Meyer, Shock take on Soul at Arena
With Tommy Grady directing the offense in Utah, Erik Meyer played where and when he could. He served as the long snapper, helped on kick returns and even played one down at receiver.
Grady’s pass went elsewhere, but it gave Meyer the opportunity to say what every receiver has said to every quarterback at every level of football: “Hey, I was open.”
Meyer didn’t quite go there.
“I was open,” Meyer said with a chuckle, “but we still scored on the play so it was OK.”
The Spokane Shock traded for Meyer last week and it wasn’t for his route-running ability. After two losses with fill-in quarterback Casey Hansen, Spokane (4-7) traded defensive lineman Khreem Smith and center Antonio Narcisse to Utah for Meyer and center Raymond McNeil.
Meyer, who backed up Kyle Rowley in Spokane last season, will make his first start in four years when Philadelphia visits the Arena Friday night at 5 p.m. (The game will be broadcast on NFL Network).
“It’s going to be a lot different,” said Meyer, the former Eastern Washington University standout. “Everything will be full go, live bullets, the way I like it. I perform better when things are on the line.”
Meyer had a chance to digest Spokane’s offense during a bye week and he will be throwing to receivers that were on the roster last season. The Shock also practiced in the Arena most of the week. The last time that happened they scored a season-high 71 points in a victory over Dallas.
Still, it’s not an easy assignment. Meyer will be facing a defense that ranks among Arena Football League leaders in sacks (20) and has been the driving force in two straight Soul wins. Donovan Morgan’s touchdown reception on the final play helped Philadelphia (5-7) beat Milwaukee 39-37 last week.
Despite losing records, both teams are in the playoff hunt in their respective conferences. Utah, one of the teams Spokane is chasing, lost last week.
“That’s good for us,” said McNeil, who figures to be matched up against Soul nose guard Darrell Campbell, third in the AFL with 7.5 sacks. “It doesn’t take long to switch allegiances.”
Philadelphia co-owner Ron Jaworski ruffled some Shock feathers when he was quoted in February as saying he considers the Soul the defending AFL champions. Philadelphia, with Shock head coach Rob Keefe as a part-time starting defensive back, won the title in 2008. The league folded in 2009 and Spokane won the championship in a revamped AFL last season. Philadelphia returned to the AFL this season.
“Ron has every right to say how he feels. There are lots of things you do in this league to get your fan base excited,” Keefe said. “We need to win for us. We want to get into the playoffs.”
Keefe has some decisions to make at receiver. Greg Orton is a lock. Markee White, out since the second game with a foot injury, is back. Raul Vijil returned after tweaking his hamstring. Adron Tennell was activated from injured reserve. Emery Sammons and Shaun Kauleinamoku are also in the mix. … Ayanga Okpokowuruk, who signed a couple weeks ago, will probably replace Smith at defensive end. … Former Shock offensive lineman Rob McMackin starts for Philadelphia.