Commentary

Special teams a key to postseason success

A big kick return or a field goal could be the key to winning a playoff game. So who has the best special teams in the playoffs? Gary Horton breaks it down.

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

A big kick return or a field goal could be the key to winning a playoff game. So who has the best special teams in the playoffs? Here's the breakdown:

1. Grand Rapids Rampage

They have an excellent returner in Chris Martin, who has a league-high six TDs and an amazing 1,663 return yards. Needless to say, this unit is explosive. The Rampage also have an excellent kicker in Brian Gowins, who is second in the league with 149 points, and their cover teams are also solid.

2. Dallas Desperados

As expected, the Desperados are solid in all areas of the kicking game. They have two good returners in Will Pettis and Josh Bush, and while their stats aren't overwhelming, they are aggressive and explosive returners. Dallas is also outstanding at covering kicks (second in the league).

3. San Jose SaberCats

They have the best kicker in the AFL in A.J. Haglund, who has produced a league-leading 179 points, and a solid kick returner in WR Rodney Wright,. The SaberCats lead the league with 1,946 return yards, but they do have a problem in containing kick returns and have given up a league-high 1,068 yards.

4. Arizona Rattlers

They are really effective in containing kick returns and have surrendered a league-low 1,260 yards and two TDs. They have a decent kicker, but a dynamic returner in Trandon Harvey.

5. Philadelphia Soul

The Soul are solid in the kicking game. They have an excellent kicker in Conner Hughes (138 points) and an excellent returner in Mike Brown, who has three returns for TDs. As a cover unit and a kick return unit, they are ranked 12th in both categories, but injuries have really hurt them here.

6. Cleveland Gladiators

The Gladiators have an excellent kicker in Jason Bell, who is third in the league with 147 points, and they cover kicks very well (third in the league). They have a decent return game and used three players -- Willis Marshall, Robert Redd and Otis Amey -- in that role with decent results.

7. Utah Blaze

The Blaze had a good return game with J. Sharlon Jones, but he has been replaced by Tom Pace and there is just not a lot of explosiveness there. They have a decent kicker in Steve Videtich, but they are just adequate on cover teams.

8. Orlando Predators

They are usually good on special teams, but this season the Predators' kicking game is unstable. They have two decent returners in T.T. Toliver and Kevin Nickerson, but they don't create a lot of big plays and aren't great on cover teams either.

9. Colorado Crush

The Crush do a nice job in the kicking game, both returning kicks and covering them, but they don't make a lot of explosive, big plays in the return game (only one TD). They lost their best returner, Chad Owens, to an injury and now Wendall Williams and Jason Harmon must pick up the slack. Kicker Derric Yaussi is adequate.

10. Georgia Force

Georgia is not explosive in the kicking game, but it should be better because the talented Damien Groce is the primary kick returner. Charles Pauley and Troy Bergeron also return kicks at times, but they don't produce game-changing plays. The Force cover kicks well and have a solid kicker in Carlos Martin, but something seems to be missing.

11. New York Dragons

The Dragons should be better in the kicking game because they have some good young players. They have a solid kicker, Steve Azar, but because the offense is not overly explosive he doesn't put up huge numbers. Cover teams are adequate and they have two good kick returners in Levy Brown and Terry Moss.

12. Chicago Rush

The Rush have really struggled in the kicking game and current kicker Todd France replaces Paul Edinger and Joe O'Donnell, but instability in this area is not good going into the postseason. Jonathon Ordway is a quality kick returner with 1,069 yards, but they are near the bottom of the league in covering kicks.

Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm called The War Room.

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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