06/20/2019 2:13 PM
Now that we have reached the last bye week of the year, time to look at the 2019 Carolina Cobras. We are going to base this on the 2018 team because they were in a similar situation at this point of the season.
First off, a bit of a reminder: The 2018 Carolina Cobras finished the regular season last year with a 10-5 record, a .667 winning percentage. The current 2019 Cobras are now 6-3, which is also a .667 winning percentage, and the similarities do not end there. Last year at this point, as well as the end of the season, the Cobras were the #2 seed in the NAL. Fast forward a year, and the Cobras still hold the #2 seed. Currently, the Cobras’ magic number to qualify for the playoffs is 3, and to host a playoff game the magic number is 4. All this with 5 games still remaining.
Speaking of games remaining, the Cobras’ remaining opponents have a combined .309 winning percentage (13-29). The Cobras are also 4-1 against those teams.
More comparisons to the 2018 NAL Champions:
In 2018, through nine games, the Cobras offense averaged 58.4 points per game. This year, they are averaging 48.7, but consider this- the level of competition is much higher this season, and there are no 0-15 teams in the league. The Cobras defense, through nine games last year, gave up 38.3 points per game, compared to 39.7 this year. In both years, the Cobras defense had only given up 50+ points twice through nine games.
There are a couple of big differences between the 2018 and 2019 Cobras, the most apparent has been the injury bug. Last year, both the offense and defense were pretty stable. There were occasional roster
shifts, but not too much. This year that has been a completely different issue. The Cobras have lost a couple of major players to long term injured reserve, as well as lost a lot of the 2018 roster to the AFL.
First to the players lost to IR:
D-Line standout and probably most feared Nose Tackle in the NAL Walter Thomas Jr went out with a shoulder injury three weeks ago and will be out for a while after surgery. In the same game, the Cobras lost OL Joe Harris to a major ankle injury and he will miss the rest of the season. The coaching staff has been making moves to strengthen the line, and as usual, it can take time to gel together and get the right pieces where they need to be.
The Cobras have had similar issues with WRs this year. Fabian Guerra and Phillip Barnett were both with the Cobras for one game each this year, Tyron Laughinghouse started the year in the AFL, so that only returned Jordan Jolly at WR. The Cobras have made changes at WR almost weekly through the year and in this system it does take receivers and QB time to get the feel of each other and you can see the progress as McCullum gets more time with receivers. If you need an example of that, just look at LaVon Pearson. The leading receiver for the Cobras against the Sharks.
During the Jacksonville game with an offensive line of Vavau, Schonbrunner, and Mahoni in the second half of the game the Cobras had 21 offensive snaps, on 10 of those plays there was significant pressure from the Sharks, in that half McCullum had three interceptions and a lateral under pressure that lead to a fumble and turnover. He was also sacked four times. So easy to see how the Cobras only scored once in the second half. In comparison in the first half on 17 offensive snaps McCullum was only under pressure four times. He was only sacked once and threw for three TDs in the half. Usual OL Chad Kolumber was out with an illness and caused Vavau to get thrust into the spot. Get this unit healthy and meshing and they will get back to setting up a wall to keep McCullum safe in the backfield.
On the defensive side of the ball vs Jacksonville the push up the middle was simply not there. With the loss of Walter Thomas Jr, and then loss of Brandon Sutton, you have people playing out of position, and when you are limited in your pass rushing options, it can cause miscommunications at both levels of the defense. JLB Pasquale Vacchio was also out vs Jacksonville, and when you have an All-NAL player out of the lineup it can cause further miscommunications.
Now that we have mentioned all that here are reasons on why we shouldn’t be too worried at this point.
In 2018 through nine games the Cobras were 7-2 compared to 6-3 this year, not really any major drop-off there.
Offensive stats are fairly similar. In 2018 the Cobras had 167 first downs vs 159 in 2019. In rushing yards the Cobras have more this year than last 167 vs 136 in 2018. Last year the passing offense was 177-297-13 for 1,958 yards, this year it is 166-296-15 for 1,907 yards. Total offense is 2,068 in 2018 but is 2,074 in 2019. Last year the Cobras lost four fumbles in nine games, compared to only three this season.
Defensively there are some differences. In 2018 the Cobras gave up 135 first downs, compared to 155 this season. The defense has improved against the run, giving up 207 last season and only 145 this season. Last season passers went 184-364-23 (seven of those interceptions were in one game) for 1,921 yards, this year opposing QBs are 181-336-17, but for only 1,772 yards. The defense recovered six fumbles in 2018, and seven in 2019. In total offense allowed that is another win for the 2019 squad. It was 2,128 allowed in 2018, compared to 1,917 in 2019.
When you look at the total picture, the Cobras are very much on the same pace as last year, which ended with a ring and a banner. You can always expect growing pains during the course of the season as players have to mesh together. Football is the ultimate team sport for a reason, everyone has to be on the same page. One thing for sure from this coaching staff, is just like last year, when August rolls around they will have this team ready for the four-team battle royal. Coach Back did not win 100 games in 9 1/2 seasons by accident, he has a knack for winning and having his team ready when crunch time hits. This upcoming weekend is the final bye week of the regular season and we can assure you this coaching staff and the players are not going to let this extra week go to waste. This gives players time to heal, and the staff and players to work on communication, and when the Cobras travel to Orlando on June 30th you will see improvement, and a focused team hit the field to avenge the loss to the Predators in Greensboro a few weeks ago.
Article by: DJ Wagner