By Angelo Fiouris @NJ_Generals
With a month of the 2022 USFL season in the books, it’s safe to say the New Jersey Generals have exceeded expectations. Not highly touted in any preseason punditry, NJ has silenced the doubters. A stout defense, a bulldozer of a running game, a dash of speed and a two headed quarterback, has been the recipe to a 3 -1 record. Throw in first place in the North Division and a one game lead plus tiebreaker over the second place Philadelphia Stars, and the Generals are feeling pretty good about themselves.
But as this week’s headline portends, and despite the good feeling in the NJ locker room, the Generals have some concerns. With the high-flying (and also 3-1) New Orleans team up next, there is cleaning up to do. Errors have plagued this team since opening night. Penalties and mistakes, while never opportune, have bitten NJ at the worst times, flags of the avoidable variety. An encroachment penalty in week one kept the Stallions winning drive alive. In week two a flag negated a first and goal situation, on a night when points were at a premium; week three, it was eight penalties for one hundred yards, several of those throwing lifelines to the Stars. In week four a delay of game pushed a FG attempt back five yards, compounding Nick Rose’s issues (we’ll get to him in a minute) and three penalties on a single drive kept the Maulers lone TD effort going. Late hits, hitting defenseless receivers, jumping offsides and dropped passes are the kind of mental errors that can and need to be corrected for the Generals to take the next step. Play execution is not the issue. The coaching staff has to emphasize and focus on limiting mistakes.
As far as Nick Rose, not much can be said. He is kicking at a thirty percent success rate, an unacceptable number at the high school level, let alone a pro football team. Of his seven misses this year, two came in week one vs the Stallions in a four-point loss, two came in the win vs Philadelphia (to his credit he did connect on a fifty-four yard kick) and two more misses came in the win against the 0-4 Maulers.
Coach Reilly brought Rose to the Generals because of his past success and their familiarity with one another, but aside from the fifty-four yard make, Rose has done little to deserve Reilly’s confidence. The Generals fight hard every week, and in a league where most of the results have been one possession games, they cannot leave points on the field. (As this article was about to go live, New Jersey announced they released Rose and brought in Austin Jones who kicked at Temple and Alabama).
The legitimate early season excuses of “well these teams were thrown together; they haven’t had long to train; there’s rust; etc.” are no longer valid. We’re month into this. Players have had the equivalent of a full training camp. The halfway point of the season has arrived. This is a first- place team fighting for the playoffs and a championship. Good opponents will capitalize and make you pay for your mistakes. We saw that in week one. The Generals need to play smarter, and Jones, the new kicker, MUST make field goals or get quickly get booted himself. If there was a time to put together the clean game that has eluded New Jersey thus far, this week against the Breakers sure would be a great time to do it.