It’s officially the halfway point of the AAF regular season and the Arizona Hotshots have some explaining to do. The Hotshots were the preseason favorite to win the whole league but after five weeks, the Hotshots sit with their record at 2-3. If the playoffs were today, the Hotshots would be sitting at home, but luckily for them, they’re still five more games to play and five more opportunities to turn the tide. Everyone remembers getting progress reports sent home at the midway point of a grading period, this article will be a progress report of the good, bad, and ugly of the Arizona Hotshots.
John Wolford ➡️ Rashad Ross TD x 3 on the seasonpic.twitter.com/raEhaXTScQ
— AAF Reddit (@AAF_Reddit) February 17, 2019
When dealing with a situation where there is good news and bad news, most people often want to hear the good news first. For the Arizona Hotshots, the good news is that not all things are bad. The beginning point on any conversation piece has to start with wide receiver, Rashad “Rocket” Ross. Ross currently leads the AAF in receiving touchdowns with 6 and also has 24 catches for 401 yards. Ross 6 touchdowns particularly stand out because the next closest player has only 2. Ross is the focal point of the Hotshots offense and will continue to be relied upon in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, the conversation to find good in the Hotshots gets cloudy after Ross. Quarterback John Wolford does have the most passing touchdowns in the AAF with 10 but is also tied for the most interceptions in the league with 6. Running back Jhurrell Pressley averages the third most yards per game rushing with 57.0 but has no touchdowns and has had trouble establishing himself as the dominant back over Justin Stockton and Tim Cook. The Hotshots also have the second-best offense in yards per game in the AAF with 343.8 but most of that damage was done in the first two weeks and while trailing to opponents during three straight losses. If we want to find something besides Rashad Ross that is indisputably positive we must look an unlikely area, the punt return game, Deion Holliman leads the AAF in punt return average with 14 yards per return. When one of the two main positives for a team involves special teams it usually means there is a lot of work left to be done, fortunately for the Hotshots, they still have time to add to this before the end of the season.
— San Antonio Commanders (@aafcommanders) March 11, 2019
When you’re a team like the Hotshots this is where things get interesting, the Hotshots continue to ride a roller coaster this season and the number of bad things to write about begin to outweigh the good. Discussing the bad for the Hotshots has to begin with their defense. The defense hasn’t been awful but they have been bad. The Hotshots defense currently ranks fifth in the AAF in total yards per game with 310.8 and sixth in run yards per game given up with 122.6. Another stat that on the surface may look good but is actually bad involves defensive back Erick Dargan, Dargan currently leads the team and ranks sixth in the AAF with 35 tackles. When someone in your secondary leads the team in tackles this means opponents are both, getting big plays in the passing game and not only get to the second but also the third level of defense in the running game. The Hotshots will have to turn this around in the second half of the season if they want a chance to play in the postseason.
When you began reading the bad section of this article, you probably were expecting the offensive line to be mentioned. However, content had to be reserved for the ugly section and the offensive line for the Hotshots are the unfortunate winners. The issues with the offensive line are not solely the fault of the Hotshots, injuries have played a key role in disrupting chemistry and forced players that may have not expected to play to unexpectedly have to contribute. However, pro football isn’t always fair and injuries cannot be used as an excuse. The Hotshots offensive line has allowed the quarterback to be sacked 13 times, good enough for third most in the AAF. The issues with consistency on offense also lay at the feet of the offensive line, quarterback John Wolford is only completing 59% of his passes and as previously mentioned, is tied for most interceptions in the AAF with 6. The good news about the ugly side of things for the Hotshots is if some players can get healthy and chemistry can be established, this is a group capable of turning things around on the offensive line.
I have been saying over the past several weeks that the Arizona Hotshots are at a crossroads. They currently sit at 2-3 and have the undefeated Orlando Apollos next on the schedule. Assuming the Hotshots drop the game to Orlando, the Hotshots could potentially be forced into a situation where they cannot lose again if they want to make the postseason. The good news is this group is capable of accomplishing the feat. The perfect storm of negativity has put them in their current position but a perfect storm of positivity could put the Hotshots in a situation where no one outside of the Orlando Apollos would want to play them. When teams are stuck in the middle, they must dig their way out by building on the good and pulling out the bad and ugly. The fate of the 2019 Arizona Hotshots will rest solely on the ability of the offensive line to gel and the ability of Rashad “Rocket” Ross to continue to be the premier weapon in the AAF. Of course, this is all hypothetical and things can change in a heartbeat, we must remain in reality and grade the Hotshots of what has actually happened in the first five weeks. Unfortunately, if the Hotshots cannot get things turned around they could potentially be looking at a failing grade. Failure is a lesson no one wants to learn but the Hotshots continue to ride the line between being average and failure. The final five weeks will determine the Hotshots fate of having the opportunity to spend the spring in Vegas for the AAF championship or if they will have to stay home and prepare for summer school.