USFL Week 1 takeaways: Fun, competitive and passes the eye test
Week 1 of the USFL featured solid competition, fun innovations and football that passed the eye test, Geoff Schwartz writes.
By Geoff Schwartz
FOX Sports Analyst
The USFL is finally here, and it brought a glorious weekend of April football with it.
I enjoyed it, and I hope y’all did, too. After watching all four games across three days, I have six takeaways.
A brand of football that passes the eye test
My main takeaway from observing the USFL is simple but also the most important: It looked like the kind of football that I expected to see.
It was crisp without the gimmicks that would have taken away from the gameplay. The blocking and tackling look familiar and there were big hits and explosive offensive plays. It passed the eye test.
Pass defense ruled the weekend
Quarterbacks and passing offenses generally struggled this weekend. The QBs combined to complete just 61% of their passes for fewer than six yards per attempt.
None of this is surprising, as most of the quarterbacks had accuracy issues as they bounced around the NFL. Poorly timed throws led to interceptions and defensive touchdowns.
Pass rushers had their way against the offensive lines, especially when they brought pressure. This should not be a surprise as these units haven’t had much time together.
I expect the game to slow down for both the quarterbacks and offensive lines as the season moves forward, and we should have better passing offenses moving forward.
The competition was legit
Three of the four games ended within a touchdown and rarely were any of the games outside a touchdown margin.
The Generals and Stallions changed leads three times in the fourth quarter, while the Breakers and Stars rotated between leads and ties four times in the second half.
The competition was set up to be good with a unique draft format and balanced coaching staffs. I enjoyed watching everyone compete until the very end this weekend.
Broadcast innovations were a success
The sustained success of a spring football league will happen because the play on the field captures the attention of the viewing public. But it doesn’t hurt to have new and unique ways to present the game to viewers.
The USFL delivered on this with drone camera angles and helmet cameras. These angles gave viewers a chance to experience how fast the game is played. The interceptions, downfield runs and other gameplay captured by the helmet cameras were hectic at times, but overall it was cool to watch plays happen in real-time.
Stars bring the juice
Any new league would like to have breakout stars to bring some juice. It took until the final game of the weekend to see someone who fits that description.
In my preview article, I wrote about the high hopes I had for the Tampa Bay Bandits because of head coach Todd Haley and his quarterback, Jordan Ta’amu. Well, Ta’amu and the Bandits' offense delivered on the hype.
Ta’amu was the best quarterback of opening weekend. He finished 20-for-32 for 185 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions (the second one hit the receiver in the hands). He was efficient in finding the open receivers in Haley’s offense, which allowed for some run after the catch. If Ta’amu continues to grow throughout the season, he will win the MVP.
Special teams need to be cleaned up
On game days in college, the team would gather around the head coach in the locker room before running through the tunnel for kickoff. We would repeat a mantra that always ended with "special teams be special."
Well, the kicking game in the USFL was not special this week, as placekickers went 5-for-12 on field-goal attempts.
I hope this forces some teams to stop being conservative and just air it out on fourth down. Have fun. Make it rain with points.
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.