SFL Half-Season Report Card
Written by Jacob Clear
As we approach the halfway mark of Season 17, welcome to Episode One of the SFL Half-Season Report Cards, where we rate every SFL team on their performance both on and off the field. It’s a long ride, so buckle up. Let’s get started.
Atlanta Swarm | 4-2 (1st in East Division)
This classy front office didn’t need to do too much over the offseason and got their contracts pretty much spot on heading into the draft. They acquired the likes of Ryan Rosevelt, Garrett Hudson, and Jay Rock in the draft to fill some gaps and seemed pretty set to be a very competitive team this season.
This was to be the case – it’s been hard to fault Atlanta through their first six games despite their narrow Week 1 loss to London and Week 4 loss to the undefeated Queen City Corsairs. Atlanta bounced back in Week 5 taking down the Knights in Atlanta to tie the margin and picked up another promising win over the Revolution last week at home. Bryant Dynasty is back to the form we expect of him, with 1842 passing yards through 6 games and 12 touchdown passes. The best thing for Atlanta though? BDG Hollewood is averaging just 3.4 yards a carry but does have 7 touchdowns to his name. It’s hard to imagine hypotheticals, but we do know what this tailback is capable of, and it will be interesting to see how far this team can go if he can produce more in general play. However, they are a very efficient offense in the red zone and their defense has shown flashes of brilliance across some of their games to match. Atlanta is in a great spot to make a push this season if they can pull it together.
Overall grade – A-
Arizona Scorpions | 3-3 (1st in West Division)
All of Arizona’s off-season readjustments came in free agency – bringing in Will Todd at tight end (Atlanta), Sean Moore at linebacker (Queen City) and Cliff Allen at kicker (retirement).
Despite a rough 3 game losing streak in weeks 3, 4 and 5, Arizona was able to put three wins in the bag in the opening half of the season. Wins over Fort Worth and Sioux Falls as well as an impressive Week 1 win over Florida, and giving Queen City a run for their money, losing by just two. Ashley Jackson has been much steadier and is doing a much better job at protecting the football, as this was an area of concern for her game last season. Both Hands brothers have been producing at a high standard, with over 1200 yards between them and 9 of Jackson’s touchdown passes going their way. Will Todd and TJ Punk also average at around 11 yards per reception, providing great options to Jackson. DJ Moses has also gotten through some work, pulling out 4.1 yards per carry and 4 scores is sound for a tailback of his calibre. Defensively, Sean Moore has fit right in with 63 tackles and Vernard Smith has 53 to his name in the backfield. Smith also has 4 interceptions to his name and is quietly putting together an All-Star level season alongside Eddie Guage in the Arizona backfield.
Don’t let the record fool you; this is a good team. Given Eddie Gauge’s defensive coaching capabilities, it’s certainly positive that the team is also confidently moving the ball with good efficiency. It’s looking good for Arizona, and they rightfully lead the division. A playoff spot is theirs if they can continue this form.
Overall grade – B+
Baltimore Vultures (6-0 1st in North Division)
Baltimore had a nice off-season, switching T-Roy Gaines to FB and the team’s new general manager, as well as making some shuffles to their defensive line rotation. Hauling in free agent Keenan Samuels seems to have been a good move, as well as the electric Jimmy Hazzard as the new leading rusher in the first round of the rookie draft.
It’s funny how the only two teams currently undefeated after 6 games are in the same division. Despite the impressive resurgence of the Corsairs, Baltimore is the best team in the league at this present time. Putting up 40 points a game seems like an understandable reason to suggest that, but this team is also letting up just 18 points a game. Jack Wigmore has been outstanding and is currently in league MVP-type form, throwing just shy of 2500 yards with 21 touchdowns and only 7 picks. Equally impressive is the fact that Jimmy Hazzard is quietly averaged 4.8 yards per carry with only 40 total carries. Add to that, Ivory Ervin leads the league in receiving yards as he continues his run as the league’s most dominant receiver. On the other side of the ball, Giovanni Bolt continues to show how exceptional he is, leading the league in interceptions with 9, and oh yeah, SyrRon Yates has 11 sacks so far this season. It shows this team is firing on every cylinder, and it’s going to take a very big effort from a team to knock them off as of right now. Currently, their Week 11 matchup against division rivals Queen City is going to be an instant classic, however, Queen City will need to display something that is somehow better than what they’ve produced through the opening half of the season, as this Baltimore outfit is simply too good. Baltimore is without question the favourites leading into the back half of the season.
