Another week of the AAF is in the books, and we have some shakeups in the league. A lot of the teams I thought would win won their games, but most of them were a lot closer then I thought they were going to be. Some things I saw from last week.
- Christian Hackenberg is not the answer for Memphis at QB
- San Diego looks better suited for running the football
- The Stallions and Iron are having problems offensively
- The Apollos look to be the best team on both sides of the ball
- Arizona showed real grit in their win but missed their starting tackles.
- Atlanta is still bad. Might be times for Aaron Murray to take the reins.
It was an eventful week, and once again it was good football. The games really showed the parity in this league. Anyone can play with anyone, and that’s a great thing.
- Orlando Apollos (2-0)
- Arizona Hotshots (2-0)
- San Antonio Commanders (1-1)
- Birmingham Iron (2-0)
- San Diego Fleet (1-1)
- Salt Lake Stallions (0-2)
- Memphis Express (0-2)
- Atlanta Legends (0-2)
- Orlando Apollos (Won 37-29 against the San Antonio Commanders)
After an exciting game against the San Antonio Commanders, the Apollos leapfrog the Hotshots as the best team this week. It was another slow start for the Apollos as they went down quick and were down 12-0. But they score points in flurries, scoring 17 points in the second and 11 in the fourth quarter. The offense is always dangerous and effective through the air, even if the rushing yards weren’t there. Garret Gilbert threw for 393 yards and two touchdowns. As long as the Apollos can protect him and Gilbert doesn’t throw interceptions, Orlando will be continuously dangerous through the air. And while their defense didn’t play great (they allowed 175 rushing yards), they played well enough for Orlando to get the win. They even scored a defensive touchdown on another pick-six, this time from Keith Reaser.
Standout: Charles Johnson (10 targets, 7 receptions, 192 yards, 1 touchdown)
He was never not open it seemed. He played exceptionally well and was one of the biggest reasons Gilbert had the day he had. He has really thrived in Spurrier’s fun-n-gun scheme.
- Arizona Hotshots (Won 20-18 against the Memphis Express)
To start things off, Arizona is still good. Wolford may not have played as well as he did last week as he forced throws into really tight windows. He was under pressure and a lot of it had to do with the fact he didn’t have his two starting tackles as both were out with injury. The defense wasn’t great against the run, but they harassed Christian Hackenberg all day. After going down 18-6 with about 12 minutes left in the game, John Wolford and the Hotshots running game showed out as they ran for over 200 yards as a group and Wolford ran for a two-point conversion and threw for the game-winning touchdown. They didn’t play great, but I think this shows the Hotshots grit in a tough game.
Standout: Steven Johnson (6 solo tackles, 4 TFLs)
He led a defense that held the Express to 18 points and he had four tackles for loss in the game. He lived in Memphis’s backfield and has shown to be a leader on Arizona’s defense.
- San Antonio Commanders (Lost 37-29 against the Orlando Apollos)
Yes, I know they are 1-1 and lost to the Apollos. But they looked great on offense in this game and still managed to get pressure on Garrett Gilbert to start the game. Logan Woodside looked good for most of the game and has some real upside along with that good wide receiver group. They also ran the ball very well against a pretty good Apollos run defense. (175 yards at 5.15 yards a carry) Their defensive back group looked suspect against a dynamic Apollos passing attack, but they defended the run well and rushed the passer. They have one of the better front sevens in the league and a decent defense overall.
Standout: Kenneth Farrow II (13 carries, 74 yards, 1 touchdown)
Farrow did really well on his limited touches, leading a potent rushing attack that helped make Logan Woodside much more comfortable in the offense. He also helped keep the Apollos off the field.
- Birmingham Iron (Won 12-9 against the Salt Lake Stallions)
Birmingham is 2-0, but it’s an ugly 2-0. They looked terrible offensively until they scored on a forced fumble. Luis Perez looked uncomfortable all day due to the pressure and Trent Richardson is the most underwhelming back in the league. When he gets in open space, he is tough to take down. But his lack of vision doesn’t allow him to get into open space. Their defense looked fantastic for most of the game, holding the Stallions to nine points and is averaging 4.5 points allowed per game. If they keep up that level of play, their offense isn’t going to have to produce very much.
