Memphis Showboats 2024 UFL Season In Review | Case Cookus

Memphis Showboats 2024 UFL Season In Review

As we approached the inaugural season of the UFL, the Memphis Showboats were a team that seemed poised to make a deep run in the USFL Conference. It was a brand new organization with a fresh coaching staff, and plenty of new faces.

In the USFL offseason, Todd Haley and his coaching staff were removed from the team. Through the USFL-XFL merger, former Breakers HC John DeFilippo took over the reins, after a 7-3 season with New Orleans. In addition, Dennis Polian (Maulers) took over as General Manager, in place of Dave Razzano.

However, Memphis ended up finishing with a 2-8 record, far below what many of us predicted. Through large chunks of the season, they looked like the worst team in the UFL. It didn’t make much sense, given the amount of talent they accumulated this offseason.

Let’s take a closer look at what went wrong for Memphis in 2024 – and see what positives they can build upon moving towards the 2025 season.

Early Defensive Collapse

While Memphis had their issues on offense, it was the defense – or lack thereof – that made things very difficult for this football team to win. It all stemmed from an unlikely blown lead in week two against San Antonio, and the mistakes snowballed from that point on.

Memphis was so close to starting this season with a 2-0 record. They held a 16-0 lead in the fourth quarter against the Brahmas, but somehow San Antonio pulled off the impossible, scoring a touchdown with three seconds left after converting the 4th and 12 onsides option to complete the comeback.

From there, things went from bad to worse. In week three, Memphis had to face off against Adrian Martinez for a full game, and he tore up the Showboats with 378 yards of total offense, as Birmingham took Memphis down 33-14 in dominant fashion.

Over the next few weeks, each game told the same story. The Showboats struggled to get early stops, allowing opposing teams to build double digit leads in every single outing. Against St. Louis and Michigan, Memphis was trailing by 10+ points within the first quarter alone. Week six was a rough go, as Martinez lit up the secondary yet again, with Birmingham scoring 39 points – the most the Showboats had given up all season.

That record would be broken again just one week later. The winless Arlington Renegades took care of business at home, dropping 47 points on the heads of the Showboats defensive unit. It was their worst performance of the year. Watching this game, it felt like Arlington could get whatever they wanted offensively – and they did.

Memphis finished the UFL season giving up 355.4 yards per game (8th), and 29 points per game (8th). During their eight game losing streak, they were allowing 33.2 PPG. Obviously, it’s a challenge to find ways to gain momentum when the defense doesn’t get stops.

It was strange to see Carnell Lake’s defense take such a step backwards this year. He was the only major piece of Haley’s staff to remain with Memphis in 2024, after his defense had quite a bit of success down the stretch of the 2023 USFL season.

This time around, it felt like every team – except for Houston – got the best of Carnell in 2024. They greatly struggled to generate any pressure, with just 19 sacks on the season (T-7th), and allowed a 49.5% conversion rate on third downs (8th).

With all of that said – the offense wasn’t any better.

Offensive Woes

Heading into the UFL season, Memphis was a team that was expected to score points. With Case Cookus at the helm, and new weapons in Jonathan Adams, Daewood Davis, Darius Victor, Sage Surratt, etc. – it felt like the offense would vastly contrast the one we saw under Cole Kelley and Todd Haley in the USFL.

Unfortunately, this couldn’t be any farther from the truth. The struggles began up front, with the offensive line looking like the most inept group in the UFL. They allowed 39 sacks this year – 13 more than the next worst O-Line (Houston, 26). No matter who was taking the snaps in the pocket, it was a rough scene week in and week out.

Jarron Jones had a troublesome year, which was a bit surprising. He was a two-time All-USFL nominee over the past two seasons, but allowed seven sacks and 34 quarterback pressures in 2024.

Now, the offensive line is the easy scapegoat. They shouldered a lot of the blame – which was partially deserved – but, it wasn’t entirely their fault. Case Cookus, who saw a ton of success with the Philadelphia Stars, was a shell of his former self this year. He uncharacteristically had very little confidence, missing simple reads and holding onto the football too long. It felt like he never fully trusted himself in the UFL this year.

