The Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League returns to Allstate Arena at long last to host the Kansas City Command in the NFL Network’s Arena Football Friday Game of the Week.
This is an important game for the Rush (4-1), which enters the contest with a slim one-game lead over the Dallas Vigilantes in the Central Division after its heart-stopping 50-49 victory over the Iowa Barnstormers in Des Moines last week. Enter the Kansas City Command (1-4), which doesn’t want to fall much more than the current three games out of first place.
Don’t chalk this one up in the win column just yet, Rush fans. Kansas City is better than its record indicates.
Former Rush QB JJ Raterink returns to the Windy City to show everyone just how much he learned last year as Russ Michna’s back-up. As it turns out, he’s doing quite well for himself as a starter. Raterink has thrown for 1,521 yards and 30 touchdowns in five games so far-an average of 304 yards per game, good for third in the AFL-and he’s the Command’s leading rusher with 50 yards on the ground. His average of 314 yards of offense per game is also good for third place in the AFL right now.
WR Bret Smith is the Command’s leading receiver, hauling in 46 of Raterink’s passes for a total of 514 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. His 9+ receptions per game is good for eighth best in the league. WR Steven Savoy (31-445-7) and WR/DB Bradly Chavez (22-277-7) are two more Command receivers to keep an eye on. The Command recently signed WR Tommy Saunders, who will make his debut Friday night, so he’ll be another one likely to keep the Rush defensive backfield busy.
The Command’s difficulties seem to be on defense, where it’s ranked last in the league in scoring defense, coughing up 57 points per game. Its pass defense and total defense each ranks 16th out of 18 teams in the league, giving up 284 passing yards and 306 total yards per game. This is likely due in part to one-man wrecking crew DB Ken Fontenette being placed on injured reserve earlier this season.
It’s not all bad on defense, though. DB Sergio Gilliam ranks second in the league with five interceptions in five games. Gilliam wears #9, so watch out for him. DB Carlton Brown leads the team with 24 solo tackles and four pass break-ups.
With the Command having the aforementioned struggling pass defense, here’s hoping former college teammates QB Russ Michna and WR Reggie Gray have another big game. (On a side note, the AFL posted a great interview with Reggie Gray on its website.) Michna has thrown for 1,135 yards and 25 touchdowns so far this year and Gray has been on the receiving end of 38 of those passes for a total of 566 yards and 14 touchdowns. Gray’s 16.8 points per game is good for fifth in the league.
Michna also has 83 rushing yards, just a hair behind team rushing leader FB Johnie Kirton and his 85 yards. FB/LB Marcus Waugh is a considerable threat to pound the ball up the middle for Chicago, too. In fact, the Rush has the third-best rushing attack in the league.
On defense, Gilliam may have five picks for the Command, but Rush DB’s Vic Hall and Jason Simpson are each nipping at his heels with four interceptions a piece. Hall also has 38 solo tackles and five assists, averaging 8.1 tackles per game, good for third in the league and first among those who have played a full complement of games so far (the two in front of him have only played two games each). Simpson is right there, too, with 31 solo tackles, 6 assists, and a 6.8 tackles/game average that puts him in tenth place in the league, fifth among those who have played in every game.
Rush sack leaders Quartez Vickerson (2.0), Joe Clermond (1.5), Mark Weivoda (1.0), and Asi Faoa (1.0) will be making Raterink’s life difficult when the Command has the ball.
The Rush has a healthy average of just over 9,000 fans per game at home, so head on over to Allstate Arena on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. Central Time to cheer your Chicago Rush to victory! The Rush is on!
Sites of Interest:
Arena Football League
The NEW Chicago Rush website
Kansas City Command