By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance
ATLANTA, Ga.—Legends practice shifted to another level on Wednesday. The full-padded session still came with the same amenities (music, fun and hard work), but there was a sense of urgency among the players and coaching staff.
In each drill, the players turned up the intensity and got better.
The defensive backs battled with the wide receivers. The offensive line tangled in the trenches with the defensive line. The specialists made clutch plays.
The Legends start a west coast trip to face the San Diego Fleet on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on NFL Network. The Legends home opener is Sunday, February 24, against the Birmingham Iron at 4 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network. BUY TICKETS HERE.
Every player wanted to prove something. The Legends aimed to show their improvement as a unit. They worked hard to prove they aren’t the same squad that returned home with a 40-6 lopsided defeat to the Orlando Apollos.
In the eyes of head coach Kevin Coyle, the team has wiped the slate clean and are on a mission. On Sunday, they vow to prove it to the national audience.
“Today was one of our better practices of the year,” Coyle said. “We had a full-padded practice and players were extremely competitive. We set up a number of game-like situations in the practice and they responded well to it.”
A team meeting ignited the competitive practice. In unit meetings, Coyle spoke with the team about their goals and making sure to take advantage of every opportunity.
With nine weeks remaining in the regular season, Coyle outlined the importance of cleaning up mistakes and playing winning football.
“It’s critical for us to go out and not miss an opportunity or a day to get better,” Coyle said. “I think they bought into that theme in the unit meetings. The practice reflected it.”
Several players felt energized afterward. Around 10-12 players stayed after practice working on positional reps.
Defensive lineman KeShun Freeman worked with a group on hand placement techniques. Safeties Ed Reynolds Jr. and Tyson Graham worked on acceleration in and out of their stances.
“We got to execute the small things,” wide receiver Justin Thomas said. “As long as everybody is working together, we can be a lot better than last week.”
The chemistry took form throughout the day. Cornerback Dwayne Hollis wrestled away an interception and returned it for a touchdown. On his return, the entire defense found guys to block on his way toward the end zone.
Later, the offense got involved. Quarterback Matt Simms whistled a pass into receiver Seantavius Jones for a 15-yard pickup. However, it was the offensive line that made the play exciting.
The unit created a clean pocket and gave Simms time to throw. The line took on multiple blitzes and it resulted in a positive outcome.
The Legends look for more plays like this against the Fleet. Both outcomes showed the potential the Legends have in their arsenal.
“They have taken a great approach this week in terms of practicing with the intensity needed to simulate game situations,” Coyle said.
Thomas hopes they can put it together and get a crucial win this weekend.
“It’s very important to get a win after a loss,” Thomas said. “It will get us back on our feet and get us going in the right direction again.”