Nashville Kats Mid-Season Check-In

When Coach Dean Cokinos arrived with the Nashville Kats as an assistant coach in 2005, he also scouted talent for the Tennessee Titans, who then owned the Kats. The following year, the Kats promoted Cokinos to Offensive Coordinator. Over the next two decades, he began his journey as a head coach for both arena and indoor football teams. 

After an illustrious career that included two championships and a Coach of the Year Award, Cokinos returned as the head coach of the Nashville Kats this season.

High-Flying Offense

Under the leadership of Coach Dean Cokinos, the Nashville Kats have seen a significant upturn in their offensive performance. In the first AFL season since 2019, the Kats have emerged as one of the most formidable passing teams in the league, leading the AFL with an impressive 270 total points scored. 

This offensive prowess was demonstrated in a game against the previously undefeated Billings Outlaws, where the Kats handed them their first loss of the season.

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The sustained, high-powered nature of the Nashville offense attests to Cokinos’ years of experience in talent evaluation and ability to improve personnel. After injuries to Ramone Atkins and Dalton Oliver left questions about the depth chart and leadership at the quarterback position, the signing of former AFL MVP Randy Hippeard quelled those concerns after Hippeard passed for 321 yards and 6 touchdowns in his first game on the season for the Kats.

Hippeard comes to a team loaded with talent at the wide receiver position, with players such as Braxton Haley, Charles McClain, and Marquise Irvin filling the depth chart. 

While injuries have also affected the wide-receiver room of a team that plays almost exclusively through the air, Irvin, who had been out for three weeks, returned to the field against the Outlaw and found immediate chemistry with Hippeard, reeling in 148 yards and 2 touchdowns. 

The standout wide receiver leads the team with 25 catches, 350 yards, and 8 touchdowns through 4 games played.

Defensive Inconsistencies

While the Kats have been a force to be reckoned with on the offensive side, their defensive performance has been less consistent. Despite strong individual performances from defensive back Trae Meadows, who has tallied 3 total interceptions this season, the team has given up 50 or more points in four games. 

They have managed to hold opponents to less than 30 points in only two games. This imbalance in performance is evident in the total points scored and allowed, with the defense giving up more points than the offense has scored all season, with 296 allowed.

While players such as lineman Blaine Hoover and defensive back Derrick Jones provide the defense with talent that has NFL experience, and the personnel is loaded with talent that has plenty of indoor and arena football experience, the defense has not been able to execute to find consistent stops against the opposing team.

This mostly stems from the inability of the defense to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. While flashes of brilliance can be seen when the secondary has been given time to settle, the defense must look to find its rhythm early moving forward in the season.

The Kats’ struggles on the defensive side of the ball are in part due to their struggles on special teams, as they have trouble stopping quick and shifty returners on kickoffs. 

Poor field position for the defense has led the Kats to surrender points over the course of multiple games, and it is yet to be seen whether the team will improve on that front enough to help give a flourishing offense the wiggle room to win games. 

As the Kats have lost players such as Cade Brewer to the NFL, the team will have to find ways to execute on both special teams and defense.

Future is Bright

Despite the challenges, the Nashville Kats have a promising future as they head into the end of the season. While some turnover in personnel has led to a lack of consistency, the team’s ability to contain the kick returner and the passing attack will be crucial for their success. The Kats’ offense, led by Coach Cokinos, has remained strong despite personnel changes, offering hope for a strong finish to the season.

With two bye weeks ahead of them, the Kats will revisit their strategies before their matchup against the SW Kansas Storm. Personnel changes may also face the Kats if Cokinos decides to improve his roster. 

With a championship-caliber offense, however, the defense and special teams must find their footing sooner rather than later if the team hopes to finish with a 4-4 record and win a championship this season.

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