The inaugural season of the 2022 iteration of the United States Football League is set to conclude Sunday night, as the Birmingham Stallions and Philadelphia Stars compete for the league’s first championship. NBC Sports’ Paul Burmeister provided a breakdown of the league’s first season of existence this week touching on several points with a few being relevant to the NFL.
Burmeister made a point to mention a number of standout players for the USFL’s opening year:
- LB Frank Ginda, Michigan Panthers. Ginda spent time on practice squads for the Cardinals, Dolphins, and Saints, taking time in between to participate in the short-lived Alliance of American Football and XFL 2.0. Ginda finished second in the USFL in tackles and came to the league to improve his abilities in pass coverage with playing experience.
- RB Reggie Corbin, Michigan Panthers. Corbin’s head coach, Jeff Fisher, said himself that Corbin should be in the NFL. After four years at Illinois, Corbin got a workout for the Seahawks after college but tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival and was sent home before he could work out. He helped the Panthers lead the league in rushing yards per game this year.
- LB Donald Payne, Houston Gamblers. Payne spent four years in the NFL, mainly as a core special-teamer in Jacksonville. The one player in the league with more tackles than Ginda, and the only player in the league with over 100 tackles, Payne made it clear that he isn’t aiming just to get another NFL opportunity, he’s aiming to make another NFL 53-man roster.
- WR KaVontae Turpin, New Jersey Generals. Despite being on a team that ran the ball more than any other team in the USFL, Turpin led the league in receiving yards. He’s agile and tough with great top-end speed. His ability to shed tackles helped him excel as a return man this season. Turpin could easily find his way to the NFL with his receiving prowess and return abilities.
- DE Chris Odom, Houston Gamblers. Odom spent time in the NFL playing for Atlanta, Green Bay, and Washington. Known more for stopping the run with his hand in the dirt, Odom took after ex-teammates Clay Matthews and Nick Perry and led the USFL in sacks and forced fumbles. He has NFL experience and proved that he can dominate the lower levels of professional football.
Here are a few other points that Burmeister touched on in his season breakdown:
- When asked what comes next for the league, Burmeister brought up roster sizes. The initial roster rules allowed teams to have a total roster of 45 players with 38 active on gameday. Concerns over issues with in-game and practice injuries led the league to expand rosters to 50 total players with 40 allowed to be active on gamedays. That initial increase is likely just the beginning. With many teams hesitant to go full-contact in practices, in fear that they could suffer injuries that would diminish their already minuscule roster, more players would allow for more extensive practice sessions that could lead to an overall increase in quality of play.
- Another factor Burmeister mentioned for what could be in store for the USFL’s future was locale. The league played all their games at one team’s home stadium in Birmingham, Ala. While Birmingham provided a great home-field advantage for the Stallions, attendance at games that didn’t include the hometown team was severely lacking. Noticing the drastic improvement of gameday action for Stallions’ games, the league has made plans to share the love. While not yet ready to give each team a home stadium and organize the travel necessary for such a scenario, the league has entertained the idea of providing one of the teams in their North Division the same advantage that Birmingham enjoyed. The four teams in the North Division that could potentially play host next season are the Michigan Panthers, the New Jersey Generals, the Philadelphia Stars, and the Pittsburgh Maulers.