Overall grade – A+
Carolina Skyhawks | 2-4 (4th in Atlantic Division)
One of the unluckiest teams going, the Skyhawks are yet to properly hit their straps in Season 17. All things considered though, Carolina had a great off-season – acquiring veteran Matt South from Portland has paid off so far as he has thrown for around 1700 yards and 10 touchdowns through six games. They also re-bolstered their defensive core by bringing in edge rusher Ryan Ray from Las Vegas and flicking Chad Stinson to linebacker and bringing in the highly prospected Daniel Valentine as a dime back. However, their draft was headlined by the addition of David Ware who hasn’t disappointed, bringing 24 tackles, 2 for a loss and 5 pass deflections in the opening half of his rookie campaign.
Similarly, Davidson Joseph has picked up where he left off, leading the team in takeaways (4), and Shravan Prasad sits at equal 6th in the league at total tackles with 61. Logan Jack is performing to expectations, however, has the potential to break open in the latter half of the season if he can hit his stride.
The divisional win over rivals Charleston and the Week 1 win over Louisiana needs to be the focal point on how they approach the remaining 6 games of the regular season – a Week 7 matchup against Queen City certainly won’t excite the fanbase, but it’s an opportunity for Carolina to show the league that they are playoff contenders. Otherwise, it was a nice off-season with good prospects, but it’s been a fairly disappointing start to the season for Carolina given the talent they possess, headlined by narrow losses to the underperforming Tulsa and Lone Star.
Overall Grade – C-
Charleston Predators | 3-3 (2nd in Atlantic Division)
The new-look Predators finish the first half of the season at .500 following a drought-breaking win over Lone Star on the road. The off-season was more eventful off the field, with former Director of Communications Jack Brown and General Manager Johnny Bravo taking over the team from the hands of Alan Armartys. This change saw Bravo move into defensive coaching and the promotion of off-contract coach Jacob Clear to take over the head coaching position as well as constructing the normally sporadic Charleston offense. The Predators dragged former Alaska Storm kicker Brad Brechett out of the retirement village and added pass rusher John Lalli and fullback Terrell Southerland in the draft to refill their roster. The Predators entered the season with the most expensive roster as well, walking in 0.01 points under the cap.
Charleston’s offense is yet to fully break into their own, putting up just 22 points per game, but defensively the Predators have been outstanding against the pass. After a quality performance by T.D Drew and his passing offense, the problems persist in the running game – on both sides of the ball.
Keith Swearingen entered as the 2nd cheapest back in the league behind Colin Hart of Sioux Falls and has yet to ruffle many feathers in opposition gameplans and, despite showing flashes of brilliance in each game, has averaged only 3.4 yards per carry. Likewise, the Predators have been a bit soft in their rush defense, conceding 164 yards to Kevin Seay and 117 yards to Ike McBride last week.
These are the only weak points in this current Charleston outfit as TD Drew appeared to be more disciplined in the Lone Star game. It’s a more comfortable stretch for Charleston heading into the next six weeks and being one win away from Florida and Carolina either way, this team could go anywhere this season.
Overall grade – B-
DC Dragons | 2-4 (4th in North Division)
I can’t help but be a fan of the Dragons. What they were able to achieve last season with the roster they started off with was remarkable. This team needs a bit more time to grow together, however – a 3 game losing streak just doesn’t do justice to how good this team is going to be as time goes on. Recruiting Chris Britton, Isaac Forrester, and Paw T Pawtai in the draft along with Ajamu Afolabi in free agency were all great off-season moves but it’s still yet to properly click for the Dragons.
The ageless Shabazz Psynergy has been a shining light in conducting the offense though, with over 1600 passing yards and 12 touchdowns in six games, and the second season back Kevin Seay continues to build momentum in the backfield with rookie Chris Britton, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and finding the house 7 times. 16 turnovers are hard to look past though, and giving up 30 points per game defensively is another worrying sign. Positively speaking though, DC had impressive wins over Charleston and Las Vegas back-to-back and were within one score in all but one of their four losses. Their 55-52 loss to Vancouver is still something to keep in mind as they enter a relatively flexible remaining 6 game block.
The trouble is, this division is too good for DC right now given the form of Baltimore, Queen City and London. However, given the nature of this squad and the reputation of their coaches, it’s only a matter of time before the North Division becomes the most competitive division in the SFL as DC continue to gel as a unit.
