Stars fans are angry, and they have every right to be. During this three game losing streak the Stars have given up the second most points in the league behind only the Gamblers. They are in third in yards per game allowed, but the stat that sticks out even more now than before their most recent loss, is their league worst run defense. Through four games they’ve allowed 595 rushing yards.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
There was none. This is the first time I can say there wasn’t a single thing encouraging about this game. We gave up a season high in sacks, a season high in points, and allowed over 200 yards on the ground. There will be no participation awards given out this week.
Some people will say they looked good when they went to the no huddle offense down by 31 points, but I put about 40% of the credit for the offense moving the ball at that point on the defense going into a prevent, and allowing Case Cookus to carve them up in the middle of the field, more focused on preventing the big plays. This allowed Cookus to go 8 of 10 for 58 yards and 1 touchdown on their second to last drive. However even during this drive, Cookus was hit, and hurt his throwing hand. He seemed to be favoring the hand for the rest of the game, and didn’t reenter the game for the 4th and 12 attempt to keep the ball.
Instead the Stars brought in Kevin Thomson who completed the pass just a yard shy of the sticks, which led to a turnover on downs. Looking at the statistics, Cookus finished 24 of 36 by the end of the game, but if not for that final drive, we are looking at 16 of 26 for 131 yards 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. As I said before, there will be no participation awards given out this week. This offensive line needs to get figured out…yesterday.
The play calling was again stagnant, our offense looks like it’s overmatched. Teams have realized the offensive line currently is struggling to stop the front four allowing them to drop seven in coverage or send a fifth rusher on a delayed blitz which accounted for at least one sack on the day. This is causing even more issues, because even when the line can buy enough time to get off a pass no one is open due to the extra coverage.
Bart Andrus made a symbolic move after the game when he alone showed up to the podium to this point every coach had been joined by two players. This struck chord with me, as I believe it showed he knows exactly who is to blame for his team’s woes right now. He is the play caller refusing to go to more 21 or 12 personnel, and he’s also the head coach that hasn’t stepped in to make a change. He wouldn’t be the first nor would he be the last head coach to give up play calling duties. The good thing is his staff is very experienced with multiple options should they make a change.
Assistants That Could be Considered
This may seem counterintuitive but why not look to Jeff Jagodzinski? He has served as an offensive coordinator at the NFL, XFL, and collegiate level. He also serves as the current offensive line coach for the Stars. Why give him play calling? If anyone understands how to help an offensive line get in a rhythm it’s Coach Jagodzinski, and this could be the best way to get the most out of this offensive line. At this rate we are nearly halfway through the season, and there have been no significant changes made.
Marcel Bellefeuille is a current head coach in the USFL offseason with the Ottawa Gee Gees. He also is the current passing game coordinator for the Stars. It’s safe to say all of these coaches have an input in the play calling that’s why you have titles like run game coordinator and pass game coordinator, but we have also watched this play out with the Eagles a couple years ago when there were too many voices. Maybe it’s time the Stars pick one play caller and live or die by his word, or rotate games in which they call plays. This would create a unique way to eliminate tendencies although it’s questionable how much this would work but can it get any worse than a 25 point blow out?
This defense has gotten no help from the run game and he often been undermanned and short handed but that’s no excuse to allow 41 points and over 200 yards rushing to the Houston Gamblers. The Gamblers are a well coached, and talented team, but they’re far from the best team in the league. If the team is allowing 41 to the Gamblers, what happens when the Stars face the Generals, or better yet the Breakers in two weeks who look like the best team in the USFL?
A lot has gone wrong for the Stars to get to this point, and while I’m not in the business of making excuses I don’t know that there has been a more injured team early in the season than the Stars. It seems every week we are losing another starter to injury particularly at offensive line, defensive line and linebacker. The depth has been tested and so far the grade has been a resounding ‘F’ through this three game losing streak. I’m hoping the Stars can make some moves this week to bring in more depth, and potential starters at tackle. Even if it means starting a rookie.
Currently TheUSFL.com has the spread set at 5 points for the Stars and Generals match up this weekend. The over/under is set at 43.5 points, with the Stars +175 to win, and the Generals -227. I pondered on a recent podcast if the spread here shouldn’t be even larger given how the Stars performed last week, as well as the injuries we saw:
Reports are that Jack of all trades Chris Rowland has been lost for the season. If that is the case it’s time for Terry Wright to start seeing significant playing time immediately. Either that or Corey Coleman needs to absorb his targets, and the Stars need to find a new decoy to stretch the field. This is a huge loss, as Rowland had been a large chunk of their offensive output, and their primary kick returner. With Rowland hurt, Coleman is the next man up as a returner, unless they decided to insert Wright who can also serve in this role with great success.
Unfortunately I can’t pick the Stars to win this week. I’m expecting a 31-24 loss by Philadelphia. The Stars have had issues stopping the run all year, and I expect that to continue to the league’s top rushing offense. DeAndre Johnson is another dual threat quarterback, and we were recently gashed by Troy Williams, and Terry Wilson. Mobile quarterbacks have been our weakness all season so far.
I have mentioned that the Stars should consider running some 3-4 fronts. Get creative on both sides of the ball. I suggested this because of how their defensive line has been ravaged by injuries in the interior. Multiple of their current linemen would be better suited as 3-4 ends, than 4-3 tackles, and their pass rushers all look right at home standing up as rush linebackers. Honestly if you really want to get creative, run a 3-4 set, and move around Adam Rodriguez to confuse the opposing defense, and hopefully help generate more of a pass rush. Giving him the ability to free run at the quarterback could be dangerous.
You’re currently 1-3, and firmly in last place in a wide open division heading into your toughest two game stretch you will face all year. Riding a three game losing streak and facing the Generals in week 5, followed by the Breakers in week 6, Maulers again in week 7, Birmingham in week 8, then wrap up the season against the Generals, and Panthers. The playoffs start right now for the Stars, and the outlook currently is bleak. While the Stars have the skill position talent to dig themselves out of this hole, they can not do so without finding a solution to their lines that look like they can’t stop the run, or stop the opposing front seven either.