Both have good special teams, but neither one is great
Horton: Comparing San Jose's and Philly's special teams
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.
MORE AFL HEADLINES
- Former AFL player files lawsuit over head injury
- New Arena league to have 15 teams, 4 divisions
- New arena football league to include 16 teams
- AFL releases statement to announce shutdown
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
ArenaBowl XXII: San Jose vs. Philadelphia
Philadelphia won its first AFL championship as the Soul edged defending champ San Jose 59-56 in ArenaBowl XXII. Matt D'Orazio was named the game's MVP.
Recap | Watch: Highlights | How Soul did it
Watch: AFL Video Blogs
Soul DB Mike Brown's video blog
• Arriving in New Orleans
• A little work and a little play
Visit to Childrens' Hospital of New Orleans
• Meet the Haglunds
• Converting Christopher
• Coach Darren Arbet lets the rings do the talking
• Philadelphia's Chris Jackson talks about the day
Page 2's Mary Buckheit
• Champagne, sharpies and hugs
• Celebrating with Bon Jovi
• SaberCats Omarr Smith's bling
• Media Day madness with the Soul
• Hangin' with Miss America and the players
• Soul don't want Jackson to change one bit
• Soul's Brown works hard on charity and football
• The secret of San Jose's success
• Grieb: Brains of the San Jose operation
• D'Orazio: Philly's insurance policy pays off
Horton's X's and O's breakdown
• Who has the better QB -- San Jose or Philly?
• San Jose pass O vs. Philly pass D
• Philly pass O vs. San Jose pass D
• San Jose O-line vs. Philadelphia D-line
• Philadelphia O-line vs. San Jose D-line
• San Jose special teams vs. Philly special teams
• Preview and prediction
• Colorado DB Floyd breaks down the offenses
• Chicago WR Harrell breaks down the defenses
• Soul LB Rod Davis
• San Jose OL/DL George Williams
• Commissioner Baker on Mike & Mike
• San Jose's Grieb on Inside the AFL