Friday’s opening day matchup between the Arizona Rattlers and the Portland Steel will be the nightcap to the Arena Football League’s (AFL) triple header. Both teams will have new pieces on display at the Moda Center in Portland. Portland will feature a new look, name, and coaching staff led by Head Coach Ron James. The Rattlers have also added to their staff with the addition of Siaha Burley the Assistant Coach of the Year in 2015. Arizona will be debuting their new Under Armour jerseys which were unveiled at Media Day on Tuesday. The game is at 7pm PDT and will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
New Defensive backfield
The backfield has been shaken up a bit with Marquis Floyd and Jeremy Kellem not returning, however, defensive back Arkeith Brown will try to pick up where Kellem left off. The Rattlers also brought back defensive back Allen Chapman, who was an integral part of the 2014 championship run. Another defensive back who is returning for his second season is Markus Smith. Also the Rattlers signed former Arizona Cardinal Jimmy Legree in the off-season.
Despite having a strong core, the Rattlers did not stay quiet in the offseason. Arizona picked up the speedy wide receiver Mike Washington, which will add a new dimension to an already deep wide receiving corps. They also added former All-Arena defensive end Luis Vasquez. Vasquez has a previous tie to Arizona when he played for the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Rattlers also traded for the stalwart offensive lineman Jordan Mudge in exchange for Colt Lyerla.
New Look for Both Teams
Portland recently changed their name from the Thunder to the Steel. That isn’t the only change they have made this off-season. The entire coaching staff is new and is being led by veteran AFL head coach Ron James. On the Rattlers side they got new uniforms from Under Armour. The new uniforms offer the ability to mix and match the helmets, jerseys and pants, which gives the team options for how they will look. Also the staff now includes former Rattler, Siaha Burley. As a player, Burley was named to the All-Arena team three times (first team once, second team twice), and was the 2007 Offensive player of the year. Burley is the Offensive Coordinator and Director of Football Operations. As the offensive coordinator last year for the Orlando Predators, he earned the AFL Assistant Coach of the Year award.
High score potential
Last year the Arizona Rattlers were one of the top scoring offenses in the league averaging just under 56 points per game. Portland was at the bottom of the league in scoring defense last season allowing 54 points per game. It will be interesting to see if there will be more of the same this year. If so, look for Arizona to score early and often at the Moda Center.
Portland’s scoring offense last season was in the middle of the pack ranking seventh with 48 points per game. Arizona has one of the best scoring defenses only allowing 46 points per game. The young Arizona secondary is under new leadership under Arkeith Brown, who will look to continue their success.