They got thru the first weekend of spring football with the debut of the Alliance for American Football.
Some good football….some bad football….lots of work to do.
My evaluation of what I saw.
QUARTERBACKS….They had four weeks of training camp in San Antonio. Mike Bercovici of the San Diego Fleet, is what he was at Arizona State and in NFL camps, wild, big plays and lots of turnovers. He got battered, threw interceptions, fumbled once, took a lot of hits, showed a lot of guts. He competed, and just needs more time, but his track record is scary, for he had 33-picks at Arizona State in two years.. The worst outing of the weekend might have been failed high draft pick Christian Hackenberg , with two years of NFL experience with the Jets, going just (10-23) throwing the ball. Memphis has alot of work to do with him. Atlanta got blitzed too, so they have QB problems.
OFFENSES….They threw the ball a lot. It sure looked liked Video game football, with defenses worn out by no huddle-fast track gameplans. Tight ends were dominant around the league, including the Fleets Gavin Escobar and Marcus Baugh. Not much from the running backs. Sometimes it resembled Arena League football.
OFFENSIVE LINES…When you give up 6-sacks and 10-hits on your QBs, not a good day. Blitzing is allowed up inside in the AAF, but the offensive tackles could not contain edge pass rushers, in a whole number of the weekend games. Pass protection will improve. The Fleet lost their starting center in a Thursday walk-thru and had banged up tight ends, during the protection packages.
DEFENSIVE LINE…Was impressed with Fleet pass rusher Demontrae Moore who had 1-and-half sacks, 2-pressures, and a tackle for loss. High motor, he’s an ex-NFLguy, so he should do well based on experience. But like everyone else, on the field an awful lot because the Fleet offense played so poorly.,
DEFENSIVE BACKS…Under seige all night long, but there are athletes in the secondary around the league, who held up in man coverages.
FIELD GOALS….We know who Nick Novak, Nick Folk are, so we expected longtime NFL kickers to do well. Donny Hageman hit two long field goals in his Fleet debug and was solid.
THE STATS….Offense ahead of defense, don’t know about that. In the four opening games, QBs threw 5TD passes and 9-interceptions, and took 15-sacks. Top games came from Birmingham’s Luis Perez (252P), the Division II star, who is from San Diego. Add in ex Toledo star Logan Woodside (255P) for San Antonio, and Arizona’s John Wolford-Wake Forest (275P-3TD). Big trouble with Salt Lake City losing QB-Josh Woodrum-Liberty left with a hamstring injury just 2-quarters in, and the mess Memphis has with Hackenberg. The QBs went a combined (135-248)….that’s 54%-not quite Tom Brady like stats.
THE STATS…Ex Chargers Brandon Oliver had (50R) for Salt Lake City; ex Chief Akeem Hunt had (73R) for Orlando. NFL teams will take note of San Antonio’s big-size-big speed WR-Mekale McKaye (80Y) receiving.
OFFICIATING….They let a lot of contact go in the secondary. Maybe that is what the league will be all about, won’t throw yellow flags on ricky-tack contact, holding calls. Not much in the way of holding calls either by O-lineman. One big problem, a lot of big time hits on QBs, hits that would have drawn flags in an NFL Sunday. The worst was Mike Bercovici getting blasted and pancaked by a 1st quarter sack-fumble against San Antonio. Should have been a penalty, for the pancake hit. If it’s a quarterback league, you better do a better job protecting them from over the top hits.
THE RULES….Most everyone likes the (:35) play clock to get the ball snapped..it speeds up the game….Do think the limited blitz rules (no corner-safety blitzes) will take time to get used too….No kickoffs-ideal to keep players healthy…..2-point rules-works for me instead of the PAT-kick….No onside kick rule-waiting to see how this 4th and 12-conversion attempt to retain the ball works out…..The look in on the TV instant replay evaluation seems like a cheap stunt.
ATTENDANCE…Thought it would be better the first weekend. They averaged a shade over 20,087 the first weekend. Only time will tell if they are relevant in their now markets. Fans seems to like the wide open play. .the limits in number of timeouts, and the passion of the players.
TV RATINGS….A good Saturday night debut (2.1) rating, but poor on Sunday night (0.4) on NFL network. The novelty of a new league likely attracted football junkies, so we’ll see what happens in weekend two. The XFL, years back, had a (10.5) rating its first weekend and seemed to have much more marketing behind it. The old Arena League had a (2.5) rating in its debut….Thought the network broadcast teams were involved in too much hype ‘how great all this is’….’it’s about opportunity’..and on and on and on. The quality of the product on the field will sell itself to the fans, not the announcing teams preaching every minute-every night.
IN TOWN TV RATINGS….Betrayed Chargers fans obviously were intrigued. The Fleet game at 5:30 on Saturday on CBS-8 dominated the TV ratings, a (5.8) rating for the entire broadcast…inlcuding a (6.0) rating at kickoff and a (7.0) rating at start of second half….NBA rating on KGTV 10 was a (0.4)…the other stations were in news-blocks and went from a (3.2) NBC-7…to (2.2) for KUSI-Fox 5…to KPBS (1.2)….to (0.2) for CW6-syndicated reruns….Strong debut-will see if its keeps up.
UNIFORMS….Give the Arizona Hot-Shots the award for team colors (Green-Gold) and team logo (firefighters insignia)….with the Fleet colors (Battleship Gray-California Gold) plus their logo a strong runner-up…..Birmingham Iron, no logo, no stripes, just black and white-kind of like Mike Tyson entering the ring in black trunks-no socks from back in the day.
TROUBLE SPOTS….Atlanta-Memphis-San Diego got beat by a combined score of (66-6), but the Fleet will rally under Mike Martz….Atlanta has issues, having lost coach Brad Childress, who quit midway thru camp, and then Offensive Coordinator Michael Vick who stepped away 48-hours before kickoff….and Memphis seems to have real skill talent deficiencies.
MY TAKE…Worried about injuries, if teams start losing more and more starters, where will quality replacements come from….Give them time to grow the product on the field. We’ll see if the teams make a big jump in improvement between weeks 1-and-2….See me after week 4-as to how much the QBs have developed, and if the novelty has worn off. Overall, thought weekend one was fast paced, exceptional action, and a work in progress for sure. For having been together for just 4-weeks, I thought the action was crisp. This pretty good group of coaches will now try to grow what they have. AAF-weekend one, good-bad-ugly.