Overall grade – C+
Denver Nightwings | 2-4 (3rd in West Division)
After a successful campaign in S16 taking home all the cookies after defeating arguably the league’s most consistent team in Florida in a thriller that hallmarked a fantastic season. Denver taking home the championship came with several organisational changes that saw the franchise take a large step into a different direction this season, with the retirements of Josh Miller and then league MVP Jarrod McChesney headlining the faces that were to depart the team. Jeremy Vega once again took a step down from coaching to focus on team ownership with new minority owner and Denver royalty Kramer Jackman, with then Birmingham Fuel head coach Adam Wiseman set to take the former champions into a new era.
One might ask – “How do you fill such big shoes left by Miller and McChesney, among others?” It’s a good question, but Denver had an even better answer. Denver brought Logan Keel out of the retirement home to fill the void left by Jockamo Jones and Jose Fuentes made the jump from Sioux Falls to fill the hole left by Echo Love alongside Wiseman in their linebacking core. Add to that, Mat Fenech from Louisiana to replace Kramer Jackman as the team’s kicker. They also snared perhaps one of the more surprising free agency adds of the off-season, with free agent Hugo Reynosa making the switch to defensive end to fill in for Michael Rochester. Denver then looked to the draft, picking up a wealth of stars in the likes of Isaiah King III at free safety, Jim Copeland Jr at tight end, Baylee O’Shaughnesy as a tailback and Eric Price as the new franchise man at quarterback. Things were looking good for this team leading into Week 1 with a crop of fresh faces eager to defend the title.
Denver can’t be overly disappointed with their season thus far – wins in Week 1 against Jacksonville and in Week 4 against the Arizona Scorpions see them right amongst it in the Western division, sitting at 2-4 with Vice Wars rivals Las Vegas and just one win behind Arizona, where that divisional tie could play a factor come playoff time. It’s been an underwhelming start to this fresh offense, with the team only producing 21 points per game. Eric Price has been hard to fault under centre with 1684 yards in 6 games, and Baylee O’Shaughnessy has produced a respectable 4.1 yards a carry so far this season. This team’s red zone percentage is the only thing holding them back now – 10 touchdowns in total is 6 games just isn’t representative of the franchise, but it’s obvious that the pieces are in motion throughout each game. This team is awfully close to breaking open the division if they can find the end zone more efficiently, and with some impressive new faces in the system, this team can’t be doubted leading into the second half. I like Denver, and I think they’re right in the mix if they can get it to work.
Overall grade – C+
Florida Storm | 4-2 (1st in Atlantic Division)
Florida had a great off-season, specifically with their draft. Calling in tight end Pauly Truth, wideout Justice Blackwell and linebacker Stephen Black were all good moves for the franchise. The team also looked to give Ben Jackson another crack at the offensive coordinator spot, and it’s been a successful move through their first 6 games. Despite hiccups against Arizona and Fort Worth, they’re averaging 29 points a game offensively at the halfway point. It’s only a matter of time until this defense tightens up a little more, inspired by the veteran Ryan Tobin who has 5 takeaways so far this season. Charlie Biletsky is in excellent form as well, dialling up 5.8 yards per carry and finding the house 8 times. This team could truly do anything in the back half and rightfully lead the division. Florida is going to make a serious run this season.
Overall grade – B+
Fort Worth Toros | 2-4 (3rd in South Division)
It hurts to say it, but Fort Worth has been disappointing so far. The Toros had a pair of nice free agency pickups in Marquis Reid from London and Jeff Duffy from Queen City, as well as drafting offensive help in Johnny Van Mann and Aaron Alexander. Despite the additions and the obvious talent this offensive unit possesses in Cam Curtis, Jason Williams, Stephen Hacker, Cade Stephens, and Robert Garrett Jr, 95 points in 6 games just isn’t good enough. Their defense however has kept them in games and has effectively won them two games as well, holding Charleston to 13 points for a win and holding Florida to 16 for a win. Still, one can’t gloss over the offense – Jason Williams is averaging 4.8 yards per carry but has only scored 3 times, and Cameron Curtis is a comfortable last in passing yards with 1111, and only scoring 4 times himself. Add to that, he’s thrown 13 turnovers and it’s a grim look one of the serious contenders heading into the season. That being said, it’s obvious the kind of talent this team possesses, and the defensive side has been excellent, so where there’s light there’s hope, but this team still hasn’t filled the void left by Chris Comisac in the coaching room as this playbook continues to find it’s identity. That being said, they have so much talent that it’s hard to write them off entirely. It is but a waiting game with Fort Worth.