In addition, the Showboats were usually unable to establish a strong ground attack, because they were playing from behind in every game. When you’re down by 10-20 points in the first half, it’s tough to keep running the football. This made things even more difficult for the offensive line, who were forced to pass-protect more snaps than the game plan originally intended.

To top it all off, Memphis led the UFL in giveaways. They turned the ball over 20 times, with many of those being momentum killers. Everything that could go wrong went wrong, on both sides of the football.

Quarterback Carousel

Through the ten weeks of action in the UFL, the Showboats saw three different quarterbacks start. Case Cookus began the season as the starter, which made the most sense. He ended up starting in six games for Memphis, throwing for 989 yards and seven touchdowns, to four interceptions. Cookus also lost a few fumbles this year.

Troy Williams, the former Pittsburgh Maulers Championship QB, earned three starts this season. He showed flashes of potential, but similar to Case, wasn’t able to fully reach the heights we thought he could. Williams threw for 591 yards and five scores, but also tossed five picks.

Interestingly enough, Josh Love looked like the most poised quarterback in the pocket for the Showboats this season. He played in their three final games, and made the start in week ten – ultimately leading the team to victory over Houston. While Josh probably isn’t the QB of the future for Memphis; he’s a worthy candidate who should earn another Training Camp invite with the team next season.

Positives From 2024

After a 2-8 campaign, it’s tough to try and look at the positives. That said, there still were some things that Memphis did well, especially towards the end of the season.

Most notably, the team moved Alec Lindstrom to starting center in week nine, and his grades were tremendous. The Showboats had the best rushing performances of the year in those games, as the offensive line looked as good as it did all season long. One has to wonder how things could have looked if Alec played there for more than just two games. The production we saw from Darius Victor is a big reason why Memphis looked competitive in those final outings.

The Special Teams unit of Matt Coghlin, Matt White, and Turner Bernard played well throughout the year. Coghlin, in particular, had another fantastic season – with 16 field goals made on 17 attempts and a long of 57.

Standout Talent

WR Daewood Davis: Obviously, Daewood Davis was the best player on this Showboats roster all year long. He was the only Showboat to earn All-UFL honors, after totaling 446 receiving yards and five touchdowns this year. Davis signed with the Carolina Panthers, following his UFL success.

WR Jonathan Adams: Adams didn’t get enough attention for the year he had with the Showboats. Despite all of the offensive struggles, he still finished with 442 yards and a score, averaging 13.4 yards per reception. His catch radius is one of the best in the scene, and hopefully he’ll be in a position to earn an NFL opportunity after another successful year in spring football.

WR Vinny Papale: Papale made his presence known in Memphis once again, as both a wide out and as a returner. Vinny continuously showed up, doing the “dirty work” for the team on special teams, while serving as a red zone threat. He had 304 yards and five touchdowns this year with the Showboats.

S Lamont McPhatter: McPhatter worked his way into a starting role with Memphis throughout the season, and ended up being one of the few bright spots defensively. He led the Showboats with 57 tackles in just eight games of action, also forcing a fumble.

DE Jordan Ferguson: Ferguson was picked up by Memphis a year ago, but didn’t play much due to signing late. This season, he was a key piece up front for Lake’s defense. Jordan had 45 tackles, seven TFL’s, and five sacks. After a stint with the Seattle Seahawks last fall, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jordan garner more NFL attention.

Looking Forward To The Future

Clearly, the Memphis Showboats are going to have to reevaluate everything from top to bottom this offseason. Offense, defense, special teams – and even personnel – changes are necessary if this team wants to improve next year.

Something that plagued Memphis this past “offseason”: the merger. John DeFilippo and his staff had to quickly shift gears from their focus of refining New Orleans, to completely rebuilding Memphis. They ended up taking on quite a few players from Todd Haley’s roster, while adding pieces from New Orleans and other USFL/XFL franchises. It’s not easy to take on someone else’s franchise and immediately see success, especially with how the merger shook up the entire scene.

