AAF: Halfway Home

Our mid-season review and awards

by Three Point Stance Managing Editor Brandon Rush | @BrandonRush | Brandon@3PSMag.com

*Listen to Three Point Stance Magazine‘s AAF show – FlipOff – hosted by Brandon Rush and Justin Day, every week on Anchor*

At midway point of the inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football, I feel like we need to take stock of what we have seen on the field, give some insights to the product, and hand out some awards.

First things first, after over a month of a week to week grind, I can honestly say I enjoy watching the AAF. Could be the football junkie in me that has spent a number of years working in minor league football that knows the STRUGGLE of trying to get eyes on your product entails, and I feel a bit of debt to partake, if only in a “pay it forward” type of way.

That said, there are little things I still want to tweak about the league, as I wrote over a month ago there was a lot to like. On the field, the product has improved. Quarterbacks and receivers seem to be in more of a rhythm, less dropped balls, better routes being ran, and just familiarity that is hard to come by unless you have live reps.

The broadcasts on CBS Sports Network, NFL Network, and Bleacher Report Live have been top notch production wise, although they like the spider cam a bit too much for my taste. Maurice Jones-Drew and Shaun O’Hara in the booth have been stellar and add a lot to the broadcasts as well.

As for the players and coaches working to get (back) to the NFL, its obvious why a lot of them are in the AAF and not on vacation right now.

NUMEROUS talent evaluation miscues by the coaching staffs had not given teams the best chance to win games by playing the wrong guys. Granted, as we stated on our AAF Podcast: FlipOff, we aren’t in practices or film rooms to see what these coordinators and coaches are seeing in some of these guys, but the starters in Week 6 seem to be a lot better than the starters in Week 1 at a handful of positions.

It’s no surprise that as soon as Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger stepped into starting roles that their respective teams started winning games. These are just a couple of instances where coaches went with the wrong guy and it has cost them. Do that in the NFL and you are on the outside looking in.

Before the season started, I had Arizona, San Antonio, and Orlando as the top 3 in my power rankings and Birmingham dead naked last. Well after Week 1, I knew I was dead wrong on the Iron’s defense and the ability of Trent Richardson (although he has struggled the last few games).

As of the midway point, my power rankings look like this:

  1. Orlando
  2. San Antonio
  3. San Diego
  4. Arizona
  5. Birmingham
  6. Salt Lake
  7. Atlanta
  8. Memphis

Quick thoughts on all the teams
Orlando – Spurrier and the Sun & Gun offense are easily the best in the league, almost outscoring opponents at a 2:1 clip. QB Garrett Gilbert is a lot better than I remember. WR Charles Johnson is NFL ready.

San Antonio – Commanders just cannot find any consistency, QB Logan Woodside is good and WRs MeKale McKay and Gary Ward Jr are a good 1-2 punch, and RB Kenneth Farrow II is the leagues leading rusher. Red Zone issues galore. DBs De’Vante Bausbey, Orion Stewart, and Zack Sanchez make up my favorite secondary in the league.

San Diego – Winning inspite of their QB play. Mike Bercovici is not that dude. Will make one good throw then make two plays that make you wonder if he is concussed. I am a big fan of RB Ja’Quan Gardner, small frame at 5-7 but a stacked 205 and can make every play needed. I think he may get overlooked due to his size, but he can play on Sundays in some form or fashion. I need to go back and watch more tape of him in college. TEs Gavin Escobar and Nick Truesdell are nice features.

Arizona – The connection between QB John Wolford and WR Richard Ross has been full throttle since Week 1, and they need to find more ways to hook these two up. Six targets a game isn’t enough. Juhrell Pressley is another back I think has a lot of potential at the next level. Offensive line health will determine if they play for a title in April.

Birmingham – My favorite LB duo in the league in Jonathan Massaquoi and Beniquez Brown, two dudes who absolutely fly to the ball and raise hell when they get there. The have combined for 50 tackles, four sacks, and 11 QB Hits for the leagues best scoring defense. QB Luis Perez is a nice story after learning how to play the position by watching YouTube, but the moment he learned how to check down to an underneath receiver, that seems to be all he does. They need a playmaker on the outside to step up and help this offense and for Richardson to get back to being a hammer.

Salt Lake – DE Karter Schult is a stud, leads the league in sacks and is the closest thing to being a Defensive POY in the AAF right now. WR De’Mornay Pierson-El is another guy that I need to go back and watch film on, came out of no where for me. Tandem RBs Joel Bouagnon and Branden Oliver are a hell of a combo, I’d love to see them get more action in the passing game to help QB Josh Woodrum grow.

Atlanta – Should have stared Murray from the jump. Considering all of the turmoil they have had in 2019 alone, being 2-3 right now is amazing. K Younghoe Koo has been stellar. My dude Malachi Jones (2018 Arena Football League Rookie of the Year) is slowly working into the fold, but the transition back to the outdoor game hasn’t gone as smoothly as I had hoped.

Memphis – I figured they would struggle, and Christian Hackenberg’s rough start helped that immensely. I believe that not many QBs could play well with this roster and coaching staff, but some things were all on Hack. Since Mettenberger took over, there is a spark or life, but it’s too little too late. Zac Stacy is one of the lone bright spots on offense. No WR is in the top 16 in catches.

MID SEASON AWARDS TIME
Not sure what awards the AAF will hand out at seasons end, but these are the ones I like.

MVP – Garrett Gilbert, QB Orlando
Coach of the Year – Steve Spurrier, Orlando
Defensive Player of the Year – Karter Schult, DE Salt Lake
Specialist of the Year – Younghoe Koo, K Atlanta
Social Media Team of the Year – Salt Lake, strictly for the #FullSteedAhead hashtag

PLAYOFF PROJECTIONS
East: Orlando vs Birmingham
West: Arizona vs San Diego

AAF Championship: Orlando vs Arizona

I don’t feel that I am going out on that much of a limb, but I think Arizona will rebound to get to the title game but end up losing out to Orlando in Las Vegas in April. Bovada as Arizona at 5/1 right now if you feel frisky.

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