Let's not get it twisted, the Michigan Panthers were not a top team in the USFL Season one. With that being said, there are still things that went very well. Unfortunately that is offset by the downfalls of the year that ultimately led to a disastrous start to what may someday be a dominant franchise. Before that can happen here is an analysis of what went well and what fell short in season 1.
1. The running attack
When scheming against this Michigan Panther offense the main area of concern had to be the run game. It is a very uncommon occurrence for a team with a losing record, and very few minutes of controlling the ball and the scoreboard, to have the most rushing yards almost every week. Usually when a team starts to trail, the passing attack gets going and the run game falls to the wayside. The Panthers were no different, which speaks volume to their ground game. Where the offensive line lacked in pass block, they made up for with run block. Big run after big run in the first half kept the Panthers in games and led to exciting finishes. Unfortunately, you cannot win football games by only running the ball.
Reggie Corbin takes it 88 yards to the house in week 3 against the Philadelphia Stars
2. Stand out players emerged
It is true that this can be said for all of the teams in the USFL, but the Panthers stand-outs do not get the credit they deserve. On the USFL Top 50 only 2 Panthers players were named. The Michigan Panthers had the most effective rusher in the league, the most catches, the second most yards by a receiver, and a defender tied for 5th in interceptions. Reggie Corbin only played in 8 games and actually started in 6, but still managed to have multiple 100 yard games. Lance Lenoir was the number one target in the USFL and only fell short in yards to the MVP of the league. Jameson Houston had two interceptions on a defense with a -6 turnover rate. There were only five interceptions total for the entire defense, and this was good enough to tie for 5th in the league. This is just to name a few of the players that stood out and have the foundation to blow up come season two.
Lance Lenoir catches the first TD for the Michigan Panthers in a week one matchup with the Houston Gamblers
The first three weeks saw a very good defensive showing from the royal plum and light blue. They held opponents to an average of 9 points and 219 yards per game. To this point the Michigan defense was number one in both categories, but only had a 1-2 record to show for it. The biggest issue was the many injuries that accrued during this period, not even to mention the players hurt before the season. Anytime it seemed like a player was starting to get any momentum at their position the injury bug struck. This happened to DB Orion Stewart, RB Reggie Corbin, and TE Joey Magnifico, just to name a few. Warren Saba had a season ending arm injury in his first half of his first game. This is just bad luck and no fault of the Panther's at all, but hopefully it will improve in season 2.
TE Joey Magnifico carted off the field with leg injury in week 2 against the New Jersey Generals
2. QB Carousel
Shea Patterson was not the number one pick that the Panther's hoped for. It became clear he was not the answer, which led to a rotation at the position with Paxton Lynch. Heck, even WR Joe Walker threw a touchdown. After a week 6 loss, Shea was released and Josh Love was picked up. Finally Eric Barriere was added to the roster, but only played one game. Lynch had a great finish to the season, and delivered the second win of the season too little too late. Shea Patterson was the only QB on the roster to have multiple starts in a row and he delivered three losses with them. All of the playoff teams had a set starter, even if they used 2 quarterbacks. The Michigan Panthers never decided on one which was one of their early downfalls.
"Shea Patterson is the first player taken in the 2022 USFL draft"
3. Turnover/Points against
The Michigan Panthers were horrendous with turnovers. Season one amassed a -6 turnover rate. This isn't even including the baffling amount of fumbles that the Panthers recovered for themselves all season, such as the 5 week one. This usually led to a large loss of yards that were absolute drive killers. The other fumbles and interceptions that were lost gave opponents great field possession and were turned into points against. The Panthers were last in points against, so it is not surprising that they lost 80% of games.
Fumble six that ultimately led to the week one loss to the Houston Gamblers
Hopefully the Panthers have learned from their mistakes and lady luck is on their side next year. Do you agree or have anything else to add? Let us know in the official USFL Discord and don't forget to tag Maverick!