aaf News & Analysis

USFL Week 6: Touchdowns, players of the game, fantasy football workload notes and more

Birmingham, AL, USA; Tampa Bay Bandits quarterback Jordan Ta'amu (10) runs from pressure by the Houston Gamblers during the first half at Protective Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Through six weeks of action, 17 of 24 USFL games have been decided by one score. Friends don’t let friends slander this wonderful league, as football in the spring is objectively better than no football in the spring.

What follows is a breakdown of all the Week 6 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 review and preview episodes of this wonderful league.

Philadelphia Stars 35, Tampa Bay Bandits 28

Touchdowns

Case Cookus to Bug Howard from six yards out for the score. This wouldn't be the last time we'd witness Howard's Renfrow-esque route-running goodness near the goal line. Stars 7, Bandits 0

Jordan Ta'amu lobbed a beautiful 13-yard fade to John Franklin for the Bandits' first touchdown of the game. Bandits 7, Stars 7

The Stars took advantage of a muffed punt-induced short field thanks to Matt Colburn turning two carries into 17 yards and a touchdown. Stars 14, Bandits 7

Not to be outdone before the half, Ta'amu marched the Bandits 65 yards in just 59 seconds to even things up before halftime. Of course, this wouldn't have been possible without some sensational YAC from TE Cheyenne O'Grady. Bandits 14, Stars 14

Cookus to Howard again from four yards out. Again, Howard won with some nifty route-running that really isn't fair from a 6-foot-5 and 240-pound talent. Stars 21, Bandits 14

Colburn found the end zone for the second time courtesy of a 33-yard sprint. The larger-than-usual workload was in part caused by Paul Terry missing the game with an AC joint injury. Stars 28, Bandits 14

Ta'amu calmly marched the Bandits 75 yards in 11 plays to get back within one score. O'Grady's second touchdown of the day came on a largely uncovered one-yard score in the flat. Stars 28, Bandits 21

Colburn scored his third and final touchdown of the day from 44 yards out, again displaying the sort of burst and open-field elusiveness that has been tough to come by in this league. Stars 35, Bandits 21

The Bandits' final score of the game featured Ta'amu finding De'Quan Hampton from 16 yards out. Hampton was fairly wide open after releasing up the seam on a play-action pass. Stars 35, Bandits 28

The Bandits' nearly managed to tie the score in the game's final seconds after a 62-yard catch-and-run from Rashard Davis set them up inside the Stars’ 10-yard line, but Ta'amu was heavily pressured and couldn't connect with an open O'Grady on fourth down. Stars 35, Bandits 28

Offensive players of the game: Bandits QB Jordan Ta'amu, Stars RB Matt Colburn

Ta'amu's 333 yards and four touchdowns mark the sort of performance many were expecting on a weekly basis from the XFL Hall of Famer. He's played his best football lately and has the sort of dual-threat ability (9-61-0 rushing in Week 6) to give the Bandits a chance of victory during any given week.

Colburn was thrust into the starting role with nominal starting RB Paul Terry sidelined with an AC joint injury. The man sure made the most out of the opportunity, turning 18 carries into 140 yards and a trio of touchdowns on the ground to go along with another two receptions for 12 yards — 126 of Colburn's yards came after contact. He was tough to tackle from start to finish and almost assuredly earned himself a larger role down the stretch.

Defensive player of the game: Stars EDGE Adam Rodriguez

Rodriguez registered a week-high seven pressures. None were more important than on the Bandits' last chance on fourth-and-5, when Ta'amu failed to connect with a wide-open O'Grady while taking a serious hit from Rodriguez.

Fantasy football workload notes

Stars: Cookus continues to take every snap with Bryan Scott (knee) sidelined. Colburn worked as the clear lead back over Darnell Holland, who has been eased back into the lineup upon returning from a hamstring injury in Week 5. Note that Week 5 starter Terry was inactive seemingly due to an AC joint injury, although he was listed as a full go on the team’s end-of-week injury report. Maurice Alexander, Devin Gray and Jordan Suell were the clear-cut top-three receivers, although Howard was also plenty involved and was heavily featured near the end zone. Alexander is the most likely to return to the bench if WR Diondre Overton (hamstring) is healthy enough to return next week.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Case Cookus 100% 0% 23 4 0 0
HB Matt Colburn II 66% 57% 0 18 2 1
HB Darnell Holland 30% 35% 0 7 1 -3
WR Maurice Alexander 94% 87% 0 0 3 39
WR Devin Gray 92% 87% 0 0 2 3
WR Jordan Suell 86% 96% 0 0 2 19
WR Chris Rowland 32% 39% 0 0 1 8
WR Kahlil Lewis 6% 13% 0 0 0 0
WR Brennan Eagles 4% 9% 0 0 0 0
TE Bug Howard 76% 65% 0 0 6 90
TE Pro Wells 14% 13% 0 0 2 26

