The Maniax are coming off their first home win this week, stopping a pumped Chicago Enforcer team, which was coming off its first win ever
. This week the Maniax travel to the New York/New Jersey Hitmen to face another of the Eastern Division also-rans (read: anyone besides the unbeaten Orlando Rage). But dont imagine that head coach Kippy Brown thinks this will be a cake walk.
I thought we just gave up too many big plays, Brown says of his team's effort against Chicago. We had players in position but they just didnt make plays.
Brown refers to the play of the Maniax secondary, which has been decimated by injuries and is currently ranked seventh in the league. In response, Brown is making adjustments to get players back to their natural positions. Rico Clark will be moving from free safety to cornerback. Jackie Kellogg will replace him at safety. Also, Brown is moving Marcus Wimbley and Tre Thomas to the strong safety position.
This will be a good week to try out the re-vamped secondary, since the Hitmen are having problems with their passing game, ranking 7th in the league that category.
However, the Hitmen displayed a more wide-open offense in their win against San Francisco last week. One play was a double-pass for a touchdown and another featured a fake-field goal attempt. Brown says the Hitmen wont catch the Maniax sleeping. Our defense and special teams will have to stay alert, Brown says. [New York/New Jersey head coach] Rusty Tillman is going to take over their special teams and hell have something up his sleeve.
The Hitmen have one of the better defenses in the league, and currently sport the leagues best passing defense.
A lot of things go into determining why a team has a good pass defense," Brown says. "Theyve lost a lot of games, so theyre behind late in the game and people have been running the ball instead of throwing it [to take more time off the clock]. That makes your pass defense a little better. Their secondary will be very similar to what we have played in the last three weeks.
Brown is well aware of the Hitmens strong defensive line. They are tough up front, he says. Theyve got two tackles that are pretty dog-gone good football players. [Christian] Maumalanga and [Israel] Raybon. Still, the Maniax coach is confident that newly acquired offensive linesman Isaac Davis as well as Glenn Rountree will be able to hold their own.
Brown also likes the Maniax chances against the Hitmen blitz. Thats the thing about our offense, Brown says. We dont mind the blitz. Its probably tougher on us when they lay back and play coverage because they make you execute. If you blitz us, we know who to block and we get it done and we know who to man. If we can protect Druck long enough, we can burn you down the field.
Browns was upbeat at his weekly press conference despite a banged-up running back core which has Rashaan Salaam questionable for this next week with a bruised shoulder and back-up running back Rafael Cooper on the injured reserve list for the next four games with a knee sprain. Brent Moss is the probable starter (unless Salaam gets better in the few days).
The Maniax will not hesitate to throw the ball. Jim Druckenmiller threw for 413 yards and 3 touchdowns last week against Chicago, the best performance so far by any quarterback in the XFL. This is despite losing his best receiver, Kevin Prentiss. In response, Maniax reciever Charles Jordan stepped up his game in a big way, catching 10 passes for 240 yards against the Enforcers.
If Brown has his way, the first home win will be the start of a big Maniax run. He says, Somebody in this division is going to get hot and win about 3 straight games and if I think if its us, well win the division. And it should be us.
- While the XFLs primetime home isnt so cozy, its finding better reception on cable. Here are some more numbers from the spinners in the XFL camp. If one would average all games over all three networks (NBC, TNN, and UPN), the XFL is scoring a 7.1 on the Nielsens. This is a far-cry above NBCs individual numbers for the last week, 2.6 and 2.7. In addition, TNN is reaching its highest rankings for Sunday programming, ever.
- The XFL is also doing well at the box office, having sold over 750,000 tickets (average of 27, 786 per game league-wide) with actual attendance numbers running at 632, 555 (average of 26, 256 per game league-wide). One of these days, I will be able to take up more space in this column talking about players and playing and not about the health of the league. Maybe next season after all accounts of the leagues demise are either proven true or not.
- Maniax head coach Kippy Brown isnt into audibles. We dont have audibles, Brown says. We have check with mes, Brown says jokingly. A check with me is an alternative play the offense can run if the primary play doesnt work out. This preset alternative keeps all offensive players working together. An audible to me is when you get up there and all of a sudden they [the defensive line] show you something different and boom, you change the entire play. And then you have to have 11 guys on the same page. Thats too hard.