02/13/2008 4:15 PM
Oscar Wilde once said that “experience is the name we give our mistakes,” and while experience is not a strength of the Spokane Shock defense, that doesn’t seem bother Head Coach Adam Shackleford.
“We’re going to be extremely athletic but we will be very young,” Shackleford said. “In a 16-game season, if you have players who are athletic and coachable – that’s a good combination, and we have both. We have a group (on defense) that is going to be good very quickly and our goal is to be the best at the end of the season.”
In the secondary, the Shock have experience and will lean heavily on returning DB Nygel Rogers
“I know with Rogers as the only veteran coming back (in the secondary) he is going to be a leader. Last year he was a leader but this year he is going to need to be a veteran and a leader – and there is a difference,” Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Alex Siranni said. “With his technical abilities and character, he’s ready for that challenge.”
Rogers played in 14 games last season, and recorded eight interceptions (2nd on the team), including three against the Amarillo Dusters on July 21st, and 69 total tackles (3rd on the team).
Marshall is the fastest of the group as he consistently recorded a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash during his NFL workouts. Shackleford also plans to use Marshall’s speed on kick-off returns as well.
“Nygel is going to bring some leadership and experience and we have a bunch of guys that are rookies but they have a tremendous amount of talent,” Coach Shackleford explained. Guys like (rookies) Roshawn Marshall and Robert Herbert have played major college football and have been in AFL camps. We have a great group back there.”
With the departure of Kelvin Morris and Jermaine Harris, who combined for 91.5 total tackles, there certainly are some large shoes to fill but rookies Derron Ware
and Marcus Lawrence
seem to be up to the task, according to Coach Shackleford.
“Derron is a kid from Arizona State who broke Terrell Suggs’ single game sack record (4) in 2006. He’s a guy who is going to remind a lot of people of Kelvin Morris; he can put his hand down and line up as a defensive end, he can play linebacker and he even played safety in college. He’s a guy who is going to be very versatile for us.”
Joining Ware at linebacker is former NY Giant Lawerence who played in the 2006 NFC Wildcard game against the Carolina Panthers.
"Lawrence is clearly an NFL-caliber player. He recognizes that he just needs to get back on the field, and get some film.”
Shackleford also added that he plans to plat Dancy, Gilliam and Robinson, who all have the size and the strength that Shackleford looks for in a Jack linebacker.
“We have a very talented group of linebackers coming in and we may be looking to move some of our guys in the secondary to our Jack spot because they are taller guys. Sergio Gilliam, Robert Herbert, and Vincent Dancy are all capable of moving up there for us.”
The name Steve Emtman still sends chills down the spines of many NFL and collegiate players. Emtman, the former first round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts, is quickly earning a similar reputation in the af2. Last season, Emtman volunteered his time as the Shock’s defensive line coach and word quickly spread throughout the league.
“I think he (Steve Emtman) is the reason why these guys are here, because they are going to learn from the best,” Shackleford explained.
Much like the Shock’s offensive line, the Shock’s defensive line is large, to say the least. This group includes Jason Jack
, Rod Wright
, Brian Rackley
and Ray Gant,
all of whom are at least 6-feet-4-inches tall.
“Each of these players has a combination of speed and power – our pass rush is going to be the most important part of our defense this year,” Shackleford said. “We have a talented group of guys.”
But true to his coaching philosophy, Shackleford asserted that despite this talented group of lineman, he still would like to add another pass-rusher to the roster.
35 down to 22
When training camp opens up, Shackleford expects to have a full roster of 35 players. During the four-week camp, he and his coaching staff will have to trim the roster to the 22 players they are allowed to carry during the regular season.
“When it’s tough to cut guys it means you have good talent in camp. This might be the hardest group of guys that we have had to cut before to get down to the magic number of 22,” Shackleford said. “Competition is healthy for athletes. Guys getting pushed in camp is what you want. They have to do the right thing on and off the field in order for them to stay in Spokane.”
Perhaps by the end of the season, the Shock roster will grow not only from their competition but also from their experience; something that Oscar Wilde could truly appreciate it.