tampabay.com

Storm not sharp in a 38-30 preseason loss to the Predators

By FRANK PASTOR
Published January 19, 2006


TAMPA - The Storm's scrimmage against the Orlando Predators on Wednesday offered few answers about which members of the defensive backfield will make the roster.

But at least part of the defensive front appears to be taking shape.

Greg Taplin twice sacked Jake Eaton for safeties and batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage to provide one of the few bright spots in the Storm's 38-30 loss at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"He's the real deal," coach Tim Marcum said. "He's going to help with the pass rush. We knew going in that he had shown those signs of being able to get after the passer."

The scrimmage was the first Arena football experience for Taplin, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound offensive/defensive lineman from Michigan State. He most recently played for the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe.

"I felt pretty good," Taplin said. "I thought we came out there with real high intensity. There's some things we've got to work on, but the scrimmage went pretty good."

Taplin aside, the Storm didn't play physical, failed to protect the football and was consistently beaten deep in the secondary, where Lionel Green, Leroy Smith, Alphonso Roundtree and Jeff Sanchez are competing for two spots.

"I guess right now all we'll do is try to see which one of them wasn't the worst," Marcum said. "They were all bad."

Quarterback Shane Stafford lacked sharpness, completing 13 of 22 passes for 135 yards with a 6-yard touchdown to Lawrence Samuels and an interception.

Backup Pat O'Hara was 11-of-15 for 110 yards and two touchdowns, including a 24-yarder to Demetris Bendross, who caught seven passes for 119 yards and two scores.

With his brother, Martin, and Bucs coach Jon Gruden looking on, Bill Gramatica made two of three extra points and hit the net with his kickoffs. He missed a 49-yard field-goal attempt. Fullback/linebacker Umar Muhammad (knee) and receiver/linebacker Bobby Sippio (ankle) did not play.

Former Bucs quarterback Joe Hamilton was 3-of-3 for 44 yardsfor the Predators.

BEST EVER: Former Storm offensive specialist George LaFrance (No. 3), quarterback Jay Gruden (No. 4), lineman Sylvester Bembery (No. 7), offensive specialist/wide receiver/defensive back Stevie Thomas (No. 9) and receiver/defensive back Gary Mullen (tied at No. 17) were honored among the 20 Greatest Players in AFL History, part of the league's 20th anniversary. The list, compiled by the league's historical committee, was unveiled Wednesday on ESPNEWS. Former Indiana/Albany Firebirds offensive specialist "Touchdown" Eddie Brown, who ranks second on the league's all-time scoring list, was No. 1. Ex-Iowa Barnstormers and current Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner was No. 12.

Current Storm receiver/linebacker Lawrence Samuels and former Tampa Bay players Les Barley, Mike Black, B.J. Cohen, Gary Compton, Johnnie Harris, Joe March and Calvin Schexnayder received votes.