Before the Chinese Arena Football League kicks off its inaugural season on Oct. 1, there seems to be one team that is already the favorite to take home all the glory this season. The Shanghai Skywalkers are loaded with talent on all sides of the ball, and with many stars from the Arena Football League, Shanghai appears to be the favorite, at least at the start of the season.
The Skywalkers will be playing their home games at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center, which seats 18,000 people. Shanghai will be coached by Derek Stingley, who is currently the defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Soul, the champions of the Arena Football League. Stingley coached the stingiest defense in all of the AFL last season. One of the key pieces of that defense, Dwayne Hollis, is set to lead the Skywalkers defense.
Hollis started in all 16 games last season, and he recorded 66 tackles, while ranking second on the team in interceptions (8). Another player expected to make an impact on defense is Justin Lawrence, who has played for Philadelphia, the Pittsburgh Power, and the Milwaukee Mustangs during his AFL career. A disruptive defensive lineman, Lawrence has posted 73 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss over his career.
The defense will likely be a strong-suit for this Skywalkers team, but the weapons they have on offense makes them the favorites this season. The Skywalkers were the only team to select a quarterback that started in the Arena Football League last season.
The team selected Shane Austin with their first round pick. Austin played for the Portland Steel, and he helped the team pick up its first win of the season after he came back at the mid-way point of the season.
In only 11 games, Austin completed 60% of his passes, and he threw for 2,531 yards and 48 touchdowns. Austin will be surrounded by weapons in Shanghai, which wasn’t the case in Portland.
Shaun Kauleinamoku is expected to be the team’s number one wide receiver, and rightfully so. “SK” played an integral role on the Soul’s title winning team, as he caught 99 passes for 1,304 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Mike Washington is another dangerous weapon that the Skywalkers have, as the wide receiver has caught 530 passes for 6,603 yards and 138 touchdowns over his five-year career. With a stout defense and a dangerous offense, expect the Skywalkers to be competing for all the glory. Shanghai kicks off their season with a showdown against the Beijing Lions on Oct. 2.