Despite being just one game apart in the Standings, New Jersey (2-2) is on top in the North Division. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Stars (1-3) sit in fourth, losing three straight.
Let’s take a look at the key factors ahead of Sunday’s showdown, and what to expect from each team.
This matchup will feature two of the USFL’s top quarterbacks. It’s been rough for Case Cookus this season, but there’s no denying his talent. With Philadelphia’s offensive struggles, Case has taken the brunt of the pressure and heat.
If the offensive line can just give Cookus a bit of time to find a rhythm, it’ll make life so much easier for the entire team. At the same time, Case has to make better decisions. He’s looked out of sync through four weeks, missing timely throws that he was making with ease last year.
De’Andre Johnson was named the starter in week three, and has been playing quite well for Mike Riley. A healthy Johnson is potentially the most dangerous QB in the league, as his dual threat capabilities make him nearly impossible to slow down.
Considering Philadelphia’s inability to stop mobile signal callers, it’s safe to assume that De’Andre will have himself a day this weekend. Johnson has grown quite a bit as a passer over the past two seasons, which is what makes him so valuable to a team that is stacked with talent.
Speaking of talent, the New Jersey Generals have it all. Their two-headed rushing attack of Darius Victor and Trey Williams is tough to stop. Williams, in particular, has been excellent as of late. He missed the first two weeks due to injury, but has settled into Riley’s system quite well since returning.
Darius Victor needs no introduction. His thick thighs have been dominating all season. Additionally, Cam Echols-Luper and Alonzo Moore have both contributed at a high level, stepping up in the absence of KaVontae Turpin. Expect both to see plenty of success this weekend.
Philadelphia has plenty of playmakers – but haven’t been able to get them involved as efficiently as one would hope. Corey Coleman, Jordan Suell, Devin Gray, Matt Colburn – the list goes on. This team does feature some of spring football’s premier names.
However, execution is lacking. From a chemistry standpoint, this unit looks nothing like they did a season ago. Something needs to change, and it starts with the offensive line.
Defensive Advantage: New Jersey Generals
There’s a defense that’s been playing much better football in 2023, and that’s the Generals. Despite Sunday’s loss, they effectively slowed down New Orleans in the second half, giving their offense more than enough opportunities to close the gap.
Defense prevents more points from going on the board to end the first half 😤
Ted Cotrell has one hell of a unit. Toby Johnson and Chris Orr have been monsters up front, as Orr leads the USFL in tackles through week four. In the secondary, Shalom Luani, Paris Ford, DJ Daniels, and many others are flying around often, making impact plays.
In the trenches, New Jersey should have a field day. Philadelphia’s offensive line has been one of the worst in the league, and it’s something that the Generals will likely exploit from the get go. It could get ugly for Cookus on Sunday.
The real question at hand: can Philadelphia get a stop? New Jersey has improved as an offense with each week. Mike Riley’s offensive line is a polar opposite of Philadelphia’s; one that has protected well – allowing Victor, Williams, and Johnson to effectively run the football.
The Stars have had zero answers for a solid rushing attack this season. Mark Thompson, Reggie Corbin, and others have run all over this unit week in and week out. Now, they face an even heavier task: trying to slow down the best ground game in the USFL.
Philadelphia suffered another blow this week, as WR Chris Rowland has been ruled out for the season with an injury.
Stars WR Chris Rowland is out for the season with an injury. He was 5th in receiving yards for the team.
Rowland is more than just a receiver. He’s an excellent specialist, returning kicks for Philadelphia quite well (5th in the USFL in all-purpose yards). On top of that, he plays every down of special teams, providing the Stars with stability on both ends.
We wish Rowland a speedy recovery, and look forward to seeing him back in action soon.
While this is the first time in 2023 that these two teams will be playing each other, we saw three matchups just a season ago. There are some new faces this time around, but for the most part, each team closely resembles who they were in 2022.
Week 3 | Generals 24, Stars 17: New Jersey pulled out a close win in this one, as QB Bryan Scott went down with an injury. De’Andre Johnson was fantastic, pushing NJ to the victory.
Week 10 | Generals 26, Stars 25: At the time, this game didn’t have too much meaning. However, it was an entertaining showdown, with the Generals just barely edging out Case Cookus and the Stars.
Semi-finals | Stars 19, Generals 14: Philadelphia pulled off the upset in the playoffs, led by Case Cookus’ aggressive play-style. Additionally, the Stars’ defense was sensational, playing arguably their best game as a franchise.
Every single outing has come down to the wire between the New Jersey Generals and Philadelphia Stars. While New Jersey clearly has the advantage heading into week five, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Stars get back on track just enough to make this game competitive.
New Jersey Generals | Mike Riley: The 2022 Coach Of The Year has been what everyone expected in 2023: solid. Despite a 2-2 record, New Jersey has been trending upwards, and can grab hold of the North Division with a win on Sunday.
Philadelphia Stars | Bart Andrus: It’s been an uncharacteristic start to the USFL season for Andrus’ team. Across the board, they’ve played sloppy and uninspired football. Bart has to find a way to dig deep and motivate his squad to match New Jersey’s intensity levels. In week four, it looked like this team didn’t even want to be on the field.
Regardless of the final outcome, Sunday’s matchup should be a good one. Two of spring football’s most experienced coaches will face off, with each respective team featuring plenty of high-end talent.
What are your thoughts on this upcoming USFL showdown between the New Jersey Generals and Philadelphia Stars? Which USFL players will make an impact? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!