by Christian Christiansen, Tallahassee QB

I remember my first encounter with Max Paul. It was in the leadup to my rookie season when I was being recruited to be one of those rangy cornerbacks for the Alaska Storm. Everything about his pitch screamed that this was a tough defense. I was interested, of course, so he gave me the crash course. He said the Storm had the league’s best scoring defense the previous two seasons and he gave the crux of their defense: those blitzes and the overall unpredictability in their playbook. As someone who just entered the league, I figured everyone would be pretty hyped about their team and perhaps stretch the truth a little bit. However, Max Paul was not stretching the truth. Not one bit. The Alaska Storm would advance to the playoffs, Alex Dominguez was set loose, and yes, they would have the league’s best scoring defense. Again. For the second consecutive season. This is a defensive team and is a dangerous team that knows their identity.

This Alaska Storm team is back and ready for their 2018 season and, as per usual, is built on that nasty defense. They’ve invested 6 of their 12 star roster positions on their defense with a special teamer to boot. The Storm have decided to put in a complete secondary with Evan Carroll and Ryan Davidson at cornerback, while lining up Tony Willis and Ryan Tobin at the safety positions. They put significant effort into the front seven, bringing back two big names. The first of which is arguably the best defensive lineman in the game: the all-timer, #69 Alex Dominguez. The other is the defensive leader of this team, Linebacker AJ Francis. Offensively, they have made one of the most shocking roster moves in the entire league by being one of only two teams to not carry a runningback. However, they have adequately prepared a passing attack, starting with their quarterback Ron Cockren. They’ve equipped him with four pass catchers. Two are near max contract receivers in Optimus Cline and Robert Merrill. They are accompanied by slot man Jeff Comeau and tight end Yasin Clifton. The team is rounded out by kicker Brad Bechett, a noteworthy move in light of Chicago’s week 3 chip shot field goal miss in overtime versus the Tallahassee Pride and in the sheer amount of specialists that have been used in roster builds this season, something that Mr. Paul was taken aback by within his own conference. When asked of notable builds, he particularly noted the “4 specialists in the West” and one can only assume they were all thinking the same thing.

Based on roster composition, Alaska is widely expected to be a passing team near the top of every major statistical category in this area. Ron Cockren has been retained to be leading the Storm’s attack. Cockren is equipped as a pocket passing field general, although he has little mobility and arguably a below average arm, Cockren is loaded with intangibles. His ability to read defenses and play well week in and week out is expected to be unparalleled throughout the SFL. His football IQ should combine well with the balanced receiver of Jeff Comeau, the speed demons of Optimus Cline and Robert Merrill, and their tight end Yasin Clifton to form one of the deadliest passing attacks in the league. Of course, this will be highly needed on a week to week basis because the running game is reliant on a generic running back that will not improve at all throughout the course of the season. This means that unlike many other offenses within the league, the Alaska Storm offense will be heavily reliant on the play of Cockren. This means that on weeks he’s playing on an above average level, Alaska’s defense should carry them through, but on weeks he’s not, the Storm could be in some trouble.

Defensively, Alaska’s league-pacing defense is expected to be a strong point again with heavy investment across the entirety of that side of the ball. Alex Dominguez will, of course, be one of the most dominant players again as a near-max contract defensive end with a heavy emphasis on his pass-rushing abilities. The only other starred member of the front seven is linebacker AJ Francis, who is expected to be a leading tackler on this vaunted defense. The real joy of this defense will be their fully starred secondary. On one side of the field, they will be reliant on Evan Carroll, a highly athletic corner who is also well-equipped to compete against any offense and has the closing speed ability on par with anyone in the league. On the other end is Ryan Davidson, a long rangy boundaryman, as well, who might be considered slightly less athletic. Ryan Tobin is listed at strong safety and is a well-tackling, well-balanced safety at that. The real cornerstone of this defense in its modern usage, however, is Tony Willis. Tony Willis is a flashy free safety with exceptional athleticism and never seems to have a bad week. The pass rushing force of Dominguez and the backstop help of Francis combine with the star-laden secondary should combine to form one of the elite defensive units this season.

While I am skeptical of the Storm offense and its lack of a running back, it’s hard to not put a vote of confidence on Mighty. He’s a well accomplished owner and coach who should be able to out-gameplan teams that I feel might be carrying a better roster build than them. Overall, I’m predicting Alaska to finish the season 8-4, with the potential to be a nine or ten-win team if everything goes right. I believe they will bookend their season with victories over their northern rivals in Vancouver. These two games are widely acknowledged around the league and within Alaska’s team headquarters as being games they have “circled” (looking at you Mighty and AJ Francis), and can have real playoff implications after the Legion defeated the Storm in the conference semifinals last year. Meanwhile, in the middle of the schedule, they’ll have to deal with the “Texas Triangle”, who are all equipped with solid teams in their own rights and can give any team problems. In my opinion, this is where the biggest potential swing in their schedule occurs, as I have them finishing 4-2 amongst these teams. They can very easily do much better or much worse than that depending on Dallas’ ability to get their offense moving and Houston’s and San Antonio’s ability to specifically adapt to Alaska’s gameplan each week. Later this season, Alaska will face a tough matchup against Queen City, a team likely to be competing for a high playoff seed, which should be a difficult contest in virtually any scenario. This game is really anyone’s guess as it includes two great SFL minds going head-to-head with very deliberately designed teams that should have well-established goals they plan to accomplish in any given game by that point. The bottom line is that this team will be putting out an elite defense every week and even if their running game turns out to be underwhelming, you have to trust Max Paul’s intuition and expect this team to be in the playoffs, likely as a high seed, and be a downright nasty threat at that.

Schedue Results Predictions

  1. vs. Vancouver W 38-17
  2. @ Houston L 24-21
  3. vs. San Antonio W 24-21
  4. @ Atlanta W 32-24
  5. vs. Dallas W 34-31
  6. @San Antonio L 45-28
  7. vs. San Francisco W 31-26
  8. @ Dallas W 33-31
  9. vs. Houston W 31-23
  10. @ San Francisco L 38-31
  11. vs. Queen City L 34-24
  12. @ Vancouver W 28-24