Secondary still a work in progress for Soul

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Secondary still a work in progress for Soul

Make more plays.

That's the consensus among members of the Soul's secondary. That's what they need to do. That's what their focusing on -- making more plays.

Any defensive back would love to record 12 interceptions in one season. But 12 total interceptions as a team, which is what the Soul has this season, well, that's a problem.

The Soul are 6-5 after 11 games, but if you talk to the members of the secondary unit, they'll tell you they could have made more plays to put the team in a better position to have a better record.

Veteran defensive back LaRico Stevenson was the first point out the positives within the secondary. He said the unit has the athleticism to compete and be among the best in the AFL. He understands there is talent, but he also knows improvement is needed.

"We're still learning," Stevenson, who leads the team with four interceptions, said.

He wouldn't point to chemistry as the problem. Rayshaun Kizer went a different route, too.

The Soul are eighth in the AFL in turnovers with 20 total. That's the good news. The bad news is they have the fifth-worst pass defense, allowing opponents to average 263.7 passing yards.

Kizer, who is second on the team with three interceptions blamed his "lack of concentration" for not making plays when he needed to. As unit though...

"We are not making the plays like we did last season," Kizer said. "I know, I can speak for myself, I've dropped a couple of picks, you know; when the opportunity presents itself you got to make it because normally, the next play, they're going to end up scoring."

Rookie defensive back James Romain mentioned confidence as the reason the Soul have not been able to create more turnovers in the air.

"We're just not catching them," said Romain. "Once we start catching them and getting that confidence ... picks will start rolling in and quarterbacks will be real sad."

Soul head coach Clint Dolezel knows his secondary can do better. In fact, he saw just what they can do two weeks ago against the AFL's best team, the Arizona Rattlers.

The Soul forced Nick Davila, easily the best quarterback in the league this season, to throw a season-high three interceptions. In that game, you could see that confidence was there. The concentration, too.

"We meshed front to back," Dolezel said. "We put pressure. We had the right coverage at the right time. We got pressure when we didn't have great coverage. When we did have great coverage, we had pressure, too."

Last week against New Orleans was a different story. Not only did the Soul not record an interception, though the opportunities were there, they allowed the VooDoo, a team with the third-worst passing offense, to put up 301 yards in the air. For the season, New Orleans only averages 237.4 passing yards.

Kizer didn't sugarcoat his thoughts on the fact the Soul only recorded 12 interceptions this season.

"I think it's kind of bad," he said."... As a team, right now, we have 12 after 11 games! I mean, one pick a game. We got to get that up, especially going into the second half of the season and the playoffs. We have to get our turnovers up in the secondary."

Thing is, though the secondary haven't capitalized on forcing turnovers, they haven't really hurt the team all that much, either.

The Soul are seventh in the league in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score 52.8 points. For all the plays the secondary didn't make after 11 games, the unit also made stops when they had to. Teams who try and convert fourth downs on the Soul are only successful 33.3 percent of the time.

"That's the good news,"Dolezel said "We haven't been making those plays, but we're still right in ball games. When we start making those plays, then maybe we'll start putting some points on the board and beating teams by more than just a couple scores."

Kizer was told that due to the Soul's low number in the interceptions category, teams may want to attack them in the air from start to finish. Forget those short dump passes. They'll go deep early and often.

"I like it," Kizer said. "The more the ball is in the air, the more chances we get to make plays. It benefits us. If they want to attack us in the air, tell them to bring it on."

Kizer asked, so the Soul just might receive. And the secondary unit may keep receiving those aerial attacks until they make plays consistently to stop it.

"Right now it's just it's just trusting in each other to make the play," Romain said. "Once that clicks, we're going to be good."

Soul retain WR Ryan McDaniel, add FB Mykel Benson

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Soul retain WR Ryan McDaniel, add FB Mykel Benson

The Philadelphia Soul will have a mix of new and old faces as they try to repeat as ArenaBowl champions in 2017.

Wide receiver Ryan McDaniel will return for his fifth year with the Soul while former Arizona Rattlers fullback Mykel Benson joins the roster for the 2017 season.

McDaniel played his college ball at Samford and then spent one year in the Professional Indoor Football League before coming to the Arena Football League (AFL) in 2013 and joining the Soul. The 28-year-old receiver has 345 receptions for 4,159 yards and 88 touchdowns over the course of his tenure in Philadelphia. He had 19 touchdowns and eclipsed 1,000 yards as the team's third-leading receiver in 2016.

“Ryan has been a constant in our receiving core for four seasons now,” head coach Clint Dolezel said in a press release. “He has developed into a very skilled athlete who can help lead this team to another winning season.”

Benson, a 29-year-old fullback who attended Florida A&M, has been on five different arena football teams since 2011, spending the last two seasons with the Arizona Rattlers, who lost in the 2016 ArenaBowl to the Soul. Benson was First Team All-Arena last season and had 171 rushes for 507 yards and 37 touchdowns during his time with the Rattlers.

“We have a tradition of running the football and bringing in a guy like Mykel Benson keeps that tradition going,” Dolezel said. “His All-Arena talent will strengthen our offense and help keep our back-to-back ArenaBowl dreams alive.”

The Soul retained the centerpiece of their offense earlier this week, coming to terms with quarterback Dan Raudabaugh

Soul bring back Dan Raudabaugh for sixth season

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Soul bring back Dan Raudabaugh for sixth season

The Philadelphia Soul on Wednesday agreed to terms with quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, who will return for his sixth season with the team and eighth in the AFL.
 
“Dan has proven he can lead a team to a championship and we are looking forward to him leading the charge as we defend our title this season,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said in a statement. “There’s not a better quarterback in this league, we now have the best player in the league on our team ready to lead us to another championship.”

Raudabaugh, the 2015 AFL MVP and offensive player of the year, has guided the Soul to three division championships, three conference championships and three ArenaBowl appearances, including a championship last year.  

He finished the 2016 regular season with a 69.3 percent completion percentage, 4,303 total yards and 101 touchdowns.  In his career with the Soul, Raudabaugh has 1,865 completions, 23,115 total yards and 516 touchdowns.

Raudabaugh began his AFL career with the Dallas Vigilantes in 2010-11.