With the 2018 NFL season all wrapped up after Super Bowl LIII, kickoff weekend for the Alliance of American football (AAF) is fast approaching. The first slate of games is scheduled for Saturday night, with the Atlanta Legends heading down to Florida to take on the Orlando Apollos for the season opener. Ahead of kickoff, the Legends have finalized their starting lineup. That lineup includes former NFL quarterback Matt Simms, who spent time with the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills, and the Atlanta Falcons. Let’s take a look at Atlanta’s starting offensive talent.
Atlanta Legends Offensive Overview
The Man, the Myth, the Matt
Just when many assumed Aaron Murray, the Kansas City Chiefs fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, had cemented his role as the Legends starting quarterback, Atlanta went and flipped the script. Instead, the team announced, Matt Simms had won the starting role over Murray. Last Word on Pro Football’s very own David Latham covered the news of the AAF’s first quarterback controversy. As he points out, the decision was likely made due to Simms’ NFL experience.
Where Murray had no NFL experience whatsoever, Simms had at least some between two AFC East teams. That being said, Simms’ stat line isn’t exactly encouraging. On 39 pass attempts, he has all of 19 completions. In fact, he’s lost the ball more times than he’s scored – including an embarrassing 20-yard backwards pass to no one in 2015. If Atlanta’s decision truly came down to NFL experience, one might argue that no experience is better than that, right?
Time will tell if Simms has grown as a quarterback, and whether or not he can effectively lead this team. Perhaps, if given the right protection and offensive arsenal, he could become the team’s first actual legend.
Potentially Legendary Running Backs
Atlanta’s rushing corps will be lead by former Notre Dame back Tarean Folston and, presumably, Denard Robinson.
At Notre Dame, Folston only rushed for just over 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns. His college career was stunted by an unfortunate ACL tear, which cut his production upon returning from the injury. The last time Folston played football was in 2016, when he rushed 77 times for an average of 4.3 yards per carry. While Folston hasn’t seen on-field action in some time, he could be beneficial to the Legends as a pass-catching back. During his sophomore year, he reeled in 18 passes for nearly 200 yards. He only scored one touchdown on those receptions, but on 31 receptions through college he gained just under 9.5 yards per reception.
— Atlanta Legends (@AafLegends) January 13, 2019
Robinson, on the other hand, came to Atlanta with four years of NFL experience after being drafted out of Michigan by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In Michigan, Robinson racked up an astounding 6,250 yards and 49 touchdowns. However, during his four years with the Jaguars, he only rushed for just over 1,000 yards and five touchdowns. Unfortunately, it seems that Robinson had issues with ball security. Of his eight fumbles in that time period, he lost six of them. All things considered, Robinson could still pose a threat to AAF defenses. He isn’t just a running back, after all, he’s a dual-threat running back/quarterback. Not only does he hold seven of the top-10 Michigan quarterback performances, he also owns the top three Big 10 quarterback rushing records.
So on the slim chance that Simms doesn’t work out, the Legends can always fall back on Robinson.
Super Jones Bros.
The receiving talent in Atlanta is led by Seantavius Jones, who has spent time on four NFL squads including the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. Malachi Jones, who has spent time on two NFL teams and two separate arena leagues and teams, also heads the team’s receiving corps.
Seantavius Jones comes from Valdosta State University, a smaller school in Georgia with a population of just over 11,000. As a receiver for Valdosta, Jones racked up nearly 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns in three years. Upon entering the NFL, Jones played all of three games with the Saints. Over the three seasons, Jones spent time with the Colts, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Kansas City Chiefs as a practice squad body. To date, he has had zero NFL receptions and zero NFL touchdowns. His practice squad experience may have been beneficial, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to excel in Atlanta.
Malachi Jones, however, has an interesting professional background. After being signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent – and subsequently being released after mini camp – Jones signed with the National Arena League (NAL), an indoor football league, and was named the 2017 NAL Rookie of the Year. Within a year, Jones moved up in the ranks to the Arena Football League (AFL). During his time as an arena receiver, Jones reeled in 160 receptions for more than 2,100 yards and 52 touchdowns. In 2018, he signed with the Chicago Bears and was almost immediately waived before the season started.
Who Needs a Tight End?
The Atlanta Legends do. Okay, they have one, and his name is Charles Standberry. He’s a tight end out of Louisville, and to be perfectly fair, we have no idea if his skills at the collegiate level are a representation of his potential in the AAF and beyond.
But you have to wonder, what can a tight end with all of 39 receptions and four touchdowns over three years really have to offer? At 6′ 3″, weighing all of 243 lbs., Standberry is smaller than your typical NFL tight ends. Guys like Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski are no shorter than 6′ 5″ and, at a minimum, weigh at least 250 lbs.
How Standberry scored the starting position over a guy like Garrett Hudson is a mystery. Hudson, another one of Atlanta’s three tight ends, reeled in nine touchdowns on 65 receptions during his time with the University of Richmond. While Hudson went undrafted, he did at least spend time with the Washington Redskins trying to earn a place on their roster. At 6′ 4″, 244 lbs., Hudson is arguably more in line with typical tight end qualifications. His stat line is certainly better than Standberry’s.
Last Word on the Atlanta Legends Starting Offense
How the Legends opened up as favorites against the Apollos is a head scratcher. Of course, that initial line was set while Michael Vick was still the team’s offensive coordinator – a role he has since (abruptly) vacated.
— Atlanta Legends (@AafLegends) February 7, 2019
Talk about bad timing.
Right now, there just isn’t a whole lot of viable offensive talent on the starting lineup. Even with as much NFL experience as this handful of players have, it’s not very good experience. Their best player right now appears to be Denard Robinson.
Without an offensive coordinator, what little talent this offense has may very well go to waste. The Legends head coach, Kevin Coyle, has served in various defensive roles both in and out of the NFL. Defense may win championships, but for a league that barely knows how to walk, the first step is getting people to watch – and there’s no better way to get butts in seats than to dazzle them with a high-flying offense, something Atlanta just doesn’t seem to have right now.
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