14, 2008
By Marcellus Wiley | Special to ESPN.com

It's still early in the AFL season, but we've already seen two superstar quarterbacks go down with injuries. The Philadelphia Soul's Tony Graziani suffered an MCL injury this weekend to join Dallas Desperadoes' Clint Dolezel on the shelf.

Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and when a team loses its leader it can lose its identity. Of course, it can also cause a team to band together and play even more cohesively. The loss of a field general can be heralded as a rallying cry for players to play their best football; everyone on the team knows they have to step up their play, with such a player who is integral to their success on the sideline.

That's what we saw at the end of the Soul's win over the New York Dragons, during which this team kept its composure and won a game that was closer than the final 63-42 score indicates. Of course, the Soul were greatly helped by the fact that there wasn't much of a dropoff when backup quarterback Matt D'Orazio came in to take over. The Soul know that Graziani is a tad injury-prone, but they were wise to sign the former ArenaBowl MVP D'Orazio in the offseason. That insurance policy may keep this team playing the elite football we're used to seeing in Philadelphia.

The signing of D'Orazio was handled perfectly by the Soul; they made sure that everyone knew that this was just an insurance policy and not a situation in which D'Orazio was coming in to compete for the job. I've played with teams on which this type of situation wasn't handled as well, and I know that a simple offseason signing to shore-up an important spot on the field can fester into a locker room controversy that destroys a team. There's a way for talented players to co-exist, but it takes an organizational effort

Picking up a talented player like D'Orazio is a great move when it's handled as well as the Soul handled this one. They made sure they brought in a guy who has the talent and the intelligence to prepare to play when -- or if -- his time take the field came. His preparation showed this week; D'Orazio ran for a touchdown and completed 60 percent of his passes for 68 yards.

Team of the week

Every week in this column I'm going to highlight a team I think people should be watching. Sometimes it might be a team that everyone knows like Philadelphia, or it could be an unknown team that is on the precipice of making a big run that I think people should start paying attention.

This week's team is the Los Angeles Avengers. I thought Los Angeles was a bunch of world beaters two weeks ago, but recently the Avengers haven't been consistent and that falls on quarterback Sonny Cumbie. When he's throwing the ball well and protecting the ball, this team is one of the elite squads in the AFL. When he isn't doing those things, they are in trouble.

He knows his play frames this team's success. The Avengers have the talent to be one of the best teams in the league week in and week out, if he's able to keep it together on the field. The Avengers have a tough one this week against the Soul, who may be the best team in the AFL. I look forward to watching this game and checking out if the Avengers can knock off the Soul.