Bandits: Ta’amu only lost snaps to backup Brady White in Week 2. Juwan Washington worked as the slight lead back despite  BJ Emmons' (thigh) return. Both players were largely rotated in a similar manner as 1A and 1B options even before the injury. John Franklin led the way in terms of route participation rate, although the Bandits continued to keep six wide receivers heavily involved. Throw in two heavily targeted tight ends, and unfortunately, things were simply spread out too much for any one pass-catcher to have a true explosion game.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Jordan Ta'amu 100% 0% 48 9 0 0
HB Juwan Washington 53% 49% 0 8 4 9
HB BJ Emmons 42% 27% 0 10 2 2
WR John Franklin III 86% 88% 0 2 4 38
WR Derrick Dillon 62% 59% 0 0 7 51
WR Vinny Papale 48% 59% 0 0 1 10
WR Rashard Davis 34% 31% 1 0 3 28
WR Keith Mumphery 33% 39% 0 0 7 66
WR Derrick Willies 18% 14% 0 0 1 0
TE Cheyenne O'Grady 66% 57% 0 0 5 31
TE De'Quan Hampton 53% 43% 0 0 4 38
Final thoughts

A one-score shootout that went down the game’s final seconds. THIS LEAGUE.

Birmingham Stallions 33, Michigan Panthers 17

Touchdowns

The Stallions scored the game's first touchdown shortly into the second quarter, when J'Mar Smith connected with Osirus Mitchell from 30 yards out. Mitchell deserves the bulk of the credit here for showing some legit burst on his way to the end zone after catching a ho-hum hitch. Stallions 10, Panthers 3

The Panthers managed to tie things up thanks to Shea Patterson converting a fourth-and-1 from the goal line with a QB sneak. Lance Lenoir had the drive's longest play courtesy of a 15-yard gain on a slant. Stallions 10, Panthers 10

Smith moved the Stallions 59 yards in 11 plays on the first drive of the second half, eventually connecting with Tony Brooks-James from six yards out for the score. TBJ was rather wide open thanks to the well-designed pick play. Stallions 19, Panthers 10

Michigan immediately responded with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with Patterson hooking up with Devin Ross for a 14-yard score. Credit to Ross for his combination of route-running and YAC-goodness on the play. Stallions 19, Panthers 17

The Stallions turned to Alex McGough on their next drive. Bo Scarbrough wound up carrying the ball on six of the drive's seven plays, ultimately bouncing to the outside and diving into the end zone to score from 28 yards out to stretch the lead. Stallions 26, Panthers 17

McGough remained in the game for the next drive and connected with Peyton Ramzy for 40 yards for the drive's biggest play. McGough scored the game's final touchdown with a QB sneak from the one-yard line. Stallions 33, Panthers 17

Offensive player of the game: Stallions RB Bo Scarbrough

Scarbrough converted 16 carries into 105 yards and a score. The performance included 48 yards after contact and three runs of 10-plus yards, as the hometown hero might just be leaned on down the stretch as the featured back for the USFL’s only undefeated team if starting RB RB CJ Marable (knee) remains sidelined. Overall, Scarbrough was PFF's fifth-highest graded offensive player of the week (80.8).

Defensive player(s) of the game: Panthers EDGE Vantrel McMillan

While McMillan only registered one sack on Saturday, he racked up four pressures on an absurd 38.5% win rate. PFF's highest-graded pass rusher and overall defensive player, McMillian more than made the most out of his boost in playing time.

