2013 Preview: Cleveland Gladiators

Dominick Goodman caught a franchise-record 170 passes last season.

Feb. 20, 2013

AFNation Report

2012 RECORD: 8-10 (2nd, American Conference East)

LAST PLAYOFF APPERANCE: 2011 (Lost to Georgia Force in Quarterfinal Playoff Game)

COACH (RECORD): Steve Thonn (49-75 overall, 25-27 with Cleveland)

OFFENSIVE STAR: Dominick Goodman, WR (170 receptions, 1782 receiving yards, 34 touchdowns)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Brian Brikowski, DL (20 tackles, six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks)

2012 OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 14th overall (14th rushing, 13th passing) 13th scoring (48.8 ppg)

2012 DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 2nd overall (8th rushing, 2nd passing) 1st scoring (48.5 ppg)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Chris Dieker (Iowa), QB Brian Zbydniewski (New Orleans), WR Johnathan Wilson (Milwaukee), OL C.J. Cobb (Chicago), OL Shannon Breen (Milwaukee), DL Kris Cooke (Georgia), MLB Pierre Woods (free agent), DB Jamar Love (Milwaukee)

KEY DEPARTURES: FB/LB Jeramie Richardson (Orlando), DL Drew Berube (Orlando), DL Prentice Purnell (New Orleans), MLB Tim Cheatwood (Orlando), DB Joe Phinisee (Chicago), DB D.J. Jones (Orlando), DB Levy Brown (Orlando), DB Derrick Boyd (New Orleans), DB Dustin Bell (New Orleans)

KEY FREE AGENTS: QB John Dutton, WR Robert Redd

MARQUEE MATCHUPS: Chicago (Week 8), at Pittsburgh (Week 10)

PROGNOSIS: The 2013 Cleveland Gladiators will certainly look different than the 2012 squad. As it stands now, the team is highlighted by 18 rookies and returns just eight players from last year's roster. On the plus side, three of those eight returners were among the team's top four receivers in 2012. All-Arena wideout Dominick Goodman leads the bunch, as he looks to improve upon a record-setting 2012 season. Joining him once again will be Thyron Lewis and Carlese Franklin. The man throwing them the ball remains a mystery, however. Trusty veteran John Dutton remains unassigned and very well may have taken his final snap in an AFL uniform. If that's the case, the Gladiators will need to rely on either Chris Dieker or Brian Zbydniewski to take over the quarterbacking duties. Both served as backups last season in Iowa and New Orleans, respectively. The team did bring in some help along the offensive line, adding C.J. Cobb and Shannon Breen in free agency. Defensively, the team will rely heavily on new faces, as nearly every starter from the League's first-ranked scoring defense a year ago will need to be replaced. Pass rusher Brian Brikowski figures to lead the rebuilding charge. Brikowski tallied 20 tackles, including six for loss, in five games with the team last season. Former Georgia Force defensive lineman Kris Cooke should also provide some veteran experience, while former Michigan Wolverines and New England Patriots linebacker Pierre Woods possesses the raw talent to become an instant difference maker for the squad. Perhaps no position group was hit harder in free agency than the team's defensive secondary. The team will be without all five of their top defensive backs from 2012, a group that ranked second in the League in passing defense. With that kind of turnover, big things are expected from Maurice Williams and Lenny Wicks in 2013. Arguably the biggest acquisition made by the team this offseason is the addition of defensive back Jamar Love, who started 17 games as a rookie last season with the Milwaukee Mustangs. The team will rely heavily on the former Arkansas Razorback to bring leadership and big plays on the defensive side of the ball. Steve Thonn will go into 2013 with what looks to be almost an entirely new team, but that does not mean the club is without talent. But with a roster of 18 rookies and only two players (Zbydniewski and Franklin) with more than two seasons under their belts, the Gladiators will need to gel and develop quickly in order to stay competitive in a much improved American Conference.