Power outage on offense on display at Consol

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Power are 2-2 through the first month of their expansion season, within shouting distance of first place and averaging 11,006 through three dates at Consol Energy Center.

So, it's only logical that linebacker Gary Butler, the team's best big-play defender, should be concerned about losing his job.

Realistically, Butler has nothing to worry about, but he was serious and probably close to being right when he said, "As (coach Chris Siegfried) told us from Day 1, we don't have to be better than the guys in the locker room. We have to be better than anybody he has access to. Our jobs are on the line every week we are judged, and we could be replaced tomorrow."

Such thinking is a good indication of what the 45-22 loss to previously winless Tulsa on Saturday night should have meant to the players. Arena Football League teams alter their rosters and starting lineups regularly for various reasons, including injuries and the emergence of a free agent who wasn't available earlier.

For example, the Power could have their third starting quarterback in five games when they play their next game April 16 vs. Jacksonville. Regular starter Bernard Morris (sore arm) must miss one more game on the four-week injured reserve list, and his backup, Kevin McCabe, has been largely ineffective while dealing with a sore neck.

That could leave the job to former Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli, who replaced McCabe in the second half against Tulsa.

"Every time I step on that field in practice, I want that job," said Morelli, who was cut in training camp and re-signed two weeks ago. "That's why I am here. That's why I get paid."

The problem, no matter who takes the snaps, is finding effective receivers. Jason Willis has been the most reliable pass catcher, posting 26 receptions, but he is averaging only 8.4 yards with a total of two touchdowns. Aliquippa's Mike Washington has four scores among his 17 catches, but he didn't start against Tulsa.

Siegfried suspended receiver Lonnell Dewalt for one game, and his 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame would have been valuable around the goal line. Jerome Mathis, the only Power receiver with NFL success on his resume, missed the game with a deep thigh bruise.

As a result, the Power have dropped to 17th in the 18-team AFL at an average of 161 passing yards per game. That's barely more than three times up and down the 50-yard field -- unacceptable by AFL standards.

Butler said the problems extend to the defense, even though the Power is No. 1 in the league in yards allowed (217.8).

"There are probably seven to 10 plays I wish I could have had back," said Butler, who leads the team with three sacks and three fumble recoveries. "I hope everyone looks at themselves in the mirror and watches film and realizes losing is not acceptable. If we continue to lose, we won't be blessed enough to wear that uniform."

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