May 5, 2022
By Adam Ruffner
25. Detroit Mechanix (Previously 25th)
The Mechanix took a 2-1 lead on Pittsburgh in their Week 1 home opener, and then never regained it, losing 17-13 and extending their losing streak to 51 games to start 2022. The Detroit offense did show good consistency when it got into the red zone thanks to the throwing chemistry of Joe Cubitt and Bryan Walsh, but the Mechanix only produced nine such opportunities the entire game. The inclement weather last Saturday took away from Walsh and Cubitt’s ability to air it out, so Detroit’s matchup this Saturday in Indy’s dome could be the environment the Mechanix need to find some offensive rhythm.
24. Tampa Bay Cannons (Previously 24th)
The Cannons came into their matchup against the Hustle poised for the upset, with Brandon Perales uncorking big throws early, and the Cannons scoring six quick goals to take a first quarter lead. But Tampa Bay would score just six goals over the next three quarters—including a scoreless second quarter—as Atlanta’s defensive adjustments became too much for the Cannons and their new offensive system. Bright spot: Tampa Bay did decrease their turnover total compared to last season’s average of 25 per game, and still showed some pop with their deep connections on offense.
23. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (Previously 22nd)
Scoring just 25 goals in two games and coming away with at least one victory on the road has to be considered a win after Week 1 for Pittsburgh. The Thunderbirds battled the Midwest spring and its conditions just as hard as their opponents, and without center handler Jon Mast, Pittsburgh was often exposed to the elements. Their season-opening roadshow doesn’t stop in Week 2, either, as they now must face the Radicals for their home opener at the raucous Breese Stevens Field. But oh-so-quietly, the Thunderbirds re-added star Thomas Edmonds to the active roster for Saturday night; Edmonds played in the 2019 Radicals home opener for the T-Birds and threw for five assists on 99 completions in the Pittsburgh loss.
22. Toronto Rush (Previously 21st)
Despite opening the season with a loss, the Rush began their new era in earnest. For such a young and rookie-heavy roster going through a generational overturn, Toronto’s offense looked smooth with Ryan Poloz and Luc Comire orchestrating the action with their throws. But beyond those two, the Rush will need to develop more players into throwing roles, as Poloz and Comire combined for 40 percent of the team’s total completions; the lack of throwing balance made it easy for Montreal’s defense to key in on matchups. Toronto has a bye this week, and then plays Ottawa in Week 3 before facing their first US opponent in nearly three years on May 20 in Boston.
21. Oakland Spiders (Previously 23rd)
Oakland was idle on opening weekend, and now must host a San Diego team looking to take out their frustrations, which will be a tall task for this young and unproven Spiders squad. Oakland found a good deal of success in their preseason matchup with Portland by balancing patient offensive possessions with timely deep shots to Keenan Laurence. And with Justin Norden in the lineup, they have a quarterback capable of shouldering a huge load should the Spiders need it. But defensively this Oakland team is going to have to hit the ground running to get up to speed with a Growlers offense that put up 22 last Friday night.
20. Ottawa Outlaws (Previously 20th)
For the first time in seasons, the Outlaws retained most of their lineup following the prior season, giving Ottawa some much needed stability. And while they finished last in the 2021 Canada Cup circuit, when they had a fully healthy Nick Boucher, this Ottawa team showed an ability to attack deep space with volume. The return of veteran Paul Mensah to the D-line is a great boost for a unit still looking to put together a full, four-quarter performance. They have the ability to create turnovers—they were seventh in blocks per game a season ago—but they also surrendered the fifth-most points per game in 2021. Facing a red-hot Boston offense tomorrow night will be a quick test for the Outlaws, and where they rank in the division.
19. Indianapolis AlleyCats (Previously 18th)
With terrible news that 2019 All-AUDL First Team member Travis Carpenter tore his ACL and will miss the entire 2022 season, the careful reassembly and cultivation of this Indy roster over the offseason has dissolved, and a new framework will have to evolve on the fly. The AlleyCats are an organization built on internal growth and spirited by their ability to rally around themselves, but losing a piece as big as Carpenter may prove too much for a team that was looking to push for a playoff spot in the Central. Detroit will be a good matchup for the ‘Cats to adjust and fill in their star’s absence, but Indy will have to do so quickly as they host Madison in Week 3 in what will be a pivotal game for playoff positioning.