Overall grade – C-
Houston Hyenas | 3-3 (2nd in South Division)
What a strange start to the season it has been for Houston. Another off-season that saw the team form a major reshuffle with a total of 8 draft picks shows that they are still trying to find their identity following Eddie Gauge’s departure many a season ago. With that in mind, it was a very nice draft for Houston all things considered – a returning figure in Sunny Jay headlined their draft, albeit at a different position (kicker), who walked in as the team’s new Director of Communications following a championship-winning season with Salt Lake City in the minor league. Josh Rowe entered the team with excellent value and appears to have been a genuine steal as he has lit up the league so far at the strong safety position. Mike Jones, Nana Leahy, Zed Markov, Julius Maximus, and Frank Stackhouse were among the remaining selections made by Demond Simien and Ethan Kye, however, their most notable draft pick was the electric Dave Burr out of Lexington.
Burr has been a standout since the beginning, as he will more than likely surpass the 2,000-yard mark in Week 7. He also has 13 touchdowns to his name and only 15 picks, which is a respectable stat given his starting value. Clearly, this passing offense is extremely capable, particularly given the form of the ageless DR Sim, who is second in the league in receiving yards, but the 3-game losing streak is worrying as progressions begin to pile up as they prepare to face a hungry Mexico City side. One of their notable stars – Brody Gulch – comfortably leads the team in total tackles as he continues to build from his Rookie of the Year performance in Season 15.
It feels weird to say it, but the problem appears to be Warren Murray. Not exclusively so but given his talent, he has been a disappointment. Averaging only 3.4 yards per carry and only finding the end zone on 3 occasions simply isn’t good enough for the most expensive player in the league. The league knows what Warren Murray is capable of, especially on such a large contract – this is the only way that Houston can open the door to a playoff run. With the form of Dave Burr being what it is, if they can get Murray going, this could be a nearly unstoppable offensive machine.
Overall grade – C+
Jacksonville Kings | 2-4 (3rd in Atlantic Division)
Saying Jacksonville went big in the offseason could be seen as an understatement. They did…. quite a lot. Mike Ahl was one of the busiest GMs in the league this offseason, bringing in Conner Darian from Atlanta, Greg Gaines from the free agency pool and Marcus Dunhill out of a two-season retirement spell to be their new quarterback after the retirement of Christian Christiansen. Also in the exit line, all three of their linebackers in Jay Mart (moved to Lone Star to play with Bo Martin Jr), Clay Jones (retirement) and Keenan Samuels (Baltimore), as well as corners Michael Sprous (retirement) and Reign Reaux (London). With Mike St Green moving on to London and Kings legend Ken Gossett hanging up the cleats with CC, they brought in Shea Carroll from San Diego as well as Kingston Ellington in the draft along with…. deep breath… Talon Steele at tight end, Olivia Bleeker, Alden Bleeker, Bryan French and Robert Krohn (all offensive line), Marcus Sledge (DT to replace the retired AJ Pennypacker), Yakov Zolotov and John Martin (both LB). Yes, it was quite the off-season for the Jacksonville front office.
Things didn’t look good in the opening three games, scoring only 48 points, but they came close to beating London at Queensway, losing by one score, and followed that up with wins over St Louis and Carolina, scoring a massive 104 combined points across all 3 games. A huge turnaround, backed by Marcus Dunhill, who looks like he never left. 2111 passing yards with 14 touchdowns is huge, with Greyson Willis getting a lot of love with 649 receiving yards in 6 games. It’s just a matter of getting Jared Willis a bit more movement in the backfield – 2.1 yards per carry on 103 carries doesn’t translate well, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. Jacksonville could go anywhere off the back of some very impressive performances from Marcus Dunhill.
Overall grading – B-
Las Vegas Fury | 2-4 (2nd in West Division)
It wasn’t the best off-season for Las Vegas, losing key figures in Colin Pierce (retirement) and Otis Boudreaux (Louisiana) as well as pass rusher Ryan Ray (Carolina). They did, however, re-bolster their roster with the return of long-retired kicker Matt Rage who is 5/6 on the season, as well as Mike Baker (Houston), Chris Colon (Carolina) to fill in the holes at defensive end and picked up “Mean” Joe Green in the rookie draft as their second crack at a rookie QB in as many seasons.
