Back in his playing days, Andy Olson caught a lot of passes from Nick Davila. The two were key players on the Spokane Shock’s arenafootball2 championship team in 2009.
These days, Olson would prefer seeing Spokane’s defense knock Davila on his wallet.
Olson is in his fourth season as Shock head coach. Davila has quarterbacked Arizona to three consecutive Arena Football League titles. Spokane and Arizona open the 2015 season on Saturday night in Phoenix, and trying to make Davila uncomfortable is the first priority for the new-look Shock.
Asked if it’s tougher dealing with the Rattlers’ offense or defense, Olson replied, “Nick Davila, let’s be honest, and dealing with their offense. They’re the best in the league every year. Their defense is solid, they always get the job done, but stopping Nick and those big wide receivers is hard to do. They’ve been so consistent and they’ve played together so many years.”
Davila tossed 127 touchdown passes last season. Arizona has a collection of tall, talented receivers, but there’s some question about Rod Windsor’s health. He’ll probably be a game-day decision. Kerry Reed, Jared Perry and former Shock receiver Markee White are quality options.
Shock secondary mainstays Terrance Sanders and Paul Stephens departed in the offseason, along with quarterback Erik Meyer, receiver Adron Tennell, Mac linebacker Terence Moore, offensive lineman Ryan Cave and defensive end Jeremy Geathers.
Ruschard Dodd-Masters, who coached the Shock secondary last season, and Sergio Gilliam, who might see time at Jack linebacker, provide experience to the coverage unit. Veterans Derrick Summers, James Ruffin and Terrance Taylor are the foundation of a solid defensive front.
“It’s a great challenge,” said Gilliam, another key performer on the Shock’s ’09 title team. “This tells us what kind of group we have on defense. We want to create turnovers for our offense.”
Spokane’s offense has more new faces than its defense. The front has some experience, led by Patrick Afif and Sam Tupua. Carson Coffman earned the starting nod at quarterback. Mike Washington, who had 106 receptions for 1,356 yards last year, and Rashaad Carter (74-780) are back. The Shock recently traded for Rod Harper, a 1,000-yard receiver for San Jose last season.
“We have a pretty simple offense,” Coffman said. “Even at the highest levels of the NFL, it’s about beating the guy across from you. When the ball is in the air, we just need to make plays.”