The Tampa Bay Bandits Season Preview

Who said football season doesn’t start until September?

Football is back this weekend, as the USFL kicks off its season in Birmingham, Alabama.

And what better way to wrap up your Easter holiday than to watch the Tampa Bay Bandits in their debut against the Pittsburgh Maulers at 8 PM Sunday on FS1.

The Bandits played in the original USFL from 1982-to 1985 and often outdrew the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who stunk at the time and were owned by Hugh Culverhouse.

All Bandit games will be played at Legion Field in Birmingham, so there will be no chance to see the Bandits play a game in Tampa.

Todd Haley is the head coach of these new Bandits. Haley was an offensive coordinator with Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the NFL before getting his chance as a head coach with Kansas City Chiefs from 2009-to 2011. Haley had a 19-26 record as a head coach and was fired midway through his third season in Kansas City.

The Bandits will field a roster of 38 players, 29 of which have been on an NFL roster.

Jordan Ta’amu will start at quarterback for Tampa Bay. Ta’amu was with the St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL in 2020, passing for 1,050 yards and running for 217 yards.

Ta’amu is an excellent athlete, and the Bandits will use Ta’amu’s athleticism to try to exploit opposing defenses.

As an offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, Haley threw 60 percent of the time. He focused on short passes while also taking chances down the field. Ta’amu strength is the short middle of the field passes.

Eli Rogers will be the Bandit’s number one slot receiver and return specialist. Rogers played with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2015-to 2018. His best season was 2016, when he caught 48 passes for 594 yards and three touchdowns.

Former Buccaneer John Franklin III is also on the roster and should see substantial playing time. Other wide receivers include Derrick Willies, who played with the Cleveland Browns in 2018, Derrick Dillion, the ex LSU star, and Vinny Papale. Yes, Vinny Papale is the son of the Eagle’s star receiver from Invincible.

BJ Emmons will be the starting running back. Emmons is a good pass-blocker and will be a crucial part of the offense as the Bandits could often look to throw early. Emmons was in the Oakland Raiders camp last season and ran for 90 yards on 24 carries with one touchdown during the pre-season. He did not make the final roster.

Juwan Washington will be Emmon’s partner in the backfield. Although small in size at 5’7, Washington handled 531 carries while in college at San Diego State.

The strength of this Bandits team will be the offense. There are not many known names on defense, so we will have to wait to see how the defense will perform for Todd Haley’s squad.

There are two divisions in the USFL.

North Division

Michigan Panthers
New Jersey Generals
Philadelphia Stars
Pittsburgh Maulers

South Division

Birmingham Stallions
Houston Gamblers
New Orleans Breakers
Tampa Bay Bandits.

There will be a ten-game schedule, with the two division winners meeting in the USFL Championship game at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

I am excited and looking forward to watching the Tampa Bay Bandits this spring. The Bandits have the third-best odds to win the championship at +550 behind the Michigan Panthers and the New Orleans Breakers.

You can see the Bandits Sunday at 8 PM on FS1 in their season opener against the Pittsburgh Maulers.

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