Commentary

Both have good special teams, but neither one is great

Horton: Comparing San Jose's and Philly's special teams

Originally Published: July 24, 2008
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 Special Teams vs. Philadelphia Special Teams

It's no surprise Philadelphia and San Jose excel in the kicking game. Both have competent kickers and excellent kick returners. But neither team does a very good job of covering kicks and that can be a big factor in the playoffs, especially with the potential to see onside kicks and even some dropkicks.

San Jose has the best kicker in the league in A.J. Haglund, who produced a record-setting 179 points during the regular season, converted 93.5 percent of his points after touchdown and was 21 for 25 on field goal attempts. He is a clutch kicker and takes pride in being another defender on special teams, with 16 tackles after the kickoff. The SaberCats also have a dangerous kick returner in Rodney Wright, who averaged 21.1 yards per return with one TD, and they produced a league-leading 1,946 yards in returns. However, they struggle on covering kicks and gave up a league-high 1,068 yards during the regular season and that could be a problem versus an explosive Philadelphia return game.

The Soul have a solid kicker of their own, Conner Hughes, but he is young and has not been in a situation like this. He produced 138 points during the regular season and is solid on PATS (123 of 136), but only converted five of 14 field goals and if this game comes down to a field goal, San Jose has the edge. Mike Brown is an excellent kick returner and averaged 18.4 yards per return and had three TDs. Like San Jose, the Soul struggle in covering kicks, although injuries during the season hurt them in this area. Both teams are evenly matched and well coached in the kicking game, but it looks unlikely that either one can produce enough explosive plays to change the game.

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.