Week 3 of the AAF has come and gone, and last weekend’s set of games reinforced some things most football fans already knew. Christian Hackenberg was benched for the second time in three weeks after throwing a pair of interceptions. Trent Richardson had 17 carries — more than any other player in the league — and only 46 rushing yards, though he did add three touchdowns in the process.
But while some of the league’s more recognizable names struggled, several more made their case to jump from the world’s newest springtime football league and back into the NFL. Players from quarterbacks to special teamers to one very good dog all shined on the gridiron’s second stage last weekend. Here’s who stood out the most.
Zach Mettenberger, Memphis Express QB
The former LSU Tiger replaced Christian Hackenberg, who got benched for doing what he did too often in the NFL: being terrible. Mettenberger completed 9 of 12 passes for 120 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks against probably the best team in the league, Steve Spurrier’s Orlando Apollos.
You’d figure Mettenberger is the guy for Memphis moving forward, and why not? He hasn’t played an NFL down since 2015, and he wasn’t good that year as the Titans’ backup. But he did throw for 7.9 yards an attempt as a rookie in 2014, and he’s just 27.
Stranger things have happened than a guy like Mettenberger finding his way back into the NFL as a training camp arm at first, then maybe as a rostered backup.
He also spent 2016 with the Steelers but didn’t see any game action, so he hasn’t been out of the business for as long as it might seem.
Seantavius Jones, Atlanta Legends WR
The AAF has a few rules unique to the fledging league (some of which the NFL should borrow). One of them is that there’s no such thing as an onside kick. Instead, the AAF’s version is the “onside conversion.” If a team is behind with less than five minutes left in the game (or trailing by 17 points or more), it can go for it on fourth-and-12 from its own 28-yard line.
Through the first two and a half weeks of the AAF, we had yet to see a successful attempt. The Legends remedied that on Sunday when Matt Simms heaved the ball to Jones, who made a terrific adjustment to come down with the ball off his own deflection:
The 48-yard gain got Atlanta into scoring position late, but Simms threw a pick on the next play, keeping the Legends winless.
At least Jones has been making plays. He finished as the game’s leading receiver with four catches for 72 yards. He currently ranks fifth in the AAF in receiving yards.
Eurie the frisbee dog, Orlando Apollos’ halftime show
Is this really a record? Don’t know, don’t care. Just look at this good dog, Eurie:
This dog caught an 83-yard frisbee toss during halftime of the Orlando Apollos football game Saturday night. The PA announcer claims it’s an all-time record. Pretty impressive. pic.twitter.com/bLwCbFEzbG— J.C. Carnahan (@JCCarnz) February 24, 2019
The route, the speed, the concentration. I think it’s time for the 15th movie in the Air Bud franchise.
Greer Martini, Salt Lake Stallions LB
Still just 23, Martini is trying to show NFL teams that he can be a game-changer on defense. That’s who he was on Saturday, helping propel Salt Lake to its first win of the season with a game-high seven tackles and a momentum-shifting play.
On the first play of the second half and with the score tied, Martini picked off Hotshots quarterback John Wolford:
He ran it back to the 7-yard line, putting the Stallions into scoring position. They took the lead a few plays later and never trailed again.
Nick Folk, Arizona Hotshots kicker
The NFL veteran has had his workload reduced in a league with no extra points, but Folk showed off his value in a 23-15 loss to the Stallions Saturday. The former Giants, Jets, and Buccaneers player connected on three of his four field goal attempts, including two from 45 yards or deeper, to emerge as Arizona’s top scorer.
A.J. Tarpley, San Diego Fleet linebacker
The former Stanford linebacker — not to be confused with the Express’s Arnold Tarpley — had a 27-yard pick-six in the second quarter that gave the Fleet lead they never relinquished, paving the way for San Diego’s second straight victory.
San Diego Fleet 22— San Diego Football Network (@sdfootball) February 25, 2019
San Antonio Commanders 8
P. Nelson (SD): 15/20, 172 yds, 2 TDs
A. Tarpley (SD): 27-yard INT return TD pic.twitter.com/Y4SjghICoI
The former Bills player retired after just one season in the NFL, citing health concerns after suffering multiple concussions as a rookie. He’s healthy again, and at only 26 years old, looks like a capable inside linebacker once more.