That said, this staff has to pursue some younger talent – with NFL experience – for their upcoming campaign. Teams like Birmingham and San Antonio were able to make the runs that they did, because they targeted NFL-caliber players who have a lot of football left to be played in their careers.

It’ll be intriguing to see the direction this team takes at the quarterback position. Cookus doesn’t appear to be the guy who can take them to the postseason. Williams and Love show potential, but neither are necessarily “starter” material. Troy, with his dual threat capabilities, certainly could be – if he can develop his decision making enough. The backfield could also use some fresh faces. Darius Victor is valuable, but could benefit from someone who can take a true RB1 role.

Offensive Coordinator Doug Martin spoke on the importance of knowing this roster inside and out, so personnel can make the right moves this offseason:

“You want to come out of this season knowing this team really well. Obviously, we inherited this team, and didn’t know a lot of the players when we got here. We were one of the few teams who had to undertake that, and that’s difficult. We want to come out of here knowing that ‘yes, this guy can help us’, or ‘we need to move on from this guy’ – you want all those questions answered before we finish this so we know we can make improvements next year.”

Defensively, there has to be an overhaul. The lack of pressure all year was frustrating to watch. Opposing quarterbacks had so much time to throw the ball, which put way too much on the secondary’s shoulders.

Memphis is expected to get after it pretty quickly this offseason. The biggest positive to take away from all of this: changes are imminent.

Final Thoughts

Looking back at the 2024 season as a whole for the Memphis Showboats, it’s hard to say that it was anything other than a disappointment. From the eight game losing streak, to the lack of fans in attendance, Memphis wasn’t exactly all it was hyped up to be prior to the season.

For DeFilippo & Co., now the focus will be on having a full offseason with the same team. John was brought to the New Orleans Breakers after season one in the USFL, and had to adopt Larry Fedora’s team then. After a successful year there, he then had to transfer to Todd Haley’s Showboats because of the merger.

Hopefully, a calmer, more traditional offseason will translate into more wins for the Memphis Showboats in 2025.

What are your thoughts on this Showboats season as a whole? What changes need to be made next year in order to see more improvements? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

Fubo
  1. I came into the season rooting for the Showboats. I didn’t know how they would fair, but they had a good number of players I enjoyed watching in the USFL. Never did I think of them as a true challenger, but I did feel if their offensive line could find a way to excel, I felt they had enough skill position players to be competitive. I did feel their defense would keep them in the games however. I believed this further when DJ Daniel an all USFL CB from the Generals was cut, I felt they must have the makings of a strong defense. However, a few weeks into the season Daniel was back.

    Coming into the season these are the reasons I felt 2024 COULD be a bad season for the Showboats.

    1. Offensive Line. I really felt they had some talent on the o-line, but Jarron Jones who has done a fine job is. also a malcontent, who I have seen get in fights with his own team. The rest of the line seemed a bit soft, not quite ready to push a defensive line. As the team got better toward the end of the season, it might be interesting to see who sticks from that line as it evidently wasn’t all bad although that still needs to be confirmed

    2. Doing away with the XP kick. In 2023, John D. continuously outsmarted his opponents who wanted to aggressively chase 2 point conversions. This led to him winning 2-3 games in this fashion. Without this to rely on in 2024, I knew those wins would be up in the air.

    3. i didn’t trust this team would gel. Along with Jarron Jones, they also had Trey Williams who although, I love his talents might bring an attitude as an aging running back looking for carries. Not sure if this hurt the team or his standing with the team, but he was gone by mid-season. The wide receiver room is one based on ball control. They did not have the Taywan Taylor threat they had in 2022. They did have some big play success with Morris and Anderson, but they never replaced Johnnie Dixon. I know all these players I mentioned were Breakers and not Showboats in 2023, but the whole receivers group were Breakers.
    John D. showed a good deal of professionalism in 2023. While fighting his own injury, he showed an ability to tough it out. He avoided chasing the 2pt conversion often leading his team to victory. He is a knowledgeable coach who knew what he wanted to do, but I wondered what he knew of the other positions and whether being provided Carnell Lake would necessarily work for him.

    Either way the season is over and they can get back to the drawing board. Hoping for them to be back better than last year.

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