Tag Archives: alliance of american football

Arizona Hotshots

Record: 5-3
Head Coach: Rick Neuheisel
Stadium: Sun Devil Stadium

The Hotshots had the very flashy, bright color palette of yellow, green, and orange.

BACKGROUND:

Rick Neuheisel was connected to the Alliance very early but it was said he wanted to coach the Phoenix franchise where he lived, as opposed to the Fleet in San Diego. He’d don the cap and be announced with Phoenix on May 18th of 2018, to play on the campus of Arizona State University at Sun Devil Stadium. Former NFL GM Phil Savage was also brought on as well a few weeks later.

The choice of the Phoenix was as confusing to me as selecting Atlanta. Phoenix just doesn’t have a great history of supporting its football franchises. It is just not known as a hotbed of football, however, from the location standpoint, it made sense in terms of eyes on the product- ie ratings.

The AAF itself made some controversial moves with the franchise. At the team unveiling on September 25th, when the team name was announced locals were sort of taken aback at the choice of Hotshots. The general sentiment from the league office was that the team name was a tribute to the area’s first respondents- (but with the Hotshots name it was a direct nod to elite firefighters who battle the most dangerous wildfires nationwide). Locally there was some general grumbling from locals who felt the name was exploitive and in bad taste.

In October 2018, the franchise hired disgraced NCAA coach Hugh Freeze as offensive coordinator. Later in December, Freeze departed from the Hotshots to coach at Liberty University- and no specific coordinator was designated to take his place, so it is assumed that Rick Neuheisel picked back up the play calling.

Also at some point the league made the decision to change the team location name from Phoenix to Arizona. Early marketing materials still pointed the franchise to Phoenix and #AlliancePHX. While this is not too controversial, it was more confusing than anything.

QB Mike Bercovici was one of the early signings of the squad and a fan favorite, but he was left unprotected in the QB draft and ended up playing for the Fleet.

Alliance ‘Phoenix’ territory covered a very large area from California to Texas and some of Rick Neuheisel’s old stomping grounds.
Rashad Ross was the highest rated wide receiver according to PFF, just edging out Charles Johnson (ORL).

OFFENSE:

Rick Neuheisel is considered an offensive madman, and tends to lean towards pass heavy styles that involve a pistol offense. Offensively the team scored 21 TDs (7 rushing, 14 passing), had a -3 turnover differential, converted 30 of 90 3rd downs, and 1 of 9 4th downs. The Hotshots yards per game was second in the league (343.9) to Orlando.

Trevor Knight was the odds on favorite to guide the Hotshots after they took him with their first pick in the Protect or Pick QB draft- but unheralded John Wolford snagged the starting gig. Wolford finished only second to Garrett Gilbert (ORL) in passing, and was the first player to win Offensive Player of the Week Honors twice. He finished with 1617 yards and 14 TDs to 7 interceptions and a whopping 7.8 yards per attempt. He was also dangerous on the ground rushing for 160 yards on 36 carries and a 35 yard TD. Knight was very gracious. He saw little action during the season coming off the bench throwing for under 100 yards.

Arizona had the best rushing attack in the AAF at 1,133 yards. Jhurell Pressley led the league in rushing with 430 yards on 96 attempts (1 TD). Pressley was also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield contributing 11 receptions for 86 yards and a TD. Tim Cook provided a slight change of pace as a bigger back. He ranked second behind Pressley and had 275 yards on 56 carries and 3 TDs. Justin Stockton spelled Pressley in the lineup as needed. He ran 43 times for 233 yards and a 45 yard TD. Larry Rose saw little playing time, but ran 6 times for 16 yards.

At receiver the greatest recipient of Wolford’s attention was rangy long bomb threat Rashad Ross. He caught 36 passes for 583 yards (2nd) and 7 TDs (1st). Richard Mullaney got into the action in 5 games catching 20 passes for 213 yards. Marquis Bundy was an interesting talent. He caught 13 passes for 178 yards, while Freddie Martino had 11 catches for 126 yards. Josh Huff contributed another 163 on 11 receptions too, while Deion Holliman made it count catching only one pass for 15 yards that went for a TD.

At tight end Gerald Christian ranked 3rd on the team with 14 receptions for 158 yards and a TD. Thomas Duarte had 8 catches for 111 yards and 2 TDs, while big man Connor Hamlett had 5 catches for 40 yards. The Hotshots were in the top 3 when it came to tight end production ranked only behind Salt Lake and San Diego- respectively.

