Special teams far from special in Jacksonville's 0-2 start
It's been a pretty abysmal start to the 2015 season for the Jacksonville Sharks special teams.
Shortfalls in the kicking game have contributed heavily in a pair of one point losses, as the Sharks have started 0-2 for the first time in franchise history. One week after two missed PAT's and a missed field goal cost the team a win against the New Orleans VooDoo, Fabrizio Scaccia missed a field goal, two PAT's and had a third PAT blocked in a 55-54 loss to the division rival Orlando Predators night.
Missing kicks is nothing new for Scaccia who was pretty terrible in 2014. In fact he was 0-for-8 last year on field goals and connected on a very subpar 78.3% of his PAT's. For a little perspective, most of the top kickers in the league connect around 85-90% on PAT's. Of all the legitimate contending teams last year, Aaron Pettrey was the worst on PATs and he still hit at a rate of 81.5% and was also 8-of-11 in field goals, many with the game hanging in the balance.
That's something that needs to improve in a hurry for Jacksonville, or a promising season with championship hopes and dreams could derail before it's even halfway over. I'd even go so far as to say that ownership better have been working on a backup plan at kicker before that game ended.
I'm not naive enough to think that Scaccia is the only reason the Sharks have dropped these early games. The defense has struggled to generate turnovers and stops and has committed a high amount of penalties in key situations to negate big plays. No penalties were bigger than the pass interference that negated an interception return for a touchdown Saturday night against Orlando and the illegal defense that flipped a fourth down turnover on downs with a minute left in regulation that iced the game for the Predators. All in all, the Sharks have committed 25 penalties for 179 yards in two games, and that simply has to stop.
Three defensive stops in two games is putting a lot of pressure on the Sharks offense and special teams to be perfect, and so far, they haven't been. That's why their record is perfect in the wrong column.
You cannot give away games at home and expect to win a division title and secure that all-important home field advantage in the playoffs. Just look at last year when a 15-3 Pittsburgh Power team had to go on the road against the Predators in round one of the playoffs. Think they wish they hadn’t blown a 14-point lead to Cleveland in the opener?
It’s still early in the 2015 season, but one trend I’ve already noticed is how much closer these games seem to be. We’re seeing games getting back to the traditional arena football model of needing the ball last to win. It makes for a more exciting brand of football, but it also makes the margin for error that much slimmer. Points are at a premium, and having a kicker who can’t get the job done is a liability a team that wants to contend for a title cannot have.