As the only undefeated team standing in the USFL, the 5-0 Birmingham Stallions are riding high atop this league. They’re currently 2 games ahead of the Breakers (3-2) and Bandits (3-2) in the South Division, and while they could be looking ahead to the playoffs, the Stallions are taking a 1-0 every week mentality.
While Skip Holtz has his team excelling in all 3 phases of the game, what’s most impressive is their ability to find ways to win, regardless of the situation. Whether they’re dealing with QB changes, injuries, illness or whatever comes next, the Stallions have been able to rally around each other and play good football. This isn’t a team that’s just on a hot streak, getting lucky, whatever, they’re battling through adversity as a whole and coming out on top week after week.
Halfway through the season, it feels like the best is yet to come.
The team came into Week One with Alex McGough as their starter, but after an ankle injury J’Mar Smith was bumped up. Smith came in and while it took a few drives to get rolling, he elevated this offense and gave the team their first win over the New Jersey Generals. Smith’s quality play helped guide the team to two more wins vs the Houston Gamblers and New Orleans Breakers, but the mystery illness designation held him out of practice Week 4 and Alex McGough got the start again.
McGough had a gutsy performance in a 16-10 win over Jordan Ta’amu’s Bandits, protecting the football while going 14 of 26 for 126 yards, and adding 39 yards and a score on the ground. He got another shot to start in Week 5, but when the offense stalled J’Mar went back in. Smith will likely be solidified as the starter moving forward, but it’s good to know that McGough can come in and win games if he misses time.
Birmingham has a diverse cast of targets to spread it out to. Victor Bolden Jr. is their top wideout as it stands, and has been a boon in the return game as well. Marlon Williams and Osirus Mitchell are their other go-to guys, and Cary Angeline’s size at tight end has been a major asset.
The run game has started to find its stride as well. CJ Marable had been solid through the first 4 weeks, but busted out a 114 yard, 1 TD performance last week. His ability to break inside and outside has been incredibly useful to this offense, and he should retain a major role even with Bo Scarbrough in the fold now. I’m excited to see how Scarbrough (6’1″ 235 pounds) can boost their short yardage and goal line looks, and having a power back like this will pay dividends in big moments. Tony Brooks-James has been solid as well, and is the ideal change of pace back for this team.
The line has held up well, and has generated good push for the running backs, and Birmingham is currently 4th leaguewide in sacks (11). Pass protection could use improvement but with consistency at QB it’ll be easier for these guys to adjust moving forward.
Overall, this team is 3rd in Rush and Pass yards per game, and is first in both points scored, and point differential. The offense is taking charge, and it’s been fun to watch.
This Defensive unit has been garnering as much attention as the high-flying offense, and for good reason. DC John Chavis has done a great job shaping the talent on this end of the roster into an aggressive, effective unit.
Opposing teams spend a lot of time playing catch up, and the Stallions’ pass rushers have been eating quarterbacks alive when they drop back. With a league-leading 14 sacks, the Stallions have been relying on the abilities of Demarquis Gates off the edge, but have been getting production from all over the depth chart. Love to see it.
They’re also starting to gain a reputation for a hard-hitting bang bang unit, as guys like Scooby Wright III, Jojo Tillery and more mete out punishment on ballcarriers on a weekly basis. Their linebacking corps is incredibly strong, and for 3 straight weeks a Stallions LB has won defensive player of the week.
The secondary has been a strong point as well, Brian Allen and Josh Shaw are a solid pair of veteran corners, and Tae Hayes has been playing great too. Their starting tandem at safety has been effective vs both the run and pass, as Tillery and Tyree Robinson lock down the back end. Even their depth guys have been able to get things done, and Lorenzo Burns still leads the team in interceptions.
Front to back, this defense has been able to play to their strengths and adapt to game situations to get things done.
With all their success on offense and defense, special teams is yet another strong point on this team. Victor Bolden Jr. leads the league in both kick and punt return yards, in addition to leading the team in receiving.
Brandon Aubrey has adjusted from soccer to football fantastically, and is 2nd leaguewide in points with 37. In his first season ever as a kicker, he’s 8/10 Field Goals with a long of 49, and is 13/14 on extra points. Kid’s doing great.
Punter Colby Wadman is holding it down as well, and he leads the league in punts downed inside the 20 yard line with 10. He’s also posting a rock solid 44.7 avg, and is performing on par with NFL punters.
The Birmingham Stallions are undisputedly the USFL’s best. That’s my conclusion, and to anyone who disagrees I say: scoreboard.
This Saturday the 21st they’ll take on the Panthers at 5:30 PM on NBC. On to Michigan.