Rookie quarterback Adam Kennedy, still new to the Arena Football League, took a step backward during Saturday night’s home debut at the Smoothie King Arena.
It seemed every time Kennedy took such a step during his second AFL game, he was surrounded by Jacksonville Sharks defenders. He was sacked seven times, his New Orleans VooDoo linemen unable to keep him off the turf.
Protection problems. Unable to take five-step drops. Even three steps.
A shot to the ribs.
Kennedy, who played in college at Arkansas State, isn’t accustomed to being hit by a defender on three-step drops, one of the major differences between this league and the outdoor game.
Now, he has to adjust.
Kennedy knew this game would come, especially after finding second-half success during his first game the week before at the Cleveland Gladiators. He must learn from such a rough outing, starting with Thursday night’s game at the Portland Thunder.
“Personally, I’m not too down about it,” Kennedy said. “I think we’ll be OK. Hopefully, we’ll finish out the season on a high note.
“I know it’s been a rough season for these guys. But everyone is still feeling good, for the most part. So hopefully, we can build some momentum (for 2015).”
Kennedy completed 11-of-21 passes Saturday for 116 yards and a touchdown, but was knocked out of the 54-13 loss after a shot to the ribs in the second half.
“You win with protection,” VooDoo coach Pat O’Hara said. “Offensively, we were unable to execute, and it starts up front.
“Our young quarterbacks kind of showed that they are that young. Protections affect quarterbacks.”
O’Hara said the VooDoo (2-11) plan to address their protection issues, including at center, entering Thursday’s game. The VooDoo had three faulty snap exchanges, including one on fourth down in scoring position.
Meanwhile, Kennedy must adjust to even more aggressive defenses like he faced last weekend.
Until the VooDoo solve their protection issues, defensive backs will continue to press his receivers at the line, knowing his window to complete a pass is short.
Jacksonville did it last week. Kennedy made one counter move, finding Courtney Smith streaking downfield during the final minute of the second quarter for a 42-yard TD, but otherwise, he was unable to throw the VooDoo out of its offensive predicament.
The VooDoo have lost their past five games. Portland (3-10), an AFL expansion franchise in its first season, isn’t much better, losers of its last three.
Portland’s defense is allowing 54.4 points a game, ninth out of 14 AFL teams. During its last three losses (at Spokane, vs. Arizona, at Los Angeles) Portland’s defense has allowed 65.6 points a game.