The Hotshots offensive line allowed 15 sacks on the season- which comes out to roughly 2 a game. That’s pretty decent and allowed the Hotshots to finish as the 3rd ranked offensive line.

DEFENSE:

(3-4) On defense the Hotshots had the worst 3rd down ratio in the league, allowing nearly 40% of 3rd downs to be converted for firsts. The Hotshots recovered 5 fumbles and made 7 interceptions on the season, while allowing 17 TDs. Their defense ranked 7th overall (329.9 yards per game), with rushing defense being their Achilles heel.

Nyles Morgan led the team in tackles from linebacker. Starting in just 3 games, the former Golden Domer racked up 58 total tackles and a forced fumble. Steven Johnson started 6 games posting 45 tackles and 3 interceptions for 44 yards. Steve Beauharnais posted .5 sacks and 30 total tackles, while Carl Bradford had 12 solo tackles, a forced fumble, and 2 sacks. Kaelin Burnett had 17 total tackles, a forced fumble, and a sack, while long haired Scooby Wright had 22 total tackles. Finally Edmond Robinson had 23 and a sack in 6 starts. Pretty solid production through and through.

Defensive back had some familiar names out there including Rahim Moore with 25 tackles but these guys were known more as pass deflectors rather than interceptors. Erick Dargan statistically led the secondary with 53 total tackles and a pick. Dexter McDougle intercepted a pass and had 16 total tackles, while Sterling Moore had another 23. Former Ex-an and ex-Commander Robert Nelson had an interception and 21 tackles. Shaquille Richardson had 18 tackles and an interception. It was a chippy group of defenders in the secondary, that allowed 204.3 yards per game- good for 3rd.

Situational starter Da’Sean Downey led the down linemen in sacks with 3.5. He’d play in 5 games making just one start at DE. Rykeem Yates- also at DE started 7 games and had 3 sacks and 25 total tackles. Obum Gwachim had 2 sacks 16 tackles, while the rest came in at a sack each: Will Sutton, 28 tackles and a sack, Sione Teuhema, 19 tackles and a sack, and Bunmi Rotimi had 6 tackles and a sack. The Hotshots rushing defense was the worst in the league, allowing 125.6 yards per game.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Hotshots were ranked 6th in net punting average behind the foot of Jeff Locke who punted 33 times for 1,460 yards dropping 14 inside the 20. The Hotshots were pretty woeful on special teams with a net of 38.67 per put allowed. Opponents were able to net 124 yards on 13 returns.

Veteran NFL kicker Nick Folk stepped in for Arizona. He’d hit 12 of 16 field goals on the season, including a league long 55 yarder (36 points).

On punt returns, WR Deion Holliman had 10 punt returns for 123 yards and 5 fair catches. Rashad Ross would go back on seldom occasion to put the fear in opposing coverage units, but only managed 3 returns for 12 yards.

THE SEASON:

Arizona was frankly a terrible selection for the Alliance in terms of attendance. Here was Sun Devil Stadium- on the campus of Arizona State University, which was located in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, and the best the Hotshots could muster was an unenthusiastic high of 11,751 at their season opener?

After a two week road trip, the Hotshots were sitting at 2-1. They then gave up two home games, first embarrassed at home by the Legends (14-11) where a measly 8,865 showed up, and then second to the Commanders where the score wasn’t as close as it looked (9,351). They then went on the road and upset Orlando, to come home to beat the Fleet in Week 7 (9,750). Afterwards the Hotshots went on the road in Week 8 and upset the Commanders by a resounding score of 22-7, finishing quietly at 5-3. Overall, the Hotshots averaged a minuscule 9,932 fans a game- 7th in the league. Their online footprint was just as bad with a tiny and unengaged fanbase.

Arizona had one more home game on the schedule the following week against the Iron- but would they have even crossed the 10k barrier for that?

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NOTES:

Before the season opener the Hotshots retired the number 19 in honor of the 19 Hotshots killed in 2013 by the Yarnell Hill Fire.

The Hotshots were an excellent team at making halftime adjustments. They outscored 7 of 8 opponents in the second half by a total margin of 101-46.

Rashad Ross caught 7 of the 8 WR TDs.

Rick Neuheisel played in the USFL for the San Antonio Gunslingers. A Neuheisel superfan showed up pregame versus the Commanders dressed up with his jersey on and some gear. Neuheisel was very impressed, came over, took a photo with the guy and signed an autograph for him.