Vegas is tied with Fort Worth as the league’s lowest-scoring offense but have shown glimpses across the season so far. They’ve won 2 out of their last 3, including an upset win over Vancouver (of which they scored 30 points) and a Vice Wars win over Denver last week. Whilst it hasn’t been an ideal start to their season as far as scoring is concerned, Joseph Green has over 1700 passing yards and has had no problem connecting with John Blades in necessary moments (516 yards) and Scott Johnson has over 400 yards. Slinn Shady is still getting things done too, as he is one tackle shy of first in the league with 68.
Las Vegas’ problem is almost identical to their Vice Wars’ rivals – scoring. Their red zone efficiency has been disappointing. Joseph Green has 7 scores to his name, and Johnson has only one. The pieces are there for Vegas, but it’s a matter of whether they can take pieces from their win over Vancouver and run with it that will dictate their performances leading into the playoff discussion. That said, it doesn’t look good
Overall grade – C
London Knights | 3-3 (3rd in North Division)
It was an exciting off-season for the English based side, attaining the services of Jonny Pichler in replacement of the retiring Angus MacLaine after he made a second straight free agency swim after announcing his departure from Louisiana before the season had completed in provocative circumstances. Joining him in Chad Roland’s slew of free agency dealings, Mike St Green from Jacksonville teamed up with relative Butch Mennor from Charleston. They also picked up Cam Frosby from Sioux Falls, Seren Storm from Louisiana, Tony Roberto from St Louis, Anthony Wyo from Louisiana, and Reign Reaux from Jacksonville. Their only draft pick came in guard Perrin Aybara from Ottawa. Things were looking up for the Knights.
It’s been a mixed bag season for London. It’s hard to tell what you’re going to get from them. Sharing that 1-1 tie with Atlanta and facing losses to Queen City and Portland last week show that this team is losing to tough outfits and were able to put away Fort Worth and Jacksonville with solid offensive performances. Jonny Pichler hasn’t been short in production, with over 2100 passing yards and 17 touchdowns, but he has as many interceptions, which is a bit concerning. Vin Calia and St Green have gotten a lot of love from Pichler’s production, as they share 13 of his touchdowns. Defensively, Jeff Gagne comfortably leads the team in tackles with 64, and tackles William Davidson and Cam Frosby have been producing well with 5 sacks each. Tanner Hendrix is also playing well at the corner position, averaging a turnover a game.
The problem here is consistency and protecting the football. Robert Merrill has been okay to date; with the nature of this offense, he doesn’t need to overachieve. Pichler’s turnover count is worrying, and they’ve been far from perfect defensively, conceding the most points in the league after 6 games. As excellent as they looked to start the season, London isn’t quite there yet, but they’re in a great position to make a move in the second half of the season.
Overall grade – B-
Lone Star Glory | 2-4 (4th in Southern Division)
The roster overhaul hasn’t quite worked out for Lone Star yet. Their off-season saw the return of Sudo Nakai and the additions of James Troll, Tina and Albert Begin (Queen City), Jay Mart (Jacksonville) and Nate Haul (Vancouver), and was headlined by the departure of the big three (Collier, Craven, Day) and Hugo Reynosa. This offseason also saw the appointment of Albert Begin as the head coach, James Troll as the defensive coordinator and Yogi Barr as a co-GM. Jay Mart must have been inspired by playing with his uncle Bo Martin Jr, as he leads the league in tackles with 69. The game planning just hasn’t worked yet. Ace Fenech has protected the ball well with only 8 picks but hasn’t produced enough in general play. Ike McBride is getting the job done in general play, but she has struggled noticeably in finding the endzone. Greg Soto and Dave Axis just aren’t in full flight yet, but with that said, this team is seemingly close to breaking out. This team just needs games where both sides of the ball show up – it seems as if when the defense turns up, the offense doesn’t, and vice versa. Lone Star scored 40 against Baltimore, hut conceded 66. Similarly, the defense held Vancouver to 17 points, but the offense only produced 10. It’s obvious what this team is capable of, and with a wide-open division, division fixtures with Fort Worth and Houston will be critical wins if Lone Star want any chance of playing playoff football this season.
