Mike Riley’s troops will be returning to the site of their most demoralizing defeat of last season. A soul-crushing 19-14 loss in Canton to archnemesis Philadelphia in last season’s USFL playoffs.
The Generals will be the designated road team in a battle with their playing hub partner and division rival Pittsburgh Maulers at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium this Sunday afternoon.
Quick Look Back And Forward After The New Jersey Generals’ Week One Loss
For the first time since Mike Riley took the reigns as New Jersey Generals head coach. There is doubt about the team’s prospects moving forward. The Generals lost key some players in the offseason, and their week one performance didn’t help silence New Jersey’s non-believers.
In their defense, The Generals had their chances against the Stallions in Birmingham — the best team in the league. New Jersey produced 361 yards on offense, rushing for 197 yards, led by 2022 offensive player of the Year Darius Victor (8-89). However, NJ was undone by failing to convert first downs, 4/13 on third downs, turning the ball over twice, and subpar red zone execution (only one score in four trips).
The most alarming aspect of week one’s performance was not the obvious absence of key players from last season. But the poor performance of their most important returning star player, QB DeAndre Johnson. The 2022 league standout had his typical showing on the ground with 45 yards rushing. However, his 4/13 passing effort for only 29 yards was awful. It’s not the kind of effort you expect from one of your top players.
The Generals were bailed out by new arrival quarterback Dakota Prukop (13/17 148 yards, one rushing touchdown). Mike Riley’s two QB system will remain intact moving forward as a result of week one. But if Johnson doesn’t play better than he did in week one. Kyle Lauletta’s inclusion in the offense won’t be far behind.
New Jersey also had some other tough breaks in week one. They lost veteran WR/KR De’Mornay Pierson-El to a right knee injury. The former standout player for Mike Riley at Nebraska is on the shelf. The team has brought back WR J’Mon Moore to take Pierson-El’s spot on the roster. The Generals also transferred another veteran to the injured list CB Blake Countess and brought back DB Treston DeCoud to place him in reserve for the future.
USFL Week 2 Preview: New Jersey Generals (0-1) at Pittsburgh Maulers (0-1) Sunday, April 23rd, 2023, 1 PM ET on NBC, Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton Ohio
- All odds from FOXBet
- Point Spread: Generals -5
- Over/Under: 36.5
- Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy skies in the morning will give way to cloudy skies during the afternoon. High 48F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.
In 2022, the 1-9 Pittsburgh Maulers were the get-right team for everyone in the USFL. The Generals outscored them in their two meetings last season 50-31. The Generals rushed for 272 yards and four scores in those matchups.
But a year later, thanks to the hiring of longtime NFL defensive coach Ray Horton and the signing of Alabama standout and former NFL first-round draft pick Reuben Foster, who is coming off a fantastic USFL debut with 12 tackles and a forced fumble that led to a defensive touchdown. Pittsburgh doesn’t look like a pushover anymore on defense.
However, the offensive side of the ball for the Maulers was very reminiscent of their 2022 counterpart.
In week one, Pittsburgh’s QB tandem of James Morgan and Troy Williams completed just 10-27 for 81 yards last week in their loss to New Orleans. The Maulers generated a putrid total of 156 yards of total offense.
New Jersey’s defense, which didn’t play all that poorly last week against Birmingham under returning original Generals coach Ted Cottrell, save for a few big plays allowed, should be ready to feast on the Maulers’ inept offense.
Steven Smith’s Generals offense will have a challenge against Pittsburgh’s revamped front seven. And will need to find some answers at receiver as the season moves along. But this is a good matchup for them to bounce back from. NJ needs to play cleaner than they did a week ago.
There are doubts about New Jersey’s getting back to their 2022 form. But for at least one weekend, I believe the Generals get back to their bread and butter from a year ago. Pounding the rock with long time-consuming drives and will eventually wear down the Maulers in Canton.