The Commanders/ Hotshots game would be the final game played in league history.

The Hotshots after the league announced that they were folding declared themselves AAF 2019 Champions on Twitter- citing the fact that they had beaten both the Commanders and Apollos.

San Antonio lost to Arizona in that final game, however, based on tie breakers, I was surprised to see ARZ at the top of the division and still not SA. A few weeks ago I sheepishly mentioned this on Twitter- because the AAF was using NFL tie breaking rules, since they had none of their own, SA should be first in the division based on strength of schedule. Shortly thereafter some one broke down the tiebreakers, and indeed, San Antonio is now posted at the top of the standings on the AAF Wikipedia entry.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Overall here was a team that had really grown throughout the season after some miscues early on, but by that Week 8 contest- they had total buy in from everybody. They were a good team and a lot of fun to watch. I think the Hotshots stood as strong challengers in the West to win the AAF Championship.

NOTABLE PLAYERS:

QB- JOHN WOLFORD, TREVOR KNIGHT
RB- JHURREL PRESSLEY, JUSTIN STOCKTON
WR- MARQUIS BUNDY
TE- GERALD CHRISTIAN
LB- CARL BRADFORD
CB- STERLING MOORE

San Diego Fleet

Record: 3-5
Head Coach: Mike Martz

Home Stadium: Qualcomm


The Fleet were decked out in battleship gray, gray, yellow, and white. SD’s alternate color jersey, flipped the battleship gray jersey out with the white numbers.

BACKGROUND:

San Diego was extremely sore about losing the Chargers back to Los Angeles in 2018- little less to Stub Hub stadium which only sat some 27,000 capacity. The city jumped at the chance to be a part of the AAF and was named as the 6th overall franchise to the league with Mike Martz as head coach. The pairing made sense as the offensive minded Martz was a big draw coach that could handle putting on a show for the media.

Martz immediately named a fully fleshed out staff, which caught the league off guard. Former NFL QB Jon Kitna as OC, and a variety of former NFL vets as positional coaches. Jackie Slater, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Vince Amey, and Dre Bly. For one reason or another which hasn’t been revealed, almost all of these coaches didn’t stick on the roster.

After Jon Kitna departed for the Dallas Cowboys to be their QBs coach, his brother Matt stepped in. Dre Bly got a college gig so Eric Allen stepped in and performed admirably in his first coaching stop.
Ex NFLers Lamont Jordan, did a great job coaching runningbacks, while Anthony Becht was working with the TE group. Az-Zahir Hakim who had played for Martz in St. Louis at WR coached a solid group for the Fleet.

Since San Diego had a large naval base in the area, the team adopted the Fleet name on September 25th, 2018. The Commanders and Fleet considered each others rivals thanks in part to many commonalities.

Bishop Sankey was the veteran, big eyebrow raising signing by this team- but before the first game he pulled his hamstring, and was limited most of the season.

The AAF did not employ the traditional draft system the NFL did, rather it employed an allocation system that kept players close to their college or pro locations to help build fan interest.

OFFENSE:

The San Diego Fleet under Mike Martz were expected to be a high octane offense, reminiscent of his teams in St. Louis. With the first overall selection of the Protect or Pick QB draft, the Fleet protected Josh Johnson. The pick was lauded as he was considered the most seasoned and intriguing quarterback in the league. His cousin Marshawn Lynch even mused coming out of retirement to play for the AAF so he could play with Josh. Things were abuzz in San Diego. The problem was, about a week later Josh got picked up by the Redskins.

Awkward.

Yeah so SD hoped that Josh would come back to them, but if not they’d wish him well anyway. In the end, Josh did perform well- but thankfully it was so soon after the draft that the Fleet was able to move forward with the quarterbacks they had.

In the stable was gunslinger Mike Bercovici, Alex Ross, and Philip Nelson. Bercovici was the day one starter, but after suffering a brutal beating during the first half against the Commanders in the first game, he’d be replaced in the lineup by Philip Nelson. Nelson shattered his clavicle in the 4th game and was replaced by Alex Ross in the lineup. The following week Berco took back over as starter for the remainder of the season while Alek Torgersen was added as insurance. Despite missing 3 and a half games, Bercovici was 6th in overall yardage with 1,311 yards. He also finished first with 9 interceptions. You could sense, despite his struggles though, fans overall really liked Mike. As a group the QBs finished second in yardage to only Orlando (1904).