Fantasy football workload notes

Stallions: Smith played all 30 of the Stallions' first-half snaps, but was out-snapped 11 to 23 by McGough in the second half. Birmingham’s success on the ground largely enabled McGough to stay on the field so expect Smith to take most of the snaps when the team is tied or trailing. Scarbrough took over as the lead back with starting RB Marable (knee) sidelined. The extent of Marable’s injury isn’t clear, although he was listed as questionable in Week 6. Victor Bolden continued to work as one of the league’s single-biggest target hogs while Mitchell was also on the field for just about every snap of the game.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB J'mar Smith 64% 0% 29 2 0 0
QB Alex McGough 36% 0% 4 6 0 0
HB Bo Scarbrough 66% 42% 0 16 2 4
HB Tony Brooks-James 42% 27% 0 7 1 0
WR Victor Bolden Jr. 91% 97% 0 1 11 120
WR Osirus Mitchell 88% 97% 0 0 7 93
WR Marlon Williams 56% 79% 0 0 4 36
WR Peyton Ramzy 36% 21% 0 0 1 40
WR Jeff Thomas 2% 3% 0 0 0 0
TE Bobby Holly 48% 18% 0 0 0 0
TE Cary Angeline 34% 58% 0 0 1 23
TE Sage Surratt 30% 27% 0 0 1 5

Panthers: Paxton Lynch (lower leg) was listed as questionable, but ultimately was left on the inactive list. This resulted in Patterson again taking each and every snap for the Panthers. Reggie Corbin dominated usage more than ever, although backups Cameron Scarlett (leg) and Stevie Scott (leg) were both listed as questionable entering the game and perhaps were accordingly used sparingly. Lenoir, Ross and Joe Walker dominated routes and targets alike, and Lenoir finally put up some decent numbers to go alongside his first-team all-air-yards status.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Shea Patterson 100% 0% 38 3 0 0
HB Reggie Corbin 80% 76% 0 16 3 4
HB Stevie Scott III 15% 11% 0 3 0 0
HB Cameron Scarlett 5% 8% 0 0 0 0
WR Lance Lenoir Jr. 97% 100% 0 1 12 103
WR Devin Ross 75% 79% 0 0 8 38
WR Joe Walker 69% 82% 0 0 6 71
WR Ray Bolden 25% 21% 0 0 2 23
TE La'Michael Pettway 66% 71% 0 0 3 10
TE Marcus Baugh 61% 34% 0 0 1 8
TE Connor Davis 8% 3% 0 0 0 0
Final thoughts

The Stallions are 6-0 and continue to roll. Failure to fully commit to Smith isn’t ideal, but McGough does add a different dimension on the ground. Ultimately, Birmingham’s path to a championship continues to rest on its pass rush overwhelming opponents. Through six weeks, the Stallions have pressured opposing offenses on 44% of their dropbacks – no other defense has a pressure rate higher than 36.2%.

New Orleans Breakers 26, Pittsburgh Maulers 16

Touchdowns

The Breakers traveled 94 yards in 18 plays for the game's first touchdown. The drive featured plenty of Anthony Jones, who finished things off with a one-yard plow into the end zone. Breakers 7, Maulers 0

It took until the end of the third quarter for New Orleans to score again. The 10-play, 50-yard drive featured 10 consecutive runs from Jones and Jordan Ellis, and the latter back showed some shiftiness on his way to the end zone from five yards out. Breakers 17, Maulers 3

The game effectively ended when Vad Lee threw behind Bailey Gaither on a slant inside the 10-yard line, leading to a 98-yard interception return from Ike Brown. Both of Lee’s interceptions were intended for Gaither, and both were objectively bad throws. Breakers 23, Maulers 3

Pittsburgh finally found the end zone with 9:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. It wasn't easy: Lee had a deflected pass somehow caught by Tre Walker to convert a third-and-10 before Gaither made a lovely diving catch to score from 22 yards out. Breakers 23, Maulers 9

The Mauler stayed frisky by again driving down the field for a fourth-quarter touchdown. This time, Lee capped things off himself by scrambling into the end zone from the four-yard line. Breakers 23, Maulers 16

Offensive player of the game: Breakers RB Anthony Jones 

Jones posted a 22-102-1 rushing line that only featured a long run of 13 yards. He added another 20 yards as a receiver, but it was his play-by-play tackle-breaking ability that stood out. Overall, Jones gained 66 rushing yards after contact and racked up a week-high seven missed tackles forced as a rusher.

Defensive players of the game: Breakers EDGE Nigel Chavis, CB Ike Brown

Chavis racked up six pressures on a 16.7% win rate to go along with two tackles for a loss or no gain as a run stopper. Overall, Chavis was PFF's second-highest graded defender of the week.

Brown’s 98-yard pick-six certainly was his top highlight, but PFF’s third-highest-graded defender of Week 6 truly put forward a complete performance. All in all, Brown intercepted two of the five targets thrown into his coverage while allowing just two receptions for 20-scoreless yards.

