aaf News & Analysis

USFL Week 4: Touchdowns, players of the game, fantasy football workload notes and more

Birmingham, AL, USA; Birmingham Stallions running back CJ Marable (11) runs the ball against the Tampa Bay Bandits during the second half at Protective Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Football in the spring is objectively better than no football at all. This is not up for debate, and the USFL was kind enough to grace all of us with four games that didn’t fail to disappoint this standard.

What follows is a breakdown of all the Week 4 action, specifically noting:

  • Touchdowns
  • Offensive player(s) of the game
  • Defensive player(s) of the game
  • Fantasy football workload notes
  • Final thoughts

Be sure to check out The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for weekly reviews and preview episodes of this wonderful league.

Philadelphia Stars 26, Michigan Panthers 25

Touchdowns

Case Cookus had the Stars cooking early (sorry), leading the squad to 10 points on their first two drives. The touchdown came on a b-e-a-utiful 39-yard strike to Devin Gray on every millennial's favorite play call ever: four-verts. PHI 10, MICH 0.

It took the Panthers 10 plays to drive just 36 yards for their first touchdown of the game, but style points aren't included on the scoreboard, so whatever. The drive featured Shea Patterson making great use of his legs, first by converting a fourth-and-one and later by escaping multiple would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone from nine yards out. PHI 10, MICH 9.

The Panthers needed just one play to travel 88 yards to the house on their next drive, as Reggie Corbin out-raced the entire city of Philadelphia on his way to the end zone. The infamous Week 3 inactive-turned-active back had himself another stellar game and should be on anyone's shortlist of the USFL's best running backs. MICH 17, PHI 10.

The Panthers were looking to add to their lead before Patterson was intercepted with just 37 seconds remaining in the first half. That was all the time Cookus and company needed, as the Stars' QB2 connected with Diondre Overton from 41 yards out on the very first play of the drive. It was another example of Cookus having the sort of arm strength and big-play mindset to make the most out of his newfound snaps. PHI 17, MICH 17.

The Panthers scored the game's final touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter courtesy of a rather great 11-yard touchdown connection between Patterson and Joe Walker. Patterson was atrocious as a passer for most of Friday night, but credit to him for making several plays with his legs and putting the team in a position to win. Ultimately, the Panthers missed a 21-yard field goal as time expired to lose the game. PHI 26, MICH 25.

Offensive players of the game: Stars QB Case Cookus, Panthers RB Reggie Corbin

Cookus managed to complete 22 of 30 passes for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 6.3 yards per attempt and 5.2-yard average target depth aren't anything to write home about, but perhaps the offense will open up more in future weeks after two of his three attempts thrown at least 20 yards downfield were turned into touchdowns.

And then there’s Corbin, who has ripped off 20-133-1 and 13-154-1 rushing lines over the past two weeks — not bad for a guy who had 21 total rushing yards in Weeks 1 and 2. Corbin has racked up nine forced missed tackles along the way and truly looks the part of one of the league's best running backs. He joins Jordan Ellis and Mark Thompson as the only players with 300-plus rushing yards after four weeks of action.

Defensive players of the game: Stars CB Channing Stribling and Evan Worthington

Stribling and Worthington were two of just three players to receive a PFF grade north of 90.0 in Week 4. They combined to not allow a single reception on five targets into their coverage, while Stribling deserves extra credit for picking off a pair of passes.

Fantasy football workload notes

Stars: Case Cookus suddenly finds himself as one of the USFL’s few quarterbacks expected to take 100% of the offense’s snaps on a weekly basis, so long as Bryan Scott remains sidelined. Paul Terry continued to work as the lead back with Darnell Holland injured, although Matt Colburn was far more involved in Week 4 compared to Week 3 in his first game back from injury. Jordan Suell, Devin Gray, Diondre Overton and Bug Howard continue to make up four-receiver sets. Chris Rowland and Maurice Alexander simply aren’t in the starting rotation despite their respective early-season success.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air Yards
Case Cookus QB 100% 0% 36 4 0 0
Paul Terry HB 64% 56% 0 11 4 2
Matt Colburn II HB 36% 36% 0 6 1 -5
Jordan Suell WR 91% 89% 0 0 3 31
Devin Gray WR 85% 83% 0 0 7 49
Diondre Overton WR 81% 78% 0 0 5 34
Chris Rowland WR 21% 25% 0 0 1 3
Maurice Alexander WR 21% 22% 0 0 0 0
Bug Howard TE 87% 92% 0 0 5 20
Pro Wells TE 15% 11% 0 0 1 7