Overall grade – C+
Los Angeles Lycans | 5-1 (1st in Pacific Division)
Another extremely competitive division, Los Angeles have turned it on following a Week 1 loss to Baltimore, this team has been performing at a high enough standard on both sides of the ball to earn a nearly spotless record after 6 games. The addition of Brogan Speraw in the draft along with the aptly named Chance Touwin in the off-season as well as Ace Blackwell on the waiver wire a few weeks in have all been nice moves thus far. Robert Johnson has been sensational so far – giving teams plenty of headaches. Sully Richardson, however, has been quiet. 3rd lowest in the league for total passing yards and only 7 touchdowns is underwhelming, but it feels like only a matter of time before things really take off for this team. They looked good last season, and that form has only continued in S17. Despite the competitive division, LA already has one foot in the door for playoff appearance number two.
Overall grade – A-
Louisiana Revolution | 2-4 (3rd in East Division)
Louisiana, by all rights, had the best off-season out of all as far is recruitment is concerned. Ross Napoli was all over it this offseason, acquiring the big three from Lone Star in Brian Craven, Cameron Collier and Doug Day, as well as snaring Mike Ryan from the winless Mavericks following his agent’s announcement on NETMA that he would depart the team. Also joining the team, the Professor himself, Otis Boudreaux from Las Vegas. Draft wise, the team grabbed arguably the best QB in the class in Tommy Utah, and Chance Wall at the defensive tackle position.
Utah has been just average – respectably so for a rookie. 8 scores and 12 turnovers aren’t great to look at, but his production from general play has been impressive. Reggie Streeter has been good – 523 yards and 7 touchdowns is good enough production but not his full potential, one would argue.
This team just struggles to put games away – they’re yet to get properly blown out on the scoreboard. 3 of their 4 losses have been by one score. It’s clear this team needs a little more time to gel; the Revolution hasn’t quite worked out how to get it right in critical moments on several occasions. It does however feel that the Revs are such a powerful franchise with the guidance of Gerald Smith and Ross Napoli that the wakening is coming, it’s just not meant to be this season.
Overall grade – C+
Mexico City Aztecs | 4-2 (1st in South Division)
It was an eventful season for the Aztecs, with all their movement occurring during the draft. Midway through the rookie draft, the Aztecs picked up Jacob McCall from Arizona late in the free agency window and had to draft three new faces at the corner position after losing Jack Napier (Atlanta), Han Tyumi and Zaaron Pryor (retirement). The selection of Australian defensive back Jahrad Brodie, who has yet to truly emerge into his own. The Aztecs also had a hiccup during their draft – selecting an extra player in a puzzling move. They are also one of the only teams to exercise a mid-season signing option, bringing in Bill Henry in exchange for the rookie Nate Ritters.
The Aztecs have been good statistically – the only underlying concern being that veteran Matt Willson leads the league in turnovers with 19. Averaging over 3 picks a game certainly isn’t helping this team, throwing 4 in their loss to Arizona and 5 in their loss to Florida. That said, oddly so, he is dead last in sacks taken with only 4. With the turnover concerns, he has had no problem moving it downfield, 1849 yards so far this season. Phoenix Jones has been phenomenal though – arguably the second-best tailback in the league right now statistically behind Ezekiel Love out of Portland. Defensively, this team is holding their own, but they haven’t turned the ball over enough – with a developing secondary, this defense is struggling to keep up with the competition, but only allowing 23 points a game is good enough to be amongst the realm of making a playoff run. Mexico City should win this division comfortably given all three of their division rivals do not have the level of class to take control of the tide. Mexico City is about to make a real break for it.
Overall grade – B+
Portland Fleet | 4-2 (2nd in Pacific Division)
The trend of good teams continues, and Jacob Bouvette has this team trending in a very good direction. With Matt South the only departing face, Nelson Lozano called in the long-awaited OJ Bruin as the team’s new franchise man, who has been travelling steady so far. Ezekiel Love, however, is an absolute revelation. Returning to the position he played at with the Madison Lynx as a tailback, Love has really hit his stride and is doing it consistently. The best back in the game now, Love leads the league in every rushing category. 32 points a game offensively is a massive improvement from Mel Davis and the Portland offense, and it’s been a really impressive start from this secondary as well – with the likes of Derrick Majors, Chris Stach, Leo Morris and Bob Funk all producing great value to this point.
