Berlin Thunder: Contender for the 2023 Championship Game?
Berlin Thunder won the hearts of many fans, transforming from their first season as a team with a record of 3-7 in the Northern Conference with their opponents being Hamburg Sea Devils, Leipzig Kings and Panthers Wrocław, to a contender for the playoffs in 2022 and a record of 7-5.
Re-signing the most valuable players
Outstanding players were wide receiver Robin Wilzeck and Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Kitchens. Right after the 2022 season, during the Honor Show of the European League of Football, Defensive End Kyle Kitchens already announced his extension for the 2023 season.
Robin Wilzeck followed shortly after. "After last season, it was clear for me to sign in Berlin. The organization will put together a team that will compete for the title and I will do my part," Wilzeck said optimistically after signing, and could be one of the leaders of the young team.
Keeping pillars and strengthening weaknesses in the team
To be able to accentuate different things offensively, they parted ways with running back Jocques Crawford who already signed with the team from the German capital for the 2021 season.
With quarterback Joe Germinerio, it stays unclear if he re-signs his contract for 2023. A change could as well happen at the most important position on the field. This creates new opportunities offensively. Can the Thunder offense be staffed with a European or even homegrown running back like Albert Wiesigstrauch or provide an American wide receiver as a weapon?
Last year, four of five starting offensive line spots were given to foreign European players. Here, intensive scouting could bring out new talent from the region and ensure a better distribution of European talent in the offensive system. But whether they can keep pillars like Austrian left tackle Tobias Rodlauer remains to be hoped for Thunder fans.
Proven winners in American football
Defensively, the Berlin Thunder have already been able to announce numerous extensions. In addition to the American defender Kyle Kitchens, cornerback Moritz Thiele and linebackers Paul Seifert together with Ludvig Myren will remain with the Thunder. Players who were noticeably good for the Thunder defense last year.
For example, both linebackers finished in the top 10 in total tackles last year. Only David Izinyon, who only played ten games as middle linebacker for the Thunder, was more productive with 9.1 tackles per game. Bringing him back as well would immediately mean building one of the best linebacker corps in the league.
New faces in the coaching staff?
After all the moves bringing certainty, there may still be a question mark on the coaching staff. While Johnny Schmuck has been confirmed as head coach and Christopher Kuhfeldt as defensive coordinator for 2023, who will fill the offensive coordinator position? Schmuck owned the position last year, but he could relinquish it in 2022. A new face could help Schmuck focus more on his work as a head coach.
Have you seen this yet?
With Björn Werner as a co-owner and sporting director and Diana Hoge as the general manager, a solid base has already been established in the second year to develop the franchise from a plain jane into a new, young and success-oriented franchise. A base that bodes well for another leap in 2023. Will it be enough to make the 2023 playoffs and their first ever Championship Game? If the scouting and re-signing process remains as good as it is now, then a prosperous future could be in the making for this German franchise.