Panthers: Shea Patterson took every snap with Paxton Lynch (ankle) sidelined, but his mostly brutal performance as a passer should lead to Lynch re-seizing the starting job once healthy enough to suit up. Reggie Corbin continues to shine despite the presence of a fully muddled three-back committee, although he’ll be in trouble if his big-play well runs dry. Lance Lenoir and Devin Ross continue to be the only fantasy-viable options in this low-ceiling passing game that continues to lean heavily on not one, not two, but three tight ends.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air Yards
Shea Patterson QB 100% 0% 24 9 0 0
Reggie Corbin HB 36% 13% 0 13 1 -7
Stevie Scott III HB 36% 33% 0 8 1 2
Cameron Scarlett HB 28% 38% 0 4 1 1
Lance Lenoir Jr. WR 72% 83% 0 1 4 65
Devin Ross WR 71% 83% 0 0 5 37
Joe Walker WR 41% 38% 0 1 3 33
Ray Bolden WR 24% 17% 0 1 0 0
Marcus Baugh TE 88% 75% 0 0 2 15
La'Michael Pettway TE 74% 71% 0 0 2 39
Connor Davis TE 29% 8% 0 0 0 0
Final Thoughts

The Fighting Jeff Fishers were a 21-yard field goal away from reaching .500. Alas, USFL kickers continue to disappoint, and the Panthers are now sitting at just 1-3 after four weeks of action. Great job to the Stars for getting the W without starting quarterback Bryan Scott (knee), but their defense continues to leave plenty to be desired. Cookus and company might have to win by shootout more often than not if they hope to contend for the league championship.


New Jersey Generals 21, Pittsburgh Maulers 13

Touchdowns

De'Andre Johnson got his first start of the season and responded with a 62-yard touchdown to Alonzo Moore on the Generals' second drive of the game. Yes, the score was largely the result of blown coverage. Also yes, these are the sorts of things that happen more frequently when a defense is forced to respect a legit dual-threat quarterback like Johnson. NJ 7, PIT 0.

The Generals soaked up a whopping 10:11 of the clock on their second touchdown drive. The 15-play, 75-yard drive featured both quarterbacks and culminated with a seven-yard touchdown run by KaVontae Turpin, who might as well be the USFL's version of Deebo Samuel at this point thanks to his dual-threat WR/RB usage. NJ 14, PIT 3.

The Maulers quickly responded with a 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive to make it a one-score game entering halftime. Garrett Groshek gets credit for the touchdown thanks to his plunge from the goal line, but Tre Walker was the real hero of the drive with five catches for 45 yards. Walker even had a 50-yard score nullified by an illegal blindside block on the drive. NJ 14, PIT 10.

Bowling ball Darius Victor capped off a 34-yard touchdown drive with a short goal-line score to re-extend the New Jersey lead to two scores. Shoutout to Cameron Echols-Luper for his 53-yard kick return to set the offense up deep in Pittsburgh territory. This would be the final touchdown of the game, as the Maulers simply couldn’t get enough going to pull off the upset. NJ 21, PIT 13.

Offensive players of the game: Generals WR KaVontae Turpin, Maulers WR Tre Walker

Turpin has posted season-long 11-69-1 rushing and 14-129-0 receiving lines. He's taken snaps all over the formation and gives the run-first Generals offense a dynamic horizontal presence. New Jersey might not make a habit out of throwing the football, but the team is awfully hard to defend with De’Andre Johnson, Darius Victor and Turpin offering different, yet effective, rushing threats on a near every-down basis.

Walker’s 9-110-0 performance was plenty great in its own right, but his numbers could have been even bigger. Early in the game, he had a potential chunk touchdown ripped out of his hands at the last moment while attempting to maintain control through the ground. Then he had a 50-yard score nullified on a rather meaningless blindside block penalty. Finally, Walker had a borderline drop on another potential chunk touchdown, although it would have been a struggle for him to get both feet down. Ultimately, the Maulers’ infatuation with feeding Walker targets seemed warranted by his ability to consistently get open.