Portland is, without a doubt, a dark horse. It’s great to see this franchise finally emerging under Davis and Art Vandelay. It’s a great team. Keep a close eye on Portland, particularly with a Week 12 divisional matchup with Vancouver that could prove pivotal to the playoff race.
Overall grade – A-
Queen City Corsairs | 6-0 (2nd in North Division)
Wow. Where does one begin with this team?
Erik Barkley overhauled the staff set up in Queen City over the offseason, sneaking BJ Loveless under everyone’s noses from Arizona as the new general manager, followed by former Aztec Tom Riddell as the team’s communications director, but the coaching staff was to be the most critical – Jae Hayden from the Vultures as the new head scout and Chris Comisac as the new head coach. These would prove to be four absolute masterstrokes by Barkley, as this Corsairs front office would quickly evolve into a clear favourite for the best front office in the league.
Loveless and Comisac loaded the offense up after losing Chris Curtis to Vancouver – Doug Spelling in the draft, as well as Jae Hayden in the receiving core along with Hubba Kimbrel moving to tight end with James Matthews Jr. Chris Comisac, also entered the frame, becoming the new lead blocker for Jett Zero. But defensively, it just got even better. The Corsairs acquired one of the leagues best tacklers in DJ Majesty and moved him to defensive end along with Andre Krimm, along with BJ Loveless at linebacker, and boosted their backfield stocks with the highly-rated Cody Griffin in the rookie draft. The Corsairs drafted a kicker, he missed progressions, and they were able to quickly replace him with Juda Dorgan. Just simply outstanding work from the front office.
You can bet they backed it up on the field, too. Fort Worth saw this coming in that Comisac was ready for the new gig – he hasn’t disappointed. A truly fascinating turnaround from an otherwise dormant franchise following early dominance. After talking to Barkley in the preseason over the phone, it was clear this franchise was going somewhere fast. This team has jumped from being a 4-win, 20 points a game sleeping giant into the outright number two ranked team in the span of an offseason. AJ Caswell is completing at nearly 80% and has turned it over only 5 times, and Jett Zero has been exceptional; 3rd in the league in rushing yards with 10 scores. Defensively though, letting up 18 points a game. Simply outstanding.
I can go on and on about Queen City. It’s a seriously good team. What else can I say? This Baltimore fixture is going to be must-watch material. The giant has woken.
Overall grade – A+
San Diego Mavericks | 1-5 (4th in Pacific Division)
It’s been great to watch this team evolve from their winless debut season. They backed themselves with the off-season additions of Liam Hammer (retirement), Finn James (Tulsa), Stefaun Forge and Leon Thunderman (rookie draft), Cai Cash (Houston) and Zac Holldorf (St Louis) after a few departures; Shea Carroll (Jacksonville), Stephen MacMichaels (Tulsa), Mike Ryan (Louisiana), Jacob Clear (retirement/Charleston) and Nico Cappuccino (retirement). It was a disappointing start to the season, losing to Sioux Falls (who sit with them at 1-5), Houston (by one score), Portland, St Louis, and Vancouver. It’s been a tough schedule, but it seems that Liam Hammer’s appointment at head coach may have been just what the doctor ordered, as very shortly after the team overcame Arizona to win their very first game as a franchise in a thrilling 27-19 fourth quarter hold-out. Javier Vasquez has picked up form with the addition of Hammer providing more quality in the receiving ranks along with brothers Connor Weston and Ryan Owens, and Jaylin Wells is beginning to find his way into form averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Both sides of the ball are just not quite there yet, but it feels as if this team is awfully close. Given the nature of their division, it’s an uphill climb for the Mavericks to assert themselves as consistent contenders, but with Hammer settled into the coaching room things are trending upwards They have an opportunity to roll the dice in the next six games and show what they do have, as they continue to build towards something promising. It’s a good look despite the record.
Overall grade – C
Sioux Falls Sparrows | 1-5 (4th in West Division)
The runners-up from Season 15 have fallen into a deep hole after ascending to great heights, losing only to Baltimore in the championship game that season. The team has undergone some shifting this season, with the likes of Kae Marion and Nathan Furry joining the offensive personnel in a new four-wide set for the Sparrows, as well as Buck Behemoth and Biff Marcum in the defensive line and the third overall draft pick in Axel Raven. The Sparrows got arguably the best player in the draft in Raven, and defensively this team has held its own against strong opposition, but offensively this team just can’t get anything going.
