So far, the off-season has been pretty busy in the National Arena League (NAL). Some players have been added and dropped, and a team has confirmed that they have joined the NAL. Other than those two events, it has been pretty quiet this summer. Here is what has been going on in the NAL Off-Season and the End of August Report.
NAL Off-Season End-of-August Report
Starting the NAL off-season, it was confirmed with the league that they intend on bringing teams from Orlando, Richmond, Providence, and Boston. Only the Richmond Roughriders have confirmed that they have indeed joined the league.
Orlando, Providence, and Boston have all been pretty quiet so far. The deadline for the expansion applications has already passed. In other words, the other three teams may not be talked about or mentioned, but they most likely turned in their applications to join the league.
The New York Dragons have been talked about later in the month as there were some reports on them sending in an application for the 2018 season.
Folding Teams/Teams Leaving
The Corpus Christi Rage have left the league. They folded after the owners left the team and decided not to finish last season, according to reports.
Similar thing happened to the Dayton/Atlanta Wolfpack. The Wolfpack didn’t necessarily have a home because they were always an away-team.
The New Jersey Flight were announced when the inaugural season was in session, so we should expect to see some great action or rivalries up north.
The Richmond Roughriders have confirmed on Facebook and Twitter that they will be joining the NAL for the 2018 season.
Nothing confirmed from Orlando, FL; Providence, RI; or Boston, MA yet as the league said they said they intend for those teams to join.
With the two teams leaving and the planned five teams joining, that would put the league at 11 teams. With this being an odd number, at least one team would have to have a bye-week every week.
Late in the month, there were rumors that the New York Dragons have sent in their application to join the league earlier in the month (August 8). This could put the league at 12 teams.
Things get a little interesting in the transactions. Some teams have made some smart additions, some teams have dropped a lot of people, and other teams have just stayed quiet for the most part.
Let’s start with the Inaugural Season Champions, the Jacksonville Sharks.
The Sharks have made three transactions so far this off-season. The kept Quarterback Tommy Grady on August 15. Grady was having an MVP start of the season, but got injured in the game against the Monterrey Steel. Grady threw 71-of-113 for 1,060 yards, 23 touchdowns, and one interception.
Later that week, the Sharks moved to the defense and reached out to Linebacker Charlie Hunt and brought him back for the 2018 season. Hunt had an impressive season, racking up 18 solo tackles and 37 assisted tackles for a total of 36.5 tackles on the season. Hunt also had seven interceptions for 147-yards. Two of those were Pick-Six plays.
Hunt’s season was so impressive that he was the 2017 NAL Defensive Player of the Year and made First Team All-NAL Defense.
The Sharks move back to offense to sign Offensive Lineman Moqut Ruffins. Ruffins blocked when he needed to block, but what stood out the most is the fact that he could catch the defense off-guard and catch a pass and run the ball into the end zone.
Ruffins had three catches for 54-yards and one touchdown last season with Jacksonville.
The Sharks have also kept Fullback Derrick Ross. During the 2017 season, Ross was having league-leading numbers that could’ve landed him the NAL MVP or Offensive Player of the Year, but unfortunately for Ross, none of those happened. That didn’t stop him from getting the one thing that he wanted the most: a championship ring.
In 2017, Ross had 110 carries for 521-yards and 25 touchdowns. Ross didn’t stop there. He also had five receptions for 65-yards, and two touchdowns.
Defensive Lineman Jermiah Price will rejoin the team. Price in 2017 for the Sharks recorded 14 solo tackles and 11 assisted tackles, bringing his total to 19.5 tackles on the season. He also had three forced fumbles, one recovery, and had 9.5 sacks.
Price also made the First Team All-NAL on Defense.
Lastly, Kicker Nick Belcher is staying for another year in Jacksonville. In 2017, Belcher was 76/89 on his Point After Touchdowns (PAT’s), 6/19 on Field Goals, and 20 Deuces. He helped the team by being the second-best in scoring on the Sharks last season, being 28 points behind Ross.
We also covered three of these transactions. You can view that by clicking here.
Let’s move to the Columbus Lions and what they have done this month with their roster.
To start things off in the league, the Lions signed Wide Receiver Greg Hollinger. Hollinger played three games for the Columbus Lions in the 2017 season. He had eight receptions for 52-yards, and four touchdowns.
The Lions then kept Defensive Back Tyler Stephenson later that day. In his 10 games with the Lions, Stephenson had 16 solo tackles and five assists, bringing his total to 18.5 tackles.
Stephenson had two interceptions for 43-yards and one Pick-Six.
Moving back to the offensive side of the ball, the Lions signed Offensive Lineman David Griffin. Griffin helped the Lions with blocking and catching. Not very many catches, but he recorded two catches for seven yards.
Next up, Columbus claimed Linebacker Marte Sears. Last season, Sears played six games with the Lions. He recorded 21 solo tackles and nine assisted tackles, bringing that total up to 25.5 tackles.
