Joe Sykes collected a League-record 16 sacks in 2012.
Feb. 15, 2013
2012 RECORD: 14-4 (1st, National Conference Central)
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2012, lost to Utah in National Conference Semifinals
COACH (RECORD): Lee Johnson (14-4 overall, 14-4 with San Antonio)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Burl Toler (641 receiving yards, 17 TD, 12.4 yards per reception)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Fred Shaw (120.5 tackles, 7 PBU, 8 INT)
2012 OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 11th overall (10th passing, 16th rushing), 7th scoring (57.9 points per game)
2012 DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 15th overall (13th passing, t-11th rushing), 8th scoring (52.7 points per game)
KEY ADDITIONS: QB GJ Kinne (free agent), QB Danny Southwick (from San Jose), WR Dwayne Eley, Jr. (from Milwaukee), DL Joe Sykes (from San Jose), DL Tim McGill (from San Jose), DB Andre Jones (from San Jose), DB Justin Hannah (from Orlando)
KEY DEPARTURES: QB Aaron Garcia (to San Jose), WR Jason Willis (to San Jose), WR Brent Holmes (to New Orleans), DB Ken Fontenette (to San Jose)
KEY FREE AGENTS: WR Jomo Wilson
MARQUEE MATCHUPS: San Jose (Week 1), Utah (Week 11)
PROGNOSIS: Last year all the pieces fell into place for the Talons. Led by quarterback Aaron Garcia and a dynamic offense, San Antonio bulldozed its way to the top seed in the National Conference. Unfortunately for the Talons, their run came to an early end at the hands of Tommy Grady and the Utah Blaze in the first round of the playoffs. The loss ushered in a rebuilding process for the franchise. The Talons were tasked with replacing Garcia – who left for the San Jose SaberCats in free agency – and fixing a defense that ranked near the bottom of the League in 2012. The latter was taken care of very quickly, as San Antonio has added 2012 Riddell Defensive Player of the Year Joe Sykes, as well as fellow defensive lineman Tim McGill and defensive back Andre Jones. Former Orlando Predators defensive back Justin Hannah also joined the squad. The newcomers will mesh with a few standouts from last season’s team, including linebackers Jamar Ransom and Victor Degrate and defensive backs Fred Shaw and Chris Crocker. Under the guidance of Head Coach and defensive guru Lee Johnson, it’s conceivable that this new and improved lineup could make all the difference in 2013. That is if the offense can hold its own as well. Rookie quarterback GJ Kinne will take over for Garcia behind center. Though he comes to the AFL with an impressive college resume, how quickly he can adjust to the Arena game will be paramount to the Talons postseason hopes. Expect an expanded role for fullback Chad “Tank” Cook, who will look to get back into All-Arena form by taking some of the pressure off Kinne with a strong running game. Still, it is a passing League and Kinne will need to find some targets. Burl Toler and Robert Quiroga return from last year’s squad, taking over for the departed Jason Willis and currently unassigned Jomo Wilson as the team’s top receivers. San Antonio also returns veteran Derek Lee and added the elusive Dwayne Eley, Jr., who could prove to be the squad’s biggest difference maker. If the Talons offense can build quick chemistry and the defense plays up to its potential, San Antonio could very well be looking at its second division titles in as many seasons.