18. Seattle Cascades (Previously 16th)
Even without their main thrower Manny Eckert available due to injury, the Seattle offense put up an impressive 24 points—and completed nine hucks—in their loss in Portland on Sunday. The backfield pair of Adam Simon and Dennis Casio combined for over 120 completions and 1000 throwing yards on the game, while 18-year-old Declan Miller made his professional debut by becoming the first AUDL player ever to register 400-plus yards throwing and receiving in a single game; the teenager has been hyped by Cascades players and the organization for years, and he lived up to the hype. Fellow teenage rookie Zeppelin Raunig also had a breakout introduction to the AUDL, finishing with seven assists, four blocks, and 353 receiving yards in his first game with the Scades. The Cascades defense just sorta gave up in the second half after keeping it close in the first, allowing the Nitro to score 17 goals in the third and fourth quarters combined.
17. Los Angeles Aviators (Previously 19th)
Even though it was a loss at home—a hard result to endure in a West that is much, much more competitive than anticipated—the young Aviators battling back from a 6-1 first quarter deficit and making the game with Salt Lake competitive throughout the remaining three quarters was an impressive start to their 2022 campaign. Brandon Van Deusen and Matt Miller both threw for over 300 yards, while KJ Koo did a lot of nice work operating as the Aviators’ striker, looking equal parts thrower and receiver while finishing with seven scores and over 400 yards of total offense. But similar to last season, LA had their opportunities, but couldn’t always take advantage of them due to costly turnovers.
16. Philadelphia Phoenix (Previously 17th)
After searching for an offensive thrower to balance alongside Sean Mott, the Phoenix seem to have found a star-level solution in Jordan Rhyne. Making his Philly debut, Rhyne completed an absurd 70 throws for 605 yards—including 5-for-5 on hucks—often connecting with emerging receiving talent Brice Dunn on deep routes. James Pollard also showcased his potential as an offensive piece for this Phoenix team, finishing Saturday with eight scores and 372 total yards of offense. But the Phoenix had no way of slowing down Boston’s attack, allowing Glory to convert 20-of-24 offensive holds, the most of any team in Week 1.
15. Dallas Legion (Previously 14th)
Even while missing multiple captains, the Legion hung around all game before eventually dropping their home opener to the rival Sol. The Dallas defense provided enough consistent pressure to disable a lot of Austin’s quick-strike offensive capabilities, and turned possessions into a grind. Jimmy Zuraw looked smooth handling the disc in his first big start on offense, and found some nice chemistry with Michael Matthis. But in such a competitive South Division, it’s hard to know if Dallas’s ceiling is much higher than where it currently sits.
14. Madison Radicals (Previously 13th)
Going for franchise win number 100 at home on Saturday night is about as perfect of a season kickoff as the Radicals could ask for, especially against a Pittsburgh team that leads the league in turnovers after Week 1. The Madison defense will be primed and prepared for their first opponent per usual—the Radicals are 7-1 all-time in their home openers, allowing just 15 goals per game in those eight contests—but for the third straight season, the team’s biggest questions will remain on offense. Rookie Kai Marcus was one of the biggest throwers in the college division while at UNC, and will assume a heavy workload out of the gate for a Radicals O-line looking for more power.
13. Montreal Royal (Previously 12th)
The Royal picked up right where they left off in 2021, punishing the opposition with 12 hucks on their way to scoring 26 on the road. Jakob Brissette continues to show why he’s one of the best throwing talents in the league, finishing with a team-high 451 throwing yards on 39 completions, while committing just two throwaways. Malik Auger-Semmar has developed one of the most interesting skill packages in the division; Auger-Semmar started 2022 by scoring seven times and racking up 544 total yards of offense on just 23 touches, and also came away with three blocks. Montreal gets its first taste of US competition since 2019 this Saturday as they play their home opener versus Boston in a key game for the head-to-head tiebreaker between two teams fighting for the three spot in the East.
12. Boston Glory (Previously 11th)
Glory lost two of their main offensive producers from last season, and didn’t miss a step in their Week 1 win, putting up 25 goals and owning the deep space thanks to their bigs Orion Cable and Tannor Johnson. Year Two Cable appears to be an even more hulked out and polished version of his dominant 2021 rookie self; Cable might be the toughest receiver to defend 1-v-1 in the air outside of the reigning MVP Jagt. Cole Davis-Brand improved as well, and looks like a perfect one-two punch along with Ben Sadok as initiating distributors in this Glory offense. But once again, the Boston defense was little more than a sieve against Philly, allowing 24 goals and 11 huck completions.
