When the Power overhauled its roster in the offseason, the common perception was that this would be a franchise predicated around stars.
There was Tommy Grady, the 6-foot-7 quarterback with a league MVP to his name and the kind of cartoonish passing statistics to back it up. There was Prechae Rodriguez, the rangy wide receiver who would provide Grady with a go-to target. There was Virgil Gray, the defensive centerpiece who helped lead the Arizona Rattlers to back-to-back Arena Football League championships.
With the Power off to an 8-3 start, it would seem safe to assume that the team did so with few problems, led by its standout acquisitions. That, however, has not been the case.
The Power’s success this season has been a result of several factors, the most surprising of which might be the team’s ability to win when some of its most important pieces are out with injuries.
Grady has missed seven snaps this season, but Rodriguez was out for seven games with an ankle injury. Gray, who is second in the AFL with eight interceptions, has missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain. Aaron Lesue, the team’s leading receiver at the time of his injury, is out for the rest of the season after injuring his knee in an April 26 loss against the Cleveland Gladiators.
Beneath all that star power has been enough depth to help carry the team.
“Certainly we have good depth and that always helps when you have injuries,” Power coach Ron James said. “The injuries that we’ve had at the receiver position, in particular, we’ve had to go out and bring new players in. I’m not going to lie about it — it’s been difficult, it hasn’t been an easy thing.
“I think because of the systems that we run and the type of players that we bring in, we bring in good fits. Right now, we’re just trying to hit our stride.”
Many of the players providing key contributions the past month were not on the roster when the season began. Few exemplified the trend better than Tyrone Goard, a 6-foot-4 receiver who has nine touchdowns in the team’s past five games and gives the Power a tall option in the end zone that it missed with Rodriguez out. Of Goard’s 20 receptions this season, 11 have been touchdowns.
An AFL coaching stalwart, James has proven to be especially savvy in finding free agents who have helped the team.
“It’s a process, but it’s a process I really enjoy,” James said. “It’s a challenge week to week to find the right people to be the right fit for the particular game that you have and the matchups that will occur.”
Beyond astute scouting and overall depth, there have been certain, harder-to-define characteristics that have helped keep the Power together and successful.
“We have a nice team chemistry,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone’s gelled in, everyone’s all in. We all have that same common goal and that’s to win a championship.”
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.