TAMPA — The Storm will kick off the second half its AFL slate tonight against Philadelphia at 7:30 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tampa Bay is tied for the South Division lead and in good position to return to the postseason for the first time since 2010.
Here's a look at how the first half has shaken out:
Adrian McPherson has been as good as advertised and certainly deserving of league MVP for the first half. McPherson has been accurate, elusive in the pocket and a leader in the locker room, giving the Storm their best QB since the departure of Brett Dietz after the 2010 season.
The former Bradenton Southeast and FSU star has thrown 40 touchdowns and three interceptions, leads the league in rushing and already has set the AFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback at 24. The overall league record of 41 rushing touchdowns is within his sights.
Robinson product Greg Ellingson and Joe Hills rank fifth and sixth in the AFL, respectively, in receiving yards. The 6-foot-5 Hills and the 6-4 Ellingson also provide great red zone targets. Michael Lindsay has been solid as a third receiver.
Offensive line C
If Tampa Bay has an offensive weakness, it's along the front line. When McPherson has stayed upright, the Storm has been almost unstoppable. But the line has given up 25 sacks — second worst in the league — and has struggled at the fullback spot after Terence Crosby was lost for the year with an injury. The return of OL Alfred McCullough following the May 10 SaberCats game was huge and a healthy McPherson makes for a dangerous offense.
Defensive line/ linebackers B -
Tampa Bay's pass rush ranks eight in the AFL with 12 sacks but have come around of late after a slow start. DL Tank Tyler leads the team with four sacks while MAC LB Rodney Beamon has three. Tyler has a team-high 5.5 tackles for loss and has been a big part of the reason the secondary has been so opportunistic.
The Storm is just 10th in the AFL in pass defense, giving up 251.3 yards per game. But the more important stat is its 18 INTS, which is tied for tops in the league. Chris Smith paces the Storm with seven while De'Audra Dix has five. The Storm have recorded multiple picks in five straight games and is second in the league with a plus-17 turnover margin.
Special teams C+
Kicker Juan Bongarra has been very good with deep kickoffs and a respectable 41-of-50 in extra points. Lindsay is sure-handed off the net, but the Storm ranks last in the league in kickoff return yardage and the coverage unit is 11th in the AFL.