Entering what should be his fifth consecutive start, Brian Reader is no longer a backup quarterback for the New Orleans VooDoo.
No, the VooDoo can’t afford Reader to aspire for minimum success. Not entering Saturday night’s Arena Football League game at the Tampa Bay Storm (3-5).
This team must find a way to win with Reader, a college football standout at Idaho. And Reader must make sure the offensive momentum starts to shift to the VooDoo (2-7), which has suffered from slow starts and finishes.
In five games, Reader has thrown for 988 yards and 19 touchdowns with three interceptions. Reader has thrown for six TDs in back-to-back games and ranks third in the AFL in yardage per completion (12.7).
Yet the VooDoo need him to improve his completion percentage (52.7 percent), allowing the offense to take better advantage of defensive miscues or its defense’s ability to force turnovers.
During this stretch, the VooDoo are 1-4.
“When the opportunity arises to make a big play, we have to just take advantage of it,” Reader said.
Not that the Storm will make it easy. Their defense has amassed at least one sack in seven consecutive games. During an April road win at New Orleans, the Storm held the VooDoo to 13 points, tying a franchise low.
To curtail Tampa Bay, losers of its past two games, Reader said he’s met often this week with receivers outside of practice for extra work and watching film. They talk routes and converting opportunities, both of which are vital to winning in this pass-first league.
Rookie receiver Roger “Spiderman” Jackson, a New Orleans native, is on pace to break VooDoo rookie records for receiving yardage (895) and touchdowns (18), both set by Kenny Henderson in 2007. During the past four games, Jackson and fellow rookie Johnny Lester have combined for 38 catches for 493 yards and 11 TDs.
“A lot of time, we’ll start working before practice,” Reader said. “And I’ll work with the offensive linemen to make sure we’re on the same page. We’re working hard right now. We just need to stay consistent during the game and don’t freak out when something goes wrong.”
Tampa Bay quarterback Jason Boltus will try to recover from a season-low output in yardage (133) and points (27) last week against Philadelphia. Receiver T.T. Tolliver has caught 30 passes for 393 yards and 12 TDs during his past four games.