The first week of the USFL season has come and gone. Now comes the hard part for the New Jersey Generals, rebounding quickly after a heartbreaking last-minute 28-24 opening week loss to the Birmingham Stallions this past Saturday night.
Can The New Jersey Generals Rebound Quickly?
There are several question marks surrounding the Generals after week one. And there is no rest for the weary.
The 0-1 New Jersey Generals will be back in Birmingham on Friday night, but at least, this time, they will be playing a neutral site game against the 0-1 Michigan Panthers.
After letting a game slip away that they dominated for three-plus quarters, the lone consolation for New Jersey is that the Generals counterparts in the Northern Division are all winless. Depending on how you measure content in your glass, everyone in the North is either tied for first or last place.
The Pittsburgh Maulers, Philadelphia Stars, and New Jersey’s week two opponent, Michigan, lost their opening games. The Generals are entering a three-game stretch where they will be playing their North rivals in consecutive weeks.
The Generals and Panthers will be playing on short rest this coming Friday, and New Jersey will be on a manageable six-day rest. However, Michigan has only five days to recover from their 17-12 Sunday loss to the Houston Gamblers.
Can The Generals Get Healthy In Time For Week 2?
The quick turnaround could play a factor in week two of the USFL, with teams having smaller active rosters than your standard pro football league. (35). It gives players less time for recovery and teams fewer replacement options on short notice.
After all, injuries are already starting to add up. New Jersey went into their Week 1 game without RB Mike Weber. For the opening game, inactive players like Weber were transferred to the practice squad. The PS in the USFL acts as a defacto injured list rather than a call-up unit for game days.
And during the Birmingham contest, the Generals were without both of their tight ends as the game progressed. At one point, swing offensive linemen Robert Myers was inserted into the game to play the position. And then he got nicked up. Players like Myers might have to pull double and triple duty all season long.
New Jersey also might have to resort to more Plan C’s in their future games if their injured list expands as the season goes on. To that end, the Generals released their first practice report of the week on Monday night.
New Jersey Generals Practice Report
As you can see from the tweets above, the New Jersey Generals’ infirmary list has a lot of wounded soldiers from week one.
Key starters like TE Braedon Bowman (Ankle), who had a phenomenal first game, blocking and receiving, before getting injured, are not practicing. Also on the team’s did not practice list were WR J’Mon Moore (Hamstring), DT Destiny Vaeao (Quad), and DB Mike Bell (Chest).
Other key players like WR KaVontae Turpin and OL Garrett McGhin were limited to starting the workweek.
TE Nick Truesdell and RB Mike Weber are two significant players who would love to make their USFL debuts. The Generals ran for a staggering 244 yards in week one. But the talented Ohio State standout, Weber, would significantly boost New Jersey’s offensive attack. After all, 98 of the team’s rushing yards in the opening week came from quarterback De’Andre Johnson.
Will The New Jersey Generals Continue to Play Two QBs?
In week one, the New Jersey Generals were not the only USFL team to deploy a two-headed attack at quarterback. Many teams in the league employed the same strategy with varying results. Arguably, the Generals one made the most sense schematically and from a team standpoint.
Boh Luis Perez and De’Andre Johnson were highly effective as a duo, splitting reps at QB. Not only did the game plan jibe with Mike Riley’s past usage of his quarterbacks in other leagues. See San Antonio in the AAF. But it actually made sense for New Jersey. Luis Perez had only been with the team for two weeks, and Johnson, while highly raw as a passer, is a legit weapon for 4.3 speed.
Often, teams that deploy two quarterbacks run the risk of disrupting the flow of their offense by switching players in and out during a series. And as the legendary Bill Parcells used to say, when you have two quarterbacks, you have none. However, considering the circumstances and how well both Perez and Johnson played in week one. Mike Riley’s tact could be the proper one moving forward.
The Michigan Panthers have to game plan for both quarterbacks this week.
Early Week 2 Look At The Michigan Panthers
In their week one loss to the Houston Gamblers, Jeff Fisher’s Michigan Panthers got out the gate very slowly. Due to several miscues and blown scoring opportunities, Michigan fell behind 17-0 early.
The Panthers’ defense held up reasonably well and kept the team in the game. Shea Patterson overcame some early hiccups and had a good game overall, particularly in the second half. Patterson was 17/25, throwing for 192 yards and a touchdown. He also contributed 31 yards rushing. Patterson helped rally Michigan, but they fell short 17-12.
The most substantial element of the Panthers in week one was their ground attack, and RBs Stevie Scott and Cameron Scarlett helped the team rush for 190 yards. The Generals’ defense, led by former Jeff Fisher coached player defensive coordinator Chris Dishman, will need to play more disciplined football than they did in week one, where penalties helped contribute to the team’s fourth-quarter demise.
It seems far-fetched to label a week two contest as a ‘must-win.’ for New Jersey. But in a league with only ten regular-season games, it can get late real early. Especially if you start losing divisional games.