The Jacksonville Sharks won the inaugural National Arena League (NAL) title game, defeating the Columbus Lions on July 10, 2017 to capture the title.
They will be looking to solidify themselves as the team to beat in the league by becoming the first back-to-back champions in league history. They will also have a stronger team than they did when they lost just one game last season.
Quarterback Tommy Grady broke his foot a few weeks into the season and was done for the year. Damien Fleming stepped in and carried the team the rest of the way, but he is no Grady. Unfortunately, Grady has joined the Albany Empire. He may return to Jacksonville, but if he doesn’t, it could be a problem for Jacksonville.
The good news is that running back Derrick Ross will be returning. The future arena football hall of famer rushed for 521 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017, which was dominant over all other running backs. He will be a key to their success, as he always been.
Their defense also has spiked up. In the secondary, Marvin Ross will be returning to the team. Ross had two stints with the Sharks in 2017, recording nine interceptions.
The only real problem for Jacksonville, outside of Grady leaving, is that they will be missing several key receivers from last season. Thyron Lewis is with the Atlanta Havoc of the American Arena League (AAL) and Mo Williams is a free agent and isn’t expected to re-sign with the Sharks.
They did sign the team’s all-time leading receiver Jerome Harvey, but it’s been a while since he’s played. No one is sure how he’ll perform in his return. The other wide receivers on the team are rookies.
Jacksonville’s road to repeat begins this Saturday when they travel to Greensboro, NC to take on the expansion franchise Carolina Cobras. That Cobras team is a forced to be reckoned with. They have several players from the Wichita Falls Nighthawks, including 2016 and 2017 Indoor Football League MVP quarterback Charles McCullum.
The second NAL season will run from April 7 to Aug. 25. The regular season ends Aug. 7. Postseason play begins the weekend of Aug. 14 with four quarterfinal games followed by two semifinal games. National Arena Bowl II, the name for the league’s title game, will be played on Saturday, Aug. 25.