SALT LAKE CITY — An injury to their starting quarterback has left the Salt Lake Stallions with some uncertainty at the position heading into the the Alliance of American Football's second weekend of play.
Salt Lake head coach Dennis Erickson said Josh Woodrum is day to day and his availability will be a game-time decision for the Stallions’ second contest of the year, at the Birmingham Iron this Saturday at noon MST. The game will be televised on TNT.
Woodrum injured his hamstring late in the first half of the Stallions' 38-22 loss to the Arizona Hotshots last Sunday. Erickson showed confidence in the two quarterbacks, Matt Linehan and Austin Allen, taking the majority of reps this week in practice.
“Matt and Austin have been taking the reps, and they've played extremely well,” Erickson said Friday. "They've been here since training camp, and they know our offense pretty well. It's just a matter of them adjusting to being the starter, whoever we start."
Linehan played the second half in relief of Woodrum and completed 7 of 13 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown while throwing an interception. He was also sacked once. Allen was inactive for the Week 1 game.
Woodrum completed 10 of 22 passes for 103 yards, a touchdown and an interception while guiding two scoring drives before leaving with the Stallions trailing 19-16 at halftime. He returned to practice Friday in a limited capacity, according to the team's injury report.
The Stallions had some positives on offense in the loss to Arizona, among them a 50 percent conversion rate on third down (8 of 16) while scoring every time they reached the red zone (3-for-3, all touchdowns).
Those positives, though, were offset by three turnovers — one came on special teams — as well as an inability to create chunk plays and not getting a greater push in the run game. The Stallions rushed for 88 yards with only a 3.0 yards-per-carry average.
Salt Lake had just one play of 30 yards or more while Arizona had four, including passes of 30 and 36 yards that resulted in touchdowns.
Stallions offensive coordinator Tim Lappano attributed Salt Lake's inability to make more chunk plays to several factors, including seven dropped passes, adjusted play calling when Woodrum went down and Arizona not biting on the play action because of the Stallions' run struggles.
"I think I needed to be more aggressive, but we had our starting quarterback go down, so I was trying to trying to keep Matt Linehan on schedule with throws that I knew he liked and throws I know he can complete," Lappano said, while mentioning he likes to challenge teams downfield and to expect that to return this week, no matter which quarterback is playing.
"We missed some guys that were open for big plays, and we dropped seven passes. When you drop seven passes, you're not going to get a lot of explosive plays."
Something to note in Saturday's game will be the Stallions' receiving options. Former Ute Dres Anderson is out with a hamstring injury, while former Cougar Jordan Leslie (hamstring) and Kenny Bell (thigh) are questionable. Former Ute Kaelin Clay (hand) is doubtful.
The long ball will be another test this week for the Salt Lake defense. Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton caught four passes for 107 yards for the Iron during their 26-0 win over the Memphis Express in Week 1, including catches of 42 and 39 yards.
"We're just going to have to play a little bit more zone and not all man-to-man, change that stuff up," Erickson said of his secondary. "We made some mistakes, so we're trying to improve on that."
Former NFL first-round draft pick Trent Richardson — he went third overall to the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 draft — scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns for Birmingham against Memphis while rushing for 58 yards on 23 carries. He is questionable for Saturday's game with a hamstring injury.Comment on this story
"We made some big plays (against Memphis), and there's still a lot to capitalize on," Richardson said. "We're moving on to the next game, and we're ready to do what we've gotta do to win this game against Salt Lake."
Birmingham was the only team to shut out its opponent during the AAF's debut weekend. The Iron held the Memphis to 202 yards of total offense, a 20 percent conversion rate on third down and kept the Express from scoring on two trips inside the red zone.
"They're really balanced. They played really good team defense, good speed, very physical," Erickson said. "Obviously they had a great week last week against Memphis."