USFL in Canton | 5 New Jersey Generals to watch in 2023
CANTON — Nothing has changed much for New Jersey Generals, and that’s exactly how head coach Mike Riley planned it. The Generals got a taste of success after a 9-1 regular season in the relaunch of the USFL a year ago, making a playoff appearance before losing to the Philadelphia Stars in the semifinals .
“The mindset is still the same,” Generals offensive coordinator Steve Smith said. “His philosophy is still the same. I think the only thing different is we know what it feels like to get almost there and not get it done. So I think our demeanor with our team is we have unfinished business.”
Most players on last year’s team return to lead the Generals, who play this season based in Canton, back in contention.
“It’s good to come back, and you know your playbook already,” Generals running back Darius Victor said. “Just having the same playbook, same words and there might be some tweaks, but I go to bed with a smile on my face knowing that I know everything and I just go to practice and run fast and play football.”
The Generals play the Birmingham Stallions in their season opener at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Their first game in Canton is April 23 against the Pittsburgh Maulers, the other team with which they will share Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium this spring. Here's a look at some of the Generals' top players:
New Jersey Generals players to watch in 2023
Victor led the USFL with nine rushing touchdowns, earning him honors as an offensive player of the year in 2022. At 5-foot-8, 209 pounds, Victor might lack some size but makes up for it with power. It also helps to have a massive offensive line to create holes for him.
Johnson makes his return at quarterback for the Generals. Last season he shared snaps with Luis Perez, who is in the XFL this spring. Johnson also dealt with injuries as well. He threw for 772 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions last season.
Williams and Victor bring the Generals a one-two punch in the backfield, combining for 1,156 yards on the ground. Williams led the Generals in rushing with 579 yards. At 5-foot-7, 200 pounds. Williams has breakaway speed and can make players miss, which is a good change up to Victor, who is more of a downhill runner. Williams has spent time with six NFL teams and played in two games with the Colts in 2015.
Luani made a name for himself last season when he finished with eight tackles, an interception and two pass deflections to open the season. He ended up finishing second in the USFL with five interceptions, registering 31 tackles, and a sack for the Generals. Luani, played 31 games in the NFL with the Raiders, Seahawks and Chargers from 2017-19. Expect him to be the Generals' best playmaker in the secondary.
Hines was the Generals' leading tackler with 52 to go with one sack. The 6-1, 235-pounder also brings a veteran presence to a defense that only allowed 172 points in 2022. The former Houston Cougars standout, who played 13 games for the Browns in 2018, could get back on the radar of NFL teams if he puts up similar numbers this spring.
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