Defensive player of the game: Maulers LB E.J. Ejiya

Ejiya was all over the field in Week 4, racking up seven tackles — two for a loss or no gain — and a pressure. He also allowed only nine yards into his coverage on two targets. The Maulers' offense hasn’t given the team much of a chance to win throughout the season, so credit to the Pittsburgh defense for keeping them in games.

Fantasy football workload notes

Generals: De’Andre Johnson started for the first time all season and worked ahead of Luis Perez for most of the game. Darius Victor has always been the offense’s short-yardage back, but he seemed to really take over as the No. 1 back ahead of Trey Williams for the first time all season. However, the presence of KaVontae Turpin in the run game adds another mouth for this run-heavy offense to feed. Alonzo Moore, Darrius Shepherd and Turpin easily worked as the offense’s top-three wide receivers, but realize Moore could see his snaps evaporate once J’Mon Moore (hamstring) is healthy enough to return to action.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air Yards
De'Andre Johnson QB 70% 0% 13 11 0 0
Luis Perez QB 30% 0% 14 0 0 0
Darius Victor HB 54% 44% 0 10 3 -9
Trey Williams HB 43% 48% 0 6 2 -8
Pete Guerriero HB 4% 4% 0 1 0 0
Alonzo Moore WR 80% 85% 0 0 3 48
Darrius Shepherd WR 64% 78% 0 0 5 61
KaVontae Turpin WR 63% 70% 0 4 7 38
Randy Satterfield WR 34% 30% 0 0 1 4
Cam Echols-Luper WR 7% 7% 0 0 0 0
Braedon Bowman TE 75% 59% 0 0 0 0
Woody Brandom TE 54% 44% 0 0 3 21
Wes Saxton Jr. TE 23% 15% 0 0 0 0

Maulers: Kyle Lauletta took every snap in this one despite Josh Love showing more upside during the early weeks of the season. Garrett Groshek was easily the lead back this week, although Pittsburgh had made a habit of flip-flopping its top two running backs in a seemingly random manner throughout the season. Branden Mack and Tre Walker are the only viable pass-game options. Walker’s outrageous week-high marks in targets (17) and air yards (229) were at least somewhat due to early-season No. 1 wide receiver Bailey Gaither (illness) being inactive.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air Yards
Kyle Lauletta QB 100% 0% 35 2 0 0
Garrett Groshek HB 70% 63% 0 14 1 -4
Madre London HB 31% 29% 0 5 0 0
Branden Mack WR 98% 100% 0 0 4 43
Tre Walker WR 98% 100% 0 0 17 229
Delvon Hardaway WR 52% 63% 0 0 3 13
Kenneth Walker III WR 13% 20% 0 0 1 5
Hunter Thedford TE 67% 51% 0 0 3 46
Artayvious Lynn TE 63% 46% 0 0 2 13
Final thoughts

The Maulers had several chances to make this one very interesting, but the better team ultimately prevailed. Still winless after four weeks of action, the Maulers have at least stayed competitive deep into the fourth quarter on two occasions. Meanwhile, New Jersey continues to win in large part thanks to their ability to run the damn ball. Credit to Luis Perez for putting forward one of his better performances in this one, but the best version of this Generals offense probably includes De’Andre Johnson playing under center for all 60 minutes.


Birmingham Stallions 16, Tampa Bay Bandits 10

Touchdowns

The Stallions took 9:04 off the clock on their first touchdown series. Starting quarterback Alex McGough capped off the 17-play, 77-yard drive with a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line. The Stallions had only one play go for more than eight yards the entire drive. BHAM 7, TB 3.

The game’s only other touchdown occurred immediately after, as Jordan Ta'amu needed just 44 seconds to drive the Bandits 69 yards to the promised land. The nine-yard touchdown connection between Ta'amu and Rashard Davis was one of the USFL's best throws of the season. Alas, the Bandits’ failure to control the line of scrimmage would be their undoing, and the Stallions managed to capture the W with the help of three field goals. BHAM 16, TB 10.

