After a hiatus so long that the original owner of the New Jersey Generals Donald Trump ascended from controversial businessman to President of the United States and then to just controversial, the United States Football League (USFL) is back and showcasing itself every week.
The eight-team league, which consists of each team playing ten games in the inaugural season of its second integration, is through its first four weeks and the cream is already rising to the crop.
The league is divided into two divisions: the North Division (New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars, Michigan Panthers and Pittsburgh Maulers) and the South Division (Birmingham Stallions, New Orleans Breakers, Tampa Bay Bandits and Houston Gamblers).
New Jersey Generals (3-1, first in North Division)
After losing a heartbreaker in the first game of the 2022 USFL season to the Birmingham Stallions, the Generals have been unstoppable over the past three games. The Generals are arguably the hottest team in the USFL and have done so playing a well-rounded brand of football.
The Generals are fifth in the league in scoring led by the platooning quarterback play of Luis Perez and De’Andre Johnson.
Perez, a more traditional pocket-passing quarterback, has completed 68.2% of his 66 attempts for 417 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Johnson, a dual-threat at the position, has only thrown 32 passes for 335 yards, and a touchdown. What he lacks in passing production, he makes up for on the ground. Johnson’s only been sacked once compared to Perez’s five times and leads the team with rushing with 230 yards.
"Let's go Zo!" 😤
— USFL (@USFL) May 7, 2022
Johnson trails Darius Victor for the team lead in rushing scores. Victor is the bell cow of the offense, accumulating 213 yards and four touchdowns through the first four games.
The classic saying is defense wins championships, and if that reigns true the Generals are a definite contender. After giving up 28 points to the Stallions in the team’s first game, Defensive Coordinator Cris Disham has led a unit that has given up only 35 points in its last three games.
In a 24-16 dogfight that New Jersey escaped victorious against the Philadelphia Stars, the defense carried the show, much to the delight of Head Coach Mike Riley.
Next two games: New Orleans Breakers (3-1) May 13, 3 p.m., Houston Gamblers (1-3) May 22, 4 p.m.
Philadelphia Stars (2-2, second in North Division)
If he hadn’t missed the Stars’ most recent game (a 26-25 win over the Michigan Panthers) Philadelphia starter Bryan Scott could be littered across the league leaderboard in passing. One of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league, Scott has the highest quarterback rating (QBR) of any signal caller with more than 50 passing attempts and has thrown for five touchdowns compared to two interceptions.
Scott got hurt midway through a 24-16 loss against the New Jersey Generals and although in an upstart league, having to turn to your backup quarterback can be a cause for concern, Case Cookus has been a nice surprise for Philadelphia. Cookus has completed 35 of his 50 attempts and led the Stars to a 26-25 victory over the Michigan Panthers in Week 4.
Despite having a prolific passing offense, the Stars defense may be its biggest cause for worry, despite having the league’s interception leader in former University of Michigan standout Channing Stribling. The Philadelphia defense is tied for the league’s worst, allowing opponents to score an average of 23.8 points per game.
With two proven quarterbacks, a dangerous receiving duo of Maurice Alexander (second in the USFL in all-purpose yards) and Diondre Overton, the offense is dynamic enough to aid the Stars in competing against any team in the league. Can the defense match the offense is a question that will be answered in time?
Next two games: Birmingham Stallions (4-0) May 15, 12 p.m., Tampa Bay Bandits (2-2) May 21, 1 p.m.
Michigan Panthers (1-3, third in North Division)
The Michigan Panthers had the first overall pick and used it on former University of Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson before selecting former Denver Broncos’ first-round pick Paxton Lynch to be his backup later in the draft.
Patterson has completed only 54.5% of his passes for three touchdowns and three interceptions, meanwhile, Lynch has only completed five of the 13 passes he’s been entrusted to throw in the three games he appeared in, which includes one start.
ex-Michigan QB Shea Patterson is already on the USFL blooper reel. pic.twitter.com/ycrowACj7K
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) April 17, 2022
The result, a porous offense, despite having a consistent rushing attack behind the trio of Reggie Corbin (308 yards, three touchdowns), Stevie Scott III (160 yards and two touchdowns) and Cameron Scarlett (134 yards and one touchdown).
Michigan claimed Pittsburgh Maulers signal caller Josh Love off of waivers on May 10. Love completed 40 of 73 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions in three starts this season. He is likely not going to be an overnight superstar, but will definitely be a welcome addition for a Michigan team in need of an offensive spark.
Based on scoring, the Panthers have the best defense in the USFL, only allowing 53 points through the first quartet of games this season. The lowly Panthers have only mustered 67 points, with 49 of those coming in the last two games against the vulnerable Philadelphia defense and the winless Pittsburgh Maulers.
If the Michigan offense can produce against better defenses, it may not be too late for the Panthers to right what in the beginning seemed to be a ship sinking at a titanic rate.
Next two games: Tampa Bay Bandits (2-2) May 13, 8 p.m., Birmingham Stallions (4-0), May 21 7:30 p.m.
Pittsburgh Maulers (0-4, fourth in North Division)
The Pittsburgh Maulers have been the eyesore of the USFL thus far. Having only scored 39 points (worst in the USFL) and given up 92 (third-worst in the USFL) the team has had no success on the offensive or defensive side of the ball.
The Maulers have lost their four games in the inaugural season of the USFL by an average of 13.25 points.
The team released Josh Love, who had started three of its games and seems fully committed to first-round pick and former New York Giants draft pick Kyle Lauletta. In three games and one start, Lauletta has completed 26 of 55 passes for 218 yards and no scores.
In a corresponding move to waiving Love, Pittsburgh signed former FCS standout Vad Lee. The 29-year-old was a star at James Madison in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, earning national recognition in both.
The running back duo of Garrett Groshek (197 yards and a touchdown) and Madre London (180 yards and no scores) has carried the load on the ground for Pittsburgh, teaming up to average 3.8 yards per carry.
With three of its next four games coming against teams above .500, the Maulers may continue to be the punching bag of the league.
Next two games: Houston Gamblers (1-3) May 15, 4:00 p.m., New Orleans Breakers (3-1) May 22, 12:00 p.m.