Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Storm

Chris Smith starts strong for Storm

TAMPA — From one-on-one coverage to receivers moving forward as the ball is snapped, Arena Football's rules are slanted toward the offense.

"Defensive back is so tough to play," Storm coach Lawrence Samuels said. "They're out there all alone."

But no defensive back has been better during the first three weeks of the season than the Storm's Chris Smith, who picked off two passes during Saturday's 56-52 loss to Orlando. That ran his season total to five, which was tied for first in the league entering Thursday. The Palmetto native also has 17½ tackles, which was second in the league (five behind teammate Jean Fanor).

As a rookie in 2013, Smith's eight interceptions led the Storm and tied for eighth in the league.

"He's really carried over what he started last season," Samuels said. "He's proven he can be a playmaker for us."

Smith, 26, who played three games for the NFL's Rams in 2011, had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in a Week 2 win against San Antonio that earned him the league's playmaker of the week award. In the season-opening win against New Orleans, he returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown.

"Chris has got a nose for the ball," Samuels said. "And he's a smart football player. He puts himself in the right positions to make the plays he does."

Award Tour: WR Amarri Jackson and WR/KR Michael Lindsey were named offensive player of the week and playmaker of the week, respectively. Jackson, who starred at USF, caught just six passes against Orlando. But five went for TDs.

After being shut out of the end zone in Week 1, Jackson has eight touchdowns, which was second in the league entering Thursday.

Lindsey did a little bit of everything against Orlando. He caught five passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, compiled 114 return yards and recorded a tackle and pass breakup. Lindsey, primarily a receiver and kick returner during his first two seasons with the Storm, has seen time at linebacker. That harkens back to the Arena Football League's "Ironman" days, when players went both ways.

"The first two days of training camp, that's what we worked on," said Samuels, who went both ways as a receiver and linebacker during his career. "We … identified the players who could (go both ways). We wanted to take it back to the old school for these guys."

Leading the League: Besides Smith, other Storm players were league leaders entering Thursday. Randy Hippeard was first with 841 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns and six interceptions. Justin Hilton led with 328 receiving yards. Lindsey led with 408 return yards. And former USF DL Richard Clebert was tied for first with three sacks.

Welcome Back: The team re-signed former Plant DB James Harrell, who appeared in five games last season, and added K Geoff Boyer. To make room, it released K Carlos Lopez, who made 18 of 23 extra points, and DL Rashad Dukes.