Pittsburgh Maulers vs. New Jersey Generals | USFL Week 2 Preview

Pittsburgh Maulers vs. New Jersey Generals | USFL Week 2 Preview

The Pittsburgh Maulers and New Jersey Generals will face off in Canton in week two of the USFL. This is a matchup that features two 0-1 teams fighting to contend. Week one was much of the same for the Pittsburgh Maulers against the New Orleans Breakers in a game they lost 22-15. The Generals had their worst loss since the USFL’s return where they lost 27-10 to the Birmingham Stallions. Both teams are looking to even their record and stay in the division race in the North. The loser will fall to 0-2 and have some ground to make up over the final eight weeks of the year and find themselves in the basement of the division. We’ll go over what happened last week as well as what to expect in this matchup.

Generals Offense vs. Maulers Defense

The New Jersey Generals offense looked lost in week one and despite a high yardage total, they were unable to find a consistent rhythm against the Stallions. After week one New Jersey leads the league in total yards on offense, but they were only able to manage one touchdown in Birmingham. This was mainly due to their inefficiency in the redzone. They finished the game 1 for 4 scoring touchdowns in the red area versus a stout defense, which included two turnovers on downs. A big part of this was the Generals wide receivers inability to create separation against the Stallions defensive backs. They hope to improve in that area by signing former General wide out J’Mon Moore this week. Losing quarterback Luis Perez as well as wide receivers KaVontae Turpin and Darrius Shepherd during the offseason showed all night, with a lack of consistency and playmaking on the outside from their skill players. Outside of two long runs by quarterback De’Andre Johnson and running back Darius Victor, explosive plays were virtually non-existent from the offense.

Turning over to the defense they’ll be facing, the Pittsburgh Maulers made life extremely tough for quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the Breakers. Despite allowing over 300 yards total, they limited New Orleans to 2.7 yards per rush. This let their pass rush get after the quarterback in the passing game, registering several key sacks. The offseason addition at linebacker, Reuben Foster, also forced a fumble near the goal line that resulted in a touchdown for the Maulers defense. The Pittsburgh defense kept them in the game and wants to be able to dictate what New Jersey wants to do on offense.

The Generals love to run the ball, which is evident from last year, as well as the fact that they ran for nearly 200 yards in week one. This will be a strength-on-strength matchup with a great running team going up against a terrific run D that conceded the lowest yardage total on the ground in week one. The Generals ran nearly 70% of their offensive plays out of 11 personnel, which is three wide receivers, one tight end, and one running back. They’ll be looking to establish the run and set up the play-action pass game. If the Maulers are able to stop Darius Victor and Trey Williams, assuming he’s good to go, it could be a long day for the Generals. Forcing the Generals to throw the ball while behind the chains is a clear path to victory for Pittsburgh.

Maulers Offense vs. Generals Defense

The Maulers offense did not look much better than they did last year on Sunday night despite a couple of new faces at quarterback. They were only able to manage 156 total yards of offense and one field goal. Without a defensive and special teams touchdown, they would have been out of the game far earlier than they were. Like the Generals, the Maulers played two quarterbacks, James Morgan and Troy Williams. Neither player looked great, and they were a combined 10 for 27 passing (3 YPA) for just 81 yards. They ran the ball decently for over 80 yards at 4.4 yards an attempt. But the passing has to improve for them to have any chance of efficiently moving the ball this week.

The Generals played the run very well in week one just like they did last season giving up just 87 yards on the ground. The only teams that stopped the run better were the Breakers against the Maulers, and of course Pittsburgh who was the best last week. We’ll see New Jersey run a lot of big nickel sets where they play three safeties, one of which is in the box. This strategy did well in stopping the Stallions run game, but New Jersey’s defensive backs struggled covering all of Birmingham’s weapons. Going against a less potent pass attack can help the Generals pin their ears back and get after the quarterbacks. They’ll be looking to stop the run game again and make the Maulers offense one dimensional.

The Generals defense was far from their biggest issue in week one, but the pass coverage has to improve. This may be the spot for them to do so, going against a team struggling to find their footing. The Maulers have to be better throwing the ball and it doesn’t seem plausible that they’ll be able to pound the rock against a great run defense. This may come down to a big play, either by the Pittsburgh air attack, or a turnover by New Jersey.

The Special Teams

Somewhere that could be a huge difference in this game is on special teams. Wide receiver Isiah Hennie ran back a punt late in the fourth quarter for the Pittsburgh Maulers to tie the game at 15 versus New Orleans. Just as quick as their special teams was on high, they were immediately on a low. They were unable to get the go-ahead extra point and then had the ensuing kickoff go out of bounds. This set up the Breakers with excellent field position for the game-winning touchdown. If they can cut out the mistakes, this could give them a massive advantage against their hub-mates. For the Generals, Brock Miller didn’t punt as well as last year, but I don’t expect that to carryover and they should have consistency from their specials and return game, led by wide receiver Cam Echols-Luper.

Final Thoughts

This should be a great game and a low-scoring one at that. I don’t expect a ton of offense and predict we see a lot of the ground game by both sides. This is a huge game in the division and has an added component being that they share a home in the Canton hub. I think the New Jersey Generals are a bit better and will be able to take this one to bring their record to 1-1. But the new-look Maulers are not the same team we saw last year, and I expect them to bring everything they’ve got.

Who do you think will bring home the victory this weekend? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.