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USFL Week 4 QB Rankings: Love, and Cookus Regress, While Williams and Johnson Improve

Week 3 of the USFL saw our largest amount of movement in our QB rankings. While New Orleans Breakers Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson has clearly established himself as the USFL’s top signal caller, several other Quarterbacks have either regressed or improved their stock, with their week 3 performances. So far Week 3 has shown the most volatility in our rankings in the 2023 season.

Honorable Mention:

Jalen Morton made his USFL debut in Week 3 due to an Alex McGough injury. Morton was “rocked” on a sack, and had 1 Rushing Attempt for 5 Rushing Yards during his cameo appearance. With McGough clearly banged up even the little bit of experience Morton earned in Week 3 could be monumental if the Stallions QB1 is forced to miss several games later in the season.

9. Josh Love Michigan Panthers Previous Ranking #3

Stats: 15/31 101 Passing Yards 0 TD 1 INT 3 Rushing Attempts 13 Rushing Yards

It’s been back-to-back weeks of Love struggling after his Week One performance. Love had four passes batted at the line of scrimmage and threw an extremely ill-advised interception that saw his Panthers Receiver double covered on the sideline. Love’s opportunity to continue starting with Michigan may be running out however the Panthers do take on the 0-3 Showboats in week 4, which could serve as a “get right game” for the San Jose State Alum.

8. Troy Williams Pittsburgh Maulers Previous Ranking #9

Stats: 10/18 96 Passing Yards 1 TD 0 INT 7 Rushing Attempts 65 Rushing Yards

Williams put together his best performance of the season finally being given an opportunity to play the whole game. While the addition of former New Jersey Generals OT Terry Poole improved the blindside for Williams, the right side of the Maulers offensive line still struggled mightily against the Philadelphia Stars in Week 3. Williams’ biggest strength is his legs, and due to the volatility of the Pittsburgh Offense, it’s evident that Coach Horton needs to continue with his Rookie QB in the hopes of remaining competitive for the 2023 season.

7. Carson Strong Michigan Panthers Previous Ranking Unranked

Stats: 4/9 62 Passing Yards 1 TD 0 INT 0 Rushing Attempts 0 Rushing Yards

Strong gets the nod over Williams due to his ability to push the ball down the field. The Panthers are able to utilize a more vertical passing with Strong or Love, while the Maulers utilize a short passing attack, with heavy reliance on the screen game. Strong provided a spark for Michigan doing a decent job of getting the ball out quick finding the end zone for his first career Pro Touchdown. While I don’t think the Panthers should go to Strong immediately, over Josh Love, another Panthers loss could leave some room for discussion in the Michigan QB room.

6. Case Cookus Philadelphia Stars Previous Ranking #4

Stats: 23/36 238 Passing Yards 1 TD 2 INTs 5 Rushing Attempts 0 Rushing Yards 1 Fumble

The regression of Case Cookus is probably less about his skill set and more about the ineffectiveness of the Stars Offensive Line. Cookus was primed to be the 2023 MVP of the USFL, however has been under duress on nearly every drop back this season. Cookus was sacked 3 times this week in addition to being hit multiple times throughout the Stars Week 3 matchup against the Maulers. Though Cookus may not be playing his best football, it’s clear that he may not be able to finish the season if the Stars pass protection doesn’t improve.

5. DeAndre Johnson New Jersey Generals Previous Ranking #7

Stats: 10/15 180 Passing Yards 2 TDs 0 INTs 10 Rushing Attempts 98 Rushing Yards 1 Fumble

Johnson put together one of his best performances through the air in probably his professional football career. Johnson was able find a wide open Alonzo Moore for a 72-yard touchdown in addition to continuing to be one of the more dynamic players in the USFL with his leg. With the Generals opting for a One QB system, look for Johnson to have a bit longer of a leash, in an effort to solidify himself as a true QB1 for New Jersey.

