Sharks' Roster Loaded With All-Arena Candidates
Wednesday August 12, 2015
2015 regular season highlighted by outstanding performances
JACKSONVILLE – In 2015, the Jacksonville Sharks put together their fifth double-digit-win season in six years. En route to making their return to the postseason, the Sharks benefited from several outstanding individual performances. Players throughout the Sharks’ lineup have put themselves in position to receive Arena Football League recognition for their performance this season.
DL Joe Sykes
Candidate: AFL Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Defensive Lineman of the Year and All-Arena
It is no exaggeration to say that Joe Sykes put together the most dominant individual pass-rushing season in Arena Football League history. Sykes racked up an unprecedented string of 10 consecutive games with at least one sack this season, ultimately breaking a pair of significant single-season AFL records. He broke his own sack record, finishing the 2015 season with 18.5, easily passing his own mark of 16.0 set with the San Jose SaberCats in 2012. Sykes also forced 10 fumbles in 2015, becoming the first player in League history to record that total in a single season.
Sykes delivered an consistent impact even when not bringing the quarterback down, forcing rushed throws that led to opportunities for the Sharks’ secondary to make plays. The Sharks’ defense finished second among all AFL teams with 26 interceptions, and Sykes’ pressure on opposing quarterbacks directly influenced a number of those turnovers. It is this overall impact that makes Sykes a legitimate candidate for not just defensive recognition, but the AFL’s Most Valuable Player award as well.
WR Tiger Jones
Candidate: Wide Receiver of the Year and All-Arena
In his first year in Jacksonville, Jones put together a stellar campaign that saw him eclipse the 2,000-yard mark for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Jones ended the regular season as the League’s leading receiver, as his totals of 2,087 yards and 115.9 yards per game ranked at the top of the AFL leaderboard. In a Week 3 matchup against the Philadelphia Soul, Jones set a new single-game team record with 239 receiving yards. Jones also ranked among the top 10 in all-purpose yards despite not returning a single kickoff this season.
A model of consistency, Jones crossed the 100-yard mark in 14 of the Sharks’ 18 regular-season games. He also found the end zone a total of 40 times, as he scored two rushing touchdowns to go along with his 38 scores through the air. A consistent deep threat, he ranked fifth among all AFL receivers with an average of 14.1 yards per catch, and had more than twice as many receptions (148) than three of the four players ranked ahead of him in that category.
DB Greg Reid
Candidate: Rookie of the Year and All-Arena
Greg Reid came to the Sharks partway through the season, as he made his AFL debut against the Cleveland Gladiators in Week 7. Playing the demanding safety position, Reid made an immediate impact, snaring an interception on the third defensive snap of his AFL career. That play marked the beginning of a phenomenal AFL debut, as Reid led the Sharks with nine interceptions and 21 pass breakups while also forcing a fumble and recovering two.
Reid’s totals are even more impressive when considering that he only played in two-thirds of the Sharks’ regular season games. In that time, he ranked third in the League with an average of 2.5 passes defended (pass breakups plus interceptions) per game. Extended out to an 18-game season (and rounded up), Reid was on pace for 15 interceptions and 32 pass breakups, totals that would have ranked him first and third, respectively, in those categories. With his consistent impact at such a demanding position, Reid established himself as a candidate for both Rookie of the Year and All-Arena honors.
QB Tommy Grady
In his first season in Jacksonville, Grady started all 18 games under center, completing 402 of his 597 pass attempts, good for a 67.3 percent completion rate that ranked second among all qualifying AFL passers this season. Grady ranked third in the League with 4,660 passing yards and fourth with 95 touchdowns despite the presence of fullback Derrick Ross, who received 45 more carries than any other AFL player. Ross scored 16 more touchdowns than any other AFL player, and without his presence in the lineup, Grady would have likely approached 115 touchdown passes and 5,000 yards, totals that would have ranked him second in the League.
Throughout the course of the season, Grady did an outstanding job of protecting the football, as he threw fewer interceptions (11) than any of the three quarterbacks that ranked ahead of him in touchdown passes. Grady also finished with a better passer rating and completion percentage than the quarterbacks ranked ahead of him in both yards and touchdowns. Twice selected as the AFL’ s Offensive Player of the Week this season, Grady has put himself in position to earn his second career All-Arena honor.
FB Derrick Ross
Already the AFL’s all-time leading rusher, Derrick Ross entered the season with four consecutive First Team All-Arena honors to his name, and put together a season up to his lofty standards. Ross led all AFL rushers by a significant margin with 586 yards and 33 touchdowns, nearly twice as many as any other player in both categories. Ross found the end zone in 15 of the Sharks’ 18 regular-season games, and scored multiple touchdowns on 11 separate occasions.
Adding to his prolific running ability, Ross also put together an outstanding season as a pass blocker. Starting all 18 games, Ross was a key part of the Sharks’ pass-protection unit that allowed just eight sacks in 18 games, the lowest total among all AFL teams.
WR Joe Hills
In his first season in Jacksonville, Joe Hills cemented his reputation as one of the most consistent receivers in the Arena Football League. Hills was the only AFL player to catch a touchdown pass in all 18 of his team’s regular-season games, and has now scored in 52 consecutive regular-season appearances over the last three-plus seasons of his career. Hills established a new franchise record with 150 receptions in 2015, passing the mark of 146 set by Jeron Harvey in 2013 and finishing third in the League in that category. Hills caught 42 touchdown passes, the fourth-highest total among all AFL wideouts.
A dominant force in the red zone, Hills caught five or more touchdowns in a game three separate times in 2015, tying the single-game franchise record with six scores in a mid-season contest against the Tampa Bay Storm. Hills also ranked tied for sixth in the League with 1,597 receiving yards, exemplifying an all-around campaign that should earn him his second career All-Arena honor.
TE Moqut Ruffins
Tasked with the important role of serving as Tommy Grady’s blind-side protector, Moqut Ruffins put together an outstanding season in his first year with the Sharks. Starting all 18 games, Ruffins was a key cog in the pass-protection unit that allowed just eight sacks, the fewest among all AFL teams, and also helped pave the way for Derrick Ross’ 586-yard, 33-touchdown season. Beyond his duties as a blocker, Ruffins continued to build on his reputation as one of the best pass-catching linemen in the AFL, as he hauled in seven receptions for 71 yards and three touchdowns.
C Ray McNeil
Another new addition to the Jacksonville lineup, Ray McNeil started all 18 of the Sharks’ games under center. Filling the important role of matching up with the opposing nose guard, McNeil put together a consistent season as a blocker, forming a key part of the unit that allowed just eight sacks in 18 regular-season games, the fewest among all AFL teams. Like his teammate Moqut Ruffins, McNeil has never earned All-Arena recognition in his career, but has certainly put himself in position to do so following an outstanding 2015 season.
JLB Alvin Ray Jackson
Alvin Ray Jackson arrived in Jacksonville with the reputation as one of the AFL’s top Jack linebackers, and continued to build on that reputation in 2015. Starting all 18 games, Jackson finished the season with seven interceptions, the second-highest total of the team and the most among all AFL Jacks. Beyond his interceptions, Jackson put together an impressive all-around season, totaling 71 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and four pass breakups. He also led the Sharks with four fumble recoveries and scored a pair of defensive touchdowns.
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are a member of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and four-time South Division Champions are presented by Sea Best Seafood and play all home games on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Shark Nation Memberships for the 2016 season are now available, starting as low as $99. To reserve your membership or for more information, please call (904) 621-0700 and speak to a Membership Activation Specialist. Follow the Sharks on facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team atfacebook.com/sharkattackdance and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.