Week 3 of the Alliance of American Football's (AAF) inaugural season is upon us. And after the first two weeks, we’re slowly starting to see the best teams separate themselves from the rest of the pack. But for all eight of the AAF’s franchises, each team has a player that has made his presence felt in this upstart league. Whether it’s a player looking to find his way back to the NFL, or someone we’re just hearing about for the first time, the AAF has given a platform to all of them.
This will be a crucial week for the AAF as it could set the tone for the rest of the 2019 campaign. Providing that the AAF’s reported financial issues don’t interfere, this week very well may set the stage for the remainder of the regular season. Here are players to pay attention to from each team for this week’s games.
John Wolford, QB, Arizona Hotshots
Wolford is the main reason why the Hotshots (2-0) possess the AAF’s best offense. His contributions (469 passing yards, six TDs, 62.7 completion rate) are just one part of an offense that’s put up 800 total yards and 58 points. Wolford has shown accuracy, efficiency, poise, and the ability to move the ball at will under the guidance of quarterback-friendly head coach Rick Neuheisel. Wolford looks to light up both the scoreboard and the box score again as the Hotshots travel to Salt Lake looking for a season sweep of the Stallions (0-2) on Saturday afternoon.
Matt Simms, QB, Atlanta Legends
Despite the team’s struggles (currently 0-2), Simms has done his part to steady the ship for head coach Kevin Coyle. The son of Hall of Famer Phil Simms ranks fourth in the AAF in completion percentage (60.4), he’s tied for fourth in completions (32), tied for second in attempts (53), and fifth in passing yards (286). His touchdown-to-interception ratio (1:3) is an issue, but the Legends look to finally get in the win column as they play their first home game against Birmingham (2-0) on Sunday afternoon.
Trent Richardson, QB, Birmingham Iron
While quarterback Luis Perez is the star of the Iron offense, it’s Richardson everyone should keep an eye on this weekend. After gaining 41 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries last week against Salt Lake, Richardson finds himself among the AAF’s leading ball carriers. He's tops in the league in both carries (42) and rushing touchdowns (3), ranks seventh in rushing yards (99), and is second among running backs in receiving yards (64). His lack of productivity is what pushed him out of the NFL, but he's looking to show everyone he has plenty left in the tank. Expect Richardson to get the ball plenty as the Iron play their first road game at Atlanta on Sunday.
Zac Stacy, RB, Memphis Express
After breaking through with a big game last week, Stacy is now tied for the AAF lead in rushing yards (159) and is in the top 10 in yards per carry (5.1) as well. And with winless Memphis (0-2) visiting unbeaten Orlando (2-0) on Saturday night, the Express will need plenty of production from Stacy to have any chance of keeping up with the Apollos' explosive offense.
Terence Garvin, LB and Keith Reaser, CB, Orlando Apollos
Steve Spurrier’s offense has certainly been effective and made its mark in the early going. But Orlando's defense has gotten the job done as well. Garvin and Reaser were the Week 1 and Week 2 Defensive Players of the Week, respectively, as the two have combined for 14 tackles and three interceptions as well as being the only defenders that have scored touchdowns thus far.
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert deserves some recognition as well. He was named Offensive Player of the Week last week after being the first to throw for 300 yards in a game. Gilbert leads the AAF in passing yards (620), completion percentage (64.2), and is second in TD passes (4).
Joel Bouagnon, RB, Salt Lake Stallions
As the winless Stallions (0-2) have gone through the quarterback carousel, at least their running game has produced. Bouagnon is in the top five in the AAF with 109 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Salt Lake will try and avoid the season sweep at the hands of the Arizona Hotshots on Saturday. To do so, expect for Bouagnon to see plenty of work as the Stallions would be wise to try and keep the Hotshots' offense off of the field.
Logan Woodside, QB, San Antonio Commanders
Woodside has been the difference-maker for the Commanders in the early going. In fact, Woodside's success has led to head coach Mike Riley adjusting his offensive approach to accommodate his quarterback's skill set as San Antonio has opened up the playbook a bit more. Woodside ranks among the top three in both passing yards (478) and completions (38), while completing 50.7 percent (eighth) of his attempts. The Commanders begin a three-game road trip this weekend in San Diego against the Fleet and expect Woodside to lead the charge for San Antonio's offense.
Ja'Quan Gardner, RB, San Diego Fleet
Gardner is tied with Zac Stacy for the league lead in rushing (159), as he's averaging a healthy 6.9 yards per carry. He also has two touchdowns on the ground as the Fleet look for more out of the quarterback position. Head coach Mike Martz will continue to lean on Gardner as the Fleet host the Commanders to wrap up the Week 3 action on Sunday night.
Orlando wide receiver Charles Johnson and his Arizona counterpart, Rashad Ross, also deserve some recognition here. This duo has combined for 20 receptions for 422 yards and four touchdowns. Both are averaging around 20 yards per catch. It's not surprising that both are the top targets for the two best offenses in the AAF thus far.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of AAF.com)