Sears also had four interceptions for 41-yards and one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Defensive End Kendrick Washington and Defensive Back Chris Pickett have returned.
Washington recorded six solo tackles and eight assisted tackles, bringing his total to 10 tackles. He also had 4.5 sacks for a loss of 23-yards. To add to his stats from last season, Washington had three fumble recoveries for 23-yards.
Pickett had 27 solo tackles, six assisted tackles, racking his total to 30 tackles. He also had two interceptions for 55-yards and one touchdown.
The Lions have signed Offensive Lineman Dion Small. Keeping two of their three offensive lineman in just one month, the Lions look to have a successful year in the 2018 season when it comes to protecting their quarterbacks.
Small may be his last name, but he sure doesn’t play like he’s small. Standing at 6’3 330 lbs, he has not allowed many sacks and also has got the ball a handful of times. Small had four catches for 34-yards.
A big name that the Lions are happy to bring back is Defensive Back Kyle Griswould. Griswould helped the team go to the championship game last year, recording 29 solo tackles, 19 assisted tackles (38.5 total tackles), 10 interceptions for 190-yards, four touchdowns, and one fumble recovery. Huge move by Columbus, keeping their best defensive player from last season.
The last transaction in August for the Lions is Defensive Lineman Toby Jackson. Jackson played for the Lions last year and got four solo tackles and one assisted tackle, bringing his total to 4.5 tackles in his two games with the Lions. He also recorded two sacks for a loss of five yards.
The Lions added key player from the National Football League (NFL). Defensive Back Robert Sands. Sands was drafted in the Fifth-round in 2011 by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Moving to the defense, the Lions have added rookie Defensive End Henry Obi from the University of Northern Iowa.
Days later, the Lions have signed Gerod Holliman, rookie from Louisville.
Racking up the rookies, the Lions signed Deylan Buntyn, rookie from NC State.
The Lions added Offensive Lineman Avery Wright, rookie from Elizabeth City State
Lastly for the Lions rookies, they have added Quarterback Vlad Lee, rookie from Georgia Tech and James Madison University.
We covered three major players that the Lions have kept. You can view that and see who we had and what they did to the team.
High Country Grizzlies
While teams are adding players that had an impact on their team, the High Country Grizzlies are dropping players left and right, all being on August 22. However, there is one player that resigned with High Country.
The one player that resigned was Defensive Lineman Brandon Sutton. Sutton recorded 16 solo tackles and 17 assisted tackles, bringing his total to 24.5 tackles. Sutton also had eight sacks for a loss of 42-yards. He also had one fumble recovery.
Being the first of the multiple drops, the Grizzlies released Defensive Back Brandon Fuentes. Fuentes recorded 10 solo tackles and three assisted tackles, helping his total go to 11.5 tackles. Fuentes also had four interceptions for 91-yards and two interceptions, their second-best defensive back with interceptions.
Next, the Grizzlies released Offensive Lineman Trevon Gaines.
A key player that got released by High Country is Quarterback Stephen Panasuk. In eight games played, Panasuk threw 131-of-239 for 1,318-yards, 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Up next on the drops, the Grizzlies released Offensive Lineman Tyrel Smith.
The next release now puts High Country at zero offensive linemen, as they release Offensive Lineman Ken Van Heule.
High Country released Wide Receiver/Defensive Back Troy Sanders. Sanders had 18 solo tackles, five assisted tackles, and brought his total to 20.5 tackles, being the teams second best tackler. Sanders also had two fumble recoveries.
Lastly, the Grizzlies released Fullback/Linebacker Kevin Cuffee.
Lehigh Valley Steelhawks
The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks have kept the 2017 NAL MVP. By keeping Quarterback Warren Smith Jr., this helps the team with the amazing skill and leadership that this quarterback has for the team. Smith Jr. threw 169-of-256 for 1,953-yards, 56 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Smith Jr. also rushed for 100-yards and five touchdowns.
New Jersey Flight
The New Jersey Flight start their team by getting Offensive Lineman Matthew Cohen, rookie from Louisville.
Winners of August
A lot has happened in the month of August with new teams and transactions, but who won the battle this month when it comes to keeping key players?
After a lot of key additions to three rosters (Jacksonville Sharks, Columbus Lions, and Lehigh Valley Steelhawks), the Columbus Lions are going to win this battle.
Keeping six of eight players on defense that performed phenomenally last season, and adding an NFL Safety, it should almost be a no-brainer. What puts icing on the cake is keeping two of their three key puzzle pieces with their offensive line.
Some may ask why the Jacksonville Sharks didn’t win this battle. Here’s why: Jacksonville added three (of eight) players on offense, and two (of eight) defensive players, and kept the kicker. That may be six great players, but the Lions have kept nine, added one, and have balanced their offense and defense.
The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks didn’t win this fight because they only signed their quarterback. Getting some weapons around the quarterback or getting an offensive line could change the results.