The inaugural 2022 season has not begun the way the Michigan Panthers wanted it to. Viewed as the favorites by some for winning the North Division are currently ranked in 3rd with a 1-4 record and currently looking on the outside of a playoff spot. With five games already in the books for the USFL season, let’s review where the Panthers stand at the midway point of the season.
The Panthers offense has been inconsistent and anemic at some points. Their passing offense has been pathetic for most of the season. It wasn’t until Week 5 until Shea Patterson threw for over 300 yards and the Panthers have yet to have a single quarterback have a multi-touchdown game.
The Panthers passing attack ranks last in the league totally 718 yards through five weeks which averages 143.6 yards per game. The Panthers going forward need to find an answer in the passing attack. Patterson excels using his legs and the Panthers have yet to really solidify a consistent pocket for him or even Paxton Lynch to consistently read the defenses and find open receivers. The passing in the beginning was also hampered by drops tremendously.
I personally counted over ten drops throughout the first three weeks of play by Panthers Wide Receivers. Though the Panthers receiving corps is getting healthier, and was recently aided by the addition of Ishmael Hyman, the Panthers passing attack is set up for a second half improvement.
What has kept the Panthers Offense afloat is their dynamic rushing attack. Led by Week 4 player of the week Reggie Corbin the Panthers boast a three-headed rushing trio of Corbin, Cam Scarlett, and Stevie Scott. The Panthers currently rank 2nd in the USFL in rushing in yards and touchdowns and have relied on the running game to keep the team competitive through all five weeks.
The rushing attack is clearly the strength of this that Reggie Corbin has led throughout the season. However, it is clear that the Panthers cannot rely only on the rushing attack. Moving forward if the Panthers want to compete for a playoff spot, they’ll need to have more from Shea Patterson and his receivers. Overall, I give the Panthers Offense a C-, so far throughout the season.
Originally, I predicted this defense’s strength to be its front seven specifically led by former XFL Sack Leader Cavon Walker, so far that has not been the case. The Panthers have allowed the least number of points and yards of any team this season yet remain 1-4 this season. The Panthers have been anchored by the “Captain” Sean Williams who has been the leader in the secondary and on the defense in general. Williams leads a young group that outside of Walker, Frank Ginda lack a lot of experience. This secondary has only allowed 144.4 yds through the air, which speaks volume to the play of Tino Ellis and Jameson Houston, and the coaching of first year defensive coordinator Daniel Carrel. The secondary has not only made plays in the passing game but also has come up to help the front seven multiple times.
The front seven needs to pick it up for the Panthers. In order for the team to make a playoff push they need to generate an effective pass rush. So far, the Panthers have manifested only four sacks total in five games which is among the worst in the league.
The Panther originally thought Chase DeMoor and Cavon Walker would the defensive pass rush but as of right now DeMoor is not on the team anymore, and Walker has only managed 14 tackles thus far. Though there have been a lot of positives throughout the season for this defense, I have felt that they have been playing below their level potential for several weeks. Overall, I give the defense a B- for the year.
For the first four weeks this unit has been definitely the weakest cog in the machine known as the Michigan Panthers. The Panthers have continued to leave points on the board for weeks 1 through 4 and now have a legitimate kicker going forward. Their new Kicker Cole Murphy who was signed after Michael Carrizosa was released already has made an immediate impact, converting all 4 of his kicks (2 XP, 2 FG), and even converting a pass a 4th down conversion with his arm.
Murphy’s addition may have changed the Panthers season if signed earlier but there is no point in the past at this point. Moving forward between the signing of Cole Murphy and the signing of punter Kyle Kramer, the Panthers are finally putting together a competent kicking battery and just in time too.
The Panthers return game has been a league average. Joe Walker and Cameron Scarlett have performed admirably for their work as they have to manage not only kick returns and punt returns but also playing a major role in the offense. Walker also should be commended for ability to also hold occasionally when the Panthers were dealing with QB/holder issues.
Though they haven’t returned a kick for a touchdown…. yet Walker and Scarlett have continued to give the Panthers competent field position throughout the season. Overall, I’d give this unit a D+, I can’t forgive the results from weeks 1-4, as it’s the reason why the Panthers are in 3rd place in the North.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D+
This team has a lot of work to do. With the recent the roster management and personnel moves I’d like to believe that they have improved their chances tremendously to make a playoff berth. However, it may be too little too late. The Panthers have the Stallions, Generals and Breakers remaining on their schedule and as of right now I have the Panthers finishing 2-3 for a total record 3-7, which has them looking at missing the playoffs.
With a team that had extremely high expectations and the number one overall pick, it’s extremely disappointing the Panthers will not finish back to back USFL inaugural champions.