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Week 6 Game Preview - Albany at Philadelphia

May 16, 2018 - Arena Football League (AFL) - Albany Empire News Release

The Empire head to Philadelphia in Week 6 for a rematch to try to even the series matchup on Saturday, May 19 at 6:00 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center. The top two defensive teams will square off on CBS Sports Network for the second time to prove who the most dominant team in the league is. The game can also be heard on Alt 105.7.

"We are a much different team than we were when we first played Philadelphia," said Rob Keefe, Head Coach of the Albany Empire. "We are on a roll and are continuously improving. The team that Philadelphia saw in Week 1 will not be the same Empire team that will show up in Week 6. We don't care about Philly's home win streak and we expect nothing less than to come out of Philadelphia with a victory."

The Soul came to Albany in Week 1 and spoiled the Empire's inaugural game but since then the Empire have been on a roll winning two straight games. Albany has scored 100 points over the last two victories in large part to quarterback Tommy Grady and his 12 passing touchdowns. Since the addition of receiver Joe Hills and the emergence of receiver Malachi Jones, the Empire offense looks nearly unstoppable and will cause matchup difficulties for the Soul defense.

The first matchup to look out for is between Empire receiver Joe Hills and the Soul defensive backfield. In Week 1, the Empire were without their star wide receiver, so the Soul have yet to see Hills in action this season. Look for Dwayne Hollis and James Romain of the Soul to attempt to shadow Hills all night and mix up coverages. Hills expects to dominate no matter who covers him. Currently he leads the league in receiving touchdowns (9) despite playing one less game than other receivers near the top of the leaderboard. He also holds the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown reception (84); a number he will look to build on against the Soul.

The key to victory in this matchup is for Grady and Hills to be in sync. Both Hollis and Romain are experienced AFL veterans who have covered wide receivers with all types of skillsets. Grady and Hills cannot afford to have any confusion with the play calling or else the Soul's experienced defensive backs will look to force turnovers as they did in the first matchup against the Empire. Expect Hills to stretch the field with vertical routs to spread out the Philadelphia defense. If Hills can draw single coverage deep down the field, Grady will give Hills a chance to go up and make a play on the ball against any defensive back.

Sticking with the Empire receiving unit, look for Malachi Jones to have another big game for Albany. The Soul got a brief look at Jones in the Week 1 matchup, but since then Jones has broken out as one of the league's biggest threats. Jones leads the league in receiving yards, has six touchdown catches, and even chipped in two rushing touchdowns. With Joe Hills drawing so much attention, don't be surprised to see Jones reel in a ton of targets over the middle of the field. Jones is a matchup nightmare for opposing DBs. He can burn the defense on a "go" route or catch a short pass and use his elusiveness to make a defender look foolish.

Last week against Washington, Jones thrived reeling in the most targets of any Empire receiver on his way to Offensive Player of the Week. Jones has multiple games this season with 40+ yard receiving touchdowns. Expect to see a healthy dose of Malachi Jones over the middle of the field against the Soul. If the defense focuses on taking away Hills downfield, Jones will have many opportunities to get the ball in open space. Don't be surprised to see Jones catch a short pass from Grady and use his elusiveness and speed to take it to the house. His first career AFL touchdown came in Week 1 against the Soul when he broke out for a 48-yard catch-and-run on a short pass. Jones has proven himself to be a menace in this league causing opposing defenses to take some of the focus off Joe Hills.

The last matchup to look for is in the trenches between the Empire defensive line and the Soul offensive line. There were no sacks in the Week 1 matchup for either team. Since then, the Empire have seven sacks in their last three games. Led by Joe Sykes, who has six of those sacks, he has a nose for poking the ball out when he gets to the quarterback. Sykes has forced a league-high three fumbles on the season. Look for Sykes to force his way through the stout Soul offensive line and put pressure on Soul QB Dan Raudabaugh. The Soul offensive line has only given up one sack on the season giving Raudabaugh plenty of time to seek out his targets. Expect Coach Keefe to mix up coverages in the backfield to confuse Raudabaugh and give the defensive line more time to force pressure. If the Empire defensive line can continue its dominance and get to Raudabaugh, Albany will have a real good shot at coming out of Philadelphia with a win.

The Empire defensive line has been a nightmare for opposing offenses in their last three games. Since Week 2, Albany has seven sacks and have forced five fumbles. The backfield has forced two interceptions in large part to errant throws caused by the defensive line. Look for Sykes, Darryl Cato-Bishop, Willie McGinnis, and Nick Seither to make Raudabaugh uncomfortable in the pocket and at the very least force some uncharacteristic throws.

Tickets for the remaining Empire home games are still available at TheAlbanyEmpire.com. Ticket packages include: pro-rated season tickets, family four packs, group and corporate outing experiences, birthday party packages, Bud Light Party Zone tickets, Pioneer Bank Field Zone tickets, Pepsi Family Zone tickets and single game tickets. For additional information, please call 518-533-2200.

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