James Romain believes the Soul have the best defensive backs in the Arena Football League, even though they’ve given up breakaway plays in the final minutes of close games.
“You know you have to stay relaxed for a game and play disciplined. We didn’t," the Soul defensive back said. "We were out there being selfish and out there trying to make plays on our own. Not following what Coach was calling. That bit us in the butt.”
Romain and the entire Soul secondary will have their hands full with Baltimore Brigade receivers Joe Hills and Brandon Collins when the teams play at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Brigade’s Royal Farms Arena.
The Soul won the teams’ first meeting earlier this month, 36-27. Both teams are 2-2.
“We’re used to seeing them,” said Bernie Nowotarski, Soul defensive backs coach. “We might give them some different looks, but as far as the way you cover them, you’ve got to go out and man up.”
Collins and Hills present different challenges. Hills, one of the most decorated receivers in the AFL, is a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder who can run through defenders. In 2016 and 2017, Hills led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
Collins is a 6-1, 185-pound receiver who weaves in and out of defenders with grace.
In their previous meeting, Collins had four receptions for 30 yards. Hills had one catch for 7 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Thompkins, who is out indefinitely, led the Brigade with eight receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Nowotarski said Collins and Hills will be bigger factors Sunday. He has been preparing his team to defend their contrasting styles.
“We’re really used to this group we’re going to see," Nowotarski said. ”It’s just a matter of buckling down on what our responsibilities are. We know what kind of receivers they are. We have to be on the same page."
Romain said the team this week has spent more time in the film room to address the carelessness over the last two games. He said the respect the unit has built over the previous season will help it Sunday, adding that receivers can’t do what they usually do when they face the Soul.