Julian Tyree isn’t the player he once was, and this can also be said about the leading figure in the Season 15 playoff run, Colin Hart. 5 yards per carry is indicative of his abilities, but only 94 carries make him one of the least used backs in the league. The team has only found the house 7 times and has one of the worst red-zone efficiencies of any team in the league. It’s a sad sight for what once was a great team. It’s hard to comment from afar, but it seems as if Sioux Falls needs to go back to what worked, Colin Hart needs to see the ball more. With 4 straight losses, this team needs to turn things around quickly because the division is still open for them to pounce on, but if trends continue, it’s going to be a sorry rest of the season for the Sparrows, with a high upside future in their sights if they can convince Axel Raven and Biff Marcum to persist with the cause.
Overall grade – D+
St Louis Gladiators | 3-3 (2nd in East Division)
The third time’s the charm, right? St Louis was finally able to retain a rookie QB after Christian Brown put pen to paper for another season in green after the team failed to keep hold of Jonny Pichler and Javier Vasquez. The team also added Patrick Kelly, Mike Billotte, Matthew Holford (rookie draft) and Ralgar Lawe (Houston) to keep things in shape and looked to be in a position to succeed in the forthcoming season.
St Louis can’t be too unhappy with the start they’ve had – a Week 6 win over Mexico City will do well to put confidence into this squad leading into a big fixture against Florida. Christian Brown has been efficient this season as the team has 10 touchdowns through the air and 5 on the ground between both of their backs in Kairo Martinez and Bill Cherry. Eagle Mondavi has also impressed as he continues to build from an All-Star season in Season 16. Safety partners Nicholas Warner and Geralt Winkler have also been dominant, with 12 interceptions between them. This team has done a great job at turning the ball over, but unfortunately on both sides, as Christian Brown has thrown 17 interceptions in the first half of the season. This is probably their most important improvement area, as they have been sound in every other category. This team looks likely to make the playoffs this season under the quality coaching of Drew Reilly and Nicholas Warner.
Overall Grade – B-
Tulsa Desperados | 2-4 (4th in East Division)
Tulsa had an active off-season, seeing several departing faces headlined by DJ Majesty. The front office did a sound job at filling the gaps, enticing Stephen MacMichaels, Carson Miller (San Diego), Philadelphia Collins, Myles Gibson, and Daniel Wright (rookie draft). GM Berto DeMoura was also able to obtain the signature of JT Dulany after his release from the London Knights.
To cut a long story short – this team isn’t producing enough on offense. 18 points per game is disappointing, and Jay Cue has struggled both in general play (only 1500 passing yards) and in protecting the football (16 turnovers). Gabriel Manning has been producing but not at a rate of which we’d expect; similarly, to that of Warren Murray, it’s hard seeing the second most expensive player struggle putting up numbers. The ground attack however has shown glimpses of hope – the addition of MacMichaels seems to have helped Sonzo Robinson reach a higher gear but again, he isn’t seeing the ball enough, with only 92 carries. Defensively, Chris Andrews has been solid, with 7 sacks and 3 extra tackles for a loss, and safety Ricky Thornton has three picks to his name. Being only one win behind St Louis certainly provides hope but the Desperados have a difficult run ahead – Jacksonville, St Louis, Vancouver, and Atlanta in their next four fixtures. Tulsa just aren’t producing at the level required to be considered in the playoff picture, but the tough schedule provides an opportunity to prove this as false.
Overall grade – C+
Vancouver Legion | 4-2 (3rd in Pacific Division)
It’s been an interesting season for the Legion as they continue to search for that long-awaited first title, and you’d think they’d want to have their two losses back after narrowly losing to an underperforming Las Vegas side and losing complete control in the second half against Los Angeles. Defensively, they’re conceding 32 points per game, which isn’t overly convincing, but this offense continues to motor underneath Tom Pepper, who is arguably second in the MVP race only to Jack Wigmore. Pepper does lead the league in passing yards and has 19 scores to his name, but 12 turnovers must sting a little. Robert Redford has been outstanding as well, over 600 yards and 6 scores is great value for the veteran in a high-powered offense. Andy Hamilton and Michael Percoco continue to pull the strings and it’s evident this team can beat anyone on their day. A Week 12 divisional matchup against the Fleet fixes as must-watch material and could be a critical game with regards to the playoff picture. Given their pedigree, I’m backing Vancouver.
Overall grade – B+