The Fleet had some good receivers with two players ranking in the top 5 in yardage. Dontez Ford finished second in yards after the catch on just 15 receptions, and 3rd overall in yards (435), with his one and only TD catch, a 72 yard barn burner. Nelson Spruce also ranked among league leaders not far off with 426 yards (5th) and 2 TDs on 38 receptions- good for second in the league. Brian Brown was right at the periphery of the league leaders, finishing with 20 receptions for 224 yards.

The tight ends got a lot of work. All the teams in the league gushed over the potential former Dallas Cowboys project Gavin Escobar possessed. He clocked 16 receptions for 176 yards to rank 3rd on the team. Not far behind him was Marcus Baugh- the former Ohio State TE caught 13 passes for 208 yards and 2 TDs including at 38 yarder. Ben Johnson was also a reliable redzone option catching 12 passes for 75 yards and 2 TDs in 5 starts.

The runningbacks were at times utterly spectacular. Diminutive Ja’Quan Gardner led the Fleet with 311 yards on the ground (64 carries, 3TDs)- good for 8th in the league. His 83 yard scamper against San Antonio is a league record, and he led the Fleet backs with 12 receptions. Unfortunately he finished on IR. Terrell Watson also saw action in 8 games, putting together 271 yards on the ground (63 carries, 2 TDs). Finally, grizzled veteran Bishop Sankey had 30 carries for 119 yards in just 4 games. As a team San Diego finished in 4th place with 851 ground yards.

After being absolutely terrorized in the first game against San Antonio, the Fleet put together some decent offensive line production throughout the season, finishing fourth in the league allowing just 19 sacks. The team also boasted a 7 of a 11 (63%) 4th down success ratio.

DEFENSE:

(4-3) The Fleet’s defense was predicated on creating a lot of turnovers. Although they gave up a fair amount of yardage, they were pretty decent against the run (842 yards, 4th), but a bit more vulnerable through the air giving up 1768 yards (6th).

The secondary itself was tested early and often. Kameron Kelly (CB) had 4 interceptions and a TD along with 19 total tackles. Ryan Moeller also had a strong season with 4 interceptions for 97 yards and 37 total tackles at SS. Heartwarming comeback story Ron Brooks (CB), two years removed from an ACL tear, had a pick and 19 tackles, but really shined on special teams. Jordan Martin stepped in and had 31 total tackles and an interception. CFL DB Kendall James enforced the line of scrimmage with 36 total tackles, while Xavier Coleman finished with 15, and Demarius Travis came in at 13.

The leader of the linebacking corps without a doubt was another comeback story- AJ Tarpley. Hearing the siren’s call to play again Tarpley had a banner season for the Fleet with 35 total tackles, and an interception he returned 27 yards for a TD. Travis Feeney logged 30 tackles and a 3 yard interception. Galen Robinson and Eric Pinkins were also key contributors to the corps with 28 and 29 tackles respectively. Frank Ginda started just 2 of the 8 games he played in but led the linebackers with 37 total tackles, while John Lotulelei posted 23 total tackles in 2 of the 8 games he started as well.

Along the defensive line, Damontre Moore (DE) was a house wrecker, leading the team in tackles (39) and was second in the league in sacks (7). Shakir Soto at DT had 4 sacks and 21 total tackles. Next to him was Taniela Tupou, with 24 total tackles and a sack. Alex Barrett played on the opposite side of Moore and had 29 total tackles and 1.5 sacks.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Fleet boasted the stiffest punt return unit in the league allowing just 12 returns for 57 yards (14 lg) and 10 fair catches. Their punt return unit was also the best in the league. Ron Brooks had 18 returns for 212 yards, and a 57 yard TD- the first in league history. The team employed two punters, but primarily it landed on Sam Irwin-Hill’s shoulders. He had 30 punts for 1,312 yards, dropping 10 in the 20. Donny Hageman got plenty of chances to kick field goals hitting 14/19 attempts, winning an exciting match up against the Stallions in the final seconds.

THE SEASON:

San Diego fans really wanted to stick it to Dean Spanos’ family after they left for Los Angeles so they were eager to embrace the Fleet. The Fleet looked at their rival Commanders team in San Antonio and wanted to top those numbers. San Diego had relatively encouraging numbers for an inaugural Spring football team- and the numbers they were pulling in were comparable to the Chargers before they left.