Fantasy football workload notes

Breakers: Kyle Sloter again worked as the Breakers’ undisputed QB1, only giving way to Zach Smith for a single drive in the second quarter following their 94-yard touchdown drive. Note that Sloter was dealing with hand and leg injuries throughout the game. Jones leaped Ellis on the depth chart, although both backs stayed plenty involved. Note that backup running backs Larry Rose and Ezra Gray were both inactive. Jonathan Adams, Taiwan Taylor and Johnnie Dixon were the top-three receivers in terms of routes. Taylor is the most-likely member to lose snaps once WR Shawn Poindexter (hand) is healthy enough to return to action.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Kyle Sloter 92% 0% 26 3 0 0
QB Zach Smith 8% 0% 2 1 0 0
HB Anthony Jones 56% 36% 0 22 3 -1
HB Jordan Ellis 44% 46% 0 13 2 0
WR Jonathan Adams Jr. 91% 82% 0 0 3 35
WR Taywan Taylor 86% 82% 0 0 6 43
WR Johnnie Dixon 67% 79% 0 1 3 7
WR Lee Morris 41% 43% 0 0 1 27
WR Marquis McClain 8% 14% 0 0 1 17
TE Sal Cannella 86% 89% 0 0 1 5
TE Justin Johnson 21% 11% 0 0 1 2

Maulers: Lee started after his Week 5 heroics and ultimately played every snap ahead of Kyle Lauletta. Garrett Groshek continued to dominate snaps – but not necessarily touches – ahead of Madre London. FB Mikey Daniel's extended presence hurts the fantasy upside of everyone involved, as does the offense’s insistence on keeping four wide receivers and two tight ends involved in the passing game. Ultimately, Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither continue to work as the clear-cut top-two options, but Isiah Hennie deserves credit for flashing with his limited newfound opportunities.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Vad Lee 100% 0% 38 5 0 0
HB Garrett Groshek 54% 37% 0 14 1 -3
HB Madre London 25% 13% 0 10 0 0
FB Mikey Daniel 30% 24% 0 4 2 0
WR Tre Walker 82% 87% 0 0 8 118
WR Delvon Hardaway 76% 79% 0 0 6 31
WR Bailey Gaither 72% 79% 0 0 7 125
WR Isiah Hennie 37% 42% 0 0 6 48
TE Hunter Thedford 49% 26% 0 0 0 0
TE Artayvious Lynn 45% 45% 0 0 2 4
Final thoughts

Sloter only dropped back to pass five times in this one. Credit to the Breakers for providing enough juice on defense and in the run game to pull through for their ever-banged-up quarterback. It remains tough to keep the Breakers outside of the USFL’s top-three teams — behind only the Stallions and Generals.

New Jersey Generals 26, Houston Gamblers 25

Touchdowns

The Gamblers needed just three plays to travel 75 yards on the game's opening drive. Credit to Isaiah Zuber for showing off some YAC goodness, but it was Teo Redding who caught the 48-yard bomb from Clayton Thorson. Six points are six points, but just realize Redding's cornerback tripped in coverage and largely made this one a no contest. Gamblers 7, Generals 0

New Jersey immediately answered thanks in large part to Kavontae Turpin, who is arguably the league's single-most electric receiver with the ball in his hands. He wound up scoring from 19 yards out thanks to a filthy juke. Generals 7, Gamblers 7

Luis Perez filled in admirably for an injured De'Andre Johnson, helping lead New Jersey 50 yards in just four plays on its second touchdown drive. Credit to Darrius Shepherd for displaying some route-running goodness to set up Perez's 32-yard score to Turpin, who brilliantly tracked the underthrown ball to exploit being covered by an edge defender. Generals 14, Gamblers 7

Mark Thompson helped carry the Gamblers into the end zone for their second touchdown by touching the ball on five of their eight plays. His 14-yard score also featured some solid off-script ability from Thorson. Gamblers 13, Generals 14

The Generals fumbled on the first play of their ensuing drive, leading to Thorson's second touchdown connection to Thompson in under a minute. This time Thompson was largely uncovered in the flat before muscling his way into the end zone. Gamblers 19, Generals 14

The Generals regained the lead on a 10-play, 47-yard drive that featured just two pass attempts. Trey Williams wound up scoring from the goal line in place of typical vulture Darius Victor. Generals 20, Gamblers 19

