Pirates Breakdown: Defensive Backs

By Sam Gordon

One of the different aspects of the Massachusetts Pirates this year in comparison to past seasons is the competition.

With the amount of talent and experience in the secondary, head coach Patrick Pass and president/general manager Jawad Yatim have the daunting task of weeding out who will rise above the rest.

How do they look and who has the edge? Let’s take a peak at the defensive backs

Lawrence Austin

He may one of the smallest men on the field, but the Georgia Tech alum made a huge impact when he took the field for the Pirates last season.

His 10 interceptions and two pick-sixes earned him First-Team All-NAL honors.

Austin was one of the driving forces behind the defensive renaissance that propelled the team to a six-game winning streak after their abysmal 1-4 start. Austin was a heck of a find on a team that struggled with inexperience in the early going.

At Georgia Tech, Austin made sure to compensate for the size differential on the field with tremendous physicality. When you turn on his film reel, his big hits, and nose for the ball. One tackle that stuck out, was against the University of Tennessee when Austin cut off the receiver and let loose with a crushing blow. Almost as if Austin used the hit stick in Madden. His versatility makes him arguably the best defensive back on the squad.

Kiante Northington

Northington was one of the secondary’s founding fathers when this team was created back in 2018.

In his first year in teal, Northington tallied a league-leading 12 interceptions and barreled his way to 63.5 total tackles which was good enough for third in the National Arena League. His exceptional performance earned him First-Team All-NAL honors.

Not only is he incredibly versatile for his size, Northington also has the ability to play either inside in coverage as well as in centerfield. This makes him a highlight reel waiting to happen and a commodity to have.

Dominick Sanders

Sanders is at a tremendous disadvantage with all of the talent and experience around him. What makes it more difficult to judge about him, is that he has played the least amount of snaps under arena football rules with only a little bit of time with the Columbus Lions.

The University of Georgia alum patrolled the middle of the field against the likes of Baker Mayfield. Sanders also has the speed to close in fast on a safety blitz and is dangerous in the open field when he gets his hands on the ball.

It all comes down however, to the inexperience he has in comparison to the award-winning defensive backs around him.

He needs to turn heads right from the get go and with a little more pro-level coaching this offseason, it just might be all that he needs to develop into a quality arena football defensive back.

Tevin Homer

The former Washington Redskin has the coverage skills of a solid man-to-man cornerback, and the punishing hitting power of a safety. The first thing you will notice Homer brings to the team is his ability to follow any receiver step for step with just the right amount of physicality with his hands in coverage. Homer enters the cove after winning the ArenaBowl last season in Albany.

What has surprised quite a few people around arena football with him, has been his ability to adapt to the new game format with tremendous ease. Homer is an edition that will pay immediate dividends.

Khalid Wooten

Wooten’s return to Worcester in 2019 after a brief time away, paid dividends to say the least for the flailing team.

He had two interceptions and 33.5 total tackles earning a starting spot in the defensive back rotation. While he does have a very good film reel if you put it on, there are still things that need to be worked on.

At times, Wooten has problems covering the deep routes and is often too physical with the receiver drawing flags. That being said, Wooten still has plenty to clear his game up.

His upside and experience within the system make where he fits with returning names exciting to see.

Cheatham Norrils

The awareness that Cheatham Norrils exhibits in the middle of the field can stack up to anyone on this roster.

When you turn on the tape, you see right away that Norrils knows exactly where the ball is at every single point of the play.

His play in centerfield is sublime and his closing speed towards the runner is eye opening and a blast to watch. His tackling power and fundamentals put his physicality on a pedestal over most of these defensive backs.

His abilities on special teams should not be underestimated either. Norrils in many of his special team’s snaps on film shows incredible downhill speed without overshooting the kickoff returner or getting his ankles broken proverbially. He may be too physical in man coverage right now which could get him in trouble in the future, but the Pirates are certainly glad to have him back.

Al Louis-Jean
The Massachusetts native has one thing over all of the other players on this list. The most experienced at the highest level. At 6-foot-2, Jean is also among the tallest in the group of defensive backs and is very physical around the ball.

In terms of flashy plays, Jean may fall down the list in terms of these defensive backs, but he more than makes up for it with his leadership and his physicality in the middle of the field. The Boston College alum has been a very coachable athlete his entire career and because of that, there is still upside that can be achieved in his game. Coachable and a great locker room presence with upside. It does not get any better than that, in terms of homegrown talent.