For the Spokane Shock, the journey back to the Arena Football League playoffs better have a few stops along the way.
That wasn’t the case last year, when the Shock finished last in the AFL in total defense, time of possession, first downs given up, and a few other numbers that added up to a 10-8 record and a spot on the sidelines during the postseason.
“Ten and eight, nobody around here is satisfied with that,” head coach Andy Olson said after Tuesday’s practice at the team facility in Spokane Valley.
“On defense, we need to be more physical up front, to be faster, and we’ve got to get to the quarterback,” Olson said. “The best teams in this league always get to the quarterback.”
And while the Shock ranked sixth of 17 teams on both sacks and interceptions, they simply couldn’t get off the field when it mattered most.
Opponents converted 19 of 32 fourth-down chances, the second-highest total in the league.
The Shock also gave up a league-high 8.1 yards per pass. “The DBs have to do a better job disrupting the receivers’ routes, hitting them hard, and knocking them off balance,” Olson said.
Staying on the field longer also led to fatigue last season, as opponents converted a league-high 58 percent of third downs. Not coincidentally, the Shock gave up at least 60 points on nine occasions, losing six of those games.
For returning linebacker Terence Moore, better defense this season means “just improving on mental errors … more time in meetings.
“Communication is key, we’ve got to communicate more on defense,” said Moore, whose 46 1/2 tackles last year ranked fifth on the team.
Linebacker Beau Bell, who had 16 1/2 tackles – including three for loss – cited the need for film study long before the season begins. “That’s the most important thing, next to the physical part, making sure we’re doing our assignments.”
Two days after the team scrimmage at the Arena, Olson said he was pleased overall, but he added that film revealed too many “sloppy mental mistakes that shouldn’t have happened. Something I really focus on as a coach, is never make the same mistakes twice.”
The Shock open the regular season with three straight road games, beginning March 24 at Cleveland. The first home game is April 12 against defending Western Division champion Arizona. … Fresh from cutting the roster to 28 players, coaches are four days from dropping to 24 on Sunday. “Right now we need to see guys separate themselves from each other,” Olson said. “We need a couple of guys to take it to the next level and show who’s going to make the roster and who’s not.”