2015 Season Preview: Philadelphia Soul
2014 in Review
The Philadelphia Soul lost three times to the Cleveland Gladiators on last second plays that could’ve been avoided last season. The team lost their first three including a beat down by the San Jose SaberCats and an OT loss to the Arizona Rattlers. They lost to the Tampa Bay Storm twice and were swept by the Pittsburgh Power with three losses including in the season finale, a game where, if the Soul won, they would’ve locked up a postseason berth (luckily Cleveland wanted to make history and win a 17th game and beat Tampa to let the Soul in). It certainly wasn’t the Soul team we’ve been used to watching during the new generation of Soul football.
The second Aaron Pettry of the Gladiators hit a game-winning field goal in August to eliminate the Soul from the opening round of the playoffs, the organization made it clear they were going in a new, younger direction. The team signed five former Pittsburgh Power players, including fullback Tommy Taggart, offensive lineman Keith Newell, defensive back Brandon Freeman and wide receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku. The team also signed Tyrone Goard from Pittsburgh, but he is currently on a contract in the CFL.
Second-team All-Arena center Shannon Breen signed with Philadelphia early in the offseason after a career year with the Cleveland Gladiators. Breen and Taggart have done a tremendous job in camp, proving to be two of the leagues best.
“I wanted to sign with the Philadelphia Soul to be close to my family, and because it’s a winning organization,” Breen said after a practice last week.
The team was a part of the biggest trade of the offseason moving fullback Derrick Ross to LA for mack linebacker Beau Bell. Bell is one of the league's best mack linebackers, and he had 13 sacks last season. He and Joe Goosby could prove to be the best linebacker core in the AFL and will continue to grow throughout next week and the season.
“My first few days have been awesome. This is a first class organization, and I am glad to be here,” Bell said. “Me and Joe, our goal is to be the best two linebackers in the league, communication is key for defense, and we are communicating very well right now.”
“I’ve played with a lot of macks, and he’s definitely one of the best. He’s a high motor guy, he always flies to the ball. I know he’s gonna hold up his end so we are going to be a force in the middle,” Goosby stated.
Rookies who have shined through camp are defensive end Jake Metz, who has taken first team end looks all week, Xavier Boyce, who has seen first team reps at receiver and Dwayne Hollis, who has the ability to play every defensive back spot and is a threat at kick returner.
Everyone. Okay, maybe not everyone is gone, but a whole lot of the players who Philly fans were used to seeing come out on to the Wells Fargo Center’s turf are gone. The biggest name is Derrick Ross who, after being traded to LA for Bell, was traded to Las Vegas in exchange for 2011/2012 Soul receiver Donovan Morgan. Ross is the league's greatest rusher, taking the AFL by storm since he entered it in 2011.
The Rattlers took two ArenaBowl wins away from the Soul in 2012 and 2013, and this year, they took two All-Arena candidates as well. The Rattlers signed defensive back Rayshaun Kizer, a second-team All-Arena back last season, as well as center Brennen Carvalho, a first team All-Arena lineman in 2013. Carvalho suffered a knee injury last season and missed most of the season. He was replaced by Jason Holman, who, along with first team All-Arena offensive guard from 2014 Wayne Tribue headed down to Jacksonville.
Speaking of Jacksonville, it also signed receiver Tiger Jones, a first team All-Arena receiver in 2013. Jones had three seasons in a row with 2,000 plus yards with Clint Dolezel (one season in Dallas) as his head coach. Statistically, Jones fell off some last year, but he was the definition of a player coach, and he certainly helped develop Ryan McDaniel into the number one receiver he is now.
Teddy Jennings has yet to report to Soul camp in hopes of playing in the NFL. Brandon Perkins and offensive guard Christian Johnson remain free agents one week through camp. Receiver V’Keon Lacey signed with the Thunder. Emery Sammons was released on Saturday from camp, and Calvin Fance signed with the Orlando Predators.
The 2015 season success if…
... The new players mesh and understand the playbooks and rookies step up. So far, so good, as Saturday in the intra-squad scrimmage, the team seemed to be at 100 percent. The team certainly has the talent, but it will need of some of the rookies to step in and be immediate impact players. Metz stands out as the guy who will need to be in the rookie of the year candidate talk. Metz is a big guy, standing in at 6-foot-6, but he has just one week of indoor football under his belt. Regardless, Metz has had a great camp and will be someone to keep an eye on March 29th in Orlando.
The 2015 MVP will be...
... The defensive backs. I’m very glad I’m not in the position the Soul’s coaching staff is in right now, because I have no idea who I would cut from this secondary. So far James Romain, Kent Richardson, Brandon Freeman, LaRico Stevenson, Dwayne Hollis and Henry Rodgers all look like starting defensive backs in this league. Whoever gets the nod for the season will likely have an amazing season.In 2015, the Philadelphia Soul will win… 10-12 games. The Soul surprised us sometimes last year with how poorly they played against lesser teams, but this is a whole new ball club. My biggest upset prediction of the season is April 12th versus Jacksonville, the team’s home opener. I think this new team is going to have to prove to the fan base that the organization made the right decision in moving on from the 2012-2014 group, and it will show with what they do against the Sharks.