The Birmingham Stallions managed to find victory once again and week three. However, this time they did so with just one quarterback playing the entire game. Has Adrian Martinez seized the starting job going forward? We attempt to answer that and several other questions here including what are this week’s betting lines? What are week four’s keys to victory? 

QB Competition Over? 

After two weeks of more or less splitting reps evenly between Matt Corral, and Adrian Martinez, the Stallions decided to play Adrian Martinez all game long in week three. Not only did he play well on the surface it looked like he may have seized the starting job moving forward in 2024.

After the final whistle blew the Stallions stood as the winners in a lopsided battle with the scoreboard reading 33-14. The biggest story to come from this game was the performance of Adrian Martinez who played the entire game for the first time in his UFL career. He led the team in both passing and rushing accounting for 378 total yards and 3 touchdowns on the day. 

Through three weeks, Martinez is 7th in passing yards, 6th in passing touchdowns, 1st in rushing yards, 1st in yards per carry, and he’s tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns. However he has not yet cemented the starting job, as Matt Corral was back in the QB1 slot on the depth chart heading into week 4. Martinez was far from perfect this past weekend, but most thought he showed enough progress in week three to continue to start.

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Could these decisions be made on a per game basis throughout the season for the Stallions? As Coach Holtz said prior to week three, until a quarterback sets himself apart, they will continue to split reps. While Corral is again the QB1 keep in mind Martinez has the inherent advantage of his unique mobility. He will likely still see snaps in an effort to continue bringing him along. He has star potential, but he’s still only scratching the surface of his development as a passer.

He has been aided by the top rushing attack in the league that has not only Martinez in the top ten in rushing yards but CJ Marable and Ricky Person Jr. too. This brings me to my next point.

Changing of the Guard at Running Back Coming? 

As just mentioned the Stallions have an effective duo in the backfield that has traditionally been led by CJ Marable the dual-purpose back who doesn’t leave the field on third down due to his ability as a receiver. His primary backup last season and so far in 2024 has been Ricky Person Jr. even though the two backs have both averaged 3.3 yards per carry. 

“RPJ” as he will now be known by this writer, is a bigger back than Marable who is better known for his ability to stay upright and moving after initial contact. At 6’1 220 pounds Person is only 24 years old and showing that he deserves to be given a chance to carry the load. 

Ricky Person Jr. is the type of back who always split time in college, but the more he carries the ball the better he performs. He is one of those old-school bell-cow backs that need to get in a rhythm. During college, he played in 40 games spread over 4 seasons. He had three years with 112 carries or more and in each, he averaged better than 4.0 yards per carry. 

As you can tell his best seasons in terms of yards per carry came when he topped 130 carries on the year. His most efficient season was his last in 2021. During this season he also showed he was a better-than-advertised receiver. Since college he has spent time with the Baltimore Ravens, and Massachusetts Pirates, but it wasn’t until he signed with the Stallions he really got a chance to show what he could do. In 2023 playing limited snaps as the newcomer in the backfield Person averaged 5.9 yards per carry on 14 carries. He caught one pass that went for 0 yards and scored one rushing touchdown. 

Already in 2024 through 3 weeks he has 31 touches for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns, 1 in each win so far. Meanwhile, Cj Marable has 215 yards on 49 touches. This means Person has averaged 5.16 yards per touch, versus 4.38 yards per touch for Marable. Person is coming off a game in which he had 10 total touches for 76 yards and 1 touchdown, while Marable had 12 touches for 39 yards. The coaching staff has seen something they like there, and after this game, I don’t expect them to shy away from Person carrying the ball more. 

The thing is, Ricky Person Jr. Is a viable 3 down back just like CJ Marable. Marable is more likely to produce bigger plays, but also comes with the chance of creating lost yardage at times too. Person is a no-nonsense north/south runner who doesn’t do much if any dancing, Marable is a smaller, shiftier back who has a history of watching his production wane as his touches increase. It seems to me that the roles need to be reversed in this situation. Start Person Jr, use Marable to spell him. Keep Marable fresh and explosive, and maybe even get him involved in the return game as well. 

