Houston Roughnecks vs. Memphis Showboats | Week 1 UFL Preview

Houston Roughnecks vs. Memphis Showboats | Week 1 Preview

The Memphis Showboats will travel to Rice Stadium in Houston, TX to take on the Houston Roughnecks in an end of week clash that pits an offseason home underdog against an extremely retooled Showboats roster.

Head Coach John DeFilippo spent all offseason with GM Dennis Polian completely gutting and reloading the Showboats for their UFL debut. In Houston, head coach Curtis Johnson and GM Lionel Vital have crafted, on paper, one of the most praised defensive constructions in the league. Their offensive focus seems to be centered around starting running back Mark Thompson – who might not be available.

Battle For The Trenches

No matter who starts behind center for the Showboats come Sunday, one thing both are all too familiar with is pressure, and in droves. Case Cookus was the most sacked QB in the USFL over the last two seasons. Troy Williams didn’t fare much better last season with the Maulers, and while both still put up quality numbers with their respective teams, one has to wonder what either QB can do with a little more time in their pocket.

Memphis has formidable protectors across their offensive line that might answer that exact question. This group features All-USFL tackles such as Terry Poole and Jarron Jones, along with center Jordan McCray shoring up the middle. On paper, with these stars at the positions, either QB could be set up for more time than ever before.

However, the task ahead is no easy one to accomplish given the front seven that Roughnecks defensive coordinator Chris Wilson has at his disposal. Houston has been praised all offseason for their roster construction particularly in their first two levels. Former USFL DPOY Chris Odom returns and is paired up with near equally threatening edge rusher Adam Rodriguez. Add in the blitz potential of imposing linebackers Rueben Foster and Gabriel Sewell and things could get out of hand quickly for Memphis. Not to mention, they’ve got Toby Johnson, Olive Sagapolu, Keonte Schad, etc. all in the trenches as well.

Will Mark Thompson Play?

All eyes of the Houston faithful will be on star running back offensive centerpiece Mark Thompson for his status and readiness on Sunday. Thompson suffered from a knee sprain in camp that has set back his prep, and has made his status one to watch closely come Sunday afternoon.

In either situation of him playing or having to sit, expect a healthy dose of T.J. Pledger and potentially Kirk Merritt to supplement some carries. Will the duo be able to provide the support needed for a potentially less than 100% version of Thompson? It remains to be seen. The addition of former Tennessee RB Tiyon Evans is also someone to watch closely.

Curtis Johnson & His 2-QB System

Two-QB systems aren’t new in the realm of spring football, and neither are the prospects of needing a little more in-game action. For Curtis Johnson, evaluation seems to still be happening as even with Jarrett Guarantano being rewarded the starting job, reps for Reid Sinnett seem likely. How many reps or series that this will happen remains in question, and one has to wonder how far or how early the gameplay will dictate when or who is on the field. We have yet to receive word on whether Nolan Henderson or Reid Sinnett will be QB2.

Standout Playmakers

Both of these organizations have firepower, and Memphis in particular looks scary. Darius Victor, Jonathan Adams, and Sage Surratt highlight what should be a potent offensive group for John DeFilippo.

Not to mention, their defensive front rivals that of Houston, with John Atkins Sr., Jeff McCulloch, and others all ready for battle once again.

The Roughnecks have a WR room that is retooled with some speedsters. Cyril Grayson, Isiah Hennie, and Justin Hall are all primed to play a big role in this offense, despite their smaller size.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this matchup should be relatively close. Memphis has more experience on their roster, and a proven leader in Case Cookus. Defensively, they’re relying on players like Kyree Woods, Greg Reaves, etc. who were key a season ago.

Houston has a brand new quarterback in Jarrett Guarantano, and might debut two new faces if Henderson sees action as well. While Houston is home, it feels like they’re the underdog with a roster that has more questions than answers at this moment.

The Houston Roughnecks host the Memphis Showboats on Sunday at 3pm ET on ESPN, at Rice Stadium.

Full roster breakdowns: Houston, Memphis

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the Memphis Showboats & Houston Roughnecks? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!