The Houston Gamblers are looking to bounce back after seeing their four-game winning streak vanish with a close loss to the Memphis Showboats.
It was another week where quarterback Kenji Bahar did not look 100 percent completing just 46 percent of his passes throwing two interceptions in the loss. Running back Mark Thompson had his lowest performance of the season rushing for just 42 yards but did get two touchdowns on the ground to make up for it. Tight end Josh Pederson led the way in receiving with 93 yards from five catches including a 34-yard completion.
The defense did a good job in the game allowing under 300 yards and creating two turnovers in the contest. Houston’s killer was a poor secondary play on the Derrick Dillon 64-yard touchdown catch with under two minutes in the game that cost them the game.
Houston’s 23-20 loss to Memphis puts the Gamblers at 4-3 on the season and just on the outside of the playoffs despite being in a three-way tie for second in the South Division behind the Birmingham Stallions. The Gamblers are facing the Pittsburgh Maulers who are 2-5 on the season.
Line: Gamblers -3, O/U 43
Date/Location: Saturday, June 3, 2023, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio
Kickoff Time: 11:00 am CST
Weather Forecast: Partly Cloudy, 81 degrees F, Precipitation 7%, Humidity 44%, Wind 9 mph
TV/Streaming: USA Network
Gamblers Injury Report
The Houston Gamblers are plagued with injuries this week as two players have been ruled out for Saturday’s game. Offensive lineman Braylon Jones (left ankle) and defensive lineman Jeffery Johnson (left hand) will not play against the Maulers. Additionally, offensive lineman Jordan Steckler (left hamstring) and defensive end Reggie Walker (left ribs) are doubtful to play which is two more players out on the lines.
This presents a depth problem, especially on the offensive line that now only has six players that will be active. Jair Joseph is the only backup lineman for the Gamblers which makes it more imperative that the line stays healthy. Walker being out means the team is losing one of their top pass rushers leaving just seven defensive linemen available for the game.
Two other injuries that were announced at the beginning of the week were wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams and running back Shermari Jones being placed on the injured reserve list.
Ratliff-Williams is one of the top playmakers in the USFL as he is seventh in the USFL in all-purpose yards with 634. Jones was the backup after they had another running back, T.J. Pledger, get placed on injured reserve a few weeks ago.
Gamblers Depth Chart
Houston’s biggest issue lies with the offensive line as mentioned above that they have just six offensive linemen active for the game. The running back position has been getting hit hard this season with T.J. Pledger already out and now Shermari Jones joining him on the inactive list. Aaron Shampklin is hoping in as the back up which means it will be another week with Mark Thompson getting a heavy workload running the ball.
Defensive ends Guy Thomas and Eli Howard are filling it as the backups to Ronheen Bingham and Isaiah Chambers. The team will continue to have three defensive tackles in the rotation with Tim Bonner, Chigozie Nnoruka, and Kristjan Sokoli being the guys.
Gamblers Signings/Cuts/Active-Inactive List
The Gamblers announced two signings to help with depth on the roster with two familiar names coming back with cornerback Bydarrius Knighten and defensive tackle Josh Avery joining the team. Both have played on the team this season and last season as they rejoined the team. This led to the announcement of the team releasing defensive tackle Julian McCleod.
Some notable name that was activated on the roster is running back Aaron Shampklin coming in as Mark Thompson’s backup at the position. Joseph was mentioned as someone who will play backup to multiple positions on the offensive line as the only backup. Defensive ends Guy Thomas and Eli Howard are joining the active roster to help with depth with two players in the same position being out.
In the last couple of games for Houston, the offense has not seen the same kind of explosiveness they are used to. Bahar’s ankle appears to still not be 100 percent which has affected the way he is stepping through. His accuracy is hovering around 50 percent since returning from injury. He needs to find a way to convert high-percentage throws leading to scores.
Houston’s offense is dictated by how well Thompson can run the ball. Last week was the first game this season where he was shut down with his carries. The Gamblers need to get the running game going from the start and it will help if they are able to get a higher amount of completions in the passing game.
Defensively, the loss of Walker will have an impact on how they get to the quarterback as he is tied for the team lead in sacks with four. Luckily, they have Bingham who is the other player on the team with four sacks, but Houston will need guys like Isaiah Chambers to step up and rush the quarterback. Pittsburgh’s MO is to run the ball so the front seven will have their work cut out for them by stopping the run and forcing the Maulers to the pass.
Every game moving forward is a critical one for the Gamblers as the South Division is as competitive as it gets where anyone can make the playoffs. This has the feel of a trap game with how good the Maulers’ defense has been this season, but Houston must go in as favorites to win this game against Pittsburgh due to their offense.