Latest posts by Mickey W (see all)
- AAF Week 7 Grades – Memphis Express Week 7 Grades - March 27, 2019
- Memphis Express Week 5 Grades - March 12, 2019
- The Midway Point – AAF Week 5 Preview Memphis Express At Atlanta Legends - March 6, 2019
It may very well be that week 3 ends up being the turning point of the season for the Express as the highly ineffective Christian Hackenberg got replaced at half time by Zach Mettenberger with a stark change in results. It is very likely they will stay with Mettenberger going forward after the very promising change he brought to the entire team.
Christian Hackenberg would be pulling a C with a couple of good throws, but also had 2 drive killing interceptions. The Interceptions were troubling as they were bad decisions that any viewer knew was a bad decision watching in real time. The result was a 0 point first half.
Zach Mettenberger relieved Hackenberg at the half and all you need to know is the Express outscored the high-powered Orlando team in the second half. Mettenberger was 9 of 12 for 120 yards and 2 TD passes in just 30 minutes of play. The 2 TD passes were the first 2 in Express history. It is amazing how his play impacted the team. The entire offense played with more pace and confidence with him in the game. Mettenberger would get a sold A for his performance.
Running Backs: B
The normally explosive Zac Stacy was generally kept under wraps managing only 29 yards on 14 carries. However, the newest member of the squad Sherman Badie added 59 yards on 8 carries to lead the team. Terrence Magee also chipped in 28 yards on 4 carries. With some other minor contributions, the Express had another strong rushing day overall with 132 yards on the ground.
Wide Receivers B
It was a group effort from the pass catching corps with not one person shining, but a good mix with a variety of different players contributing. As a group, they had 183 yards and 2 TD receptions. Dontez Byrd had an amazing catch on the side line in the first half worthy of a highlight real. Devin Lucien had his first notable game with 3 receptions (on 3 targets) for 51 yards and a TD. Gerrard Sheppard had a 40 yards TD reception on his only catch as he broke loose down the sideline and what appeared to be a blown coverage. Note that Mettenberger saw and took advantage of this mistake by the Orland secondary. Tight End Brandon Barnes contributed with 4 receptions for 24 yards, but an impressive 19 of these yards was after contact.
Offensive Line C+
The QB protection continued to be a problem for the Express. A number of false start penalties also chipped in to what was an inconsistent day for this group. They allowed 6 QB hits and 2 sacks on the day with many Qb pressures. The inconsistent play of this unit remains troubling and will need to be cleaned up for the offense to gain consistent traction.
Overall Offensive Grade B-
The grade would likely have been close to an A if the first half was like the second half. We may also be talking about a different result. Mettenberger was night and day difference from Hackenberg in terms of vision, confidence and delivery. A number of players picked up their play and the team was not fully dependent on going to a single go to guy in making this work. Keep an eye on Sherman Badie as he ran fast and with attitude.
Defensive Front: B+
The unit got 6 QB hits and 1 sack on the very allusive Garrett Gilbert and they looked to have had him rattled several times during the game. Gilbert was held to only a 50% completion percentage in this one and the pressure provided was the main reason. Like the offense, this was more of a group effort. Davis Tull had his best game of the year with 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss a sack and 2 QB Hits. DeMarquis Gates added 3 tackles, 2 for loss and Jamichael Winston added 2 QB hits and a tackle for loss. Anthony Johnson looked to not be at full speed and left with an injury, which is something to keep an eye on. They did tire late and seemed unable to make a tackle in the final 5 minutes.
Defensive Backs: A-
It is not easy to guard against this unit. They held an explosive Apollos passing attack to a season low in receiving yards and only allowed 1 TD in the air. Charles Johnson was generally well contained and only had 3 receptions for 53 yards. Charles James II and Arnold Tarpley III really stood out from the group. Channing Stribling had a quiet day with only 1 tackle. It was a solid team effort all around.
Overall Defensive Grade A-
The defense held the team in the game despite a scoreless first half. Considering the opposition, it was a tremendous effort to accomplish this. The defense should be encouraged seeing how the offense changed under the new QB. Hopefully, they will be put in a better position late to do their thing with more efficient QB play on the other side of the ball.
Special Teams: C
Josh Jasper’s inconsistent season continues as he hit 1 of 2 FG and the make was a 27 yard chip shot. Brad Wing punted 4 times for 174 yards (155 net). A net of under 40 is just not good enough. They need better coverage and better placed kicks going forward.
Mettenberger was finally put in the game… what took so long? Also, seeing the way the offense responded and the way Mettenberger reads the defense and delivers the ball makes it incomprehensible as to how they ever went with Hackenberg to begin with. I think fans will shake their heads more if Mettenberger’s play continues to be good, which I think it will. The coaching staff had the defense motivated from the get go and really had them playing well after allowing a TD on the first drive against. With the right pieces now in place, the coaching staff will have no excuse if wins do not start coming. Regretfully, with a short season and 2 3-0 teams in the division, they likely are just playing for pride and to show what they could be going forward.