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  • Writer's pictureAce

Gamblers Table Talk

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

We are heading into week 3 of the inaugural USFL season, and Houston Gamblers fans most likely feel… disoriented. On the one hand, we have one of the best defenses in the league. On the other, we have an offense so hot and cold it rivals the let down that is the Michigan Panthers. So, lets dive into the Gamblers performance and try to make some sense of it.

Let’s start with the good! The Gamblers defense is LEGIT, and are one of the best in the league behind only the New Orleans Breakers. These players all have speed, and swarm the football moving sideline to sideline. The defense is lead by its core linebackers Reggie Northrup II and Donald Payne Jr (DP). These two combined for 48 tackles in the first two games. This is absolute insanity and makes them the most dominant linebacker duo in the league. They also have Akeem Victor and Drew Lewis at outside backer who have accounted for 14 more tackles.

The defensive line is a dominant group of pass rushers and run stuffers. Ahmad Gooden and Chris Odom have 4 sacks between them and 4 forced fumbles. All 4 forced fumbles were during week 1 against the Panthers, where the Gamblers had 9 total forced fumbles (HOW?). In the middle of the defensive line, Cory Thomas and Domenique (Nique) Davis have risen as dominant big men that make any running back think twice before heading downhill. The front seven of this Houston Gamblers defense is daunting to say the least, and is the biggest highlight of this team.

The secondary of this team is nothing to bat an eye at either. Jamar Summers, who is a veteran of Tim Lewis’ defense, has a fumble recovery and some impressive coverage plays. The biggest emergence in the secondary is Will Likely. Likely has had an interception in each of the Gamblers games this season, one for a touchdown against the Stallions. Likely, quickly became a fan favorite since finding his father in the stands after his interception against the Panthers, and gifting the ball to him. These corners have overshadowed the safeties Andrew Soroh and Manny Bunch, who have racked up 23 tackles. The front seven are monsters, but don’t forget this secondary.

Now we move to the less than awe inspiring aspect of the team… the offense. I am in no way saying that the offense doesn’t have its bright spots! Mark Thompson and Dalyn Dawkins are a fantastic backfield, as coach Runnels says, they are thunder and lightning. Dawkins is used in multiple ways, not only lining up in the backfield, but sometimes in the slot and in motion. Thompson is the leading rusher in the league through week 2. He has 11 more rushing yards than Jordan Ellis who is 2nd in rushing, while having 10 less carries. Needless to say, we have no worries currently at the running back position.

The offensive line has been fairly good at keeping Thorson off the ground. In week 2 the Stallions had decent penetration, but the O-line held up well against a talented Panthers defense in week 1. Run blocking speaks for itself when you reference the fact that Mark Thompson is the leading league rusher as mentioned above. There is still a ways to go as far as hitting every scheme and protection, but as far as 3 week training camp offensive lines go, we are ahead of the curve.

Let’s just tear the band aid off and discuss the Clayton Thorson sized elephant in the room. Thorson is the most winning quarterback in Northwestern history, but only a few plays this season have shown that. Thorson has thrown some NFL caliber touchdowns, but also a handful of division III level interceptions. His confidence was rocked in week 1 by the overthrown balls, and throws that skipped to receivers. This was wildly apparent in week 2 as it seemed that he held back at times, and was afraid of overthrows. The receivers haven’t helped him too much as they have tipped a few balls into interceptions, and had more than a few bad drops. All we can hope for is that Thorson is in a bit of a rut, and we will see the Thorson we saw back at Northwestern come week 3 against the down on their luck Bandits.

There is hope! In the post-game press conference, I asked Coach Kevin Sumlin about his priorities in upcoming practices, and he is all about creating consistency within this offense. It was very obvious that he was less than happy (thought he might bite my head off at one point), but it was just passion and determination to be better. The fact of the matter is that the Gamblers only lost by 5 points and had a chance at a game winning drive against the consensus 2nd best team in the league. Our offense looked painful for a majority of the game and yet we had a chance. The reality is that the Gamblers offense only needs to be average for the Gamblers to be a top team in the USFL, BUT an above average offensive showing could easily (in my opinion) send us to Canton. There is hope Gamblers fans! Week 3 could be Thorson’s USFL breakout game! Lets all hope that Sumlin plays a winning hand, and we all get to celebrate a jackpot! (Apologies for the puns, I can't help it)


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