The Luis Perez experience reared its ugly head, as he was strip-sacked and unable to prevent big man Tomasi Laulile from scooping and scoring. Of course, Perez would get his chance at redemption. Gamblers 25, Generals 20

The Generals traveled 80 yards in 15 plays to win the game on a last-second QB sneak from the goal line. The highlight of the drive was easily Cam Echols-Luper's completion to Perez, who even made a man miss in space on the Philly Special-esque trick play. Generals 26, Gamblers 25

Offensive players of the game: Gamblers QB Clayton Thorson, Generals QB Luis Perez 

While Houston didn't come away with the victory, it's tough to blame Thorson considering the Gamblers missed an extra point, failed to rush for a two-point conversion and dropped another unsuccessful two-point conversion. Ultimately, Thorson completed 15-of-19 passes for 171 yards and a trio of scores, with his interception simply being a “what the hell” arm punt on a second-and-18.

It's never easy coming in off the bench, but Perez managed to impact the game positively as a passer (18/24, 159 yards with 1 TD and 0 INT), rusher (game-winning QB sneak touchdown) and receiver (14-yard reception on the game's final drive). Perez did lose a pair of fumbles, but just realize he’s largely made the most out of his opportunities as a passer this season. The Generals are better with De’Andre Johnson (leg) under center, but far from hopeless if forced to ride with Perez down the stretch.

Defensive player of the game: Gamblers EDGE Chris Odom

Odom's six pressures were tied for most of the week, while nobody matched his three sacks. Throw in a 30% win rate and borderline erotic 90.5 PFF pass rush score, and Odom is as deserving of this honor as anyone.

Fantasy football workload notes

Generals: De’Andre Johnson suffered a fall near the sidelines halfway through the first quarter and didn’t return. His extended absence would lead to a full-time role for Perez, who was the team’s Week 1 starter and played alongside Johnson until recently. Williams and Victor continued to largely split the work down the middle. Note that Victor was listed as probable with an ankle injury going into the game. The receiver room mixed things up with J’Mon Moore (hamstring) still sidelined, choosing to keep WR Alonzo Moore and TE Woody Brandom on the field for every snap while rotating everyone else. Still, Turpin was clearly someone the offense was looking to feature, and his 14 combined carries and targets are awfully tough to compete with in fantasy land.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Luis Perez 88% 3% 28 3 1 5
QB De'Andre Johnson 12% 0% 5 1 0 0
HB Darius Victor 53% 41% 0 16 2 -7
HB Trey Williams 47% 44% 0 16 1 0
WR Alonzo Moore 99% 100% 0 0 3 33
WR Randy Satterfield 59% 59% 0 0 1 -2
WR KaVontae Turpin 51% 53% 0 3 11 61
WR Darrius Shepherd 27% 32% 0 0 2 17
WR Cam Echols-Luper 15% 12% 1 0 0 0
TE Woody Brandom 99% 88% 0 0 5 37
TE Wes Saxton Jr. 51% 35% 0 0 2 -3

Gamblers: Thorson continues to take each and every snap with Kenji Bahar (hand) sidelined. Thompson is one of the USFL’s most-featured backs and dominates every facet of the game. Zuber has worked his way into any conversation surrounding the USFL’s best receivers and is treated accordingly in Houston. Anthony Ratliff-Williams, Redding and Tyler Palka also run a route on a heavy majority of Thorson’s dropbacks in this four-WR friendly offense.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Clayton Thorson 100% 0% 22 2 0 0
HB Mark Thompson 70% 73% 0 11 5 16
HB Dalyn Dawkins 30% 23% 0 7 1 -3
WR Isaiah Zuber 98% 100% 0 0 3 36
WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams 73% 77% 0 0 2 2
WR Teo Redding 70% 77% 0 0 4 51
WR Tyler Palka 58% 77% 0 0 3 25
WR JoJo Ward 35% 27% 0 0 2 6
TE Brandon Barnes 35% 23% 0 0 0 0
TE Julian Allen 33% 18% 0 0 0 0
Final thoughts

The Gamblers had numerous chances to win this one, notably missing an extra point and failing to convert a pair of two-point conversion attempts. Still, a win is a win, and the Generals continue to look a lot like one of the USFL’s definitive top-three teams. The ceiling might not be as high with Perez in for Johnson, but credit to the former quarterback for getting the job done. Today we spell redemption: L-U-I-Z.

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