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Keys to Victory

Keep punishing quarterbacks with the pass rush. The Stallions already have 17 sacks after just three games. Averaging nearly 6 sacks a game after having just one player in two seasons top that mark as an individual. In 2024, Carlos Davis has already reached 6 sacks after 3 games. They have two players who have logged 3 sack games, and they’ve watched as Davis, Taco Charlton, and Jordan Thompson have wreaked havoc. 

If the Stallions can continue this against the Defenders who have had their share of offensive line woes this season, Ta’amu will have a tough time winning this one. The defenders have struggled with III and it’s due to their inability to move the ball at times, the stallions will look to keep that trend going in week four. If they can create an advantage by taking the ball away in this game victory will be an almost certain outcome. 

Control the Tempo

Heading into week 3, I mentioned the Stallions need to stay dedicated to the run if they plan to find victory. By the end of that game, they had a near-perfect 50/50 split on offense and they saw one of their most efficient performances from the QB position they’ve had since that first game in 2022. With 31 passing attempts to 23 rushing attempts, the defense was unable to key on any one facet of the game. 

Due to this they at times sold out to stop the league-leading rushing attack and had some success holding them to just 100 yards as a team on the day, their lowest output of the season so far. Part of the Stallion’s success has been their ability to win the time of possession battle in every game. They have held the ball more than 30 minutes in every game so far this season, averaging 33:28 so far this season. Their lowest total of the season came this past week against Memphis when they had 30:26 this was likely due more to their ineffectiveness running the ball on the day than anything. This approach has also helped their defense lead the league in points allowed, sacks, and interceptions. 

Don’t Be Scared to Run a Base Nickel or Dime Defense

The DC Defenders have struggled to run the ball so far this season totaling just 207 yards in three games. With an average of 69 yards per game, and walking into their toughest opponent yet, the Defenders have their work cut out for them in this one. Given the loss of Abram Smith, and the ineffectiveness of their replacements. On top of everything else the Stallions have done defensively, they have also allowed the least amount of rushing yards of any UFL team to this point.

With that in mind, I would be trotting out a nickel or even dime defense using an extra safety or two on the field to act as hybrid linebackers/defensive backs to help contain the run, but also make it that much easier to stop the passing game which has been the only thing working for the DC offense to this point in the year.

Game Notes

The weather is slated to be perfect for football, at kickoff the forecast is around 74 degrees, with some cloud cover. There is only a 20% chance of precipitation, so it looks like this game could be a great display of football that is unaffected by the conditions on the day, this should also remove one of the numerous excuses we continue to hear about fans’ refusal to support their team. 

Kicking off at 7 pm Eastern Time, this game will go head to head with the Michigan Panthers at the San Antonio Brahmas game in primetime on FOX. The UFL is expected to show the game regionally, and they may end up blacking out one of the games in some areas if it turns into a blowout. So far attendance looks to be decent, but I would be surprised if it tops the number Birmingham saw in the home opener. There is still a lot of work to do in Birmingham, even though this is season three, and for the past two years, the teams have hubbed there. 

Injury Report

It looks like only Chris Blewitt is unlikely to play. He didn’t practice on Wednesday. Ike Brown was limited in practice, and may still be a game-time decision, although I expect him to be a scratch this week. There is plenty of depth in the secondary no need to test it so early in the season by risking a more serious injury with Brown.

Betting Odds

DraftKings has pulled no punches on this game ranking the DC Defenders as 9-point underdogs. For many of the reasons I laid out above, this game could end up lopsided quickly. The strengths of the offense for DC, play right into Birmingham’s strengths on defense and vice versa. This is going to turn into an interesting match-up on Saturday. 

The over/under is 46.5 points, and the moneyline is +320 for DC and -410 for Birmingham.

I do not have Birmingham covering the 9-point spread. I see this turning into a one-score game with the Stallions winning 28-21. If I were betting on this game I would take DC and the points, and the over. I expect there to be plenty of scoring in this game even though Birmingham will likely be focused on stopping the pass. 

If you’re a fan of the UFL please check out my personal YouTube Channel below. We do a weekly show recapping and previewing the games on Saturdays at 9:30 pm ET. Join us LIVE every Saturday night!

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Sam Just

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