NFC West Writer
All four teams in the USFL North division are within a game of each other with four games remaining, which should make for some entertaining contests the rest of the way.
And it creates some urgency for this weekend’s game between the New Jersey Generals and the Michigan Panthers (Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app) at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
This game is a rematch from Week 3, when the Generals defeated the Panthers, 28-13.
After starting the season 2-0, the Panthers have lost four in a row, while the Generals have lost three straight.
Here’s one thing to watch for when these two teams match up.
Panthers: Why has Reggie Corbin disappeared from the offense?
One of the leading rushers in the USFL last season, Corbin has had trouble breaking loose over the past month.
In Week 2, Corbin was on the sidelines on TV asking Michigan’s coaching staff to get him the ball more often. That led to his best performance of the season, a 131-yard rushing effort in a 24-10 over the Philadelphia Stars.
Since then, Corbin has totaled just 132 rushing yards on 39 attempts across four games. Corbin is still No. 6 in the USFL in rushing with 289 yards, and he leads the league in all-purpose yards with 820.
Stevie Scott III is second for the Panthers in rushing with 245 yards. But as a team, Michigan has managed just 96.3 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the USFL.
Because of their inability to consistently run the football, the Panthers have struggled to get much going on offense, averaging just 16 points a contest. Only the Pittsburgh Maulers are scoring fewer points per game (13.7 per contest).
“We’ve got to score more touchdowns obviously, instead of getting field goals,” Panthers head coach Mike Nolan said after his team’s latest loss last week, a 27-13 setback to the Birmingham Stallions. “When we get into that red area, we want to make sure we get points out of it, and we didn’t do that all day today.”
Three of Michigan’s final four games are within the North Division, so the Panthers still control their own destiny when it comes to reaching the postseason.
Generals: Can Mike Riley find some playmakers?
New Jersey had the most dynamic player in the USFL last season in league MVP KaVontae Turpin. But through six games, Riley has struggled to find players to replicate that production.
Alonzo Moore leads the Generals with 17 receptions for 224 yards and two scores, while fellow receiver Cam Echols-Luper has 14 receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Braedon Bowman has added 11 receptions for 162 yards.
Darius Victor leads the Generals in rushing with 377 yards and two touchdowns.
However, New Jersey has struggled with creating explosive plays and holding onto the football. The Generals are tied for fifth in the league in scoring, averaging just 17.7 PPG. New Jersey averaged 23.2 PPG last season.
Even worse, the Generals have 10 giveaways this season, including a league-leading eight fumbles.
To try and jumpstart the offense, Riley made a change at starting quarterback last week, subbing out De’Andre Johnson in favor of Kyle Lauletta.
Lauletta finished 17-of-30 for 177 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But New Jersey managed just 10 points in a 16-10 loss to the Houston Gamblers.
The bottom line is that Riley’s Generals need more guys to step up and make big plays on offense like Turpin did last season, whether it’s Johnson or Lauletta at quarterback.
“Our goal is to get into the playoffs,” Riley said. “Whatever place that is, it doesn’t really matter. You just want to get into the playoffs, but we have to get a win soon to do that.”
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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