The Fleet’s 20,019 in Week 2 was the 3rd largest day home opening crowd in the league, and second highest that week to only San Antonio. After a dip down to 14,789 in week 3 in SDs rematch against the Commanders, the Fleet set team records for attendance in week 5 with 20,823, and then in Week 6 with 20,986. As the Commanders were in the midst of a 4 game road schedule, San Diego led the league in attendance through both of those weeks. When the league collapsed, the Fleet had one more home game left against the Hotshots in Week 10. San Diego’s overall attendance was good enough to rank second in the league, and 3rd in overall average attendance (19,154).

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NOTES:

San Diego had some uniform issues that perhaps only I noticed. First was their original color scheme, which was a complete rip off of Buffalo Wild Wings. Second, their helmet decal was only a slight modification of the UFL Virginia Destroyers logo.

Curiously Topps did not create a Topps Now card for the Fleet/ Stallions matchup in Week 8.

Damien Mama was the first player that signed for me. He was switched to center during the opener against SA and came over to sign for a few kids.

Mike Martz was standing in all his glory maybe 3 feet from me, watching the quarterbacks warm up, but I was too intimidated to talk to him.

Ron Brooks was out before pregame and was throwing the football back and forth between fans. He and I talked briefly and he told me that he was just excited to be playing the game again. He immediately became a fan favorite of mine.

Six players from the Fleet found homes in the NFL after the AAF folded, primarily from their defensive line as Barrett, Moore, and Soto were all signed.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Really when you ran the numbers at that point of the season, despite their 2 game difference, the San Diego Fleet and their cousin the San Antonio Commanders were not too dissimilar statistically after the 8th contest. Both had bend-not-break defenses that gave up yards while coming up with big turnovers. San Diego actually had the better offense- albeit a more turnover friendly one. The Fleet were a bit better keeping their QBs clean in the pocket, and their rushing offense, would have finished in relatively the same spot as the Commanders if Gardner hadn’t been injured.

It could be said that San Diego with a bit of help still could’ve made the playoffs. Although they faced a gauntlet over the next two weeks playing both the Apollos and then the Hotshots, if they had beaten them both and then the Commanders had dropped their next two games, the Fleet would have made the playoffs at 5-5.

NOTABLE PLAYERS:

Other Coaches: ERIC ALLEN
Quarterback: MIKE BERCOVICI
Offensive Line: DAMIEN MAMA
Tight End: MARCUS BAUGH
Linebackers: ERIC PINKINS
Defensive Backs: KAMERON KELLY

Atlanta Legends

Record: 2-6
Coach: Kevin Coyle
Home Stadium: Georgia State Stadium

The Legends had a simple and elegant color scheme of purple, gold and white representative of royalty. The Legends’ alternate jersey sported white tops with gold trim and purple numbers.

BACKGROUND:

When Atlanta was named as a host city of the AAF on April 25th, 2018 I think the collective reaction was one large yawn. It wasn’t really an inspired pick, but it made sense because the league needed anchor cities that had large TV audiences (- as archaic as that sounds now in the era of the internet). The coaches associated with the franchise though- that was another matter. Named along with Atlanta, was head coach Brad Childress, and his offensive coordinator Mike Vick.

Childress has been viewed as sort of a coaching mercenary over the past few years. -He basically is just seen as a guy who gets jobs so that he can quit them for another one.

Vick on the other hand, has had a long and controversial history, but he is still beloved in Atlanta where he played ball with the Falcons. From a standpoint of trying to get attention, it made sense. From a standpoint of getting butts in seats and developing an innovative offense- well that can be debated.

-More on these two later.

The team also made some interesting hires, bringing in Jen Welter as a defensive assistant, and Kevin Coyle as defensive coordinator. Former Arena defensive lineman Leroy Thompson coached the defensive line while former Bills TE Pete Metzelaars coached the offensive line.

On September 20th the Atlanta franchise was christened ‘The Legends’. The name stuck because of the city’s rich heritage, stories, and tradition. Many great people have come from Atlanta, and the city is home to great landmarks and events that have been important to the tapestry that makes up the nation.

On January 9th, 2019, during training camp, Brad Childress abruptly resigned as head coach. It was a curious move in retrospect. Although he was jockeying for another gig in the NFL, it came shortly after cash flow issues began with Reggie Fowler. (Regardless though it is pure speculation.) Kevin Coyle was named as head coach to replace him.

