Coming off the first of two bye weeks in the Arena Football League season, the Georgia Force return to action against South Division foe New Orleans tonight at 8 at the New Orleans Arena.
While having a bye week just two weeks into the season seems a little soon, Force coach Dean Cokinos believes it was actually well timed, especially after a 71-57 loss at Jacksonville in its last outing March 18.
"We had a pretty hard three-week training camp, so I kind of liked the timing," Cokinos said. "We just had a chance to re-evaluate our team and make some personnel changes."
Among the new faces will be linebacker Lance Ancar, who played for Cokinos with both the Tennessee Valley Vipers of afl2 and with the Force when they were the Alabama Vipers last year. He was acquired in a trade with New Orleans in exchange for lineman Daverin Geralds just over a week ago, while defensive back Ryan Bowers and lineman Aaron McDowell were both recently activated.
But perhaps the most important new face is one that is not so new, as receiver Michael Johnson returns to the lineup after missing the Jacksonville game.
His presence should give a boost to not only the Force passing game, but also the special teams unit, which is an area Cokinos says the Force spent a lot of time working on during the off week.
"We needed to improve our special teams," Cokinos said. "And we also wanted to improve our pass protection, and we think we've done that."
If so, it could bode well for the Force (1-1) tonight against New Orleans (0-3) as the VooDoo have the 14th-worst pass defense in the AFL, allowing more than 280 yards per game.
Led by quarterback Brett Elliott (43-for-69, 575 yards, 10 TDs) and receivers C.J. Johnson (17 rec., 224 yards), Larry Shipp (16-222, 4 TDs) and Maurice Purify (15-208, 5 TDs), Georgia is averaging 249.5 yards passing per game.
But Cokinos warns that despite the numbers, New Orleans, which features quarterback Danny Wimprine (49-for-86, 633 yards, 11 TDs) and receiver P.J. Berry (27-311, 6 TDs) will be no pushovers.
"They're a very talented team that hasn't played together much yet," Cokinos said of the VooDoo. "They're talented all over the place (on offense) and they give you a bit of a pass rush (on defense. And they're looking for their first win, so we've got to play our best."