The Jacksonville Sharks won the inaugural National Arena League title in 2017. They will be looking to repeat as champions in 2018. However, their road to repeat won’t be as easy as it was last season.
They finished the regular season with just one loss, their regular season finale to the Monterrey Steel. This time around, there is more competition that the Sharks will face.
The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks lost a few players, but they can still be a threat to Jacksonville. Also, the Sharks will travel to Allentown this season as opposed to when they only played once down in Jacksonville last season.
The Columbus Lions will also be returning talent from last season, such as wide receiver Tristan Purifoy and linebacker Kyle Griswould. They also have two quarterbacks that would do well if they started in Mason Espinosa and Kyle Cool. They could be a bigger threat to Jacksonville in 2018.
No one can count out the three expansion teams, either. The Carolina Cobras have brought several players from the now defunct Wichita Falls Nighthawks, one of the most talented teams in the Indoor Football League (IFL). Players that have joined Carolina from Wichita Falls include 2016 and 2017 IFL MVP quarterback Charles McCullum, wide receivers Jordan Jolly and Tyron Laughinghouse and even head coach Billy Back.
Should the Cobras execute the same way the Nighthawks did, Jacksonville will have trouble to start the season. They travel to Greensboro to take on the Cobras in their season opener on April 7.
The Massachusetts Pirates have also made signings that could surprise not just Jacksonville, but the National Arena League as a whole. One of their big signings is quarterback Sean Brackett. He took over the Washington Valor of the Arena Football League last season after Erik Meyer was injured and later retired.
The Maine Mammoths also have a quarterback-wide reciever duo that could prove to be a challenge to all teams in the NAL. Jonathon Bane and Devin Wilson could be much trouble for any opposing defenses. That Jacksonville’s high-powered defense that has both Marvin Ross, 2016 Arena Football League Defensive Player of the Year and Eddie Davis III, who recorded seven interceptions in three games in 2017, in their secondary.
Jacksonville will begin their road to repeat on April 7 when they travel to Greensboro, NC to take on the Carolina Cobras. National Arena Bowl II, the name of the league’s championship game, is set to be played on Saturday, Aug. 25.