TAMPA — What looked like, arguably, the best receiving trio in the Arena Football League at midseason is down to a one-man show.
"This is just something we are going to have to fight through," said the Storm's Prechae Rodriguez, the one man left. "We're going to have to go out and compete as best as we can."
No longer with Rodriguez are Amarri Jackson and Chandler Williams. Jackson went on injured reserve last week with an abdominal injury sustained June 29 against Philadelphia. Williams signed with the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts.
"I don't feel any extra pressure," said Rodriguez, who sat out the game against Philadelphia with a knee injury sustained April 6 that still bothers him.
Meanwhile, what began as a promising season is down to two must-win games. A loss in either ends the Storm's playoff hopes.
Since starting 5-3, Tampa Bay has lost six of eight. At 7-9, it's a half-game ahead of Cleveland (which lost 83-63 at Utah on Friday) and one game behind New Orleans, whom it faces tonight, Georgia and Jacksonville. Those five teams are battling for three playoff spots.
To make matters worse, quarterback Nick Hill was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury sustained July 7 against Pittsburgh.
"This organization has been bit hard by the injury bug," Rodriguez said. "Even though I haven't been 100 percent, I have to finish strong. We have a lot of banged-up guys who are making sacrifices."
Rodriguez, a candidate for rookie of the year, has been outstanding. The Jefferson High graduate leads the Storm in catches (102), receiving yards (1,349) and touchdowns (30).
He now will work with Joe Hills and Michael Lindsey. In Saturday's 65-61 win at Pittsburgh, Hills caught 13 passes for 160 yards and four touchdowns while Lindsey caught eight for 47 yards and two touchdowns.
"We've been able to plug guys in and make it work all season," coach Dave Ewart said.
"Joe's a very good football player. His work ethic reminds me of some of the good ones who have come through here."
With Hill out, Stephen Wasil, who started the first 11 games, returns. Rodriguez thrived early in the season when paired with Wasil, recording double-digit catches in each of the first three games.
"I'm happy he's back because I know he has a lot of faith in me," Rodriguez said.
With the regular season winding down, there will be plenty of scoreboard watching.
"I definitely think we can make a championship run," Rodriguez said. "It's time to buckle down."