4. Cole Kelley Memphis Showboats Previous Ranking Unranked

Stats: 21/37 307 Passing Yards 2 TDs 1 INT 4 Rushing Yards 17 Rushing Attempts

Kelley almost led Memphis to a victory in his professional start, however Kenji Bahar’s heroics ended that “Hollywood” ending. Kelley took a major step forward after sitting out in Week 2, allowing the Showboats Offense to put together it’s best performance of the young season. With some success recently hopefully the Head Coach Todd Haley allows for Kelley to continue to build on his momentum for Memphis going into Week 4.

3. Kenji Bahar Houston Gamblers Previous Ranking #5

Stats: 22/36 235 Passing Yards 2 TDs 1 INT 2 Rushing Attempts 7 Yards

I could of flipped flopped Bahar and Kelley, but ultimately, I gave Bahar the #3 spot due to his late game heroics and his vast improvement over the past several weeks. Bahar finally managed to lead the Gamblers to a win in Week 3, hitting Justin Hall for a Touchdown with 13 seconds left in the 4th Quarter. Bahar who I’ve been critical of due to lack of experience finally seems to be coming into his own, in his 6th professional start. While the Gamblers do have plenty of issues on Defense, seem to have found themselves in a decent position Offensively with weapons like Justin Hall, Josh Pederson, T.J. Pledger, and oh, by the way they now have a healthy Mark Thompson in the backfield again as well.

2. Alex McGough Birmingham Stallions Previous Ranking #1

Stats: 17/26 238 Passing Yards 2 TDs 1 INT 3 Rushing Attempts 7 Rushing Yards

McGough took a beating in Week 3, even being forced to leave the game at one point. The former FIU standout managed to put together a respectable stat line, often times it felt like the Stallions signal caller was throwing on the run and could not get his feet set on some “easier” pass attempts. While McGough is clearly in the top echelon of Quarterbacks in the USFL, he may not be able to finish the season if he continues to take a beating like he has through the first 3 weeks.

1. McLeod Bethel-Thompson New Orleans Breakers Previous Ranking #2

Stats: 20/28 283 Passing Yards 3 TDs 1 INT 4 Rushing Attempts 9 Rushing Yards

MBT has been the USFL’s most consistent and dominate Quarterback in 2023. With plethora of weapons like, Johnnie Dixon, Jonathan Adams, Sage Surratt, and the emergence of Wes Hills at Running Back another CFL veteran in the USFL. With MBT under center the Breakers have found themselves 3-0, after taking down the 2022 USFL Champions 45-31 this past weekend.

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Pat Rifino is a former Security Contractor turned writer. He began his writing career talking about geo-politics, and the defense industry. Now Pat writes about alt-league football, while hanging out with his dogs in his off time.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ken Granito

    May 3, 2023 at 7:47 am

    I liked this article. When I read the headline, I wondered where this was going, but it was right on. The only thing I would like to add is about Case Cookus. First, still a big fan of his and a I am looking forward to getting his Upper Deck card in the mail when hardcopies are produced and mailed. I do think, however, his play is much more to blame than would indicate. Too often in that last game I saw Cookus gets off open receivers because he was trying to upgrade. Especially in football you take the bird in hand. There are too many variables to let an open Devin Gray or Corey Coleman streaking across the field uncovered to let go. The team was having no success running the ball. This basically becomes their run, plus they always say you want to get your playmakers open in space. They had space. To get off that because you want a bomb is very immature. Maybe Case wants game film to show the NFL they were again wrong for letting him go. Most QBs can throw a bomb that lands on the turf or in a defender’s hands. That is not what makes Case Cookus the QB who was the better option on the Monday night game that Perkins started. It was his leadership. It was reading coverage and making plays to lead his team to victory. Case Cookus is one of the very best leaders we have in this league. He needs to follow that strength. He needs to be there for his guys. That above all else is what being a quarterback is. Re-establish why you are the Stars QB. The big plays will happen.

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