Then two days before the first game in league history, Coyle announced that Mike Vick was no longer offensive coordinator. He’d function as a consultant (and make a token appearance at a game later in the season). In his place was playcaller Rich Bartel, who two days before the third game also resigned. Venerable Ken Zampese was brought in to fix things, but in general, the mess was viewed from the outside as being created by the hiring of Brad Childress in the first place.

It goes without saying that the Legends experienced the highest coaching turnover during the AAF’s short existence.

Aaron Murray was definitely the marquee name of Atlanta’s originally courted players. The franchise protected him with the second overall pick of the Pick or Protect Draft.

As this is only a viewpoint of what occurred over the regular season -and a harsh one at that, I would be remiss not to include the account from perhaps the greatest Legend of them all: The Legendary Knight.

None shall pass! – The Legendary Knight defended the realm and rallied troops to his cause throughout the year. He has generously shared his perspective on the Atlanta Legends franchise.

Verily, the tale of the noble kingdom of the Atlanta Legends is one of daunting hardship, epic valor in shadow of perilous odds, and – at the endeth – completeth and utter devastation and obliteration. At the hour whenst the realm of the legends wast formed, twas met with high hopes and most wondrous fanfare. Within a fortnight, the realm hath drawn the services of gridiron warriors and noblemen renowned far and wide in the lands ’round Atlanta. Wast said the nobel Brad Childress wouldst commandeth our army, the legendary Sir Michael Vick wouldst leadeth our offensive forces, and the brave Sir Aaron Murray wouldst leadeth our warriors on the field. The presence of such most wondrous and epic heroes of the lands rallied many to the banner of the Legends.

Alas, cruel fate cutteth the heady days short. Practically on the eve of battle, lord Childress forswore us. Sir Vick didst prove unable to leadeth our forces. And our new generals didst putteth Sir Murray upon pine.

– The Legendary Knight

The Legends were nestled in between Orlando, Birmingham, and Memphis which worked to their disadvantage in the territorial player allocation.

OFFENSE:

Not a clue what was going on here, and I am not sure that the Legends knew either as whatever results that were put out there was pretty questionable in spurts. Touchdowns were few and far between for Atlanta as all opposing teams had to typically do was put 24+ points on the board against the Legends. In those games opponents were
5-0. The Legends scored only 88 points the entire season. (Obviously the league worst.) By comparison the next closest team was Salt Lake at 135. But just saying, “They didn’t score enough points,” Is a lazy way out of getting to the bottom of the Legends offensive woes. They ranked 4th in total yardage (308.4) and were third in overall passing yardage (218.2) So what was the real problem? It was turnover differential and red zone efficiency. The Legends had 14 interceptions, and lost 7 fumbles. Their kicker had 14 field goals inside the 40 yards line- which accounted for more than half the team’s points. So the fact that Atlanta won two games should come as an even bigger shock than expected.

For some reason, Atlanta came out with Matt Simms instead of Aaron Murray at quarterback. Simms proceeded to throw for 842 yards, on 79 of 132 passing, with 2 TDs to 7 interceptions. He also got crushed in the pocket 14 times. When Murray stepped in during Week 3 he came out firing with a 300+ yard game to kick things off, but by Week 5 he got absolutely punished against the Commanders. Aaron was slightly better guiding the Frankenstein offense of the Legends however. He finished with 3 TDs to 7 picks- 1,048 yards and a solid 64.8 completion rating- which was actually- the best in the league. Combined Simms and Murray threw for the most interceptions in the league.

Tarean Folston arguably was the bright spot for the team at runningback. In 7 games he did it all, managing 56 carries for 223 yards and 1 TD. He also led the team in receptions posting 28 catches for 163 yards and 2 TDs. Brandon Radcliff came in relief of Folston. He had 41 carries for 156 yards and 11 receptions in 5 games. Aaron Murray running for his life had 96, Lawrence Pittman had 81 yards, and Denard Robinson- had the only other rushing TD on 24 carries. Akrum Wadley played in two games and had 7 carries for 21 yards and 11 catches for 99 yards before he was injured against the Iron.

At WR it was a duo of Seantavius Jones (24 catches, 298 yards), and respected AFL alum Malachi Jones (22 catches, 312 yards, and 2 TDs.) Bug Howard had 17 for 220, and Justin Thomas clocked in with 16 for 172, including the team long reception of 49 yards. James Quick had 10 catches for 98 yards, while Ervin Philips started 2 games (playing in 5) and had 9 catches for 96 yards. Montay Crockett rounded out the board with 10 receptions for 130 yards.

