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UFL Week 2 Preview: Key storylines, best throws from Week 1 and more

PFF has you covered for UFL grades and analysis this season. Be sure to check out our Week 1 Team of the Week and player awards.

This article will serve as a preview for the upcoming week of UFL action with rotating sections. Ahead of Week 2, we’ll examine the four matchups and take a look at the best throws from the previous week.

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Week 2 Preview

San Antonio Brahmas (1-0) @ Memphis Showboats (1-0)

Time: 12 p.m., Saturday, April 6

Chase Garbers’ quick release will need to continue

Brahmas quarterback Chase Garbers played safe, calculated football on his way to a 66.4 PFF overall grade in Week 1 against the Arlington Renegades. Only three of his 25 pass attempts traveled more than 10 yards downfield, and he finished with no big-time throws or turnover-worthy plays. Garbers released the ball in an average of 2.03 seconds, the quickest mark in the league — and faster than all NFL starting quarterbacks in 2023 by three-tenths of a second.

He’ll need to release the ball at a rapid pace once again in Week 2, facing a daunting Showboats pass-rush unit that generated 21 quarterback pressures on only 27 pass-rushing snaps in the team’s Week 1 win over the Houston Roughnecks. Nine Memphis defenders impacted throws as pass rushers, including former USFL standout Greg Reaves, who tallied two sacks and a team-leading four pressures.

Arlington Renegades (0-1) @ St. Louis Battlehawks (0-1)

Time: 8 p.m., Saturday, April 6

A bounce-back opportunity awaits both teams

If any team knows it’s a long season at the end of which anything can happen, it’s the Arlington Renegades and quarterback Luis Perez. The Renegades are a year removed from completing a 4-6 regular season yet winning the XFL title, with Perez earning an 86.9 grade and tossing 14 big-time throws across five games with the team following a midseason trade. Arlington dropped its season opener to the Birmingham Stallions, 27-14, but will look to rebound against a shaky Battlehawks defense.

Battlehawks quarterback A.J. McCarron brings more experience to the table than any other UFL signal-caller, joining the Cincinnati Bengals for a stint in 2023 after spending four years with the team to begin his NFL career. He recorded an 80.8 PFF overall grade in 2023 with St. Louis in the XFL and now boasts the second-best mark in the UFL through one week of action (76.7). But working in Arlington’s favor is the absence of Battlehawks linebacker Mike Rose, who earned a league-leading 94.3 PFF overall grade in Week 1 and is nursing an ankle injury.

Birmingham Stallions (1-0) @ Michigan Panthers (1-0)

Time: 12 p.m., Sunday, April 7

Birmingham’s elite outside CBs will be tough to crack

Let’s talk about the Stallions’ defensive backs. Mark Gilbert, formerly of the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers, and Lorenzo Burns, a returner from 2023, were exceptional in Week 1. Both earned 90.0-plus coverage grades in the season opener, two of three UFL cornerbacks to do so. They allowed a combined one catch for five yards on six targets into their coverage. Burns forced two incompletions, while Gilbert brought in a fourth-quarter interception.

Panthers quarterback E.J. Perry proved erratic in Week 1 but made a few strong throws and churned out two scores with his legs to provide some optimism that his 28.8 PFF overall grade will improve. Targeting Burns and Gilbert on the outside may not be a winning strategy, but the slot is a different story. Stallions cornerback Chris Jackson surrendered eight catches, 113 yards and a touchdown on nine targets into his coverage in Week 1. Trey Quinn and Devin Ross, among others, should be a focal point of Michigan’s attack this week.

Houston Roughnecks (0-1) @ D.C. Defenders (0-1)

Time: 4 p.m., Sunday, April 7

A top run defense meets what was the XFL’s top run game

D.C. dominated the XFL on the ground in 2023 to the tune of 1,413 yards and 64 forced missed tackles. Spearheading that charge was running back Abram Smith, who is out for 2024 with a torn ACL. His absence was apparent in Week 1, as the Defenders generated only 20 yards on eight carries by Cam’Ron Harris. Head coach Reggie Barlow and company have their work cut out for them in Week 2 against an even stiffer Roughnecks run defense.

Houston held Memphis running backs in Week 1 to two rushing yards on 14 carries. Two. Keonte Schad, Reuben Foster, Adam Rodriguez, Olive Sagapolu and Toby Johnson were among the top contributors, each notching at least one run stop and earning 75.0-plus run-defense grades. Shutting down the Defenders' run game proved effective for the Brahmas last week, so this is a key matchup as both teams battle to avoid an 0-2 start.

Best Throws from Week 1

Matt Corral, Birmingham Stallions (Q2: 0:09)

It’s somewhat difficult to see on the broadcast, but Corral’s pump-fake fools cornerback Steven Jones Jr., who loses his balance as he tries to get back into position. Corral, meanwhile, delivers a beauty down the sideline to Deon Cain. Three Renegades defenders are merely bystanders.

Case Cookus, Memphis Showboats (Q2: 7:04)

Cookus dropped in a pinpoint pass to standout wide receiver Vinny Papale in the back of the endzone to put Memphis up 15-0 in the second quarter against Houston. It was one of Cookus’ two big-time throws on the day.

Case Cookus, Memphis Showboats (Q4: 10:26)

Back to the well of Case Cookus. We are without a publicly available video of this play, but trust us. This was a drop by wide receiver Lee Morris, but Cookus’ accuracy while moving to his left and facing pressure earned him a big-time throw designation. Only 5.3% of Cookus’ passes were charted as uncatchably inaccurate in Week 1 — the lowest rate among starting quarterbacks.

A.J. McCarron, St. Louis Battlehawks (Q4: 1:56)

McCarron and wideout Marcell Ateman turned a fourth-and-10 into a first-and-goal with a deadly accurate pass and a contested catch between two defenders. The clutch play and drive weren’t enough to ward off the Michigan Panthers, who won on a 64-yard field goal from kicker Jake Bates.

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