Commentary

SaberCats' sophisticated air attack tough to slow down

Horton: San Jose pass offense vs. Philly pass defense

Updated: July 22, 2008, 5:05 PM ET
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.

Editor's Note: This analysis is one in a series as Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton looks at the key matchups in ArenaBowl XXII.

San Jose Pass Offense vs. Philadelphia Pass Defense

This is another classic matchup between too strong units with a lot of confidence and loads of experience. Both run sophisticated schemes and specialize in forcing their opponents to make mistakes.

San Jose finished the regular season with 100 TD passes, which was second only to Philadelphia's 104, and the SaberCats were especially hot late in the season as 50 of those TDs came in the last six weeks. This is a very cerebral offense and it will force the Soul defense to be smart and efficient. Offensive coordinator Terry Malley is an astute play caller and he and QB Mark Grieb seem to always be on the same page. Malley asks his receivers to read coverages on the snap and they have the freedom to adjust their routes, but Grieb must make the same read and that is not always easy. However, when they are clicking this passing game is almost impossible to stop and it is a thing of beauty to watch. But mistakes also come easy to this offense and its 18 interceptions is a little high. This is a true high risk, high reward offense.

The SaberCats receivers are smart veterans and they excel on the big stage. James Roe is the go-to guy for Grieb, but he missed the conference championship game with a knee injury and his status for ArenaBowl XXII is up in the air. He finished the regular season with 102 catches for 1,076 yards and 31 TDs and has excellent hands and great separation skills. If he does not play, Jason Geathers will fill in and at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he is an excellent red zone target and a tough matchup for Philadelphia. San Jose knows it can rely on WR Cleannord Santil, who had a breakout year with 120 catches, 1,503 yards, and 35 TDs. He is a combination of speed and athletic ability and is really good at yards after catch. Rodney Wright posted 134 catches for 1,457 yards and 26 TDs and is also a dangerous open field runner and kick returner. If this group is on, it can make any defense look bad.

The Philadelphia pass defense is sound and despite having injury problems much of the season, it was still a big key to its success. When healthy, this group can matchup versus any pass offense in the league. The leader is the guy in the middle, Eddie Moten. He posted 93.5 tackles and six interceptions in 2008 and is a ballhawking difference maker who will take chances. He will jump routes and has a great sense of when to break on the ball. A lot of offenses simply stay away from Moten. It will be interesting to see the chess match between Moten and the San Jose receivers and their sight adjustment schemes. If either guesses wrong, it could lead to big plays on either side.

Moten's partners are Mike Brown (41.5 tackles and five interceptions) and Brian Mance (49.5 tackles but no interceptions). However, Mance did not play in the conference championship game because of an ankle injury and if he is not ready Dee Webb will take his place (40 tackles but no interceptions). The secondary is benefited by a good pass rush that forces QBs to get the ball out quickly and that is why these guys are so effective at jumping routes and creating turnovers. They will probably play a lot of press coverages and try to disrupt the timing of the San Jose offense by not letting the receivers run free.

ADVANTAGE: San Jose SaberCats

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.