Offensive players of the game: None

These teams combined to throw for 251 yards and took seven sacks. No individual player had more than 61 rushing or receiving yards. Call it bad offense, or great defense: Either way, no individual offensive player made enough plays to earn the nod.

Defensive player of the game: Stallions EDGE Dondrea Tillman

Tillman was one of my highlighted top nine players from the first three weeks of action. He continued to ball out in Week 4, adding five pressures and a sack to his season-long totals.

Fantasy football workload notes

Stallions: Alex McGough took every snap with J’Mar Smith (illness) seemingly only active in an emergency capacity. Expect a platoon of sorts if Smith is healthy enough to play next week. CJ Marable importantly continued to dominate usage despite Jordan Chunn suiting up for the first time all season. Still, it’d make sense if Chunn’s snaps increase in his second game back from injury. Victor Bolden continues to see one of the league’s most fantasy-friendly workloads. Marlon Williams is the only other pass-game option in this offense with a worthwhile weekly ceiling.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air Yards
Alex McGough QB 100% 0% 32 9 0 0
CJ Marable HB 75% 53% 0 17 3 -9
Tony Brooks-James HB 25% 13% 0 5 2 3
Jordan Chunn HB 10% 0% 0 0 0 0
Victor Bolden Jr. WR 97% 100% 0 0 9 107
Marlon Williams WR 95% 91% 0 0 3 16
Osirus Mitchell WR 70% 75% 0 0 1 5
Michael Dereus WR 28% 25% 0 0 2 11
Peyton Ramzy WR 5% 9% 0 0 1 13
Sage Surratt TE 92% 94% 0 0 2 2

Bandits: Jordan Ta’amu continues to work as the clear full-time quarterback ahead of Brady White. The same is true for BJ Emmons easily out-pacing backup Juwan Washington. Unfortunately, this crowded passing game continues to keep six wide receivers and two tight ends involved on a weekly basis, lowering the ceiling and floor alike for everyone involved. Derrick Willies looks like the safest bet for weekly volume, given he’s the only one who recorded a Week 4 route participation rate north of 80%.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air Yards
Jordan Ta'amu QB 100% 0% 29 6 0 0
BJ Emmons HB 66% 52% 0 11 4 2
Juwan Washington HB 36% 17% 0 3 2 3
Derrick Willies WR 87% 90% 0 0 2 34
Derrick Dillon WR 70% 76% 0 0 3 -1
Rashard Davis WR 40% 55% 0 0 1 17
Vinny Papale WR 32% 38% 0 0 4 56
Keith Mumphery WR 21% 21% 0 0 1 11
John Franklin III WR 11% 10% 0 0 1 0
Cheyenne O'Grady TE 70% 52% 0 0 3 32
De'Quan Hampton TE 62% 48% 0 0 1 5
Final thoughts

Assumed Stallions starting quarterback J’Mar Smith didn’t play in this one due to an illness. Perhaps the job was always going to go back to Week 1 starter Alex McGough once he was healthy enough to return. Either way, the Stallions remain the USFL’s only undefeated squad and look capable of winning on any given Friday, Saturday or Sunday thanks to their game-changing pass rush. Neither Jordan Ta’amu nor Kyle Sloter was able to get comfortable against this group over the past two weeks. Birmingham has the ingredients to make a legit title run with a little more consistency from its offense.


New Orleans Breakers 23, Houston Gamblers 16

Touchdowns

The Gamblers took advantage of a Kyle Sloter interception thanks to JoJo Ward pulling off arguably the play of the week. Facing a third-and-22 from the New Orleans 30-yard line, Ward took a short hitch route all the way to the house, making more than one defender look silly along the way. HOU 7, NO 3.

The Breakers managed to travel 93 yards on 10 plays before the half to briefly even things up. Taywan Taylor was the star of the drive with 27- and 25-yard receptions to quickly move the offense into Houston territory. Jordan Ellis wound up finding the end zone from 12 yards out with a big-boy touchdown run. HOU 10, NO 10.

