2013 Preview: San Jose SaberCats

Samora Goodson led the SaberCats with 114 receptions and 1,471 receiving yards in 2012.

Feb. 26, 2013

AFNatino Report

2012 RECORD: 12-6 (2nd, National Conference West)

LAST PLAYOFF APPERANCE: 2012 (Lost to Arizona Rattlers in Quarterfinal Playoff Game)

COACH (RECORD): Darren Arbet (128-62 overall, 126-62 with San Jose)

OFFENSIVE STAR: Aaron Garcia, QB (4985 passing yards, 118 touchdowns, 16 interceptions)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Francis Maka, MLB (31.5 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks)

2012 OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 1st overall (9th rushing, t-1st passing) 2nd scoring (63.5 ppg)

2012 DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 9th overall (10th rushing, 9th passing) 11th scoring (57.1 ppg)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Aaron Garcia (San Antonio), WR Jason Willis (San Antonio), WR Jamarko Simmons (Jacksonville), OL TJ Watkins (Chicago), OL George Bussey (Tampa Bay), OL Michael Diaz (Milwaukee), C Raymond McNeil (Milwaukee), DL Cedric McKinley (Chicago), MLB Justin Warren (Philadelphia), DB J.C. Neal (Kansas City), DB Ken Fontenette (San Antonio)

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Mark Grieb (retired), QB Danny Southwick (San Antonio), WR Rodney Wright (Chicago), DL Joe Sykes (San Antonio), DL Tim McGill (San Antonio), DB Andre Jones (San Antonio), DB Tanner Varner (Jacksonville)

KEY FREE AGENTS: FB Tommy Taggart, WR James Roe, WR Ben Nelson, OL Mark Lewis, DL Gabe Nyenhuis, DL Jermaine Smith, DB Vince Hill, K Nich Pertuit

MARQUEE MATCHUPS: at San Antonio (Week 1), at Arizona (Week 3)

PROGNOSIS: For the first time in 12 seasons, the San Jose SaberCats roster will not feature Mark Grieb. When the future first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback announced his intentions to retire on November 8, 2012, the SaberCats were quick to find a suitable replacement. They did just that with the addition of another future first ballot Hall of Famer, Aaron Garcia. Garcia will enter his AFL-record 18th season in 2013, but is still playing some of the best football of his career, passing for 4,985 yards and a career-high 118 touchdowns with the San Antonio Talons last year. Those numbers came while working with a rotating receiving corps that was plagued by injuries last season. Assuming the SaberCats stay healthy, Garcia should have as talented a lineup as he ever has in the League. Huey Whittaker, Hank Edwards, Samora Goodson and Fred Williams all return from last year's San Jose roster, while the team has also added former Jacksonville Sharks utility back Jamarko Simmons, versatile rookie Corbin Louks and one of Garcia's all-time favorite targets, Jason Willis. A pair of longtime San Jose standouts, James Roe and Ben Nelson, remain free agents. The offensive line will also be a strength of the team, where the club will be aided by the additions of four free agents - TJ Watkins, George Bussey, Michael Diaz and Raymond McNeil. If they can keep Garcia upright, there should not be any dropoff for the League's top-ranked offense from a year ago. On the defensive side of the ball, the team will have to deal with some significant losses. Losing the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Joe Sykes, and massive nose guard Tim McGill to San Antonio will no doubt hurt. The team is also currently without fellow defensive linemen Gabe Nyenhuis and Jermaine Smith, both of whom remain unassigned. To fill the void, the team brought back four-year veteran Jason Stewart and added former Golden Gophers standout Cedric McKinley. Rookies Terrell Turner, Christian Tupou and Michael Ebbitt will also compete for playing time. The linebacker position will see some interesting competition as well, as All-Arena Mac backer Francis Maka is joined by Justin Lawrence and Justin Warren for 2013. The squad should be set with starters in the secondary, as incumbent playmaker Mervin Brookins is joined by veteran Ken Fontenette and former All-Arena selection J.C. Neal. That trio will be pushed by second-year man Jameel Dowling and rookies Andre Freeman and Will Billingsley. The team has yet to be assigned a kicker for 2013.