This Time, Philadelphia Has the Eye of the Tiger in the ArenaBowl
It's clear that part of the reason that Tiger Jones plays here in the Arena Football League is the thrill of the fight, and if the Philadelphia Soul are going to beat the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday in ArenaBowl XXVI, they are definitely going to have to rise up to the challenge of their rivals. Rocky Balboa might have had the eye of the tiger in all of the Rocky films, but right now in the City of Brotherly Love, the tiger that will be in the midst of the fight on Saturday happens to be one of the best receivers in the history of the Arena Football League.
Without including Jones' 142 receptions for 1,897 yards and 37 TDs in 2007 when he was with the Louisville Fire in the af2, the stats for Jones are amazing and still speak for themselves. Five AFL seasons. 674 receptions. 9,380 receiving yards. 197 receiving touchdowns. The average game for Jones in his AFL career? 8.4 receptions, 117.3 yards, and 2.5 touchdowns per game.
Jones already ranks 16th in league history in total receptions, 13th in total yards, and 12th in receiving touchdowns in AFL history. He is the only man in league history to account for three 2,000-yard seasons, and his individual campaigns rank 2nd (2,225 in 2011), 6th (2,121 in 2013), and 7th (2,010 in 2012) for total yards in a single season as well.
Last year in the regular season, Jones accounted for 133 receptions, 2,010 yards, and 47 TDs in just 16 games after leaving for a shot to make the Philadelphia Eagles' roster. He missed the last two games of the regular season and the entire playoff run, including in ArenaBowl XXV against these same Arizona Rattlers.
Following Thursday's final practice before ArenaBowl XXVI, Dan Raudabaugh and Jones played some pitch and catch with each other for a few minutes and ran some specific routes. Maybe it's not quite as notable as what Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning used to do with one another back in the day with the Indianapolis Colts, but it might be the closest thing the AFL has.
There's a reason that these two have a heck of a rapport. Raudabaugh has complete 1,143 passes in his career. 453 of those passes have gone to Jones. In fact, not only has Jones accounted for just under 40% of the passes that Raudabaugh has completed in his career, but 43.3% of his total yards in his career and 40.5% of his touchdowns as well.
"It's a constant process of getting better. Things that we see, things that [Raudabaugh] is going to see, things that we think we're going to see… It's just about talking, communicating, and being on the same page," said Jones.
Though no one on the Soul would use it as an excuse, perhaps part of the reason why the Soul were beaten in ArenaBowl XXV was because Jones was working on trying to make the Eagles' roster. When Jones left, so did around 125 yards and three touchdowns per game.
The wide receivers for Philadelphia which had so much success over the course of the team's record-breaking season, just couldn't quite figure out how to get off of the line of scrimmage in that ArenaBowl, something that Jones and his rather small 5'9"-ish frame have historically had no trouble doing. (The Soul Media Guide lists Jones at 5'11", but for anyone who watched our Video with Jones at Thursday's practice, take note that I'm 5'7" on a good day!) Had Jones played in that game, perhaps Raudabaugh feels more comfortable pushing the ball up the field or using the short passing game with Jones, and the outcome of the ArenaBowl might have been different.
With all of the ArenaBowl experience that this Philly team now has, it is interesting that arguably its most talented player has never played in the big one before.
"This is what's it all about. This is what you play for," said Jones. "You come into the season, February, January in camp, the dog days, and you have three goals: Win the division, win the conference, and win the ArenaBowl. We've got two of those. This is the third one. There is no tomorrow."
Tiger Jones won't be the only man that has to make a difference for the Soul to win ArenaBowl XXVI. It's still going to take a heck of a team effort to overcome what seems to be the perceived best team in the Arena Football League.
However, if the whole Philadelphia team can show the "Eye of the Tiger" and play up to the potential that we all know this team can live up to, ArenaBowl XXVI might be the day that the AFL's Rocky gets its revenge and brings home the Foster Trophy to the City of Brotherly Love.