- Gary Horton, Scouts Inc.
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Editor's Note: This analysis is one in a series as Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton looks at the key matchups in ArenaBowl XXII.
Philadelphia QB Matt D'Orazio vs. San Jose QB Mark Grieb
These are two of the AFL's best QBs, and each is capable of carrying his offense and putting up big numbers. But both guys approach the game a little differently, and both have their own styles of play.
Philadelphia's Matt D'Orazio is one of the league's best success stories in 2008. After D'Orazio was slowed by a back injury last season, Chicago decided he was expendable and released him. The Soul then signed him in the offseason. Good move. When starter Tony Graziani was hurt early in the year, D'Orazio took over and never looked back.
D'Orazio is 10-3 as a starter in the regular season and the playoffs, and he's thrown 80 touchdowns but only four interceptions. He also is a very mobile QB with excellent run skills, and he leads the Soul with 11 rushing TDs. He is an excellent red zone rushing threat who can use his feet to avoid pressure. He really has a good feel for his offense and shows great anticipation on his passes. His timing with his receivers is excellent, and he is probably the best in the league at hitting his guys as they come out of their breaks. Because he doesn't release the ball until the last second, he makes it tough for a defender to jump a route, which is one big reason he throws so few interceptions. He has excellent touch and accuracy on his passes and is adept at dumping the ball off to his outlet guys if he can't make a play himself. D'Orazio rarely forces the ball into coverage, and you get the feeling that he has not only confidence in his offense but also great patience.
Grieb is having a huge year for San Jose, but he has a different style than D'Orazio. He has flourished under offensive coordinator Terry Malley, who calls the plays, and their communication seems to get better every week.
Grieb threw an amazing 100 TDs during the regular season, but 50 of those came in the last six games, as it took the SaberCats some time to get used to some of the nuances of the offense. They are unique because they ask their receivers to almost sight-adjust as teams do in the NFL. That means they may change their routes on the move, depending on the coverage, and Grieb must be able to read any of those adjustments.
Grieb did throw 18 interceptions during the regular season, which shows the high-risk, high-reward nature of this offense, but when it clicks, it is almost impossible to stop. Grieb can make all the throws needed and has good arm strength, but his best pass may be his deep ball. He puts great touch and air on the fade route, and it may be an underestimated part of his game.
Grieb lacks the mobility of D'Orazio, is not really a threat to run and is vulnerable to pressure, especially if it comes from the inside. But he has been around a long time, and there is not a thing that he hasn't seen.
Both of these QBs are capable of taking over a game, both run dynamic offenses and both play with poise and confidence. There is a lot to like about both guys, but D'Orazio's mobility may be the difference between these two excellent QBs.
ADVANTAGE: Philadelphia's Matt D'Orazio