TAMPA — Tampa Bay has been searching for consistent quarterback play since the Brett Dietz era and it looked like that trend would continue when last year's starter Jason Boltus wasn't in preseason camp.
Storm coach Lawrence Samuels couldn't be happier that Boltus changed his mind.
"We all know that (Boltus) is our leader," Samuels said. "And anytime you can get you're leader back, you want him to go in and lead the group."
With Boltus out, Adam Kennedy and Jonathan Bane got playing time in losses to Orlando and Cleveland.
Boltus returned and started against the Storm's 60-27 loss at Arizona last week. Boltus wasn't in camp while finishing up his teaching position in Ocoee and had limited reps in practice prior to the Arizona game. Boltus finished 11-of-37 for 186 yards, three touchdowns and one interception against the Rattlers.
"Jason's a tough guy," Samuels said. "He hung in there against what I consider to be the best pass rush in the league."
Samuels is hopeful Boltus can jump start an offense that ranks dead last in nearly every major category. Boltus passed for an Arena-best 5,025 yards last season, good for second all-time in franchise history. Boltus also established a good rapport with veteran WR T.T. Toliver (112 catches for 1,536 yards and 35 TDs in 2015) and rookie Julius Gregory (98 catches 1,036 yards and 27 TDs).
"We have to protect (Boltus) a little better and Jay's going to make the plays for us," Samuels said. "We have to fix things up front and once we get that done, we're going to take off."
Offensive offense: Boltus' return should help, but the Storm's offensive numbers through three games have been abysmal. Tampa Bay (0-3) is averaging an league-worst 27 points per game, 42.7 points less than league-leading Arizona. The Storm has yet to score 30 points in any game and is just 5-21 on third down conversions, by far the worst in the AFL. "There's no panic in this organization," Samuels said. "We'll fix what we need to fix and get this thing going in the right direction."
Trade: The Storm acquired veteran WR Mike Washington from Arizona on Thursday in exchange for future considerations. The Hawaii product has hauled in 551 catches for 6,620 yards and 138 touchdowns in his six year career, but has just one reception for 17 yards this season in Arizona. Washington's best season came in 2013 when he caught 136 passes for 1,595 yards and 36 TDs in Pittsburgh. Washington will be needed with Gerald Young (foot) and Gregory (knee) expected to miss a couple weeks with injuries. "Don't be surprised if we go out and get another receiver this week too," Samuels said.
Time change: Kickoff for the Storm's May 23 game at Amalie Arena against Cleveland has been changed from 7:30 to 8.