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Can Johnny Manziel Help the Memphis Express Get on Track?

by Fran Stuchbury
March 21, 2019 - Alliance of American Football (AAF) - San Antonio Commanders

The Memphis Express made headlines when they signed former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel this past week. The San Antonio Commanders held his territorial rights but opted not to sign him. Memphis, at 1-5, had the worst record in the Alliance of American Football giving them the next shot to sign him.

"We're a league of opportunity, so we're looking for players in need of opportunity and giving them a path back to the NFL," The Alliance co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol said on ESPN's Outside The Lines Monday. "Johnny is the epitome of a generational player who has had his struggles, both personal on and off the field. We think there's an opportunity in a league like ours with the type of leadership like a Mike Singletary, as will be his coach in Memphis, to really give him an opportunity to play."

If Memphis has any chance to make the post-season, they must win their last four games and hope the Birmingham Iron at 4-2 lose three of their last four games. A home victory against Birmingham this week would move the Express in the right direction.

Manziel was previously playing in the Canadian Football League for the Montreal Alouettes. The CFL terminated his deal due to an unspecified violation of his contract. It is widely believed that Manziel's CFL contract contained various behavioral provisions along with treatment requirements. Manziel has stated that he's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Montreal gave up a lot acquiring him in a trade from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, hoping he could finally be the solution they've been looking for at quarterback since star pivot Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 season. Now they find themselves back at square one.

Memphis seems to be a good landing point for Manziel. Express coach Mike Singletary is a strict disciplinarian and will have high expectations for Manziel on and off the field.

With Zach Mettenberger suffering an ankle injury last week against Salt Lake and being placed on injured reserve, there could more demand for Manziel to start this week.

The Alouettes rushed Manziel to play with limited knowledge of the playbook and he struggled mightily in his debut against Hamilton on August 3rd, completing only 11 of 20 passes for 104 yards with four interceptions.

It might make more sense for Brandon Silvers, who played nearly the entire game last week after Mettenberger went down, to start this week, since he is more comfortable with the offense. Singletary could opt to hand Manziel a couple of play packages, perhaps a two-point conversion play, giving him a run or pass option.

By week nine he could know the offense well enough to be showcased on national television on CBS for Memphis' road game against the San Antonio Commanders, the lead-in for CBS Final Four coverage that day.

Playing in the AAF and staying out of trouble may be Manziel's last chance to draw NFL interest.

Some thoughts around the league:

  • The league announced Wednesday that it is moving the inaugural championship game from Las Vegas to the Dallas metropolitan area's Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, a facility owned by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. The game is scheduled to be broadcast on CBS on Saturday, April 27 at 8 pm ET.

  • It didn't come as a big surprise that the San Antonio Commanders passed on Manziel with the solid play of quarterback Logan Woodside. He has led San Antonio to three straight victories, a 4-2 record and first place Western Conference. Woodside in second in the AAF in passing yards with 1,189 and has thrown four touchdown passes the last two games.

  • San Antonio leads the league in takeaways with 19. Twelve of them came during its three game winning streak, 3 against Birmingham, 5 against Arizona and 4 last week against Atlanta.

  • Derron Smith finished with three tackles, two pass deflections and one interception returned 87 yards for a touchdown in the Commanders' 37-6 victory over Atlanta, earning him OurSports Central AAF Defensive Player of the Week honors. The week before against the Arizona Hotshots, Smith returned an interception 66 yards for a touchdown.

  • Video - San Antonio Commanders Greg Ward Jr. escapes everyone as he returns the punt 79 yards for the touchdown against the Atlanta Legends:

  • Karter Schult of the Salt Lake Stallions may be the best defensive end in the AAF. He had two sacks last week against Memphis and leads the league with seven sacks.

  • The Arizona Hotshots earned a big statement win last week after losing three games in a row. They downed the previously undefeated Orlando Apollos 22-17. Now at 3-3 they still have a chance to win the Western Conference and make it to the post-season.

  • Luis Perez completed 27 of 49 passes for 359 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the Birmingham Iron's 32-29 victory over the San Diego Fleet, earning him OurSports Central AAF Offensive Player of the Week honors. Perez will likely remain the Iron's starting quarterback after that performance. He came off the bench when starting quarterback Keith Price was injured briefly in the first quarter and played the rest of the game.

  • Former Atlanta Legends coach Brad Childress who resigned from the team on January 9th is excepted to return to the NFL in an assistant consultant role with the Chicago Bears.

  • Just when it appeared the Atlanta Legends were turning their season around after winning two games in a row, Aaron Murray had a bad game in their loss to San Antonio, throwing for 215 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Things won't get easier for the Legends this week when they face the Orlando Apollos, a team that wants to get back in the win column.

  • Saturday night's Arizona-Orlando telecast saw an increase as the AAF game on NFL Network drew 354,000 viewers with a .21 rating. Sunday night on the NFL Network Birmingham at San Diego drew 234,000 viewers with a .06 rating.

  • Road teams went 3-1 last week.

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Alliance of American Football Stories from March 21, 2019


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