Keith Towbridge attracted some attention at TE from NFL scouts and was a solid starter. The Louisville product snagged 17 catches for 196 yards and was a pretty decent blocker at 6-5. 262. He teamed up with fellow Cardinals alum Charles Standberry- who caught 3 passes. Jake Sutherland was more of an inline blocker at 6-5, 261 and caught a pass against Birmingham for the season.

The offensive line was pretty bad for the Legends- but that’s OK because they finished in a 4 way tie for last, yielding 23 sacks on the season. It should be noted that both Avery Gennesy and Trae Moxley popped up on the PFF Team of the Week during the season. The Legends rushed for 90.1 yards a game- good for 6th place.

DEFENSE:

(3-4) The Legends defense just had 3 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries on the season and allowed a league high 213 points
(-nearly 20 more than 7th place). This was due in part to the Legends’ propensity to turn the ball over and set up a short field for opposing offenses.

Their third down defense wasn’t terrible, allowing just 34%, but their rush defense was pretty porous allowing 117.9 yards a game (6th). In a strange twist, the Legends’ pass defense was first overall at 158.4 per game. This gave them technically the odd accomplishment of being the #1 ranked defense in the league as Atlanta ‘just gave up’ 276.2 yards per game which was a bit over 30 yards better than the second ranked Orlando Apollos (who stomped the Legends in their two meetings by a combined score of 76-12).

Veteran DB Ed Reynolds tied DB Tyson Graham for the team lead with 55 total tackles (and 1 sack). Reynolds also scored the first safety in league history. (The 2 points proved to be the needed margin that the Legends needed to beat the Hotshots.) Reynolds ran around in that secondary like his hair was on fire, but there was only so much he could do. Tyson Graham had .5 sacks and a one of the team’s 3 interceptions, and a forced fumble. It was no wonder they earned the name ‘The Bash Bros.’ Carlos Merritt led the team in interceptions. Playing in all 8 games, but only starting 1 he had 2 interceptions for 17 yards, a forced fumble and 13 total tackles. Des Lawrence had 13 tackles in 6 starts, and so did Damian Swann and wrapping up the major DBs Louis Young had 12.

On the defensive line JT Jones played formidably from defensive end with 23 tackles and 4 sacks. Tracy Sprinkle lined up at NT and in 6 starts had 22 tackes and 5 sacks. Big bodied TJ Barnes pushed his way around for 18 tackles, while Tavaris Barnes logged 8 tackles and a sack in 6 contests. David Dean came off the bench to start 2 contests and had 14 tackles and .5 sacks while former Jet Dylan Donahue came off the bench in 6 games to inject 10 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

At linebacker Jeff Luc led the way for the group with 50 tackles and 3 sacks and a forced fumble. Khalil Bass popped in with 41 tackles and Brandon Watts had 24.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Younghoe Koo provided to be a bright spot for the Legends. He nailed every field goal he attempted on the season- all 14 of them and finished in a 4 way tie for first. Now bear in mind in the oddest football statistic ever- they were all under 40 yards, but still… He also was the team leader in points with slightly over half the team points (42) and nailed a game winner against the Express.

Cameron Nizialek was a booming punter. He punted 34 times for 1612 yards which amounted to a near unheard of 47.41 yards per kick. He also dropped 8 kicks inside the 20 and had 4 touchbacks. The problem is he frequently out kicked his coverage. The Legends coverage crew had a 10 yard negative difference (37.0), allowing a league worst 16 returns for 274 yards and a TD.

Three guys tried their hands on punt returns. James Quick, Justin Thomas, and Dwayne Hollis- all with very similar results. As a group they finished with 14 returns for 96 yards and 7 fair catches.

THE SEASON:

Despite being the largest anchor city, being the second team announced, and having a bit of star power in Mike Vick, the Legends failed to capitalize off of this at the ticket office. Within days of being announced as the final franchise, San Antonio already had a larger online fan presence than the Legends.

It was a cluster, on top of everything else, as the Legends had a disastrous schedule to kick things off. 3 of their first 4 home games were on the road. The Legends didn’t even see their first home game until Week 3 and by then at 0-2 they were playing against the Iron. At that game Atlanta posted only attendance of 10,717. It seemed that the Legends really couldn’t inject any sort of enthusiasm into the city initially. In Week 5 the Legends posted 10,829 (Express), and a low of 10,619 against the Commanders in Week 6.

