Week Two of the AAF’s inaugural season saw the ranks of the undefeated fall to three; the Arizona Hotshots, Orlando Apollos and the Birmingham Iron. The Hotshots clinched a hard fought battle against Memphis, 20-18. Orlando survived a scare against the San Antonio Commanders in a lively Alamodome on Sunday, winning 37-29. However, the Birmingham Iron looked by far the worst of the undefeated teams. The Salt Lake Stallions’ defence held the Iron to 47 rushing yards, 169 net passing yards and just 14 first downs.
Hackenberg holding Memphis back?
The Memphis Express finally scored their first AAF points in their second game and nearly overcame Birmingham. However the majority of their yards came through the run as Hackenberg struggled passing for the second week in a row on his way to was 14-for-25 for 102 yard. Hackenberg did show some progress, scrambled well at times and was once again not helped by his receivers but there is 7 of 27 (25.9%) on third down is not good enough. Hackenberg’s unwillingness or inability to throw the over 7 yards is strangling the teams offence. Time may be running out for the young quarterback though. Memphis head coach Mike Singetary commented, “We can only take it a step at a time,” he said. “(If Hackenberg struggles against the Apollos), we’re not going to be hesitant (to make a change). But, at the same time, we’re not going to have a kneejerk response as well. We have to do everything we can to try and bring Christian up to the point where he feels comfortable in the offense we’re running.
Running game explodes
After failing to register a single 100-yard rusher in the first week their were two in Week Two. Memphis Express’ Zac Stacy cemented his place in the history books of The Alliance when he rushed for 101 yards on Saturday. However, his time as the single game rushing leader was short lived as Ja’Quan Gardner scampered his way to 104 yards as he helped his team to a 24-12 win over the Atlanta Legends on Sunday.
— San Diego Fleet (@AAFFleet) February 19, 2019
Quarterback by committee
Josh Woodrum was the Week One starter for Salt Lake an when he was hurt against the Arizona Hotshots, Matt Linehan stepped in and had a decent game (7 of 13, 56 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). However a good week in practice lead to the surprising announcement that Austin Allen would be their Week Two quarterback. An average performance (15 of 31, 114 yards, 48.4% completion percentage) did nothing to clarify who the Week Three Starter should be. For my money it should be Linehan.
The NFL did not find a home for Karter Schult, in part because his measurable are not what the league views as effective. What doesn’t show in the measurable is his relentless motor. Against Birmingham on Saturday, Schult sacked Luis Perez twice. His three sacks this year see him sit joint top of The Alliance with San Antonio’s Shaan Washington.
Kickers still matter!
In a league that has eliminated kickoffs and extra points the value of kicker may have been questioned. Anyone who watched Salt Lake lose will tell you for certain ‘kickers still matter!’. Taylor Bertolet started his day with a massive 53 yard kick and looked like he could play his part in an upset. However, he likely played his way off the team as he missed his next three kicks and finished 1 of 4.
A week after scoring on the ‘Orlando Special’, Garrett Gilbert overcame a slow start to pass for an impressive 393 and completed 19 in 28 attempts. Gilbert continued his flair for the long pass with 4 passes over 45 yards. The quarterback’s favourite reciever remains Charles Johnson who hauled in 7 of Gilbert’s completions for a ridiculous 192 yards. “Charles is special. He does a lot of things well.”, said Gilbert of Johnson. The pair are clearly the AAF’s top pairing so far this season.
San Antonio has its Commander
DeMarcus Ayers missed the San Antonio Commanders first game with an injury. He made up for it in Week Two, snagging five receptions for 80 yards. In front of 29,176 fans in the Alamodome, Ayers played his way into fans hearts and no doubt drew some attention from NFL scouts with his smooth route running. If Ayers is the offensive standout it’s the pass rush in general that stands out on defence. The team added four sacks in Week 2 to total 10 for the year, leading The Alliance.
Legends continue to struggle
Week One saw Atlanta score just six points. The Legends scored more points in the first quarter on Sunday than they did in their entire opening game, but still only scored twelve. Quarterback Matt Simms has completed 32 of 53 (60.4%) of his passes but has also thrown three interceptions compared to just one touchdown. The running game isn’t helping either with just 162 Yards total for the season! It’s fair to say the Legends have yet to find their offensive identity.
San Diego have a problem. After struggling in Week One’s starter Mike Bercovici was replace by Phillip Nelson. In Week Two Nelson did nothing to extol his virtues, finishing 14 of 30 (46.7), 142 yards and an interception. With Week Three approaching the team have no clear leader in the clubhouse.
Dropped pass hurting
San Diego’s offense wasn’t helped by dropped passes. Whilst the weather was a factor the act of ‘completing the catch’ is one that is hurting the league as a whole and resulting in multiple stunted drives. I understand that every player wants to make the most of their opportunities by adding run after catch yards but they must complete the catch first.