Only one more touchdown would be scored the rest of the game – but it was an important one. With the score tied at 16 and just 42 seconds on the clock, Kyle Sloter drove the offense down the field and found Jonathan Adams for a game-winning 29-yard touchdown. Adams hauled in (yet another) baller contested catch with just 10 seconds remaining on the clock. THIS LEAGUE. NO 23, HOU 16.

Offensive players of the game: Breakers QB Kyle Sloter, RB Jordan Ellis, WR Jonathan Adams

Sloter set a new single-week high for passing yards with 414 and racked up an asinine eight big-time throws. Note that one of his three interceptions was deflected at the line of scrimmage, while another was largely the result of his receiver falling down/getting interfered with.

Ellis was one of just two players to surpass the century mark on the ground in Week 4. He did so in style, racking up five forced missed tackles and averaging a robust 4.2 yards after contact per carry. While not as explosive as injured co-pilot T.J. Logan, Ellis is more than capable of headlining this New Orleans backfield on all three downs.

Adams continues to look a lot like the single-best NFL prospect that the USFL has to offer. Overall, he caught six of nine targets for 101 yards and a game-winning touchdown in Week 4. Adams is now second in the entire USFL in receiving yards at 213; don't be surprised if he winds up leading the league after 10 weeks of action.

Defensive players of the game: Gamblers ED Chris Odom, entire Breakers front seven

Odom racked up a week-high 11 pressures — an absurd total in just 60 minutes of action. Meanwhile, USFL leading rusher Mark Thompson managed just 10 rushing yards on 14 carries. As a whole, the Gamblers tallied only 28 rushing yards on 20 attempts, while Clayton Thorson was also under duress for most of the afternoon.

Fantasy football workload notes

Breakers: Kyle Sloter continues to take every snap despite dealing with a myriad of injuries. Jordan Ellis has worked as one of the league’s most-fed backs over the past two weeks, but something closer to a 50-50 split is expected once T.J. Logan is healthy enough to return to action. Jonathan Adams is the clear No. 1 pass-game option in New Orleans, but there’s enough meat on the bone for the complementary receivers to eat, as well. This includes tight end Sal Cannella, who looks the part of a wide receiver and has the second-largest role in this passing game.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air Yards
Kyle Sloter QB 100% 0% 47 2 0 0
Jordan Ellis HB 81% 66% 0 19 6 -22
Larry Rose III HB 19% 15% 0 6 2 -4
Jonathan Adams Jr. WR 92% 91% 0 0 9 99
Johnnie Dixon WR 66% 62% 0 1 5 77
Taywan Taylor WR 64% 68% 0 0 5 128
Shawn Poindexter WR 64% 68% 0 0 3 36
Lee Morris WR 14% 11% 0 0 1 5
Sal Cannella TE 86% 85% 0 0 9 125
Justin Johnson TE 14% 13% 0 0 1 18

Gamblers: Clayton Thorson hasn’t exactly made the most out of his full-time role, so don’t be surprised if backup Kenji Bahar steals a few drives away once he’s healthy enough to return to action. Mark Thompson continues to be one of the league’s most-featured backs, and he had a few lethal stiff arms on Sunday that unfortunately don’t show up in the stat sheet. This passing game doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but at least Isaiah Zuber, JoJo Ward and Anthony Ratliff-Williams have the sort of every-down roles to warrant fantasy exposure.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air Yards
Clayton Thorson QB 100% 0% 28 2 0 0
Mark Thompson HB 67% 29% 0 14 0 0
Devwah Whaley HB 20% 14% 0 3 1 6
Isaiah Zuber WR 100% 100% 0 0 7 65
JoJo Ward WR 100% 100% 0 0 4 45
Anthony Ratliff-Williams WR 67% 89% 0 0 4 47
Tyler Palka WR 50% 71% 0 0 4 43
Tyler Simmons WR 13% 14% 0 1 3 11
Brandon Barnes TE 48% 29% 0 0 2 13
Julian Allen TE 35% 11% 0 0 0 0
Final thoughts

All four Week 4 matchups were decided in the final 70 seconds. The USFL might not be the world’s best football, but it’s certainly doing something right in terms of producing competitive matchups. Credit to the Breakers for continuing to look like anyone’s idea of a top-two USFL squad. It was a minor miracle that the Gamblers managed to keep this one close despite being out-gained in the yardage department, 523-155.

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