It’s Monday. I’ve had two days to fully digest the LA Wildcats tough loss to the New York Guardians. As I sit at this hotel bar in Koreatown, I scour over the film to see just what went wrong in the 17-14 loss.
While sloppy, the Wildcats showed multiple times throughout the game that they were the better team on Saturday. But time and time again, after moving the ball well, they were unable to execute when it mattered most. At times, the offense looked lost on the field. Whether it was personnel issues or just not knowing the play, LA was snakebitten multiple times of their own volition.
Here are my biggest takeaways as they look to rebound next week against the Tampa Bay Vipers.
Takeaways From The LA Wildcats Loss To The NY Guardians
3 Things I Didn’t Like
The Kicking Game Is A Real Issue
Football is the truest of team sports, but in a game of inches, when you leave points on the field, the result is going to be painful losses, which the Wildcats have experienced twice now.
Nick Novak, while a seasoned pro that spent almost a decade in the NFL, has simply not played well thus far for the Wildcats. He is 1/4 on the season and missed two critical kicks on Saturday. When you lose a game by three points and your kicker misses two field goals (granted one was blocked), you have to start exploring the question if a move needs to be made.
Well, that question was answered on Tuesday when Novak was placed on the Reserve/Injured list, most likely ending his season. It is being reported that the Wildcats have signed Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who spent time on the active roster with the Oakland Raiders and the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. Hopefully, this move improves the kicking game for LA and can put them on the winning side of some close games.
Lack Of A Running Game
Once again, the running game was pretty much non-existent. It was another game of air-assault as the Wildcats only rushed the ball 13 times for a poultry 40 yards. DuJuan Harris and Larry Rose led the way with five carries each.
I spoke on the last episode of Bleav In LA Football that I wouldn’t have a problem with Josh Johnson airing it out 35+ times, but I did want to see a conscious effort in establishing the run and giving some balance to the offense. Unfortunately, that did not happen on Saturday.
While active, Elijah Hood was clearly still nursing an injury as he only carried the ball once, and losing Martez Carter for the game after his breakout performance last week, certainly did not help the running situation.
The identity of this Norm Chow offense clearly goes through Johnson and the talented receiving corps, but in order to improve their consistency, they will need to put more emphasis on the run.
Against the Vipers on Sunday, expect 20+ carries out of this running back group.
Confusion On Personnel
There were numerous times throughout the game where players looked lost before the snap. I don’t know if the play call was not getting relayed from Norm Chow to the players quick enough, if whoever is in charge of personnel on the sidelines was lagging, or if players simply didn’t know their assignments and roles, but it cost the team numerous times, from Delay of Game penalties to timeouts being burned, to negative plays due to not knowing assignments.
Four weeks into the season, this is something that has to be cleaned up. Everything is still very new, so I don’t expect it to be running like a well-oiled machine just yet, but it should at least be running at a much smoother clip.
I expect this to be a point of emphasis in practice, and whether play-calling needs to be simplified, or players need to just do a little more homework off the field, Sunday should look much cleaner.
3 Things I Liked
The trade of Rashad Ross for Tre McBride is beginning to look like an absolute homerun for Coach Moss and the LA Wildcats. After a monster performance against his former team, the DC Defenders, McBride backed it up with another dominating game against the Guardians. His final stat line: Eight receptions, 127 yards, and one touchdown.
With Nelson Spruce out of the lineup with an injury, McBride became the go-to guy for Johnson. What makes McBride so great in this offense is that he can make plays all over the field and has a very expansive route tree. We saw him make plays on deep go routes, underneath routes, and even going over the middle.
With McBride coming into form, and Jordan Smallwood getting more involved, once Nelson Spruce is back in the lineup, this corps will be extremely explosive and hard to slow down.
Safety Ahmad Dixon has been the heart and soul of this defense since the season kicked off. He is a vocal leader and is not shy about the trash talk game. But even more importantly, he has backed it up with his play on the field. He is everywhere and crashes down to the ball like a lightning bolt.
Against the Guardians, he finished with 14 total tackles, nine solo. Overall, this defense played really well for a second straight week and seems to be finding their identity, even with all of the injuries. They still need to improve against the run, more on that in my Tampa Bay preview article later in the week, but they are playing very well against the pass and that starts with Dixon.
Josh Johnson As A Leader
It is always expected that the QB becomes the leader of the team, specifically the offense, but some guys are never able to fully handle that responsibility. This is not the case whatsoever with Josh Johnson.
You can clearly see his Football IQ on display as he General’s his men about the field. He knows everyone’s assignments, even when they do not know themselves. He is not shy to call players out, but also leads by example and shoulders the blame when he doesn’t execute to his full ability or potential.
A 1-3 record is not an ideal situation with only six games remaining, but with Johnson at the helm, I fully expect the Wildcats to get it turned around and make a late-season push. They are too talented not too, and what better Hollywood script than a come from behind story?