Standout: Jamar Summers (5 total tackles, 3 special teams tackles, 1 Forced Fumble)
He just finds ways to force turnovers. Whether it’s on defense or special teams, he makes an impact. His forced fumble caused a score and gave all the momentum to Birmingham.
- San Diego Fleet (Won 24-12 against the Atlanta Legends)
These guys played the worst team in the league and started out super slow. They went down 9-0 early and looked inefficient on offense and lacked all signs of life on defense. But then they stopped the run and forced Matt Simms to be one dimensional. Simms cannot play hero ball and the Legends offense suffered as a result. If the Fleet front seven can stay dominant, San Diego’s defensive backfield won’t be exposed as much. The offense was terrible through the air, even though some of that can be contributed to the weather. Once San Diego committed to the run though, Ja’Quan Gardner and Terrell Watson took control of the game. They looked dominant offensively when rushing the football and it will be interesting to see if that continues next week against the Commanders.
Standout: Ja’Quan Gardner (16 touches, 111 total yards, 2 touchdowns)
Personally, he is my favorite back in the league. He showed great decisiveness and vision on Sunday and his lateral quickness is outstanding. The Fleet need to lean on him more and more as the season goes on.
- Salt Lake Stallions (Lost 12-9 against the Birmingham Iron)
If they could win a game, they would be higher on this list. But their inability to finish games and produce much on offense hurts them a lot. Birmingham has a really fast defense, but only scoring nine points is disappointing. Austin Allen didn’t look very good throwing the ball and only reached 114 yards passing. Joel Bouagnon and Branden Oliver were the lone bright spots on offense, combining for 129 yards on 25 carries. This offense has looked anemic without Woodrum. The defense looked fantastic. Luis Perez looked uncomfortable all day due to a dangerous pass rush and Trent Richardson couldn’t really find any running room. Just need to be able to finish games.
Standout: Karter Schult (6 solo tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks, 4 QB hits, 1 Forced Fumble)
This guy is standing out in a league filled with talented pass rushers. Before he got hurt in week one, he had a sack and a couple of pressures. He now leads the league in sacks and pressures. Watch out for him moving forward.
- Memphis Express (Lost 20-18 against the Arizona Hotshots)
If Memphis moves on from Christian Hackenberg, they might be able to pull out a win. They have a talented defense and a good running back in Zac Stacy (101 yards on 19 carries). But their passing game and Hackenberg are holding them back late in games after teams crack down on the run. If Hackenberg is either more accurate or another quarterback is inserted into that system, they have a chance to win this game. You can’t win games when your quarterback throws 4.1 yards per attempt. It’s a disservice to their running game and their stellar defense that held the Hotshots to 20 points.
Standout: Channing Stribling (5 solo tackles, 3 pass defenses, 1 interception)
He looks to be one of the better cover corners in the league and he played a major role in limiting the Hotshots offense as much as he did. He didn’t play perfect, but he played really well.
- Atlanta Legends (Lost 24-12 against the San Diego Fleet)
They are still pretty bad… They looked good out of the gates, going up 9-0 early. Matt Simms looked calm and composed in the first. But after that, the offense looked subpar at best with the only spurt coming from them deciding to give Lawrence Pittman the ball. Defensively, there isn’t much to say. They didn’t play terrible, but once San Diego committed to the run, Atlanta looked helpless trying to stop them. Hopefully, they can figure out what to do with that offense because it doesn’t look good despite good game planning from Rich Bartel, who I think is making a name for himself.
Standout: Akrum Wadley (12 touches, 82 total yards, 8 targets, 8 receptions)
He was the safety valve that kept the Legends in the game till late. His ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield kept Matt Simms alive back there. There wasn’t much to love other then Wadley’s play.