In my last report, I talked about the players who made an impact for the 2012 Chicago Rush: http://michelledubiel.com/~micheox4/websites/q101/2012/08/2012-chicago-rush-impact-players/
Today I will talk about what the Rush need to do in order to return to the playoffs in 2013.
The Rush missed the playoffs by two games this past season, it was the first time in franchise history that they missed out on the post-season.
And considering the Rush have been around since 2001, missing last year’s playoffs is of major historical significance.
The Arena Football Leagues fifth oldest team did have some successes despite missing the playoffs in 2012. Injuries, constant roster changes, and mistakes on the field contributed to the demise of the Rush this past season.
But there were some other factors as well. Here is what the Rush need to do in order to climb back to the top next season:
1. Keeping the current roster intact- The Rush accomplished great things with the players they had on the roster. Yes they did make a lot of changes during the season, but they always managed to find players to pitch in right off the bat. Keeping the current roster intact will keep them competitive in 2013.
2. Winning on the road- The Rush had one of the worst road records in the AFL last year by finishing a dismal 3-6 away from the Allstate Arena. The majority of those away games had playoff implications. The Rush need to be able to win on the road in order to get back on track.
3. Staying healthy- The Rush had injuries to key players last season. Defensive back Vic Hall missed numerous games last season, and the Rush secondary suffered as a result. Last year’s road losses in Utah, Arizona, and Georgia are perfect examples of how much the Rush need Hall out there. Russ Michna missed the final three games of the season with a shoulder injury.
Luke Drone did a fine job filling in for him, but Michna’s leadership is essential for the Rush to have success in 2013. Fullback/Linebacker Russell Monk also spent significant time on the injured list. He was injured in training camp and would not join the team until May. While the Rush had plenty of bodies at linebacker, J.J. Payne shouldered the bulk of the fullback load on his own.
A healthy Russell Monk is good for giving J.J. Payne rest when necessary. Offensive lineman T.J. Watkins also had some aches and pains in 2012. He was put on injured reserve twice for a painful deep thigh bruise. Watkins is the best offensive lineman on this Rush team. The Rush also had some rotating injuries on the defensive line as well.
Of course what does not help the Rush is the fact that wide receiver Terrance Turner had surgery once the season had finished: http://arenarush.com/news/rush/index.html?article_id=226 Hopefully Turner will be ready and 100% when the Rush open training camp next year.
If they can keep guys on the field and out of the training room, the performance of the team should improve.
4. Return to the run game- The Rush had long established themselves as one of the few teams who could run the ball successfully in the AFL. Last year the Rush focused more on the passing game. Doing so hurt the team at times when they did try to run the ball. Although J.J. Payne did find success on the ground at times, and Luke Drone was used exclusively for the Rush’s red zone offense.
If the Rush can put more effort into the rushing game with both Payne and Drone, they can be an unstoppable force.
5. Improve the return game- Between Reggie Gray, Terrance Turner, Jared Perry, and a few others… The Rush weren’t always successful on kick returns. There were many times where they failed to actually receive the ball and it would lead to touchdowns for the kicking team.
There were also instances where the Rush couldn’t get the ball past their own 10-yard line. If the Rush can get better field position on kick returns it would take a lot of pressure off of the offense.
If the Rush can achieve these five goals in 2013, they will return to the playoffs without a doubt. I’d like to thank the Rush for allowing me the blessing of covering them this year. I hope to do so again in 2013.
You can follow me on Twitter: @GabeSalgado82 #Q101Sports