The Legends however went out on a high note- saving their best attendance numbers for Week 7 with 11,416. As the league was suspended after Week 8 the Legends were unable to play their final home game against the Stallions.

Atlanta averaged 10.895 fans a game thanks to that Week 7 contest. You could say fans were finally starting to warm up to the gold and purple. Although numbers were consistent and at about half capacity of the stadium, the overall numbers were considered below the league average (15,292) and 6th overall.

This loyal vassal of the legends didst faithfully rally his fiefdom of sec 122 and leadeth those motley folk in unyielding cries of support for our Legendary warriors. Other loyal and wondrous vassals didst the same, most notably the lesser, yet wise and noble, Kings of the South Endzone. Through many defeats and too few victories, the loyal Legends fans did turn out and uplift our warriors. Never once didst fewer than 10,000 turneth out to support our brave, but beleaguered warriors.

-The Legendary Knight

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Nonetheless, bravely forward our palmy warriors did stride into hurlyburly upon the field of the Apollos. Our inexperienc’d generals put the valorous intentioned, but overly cautious, Matt the Young’r of family Simms to leadeth our warriors upon the field. Oh woe and lament. Never since the Battle of Hastings hadst such a butt-whooping been lay down upon an unfortunate lot as was what the Apollos didst do to the Legends yond day.

– The Legendary Knight

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Anoth’r defeat cameth at the hands of Fleet in p’rt of San Diego before our bloodied and battered warriors wendeth their way home. – The Legendary Knight

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With humiliating defeats and being renounced by our heroes, the enthusiasm of some fair-weather fans amongst the people of Atlanta didst wain. Still, at the hour the Iron warriors from Birmingham didst appeared at our gates, over 10,000 loyal vassals rallied to supp’rt our warriors in their scrap – thy very own Legendary Knight amongst those good folk. -The Legendary Knight

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Our greatest hour wast on our second home game. The Express legions of Memphis did sally forth upon our lands to square with our Legends. Poor Matt Simms wast with injury, so Sir Murray’s day to leadeth us into battleth hadst arrived. A mighty contest didst ensue, with the Express ahead 20-14 at the end of the 3rd. Our legends didst rally, and upon the mighty arm of the valiant Sir Murray and the golden foot of the intrepid Younghoe Koo, didst score 9 points in the 4th to winneth the day! There wast much merriment and feasting upon yond day!

– The Legendary Knight

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NOTES:

Atlanta traded LS Colton Taylor to Salt Lake City for TE Steve Donatell to mark the first trade in league history.

Former Jets WR Stephen Hill was attempting to make a comeback with the Legends but did not make the final cut.

The Legends finished with a whopping 10 guys on IR.

In case you are wondering, you can find The Legendary Knight on Twitter at @LegendaryKnig4 – and no, he has never speaketh in any other manner than Ye’ Olde English to me.

The Kings of the South Endzone were allies in The Legendary Knight’s attempts to defend the realm of the Legends.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The glimmer of hope from yond victory upon the field too soon gaveth way to a series of painful defeats. Even with the sting of those defeats and all hope hath being lost for the playoffs, the loyal Legends fans did stay true. Preparations were being made by the faithful for an epic celebration to welcometh our Legends home for their final home squaring against the Salty Stallions.

Many a faithful son and daughter of the Kingdom of Legends did look wistfully forward to that day and madeth ready for feasts, tournaments, festiveness, and most wondrous merriment.

But dark and nefarious schemes were afoot by dastardly blaggards who for a few pieces of silver wouldst rip the heart out of the faithful and dealeth a steely bitter cold death to it all. Of all the world’s treacherous schemes. Of all the worm-riddled betrayals of the most greedy and vile snakes. Of all the malevolent murders by the vile upon the heroic and valorous. All of these be whey-face in comparison to the treachery, betrayal, and evisceration of Eight Realms of the Alliance through skuldugg’ry at the very hands of those who hadst sworn to protecteth and groweth the alliance.

Yond story, however, is for another day and is a yarn for another to spin. -The Legendary Knight

NOTABLE PLAYERS:
Runningback: TAREAN FOLSON
Wide Receiver: BUG HOWARD
Defensive End: TAVARIS BARNES
Defensive Back: DES LAWRENCE