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Can Express QB Switch Salvage Memphis' Season?

by Fran Stuchbury
February 28, 2019 - Alliance of American Football (AAF) - San Diego Fleet

It took two and a half games but Memphis Express head coach Mike Singletary made a change at quarterback, benching Christian Hackenberg and inserting Zach Mettenberger into the starting lineup. Hackenberg only threw for 277 yards, no touchdown passes and three interceptions in 10 quarters of work. He tossed two picks, both poorly thrown passes, last week against the Orlando Apollos which resulted in a change at quarterback and his team trailing 9-0 at halftime.

Mettenberger sparked the Memphis offense, completing 9 of 12 passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions, but the Express could not complete the comeback against the undefeated Apollos, 21-17. Singletary named Mettenberger the starter for week four against San Diego.

Check out Mettenberger's two touchdown passes, a 30-yard throw to Devin Lucien and a 40-yard pass to Gerrard Sheppard:

Mettenberger started 10 games for the Tennessee Titans in 2014 and 2015.

With only a 10-game season, Memphis finds itself with very little room for error. The Express are winless at 0-3 and with Birmingham and Orlando off to 3-0 starts, Memphis may have to win six of its last seven games if they have any chance of making it to the playoffs.

The Express have a solid running back with Zac Stacy who is second in the AAF in rushing with 188 yards. They should be much more balanced on offense, but a tough San Diego defense will test them.

Singletary was slow to make the QB switch, but Fleet head coach Mike Martz, on the other hand, didn't hesitate making a change at quarterback when Mike Bercovici struggled in week one against the San Antonio Commanders. They replaced him with Philip Nelson who has sparked the team as the Fleet has improved to 2-1.

Some thoughts around the league:

  • The Salt Lake Stallions hired Ron Zook as their new defensive coordinator. Zook coached in college football from 1978 until 2011 and was the head coach at Florida from 2002 until 2004 and Illinois from 2005 until 2011. He most recently served as the Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator from 2015 until 2018.

  • The San Diego Fleet have an explosive running back with Ja'Quan Gardner. Gardner broke out with an 83-yard touchdown in the third quarter against San Antonio, the longest score in the Alliance's brief history. He leads the AAF in rushing with 281 yards and is almost certain to gain some NFL attention.

    Gardner's 83-yard touchdown run:

  • Smart move by the AAF to flex the Orlando Apollos-Salt Lake Stallions broadcast to Saturday night on the NFL Network, since more fans will be able to watch it on television. The San Diego Fleet - Memphis Express game will now kickoff at 4 pm ET on Bleacher Report Live. Apollos coach Steve Spurrier and Stallions head coach Dennis Erickson had long college football coaching careers, but this will be the first time they face each other head to head.

  • Rain and snow could be in the forecast for the Orlando game at Salt Lake, which could give the Stallions more of a home field advantage.

  • The Birmingham Iron may be 3-0, but the teams they've defeated are a combined 1-8 or 1-5 not including their losses to the Iron. The Birmingham defense has been terrific with seven sacks, five interceptions and three fumble recoveries, but the offense has to improve. Trent Richardson leads the Alliance with six rushing touchdowns but is only averaging 2.5 yards per carry. They will face a stiff test against Orlando at home in two weeks.

  • The Arizona Hotshots will retire number 19 in Sunday's game against the Atlanta Legends to honor the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives on June 30, 2013, fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire. No Hotshots player has worn number 19.

  • Like Memphis, the Atlanta Legends are also winless at 0-3 but a big reason for their struggles could be the revolving door with their coaches. Brad Childress left the team as head coach on January 9th, replaced by defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Two days before the start of the AAF season, Michael Vick was removed as offensive coordinator. Legends quarterback coach Rich Bartel resigned just two days before their 28-12 loss to the Birmingham Iron.

  • Though starter Matt Simms has played capably, the Legends may be tempted to try Aaron Murray at quarterback to see if a change could help spark the team.

  • The San Antonio Commanders lead the AAF with 13 sacks, three more than any other team. Linebacker Shaan Washington tops the Commanders with three.

  • AAF television ratings are up for the week. The league scored 515,000 viewers and a .31 share (the 33rd highest rated show on cable for the week) for Sunday's San Antonio vs. San Diego game, and 491,000, .29 on Saturday for Memphis vs. Orlando (39th highest rated cable show). The Alliance game outdrew the NBA, NHL and PGA on Sunday. NFL Network ratings are up 450% for those time slots year over year as well.

  • At halftime of the Orlando Apollos game a golden retriever caught a frisbee 83 yards away:

  • Home teams are 9-3 this season.

  • The league will allow two more players per roster to be active for games, raising the total from 44 to 46 for each team.

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Alliance of American Football Stories from February 28, 2019

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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