The Philadelphia Stars offense is back! Finally after waiting 8 and a half quarters the Stars offense has found the end-zone once again. Many Stars fans including myself had criticized, and questioned why this offense looked like a shadow of its 2022 self, even after bringing in more NFL talent than last season the team was stagnant. Defenses had the blueprint on how to stop us, and were doing it well for much of the season. It seems the
During the first match-up with Pittsburgh, their defense intercepted Cookus twice, and forced him to fumble once. These three turnovers, and three sacks, were the difference in the game, killing three drives for the Stars and leading directly to points for the Maulers. In week seven it looked like we were in for another low scoring affair.
Just nine minutes into the game both offenses had put seven on the board and looked to move the ball at will. From there the league that claims to keep the “special” in special teams, would watch special teams put up 13 points on 3 consecutive drives. The most important take away from these drives for the Stars?
Rushing Attack Rebounds
The rushing attack with Matt Colburn looked strong. Ripping off 42 yards on their first three drives alone. Their season average to this point had just barely topped 50 yards, and it looked like Colburn was taking that fact personally. By halftime these teams who had both looked allergic to scoring at times, had put up 44 points on the board with only two drives ending in turnovers. Three turnovers in four drives had the Stars fans wondering if we would watch another loss to Pittsburgh.
This is when the scoring fest hit a lull with seven straight drives ending without points. To end this streak, the Maulers missed wide left, turning the ball over at the 44 yard line. Leaving the score at 20-24 on the last play of the third quarter when Cookus called for the snap. He dropped back, and faced immediate pressure. Corey Coleman beats the press coverage on the outside, albeit possibly illegally, catches the pass with nothing but pay dirt ahead of him. He scores the touchdown, and Aguilar stays perfect on the day converting the PAT putting Stars up 3 points headed into the 4th quarter.
The Stars defense would go on to pitch a shut out in the second half, with the special teams unit allowing Hennie to add to the special teams explosion on the day with a punt return for the touchdown. The Stars offense meanwhile continued to grind out the yards leaning on the ground game to do so. This produced ten more points with the Stars taking 8 minutes and 14 seconds off the clock in three drives. This was the best game of the season so far by the Stars offense and it’s refreshed my faith in the unit for the stretch run.
Week 8 Preview
In week 8, the Stars face the Stallions in their house at 3 pm Eastern Time on Peacock and NBC. The Stallions again look like the best team in the league despite injuries decimating them on both sides of the ball. With the Stallions 5-2, having defeated two of the three teams that handed the Stars their losses, this could be the toughest test for Philadelphia yet.
If your weakness is the run game there are few teams you want to face less than the Stallions. The second ranked running game in the league in terms of overall rushing yards, and yards per carry. Their top running back is 4th in rushing yards, and averaging 4.5 yards per carry to get there. On top of that Alex McGough is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the league, and has added 318 yards which stands 6th on the season. This offense can move the ball with the best of them in the passing game as well, and McGough has limited mistakes overall.
The good news is, the Stallions have been beat before, allowing 45 points to the Breakers in week 3, and losing to Houston in week 5 allowing Mark Thompson to find the end-zone 3 times. Colburn needs to get his in this game, and Andrus needs to stay dedicated to the run game to beat this Stallions defense. We saw it on the Coleman touchdown that the Stars would like to incorporate play action to allow routes to develop and that’s precisely the formula they need to incorporate if they expect to beat last year’s champions. This could end up being a preview of the USFL championship once again in 2023.
Brad Miller and his defensive staff have a tall task this week. It starts and ends with the defensive line against Birmingham, if they can hold up against the run, and contain McGough, forcing Birmingham to become one dimensional it plays into the Stars roster construction, and defensive philosophy. They did a great job of keeping Troy Williams in check this week, but it’s imperative they duplicate that performance against McGough to collect a fourth straight victory.
This was a terrible showing but the special teams unit. They allowed 307 yards and 2 touchdowns to Josh Simmons, and Isiah Hennie on the day. Allowing 33.3 yards per kick return meant the Maulers had good starting field position all game long. The field goal unit meanwhile saw an errant snap give momentum and a 10 point swing to the Maulers. Looking at this alone the Stars special teams unit helped account for 21 points out of the 31 scored by the Maulers. It’s clear the team has made moves to try and help this situation but so far, it hasn’t amounted to the success they had hoped.
With the USFL attempting to bring the “Special” back to special teams the Stars will need to find a way to cover kicks better. Allowing nearly 300 yards in returns in the kickoff game certainly isn’t going to cut it. When your opponent is starting past the 25 on the majority of their drives you’re putting your defense in a tough position. Josh Simmons averaged 33.4 yards per return, while Hennie averaged 37 yards per punt return.
This rotation from the active roster to the inactive roster looks more to me like the team is trying to keep everyone engaged and involved by giving them time on the active roster, and in turn paying them the extra $2,500 an active player receives versus being inactive. This will keep players happier than they would be strictly riding the bench all season long, and more importantly it shows that all of these players truly have a role on the team, and aren’t just depth pieces waiting to be released for the next shiny big name.
This week the Stars also brought in some new offensive firepower, and were forced to replace an offensive lineman who they had high hopes for.
As expected Drew Himmelman is stepping in at left tackle where Antonio Garcia no longer resides. This will be a position to watch after two games with just one sack the Stars can’t afford a regression in this category. They must continue to protect the quarterback and open up rushing lanes. Himmelman is a recent NFL cut, so hopefully he can hold his own this week against these Stallions on defense.
This week the Stars open this game as 6 point underdogs to the very well rounded Stallions. With Alex McGough playing like the league MVP, Cj Marable making fans forget all about Bo Scarbrough, and the defense playing one of their best games last week this point spread is spot on.
The Moneyline is: Stallions -227 to win, with the Stars +175 underdogs. The over/under is set at 45.5 points for the game.
Given the way both of these teams have played, I expect this game to see many points scored. Although John Chavis had a great game plan last week, I believe the Stars have found a way to balance out their offense and buy Case Cookus more time to throw aiding a line that needs all the help it can get. However, the Stallions defeated the Stars twice last season, and the Stars arguably were much better at running the ball, and protecting the quarterback at the time.
I unfortunately don’t see the Stars picking up the ‘W’ this week. The Stallions led by Skip Holtz have lost just three out of 19 USFL games so far in two seasons. I think they add victory #17 in 20 tries this week and make it a clean 3-0 against the Stars since the relaunch in 2022. In my opinion I would put my money on the Stallions to cover, and the over in this game As I have the Stallions beating the Stars by 7, and the two teams scoring 61 points on the game.
If you’re a fan of the USFL or XFL join us every Monday Night for Spring Football Reports in which we discuss the latest news, and storylines from the past week in outdoor spring football.