So far so good for the home team through the first three weeks of play. Birmingham has become known for a smothering defense, physicality on offense, superior special teams and a can’t quit attitude. All attributes the state of Alabama holds near and dear to our football loving hearts. The Iron haven’t seen a team as capable as this San Antonio squad, however.
The Commanders bring in a well-rounded offense and a defense nearly as impressive as Birmingham. QB Logan Woodside has an arm that can make safeties think twice before cheating up. Receivers Mekale McKay and Demarcus Ayers along with former Houston standout QB Greg Ward can run right by the best of DBs and high point the catches. These three have helped Woodside connect on at least one 30+ yard completion in each game so far. Running back Trey Williams made a statement in his return last week averaging 10.7 yards per carry against the Fleet. This is by far the best team the Iron have faced.
Friday feeling on a game weekend🙌😍🏈@1_McKay_2
— San Antonio Commanders (@aafcommanders) March 1, 2019
Defensively they are just as polished. Known as “Area 51” within the locker room, the secondary has been a dangerous place for opponents to go this year. Until last weeks loss at the Fleet, the front seven had looked to be one of, if not the strongest in the Alliance. Stuffing the run and “The Sack Heard ‘Round the World,” providing consistent pressure on the QB has been a big part of the Commanders success. Don’t let the 1-2 record fool you.
For the Iron to pull off the victory this week, they will have to be beyond their best. Aspects of the offense that have not been effective to this point are going to have to shine. Trent Richardson leads the Alliance in TDs Rushing while QB Luis Perez has yet to pass for his first on the year. Losing Center J.C. Hassenauer to injury last week could make an already unimpressive offensive line even worse. Left Guard Kitt O’Brien slid over and finished the game against the Legends at the Center spot. He will have to be a world better this week identifying and calling out blocking assignments.
Receivers Quinton Patton and L’Damian Washington can stretch the field for the Iron and provide open looks. Patton has struggled all year to catch the football. He did look much improved in the second half against Atlanta securing catches more consistently. Washington has been a bit misused, in my opinion, within this offense. He has the height and speed to be a true deep threat. He also looks to have the most trustworthy hands on the team. Why not let it rip? Perez has the arm.
— Birmingham Iron (@aafiron) February 24, 2019
Birmingham is going to need the San Antonio D to respect the pass. Otherwise, it could be another tough day between the 20s for the Iron tailbacks. Offensive Coordinator Steve Logan may look to use his smaller/quicker receivers Tobias Palmer and Devozea “Turbo” Felton in the slot more often. Working over the middle on short quick release passes against the larger Commanders LBs may help to negate the pass rush that will be coming. Let’s not forget the TEs either! Wait; can anyone tell me who they have left?
Joking aside, TE Was Saxton could have a big day. He has plenty of athleticism and can provide another intermediate threat in the passing game as well as giving Perez a much needed Red-Zone target. #33 can only do so much. He has proven himself in goal-to-go situations, but teams are cued up on him for their entire game plan. Until they can stop him at the goal line though, FEED HIM! Just give him some help getting there.
I won’t say much about what the Iron need to do on defense and special teams to win this one. Those guys have shown they can play solid, fundamental, consistent football. For CBs Jamar Summers, Elijah Campbell and Bradley Sylve it will be a matter of jamming the three-headed monster of McKay, Ayers, and Ward at the line. Not getting beat through the route and disrupt the timing. Safeties Max Redfield, Jack Tocho and Joe Powell along with newcomer Christian Bryant should be able to provide plenty of help over the top and keep the football in front of them while providing great run support.
The front seven happily welcomed Nick James back last week. The interior combo of James and Rickey Hatley will take away blockers in the run and free up Brown, Massaquoi, Wells, Faulk, and Sales to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. All those names together almost sound like a huge corporate law firm. It’s just your un-friendly neighborhood Iron Curtain! (Hope the late and great Stan Lee got a smile from that one)
Special teams have been a thing of beauty so far. Punter Colton Schmidt leads the Alliance in balls downed inside the 20. Long Snapper Cole Mazza has been as consistent with Birmingham as he was with the Crimson Tide. Nick “The Kick” Novak has connected on all, but one of his field goal attempts this season. The Iron have claimed Alliance Special Teams Player of the Week Honors every week so far (Novak week 1, Jamar Summers week 2, and Schmidt week 3).
— Birmingham Iron (@aafiron) February 26, 2019
As a group, the Iron have held opponents to just a 21.4% conversion rate on 3rd and 4th downs. They average giving up only 7 points per game and have allowed only two touchdowns. The team is +5 in turnovers which favors Birmingham with Commanders QB Logan Woodside having thrown five picks in 3 games. The Legends inflated passing numbers last week did hurt the Irons average passing yards allowed per game. Matt Simms threw for 281yds/1TD/3INT. He seemed to forget about tailbacks Lawrence Pittman and Denard Robinson standing behind him after Wadley went down during the opening drive.
San Diego RB Ja’Quan Gardner broke off a huge 84 yard run last week against the Commanders and hurt their average for rushing yards allowed. Minus that one big carry his average drops substantially and San Antonio’s defensive numbers look much more respectable.
The Apollos were able to have great success against this Commander’s secondary in week 2 through the air. “Area 51”, may just be a myth after all. See you guys Sunday at Legion Field. Until then, #ForgeOn!