11. Austin Sol (Previously 10th)
The downfield cutting combo of Kyle Henke and Evan Swiatek performed as advertised as the two accounted for eight goals and nearly 900 yards of total offense in the Sol’s season opening win at Dallas. Rookie Jake Radack figures to be a central part of the Sol’s offensive successes this season, and his precision as the center handler in game one bodes very well for Austin. A win is a win, but it did feel like for as much as the Sol want to compete with Carolina and Atlanta for a playoff spot in the South, they had an inability to close the door on a Dallas team missing prominent players. They have a bye week this week before hosting the Legion on May 13. If the Sol can go 2-0 to start their season before their schedule enters Hell Mode, they will have a solid footing in the standings.
10. Colorado Summit (Previously 8th)
The addition of 2017 MVP Jon Nethercutt to a roster brimming with athletic playmakers feels like the spark that will launch this Summit team towards a playoff berth in their first season. But similar to Salt Lake, Colorado begins their inaugural season with a tough road back-to-back starting this Saturday in Seattle, before facing the explosive Nitro offense in Portland on Sunday. Yes they’re an expansion team, but there should be little concern for this team’s offense and its ability to put up points. Defensively, however, it remains to be seen how the Summit will respond to the run-and-gun, uptempo style that most West teams employ.
9. Chicago Union (Previously 7th)
The Union defense (and some wintry mix precipitation and wind) held the Thunderbirds to a Week 1 low nine goals last Sunday in Chicago. In his first game with the team, Jace Bruner already looks like a plus-level add for Chicago’s defense, and was disruptive in handler space. Pawel Janas and the Union offense did not allow a break, with Kyle Rutledge and Sam Kaminsky adeptly shouldering the throwing load in adverse conditions. Now with a game under their belt, Chicago faces a season-defining road game in Minnesota on Saturday as they face the Wind Chill in the “AUDL Game Of The Week”. After losing so many defensive starters following their 2021 Championship Weekend run, the Union could make a statement by shutting down the powerful Minnesota offense.
8. San Diego Growlers (Previously 3rd)
The Growlers deep attack offense looked as dangerous as ever, with Sean McDougall scoring four goals—and dishing five assists—in his San Diego debut; Travis Dunn to McDougall was already clicking in their first game together. But the reigning division champs got outrun and out-executed down the stretch by the expansion team from Salt Lake; “four quarters of ultimate” was San Diego’s trademark up until now, and the new teams seemingly did it better. Obviously one game is nothing to be alarmed about, and the Growlers remain a top contender in their division. But the Shred’s unexpected win has pitched the West’s divisional hierarchy out the window, and we’re working with a new map now.
7. Portland Nitro (Previously 9th)
The Nitro traded with the Cascades throughout the first half of Portland’s home opener before hitting the boosters and pulling away for a five-goal win in which they scored a Week 1 league-high 29 goals. Leandro Marx has that MVP look and command to his game, and he made plays as a thrower, receiver, and defender that all could be featured in a weekly top plays countdown. This Portland team loves to make big plays in space and use their athleticism, with Marx, Daniel Lee, Jack Hatchett, and Raphy Hayes all capable of dominating their individual matchups. Lee in particular is going to be a matchup nightmare for opponents all season long. With much of the defensive focus going towards Marx and Hayes, Lee continually exploited space to the tune of three assists, five goals, and 449 total yards of offense without a turnover, adding in a pair of highlight reel blocks as well. Now the Nitro get their first big matchup with the Summit this Sunday at home.
6. Salt Lake Shred (Previously 15th)
Days later I still don’t know where to start with this Shred team. Head Coach Bryce Merrill deserves a ton of credit for constructing the framework that made the team’s 2-0 start possible, but I don’t think anyone saw the 48-goal barrage Salt Lake unleashed in back-to-back games coming, including the Shred. Captains Jordan Kerr, Joe Merrill, and Jacob Miller all played up to their titles as offensive playmakers, committing just four throwaways combined compared to the 40 total scores among them from last weekend. But I think the real revelation that this team is a true competitor has to come from how the Shred defense played. They have athletes up and down their rotation, with Chad Yorgason and Joel Clutton standing out as shutdown matchups. For a division that has the most wide open offensive play style in the league, Salt Lake’s ability to run is going to make them competitive in every game.
5. Minnesota Wind Chill (Previously 6th)
For the first time in the division’s history, Minnesota enters the season as the presumptive favorite to win the Central Division, and with that comes the baggage of expectations that the Wind Chill have never quite figured out how to handle. This is, as has been mentioned, a franchise still in search of its first postseason win. Additions Abe Coffin and Quinn Snider are active for this weekend’s big game with Chicago, giving Minnesota a terrific new one-two combination on offense. The Wind Chill have both the best top end talent and depth in the division. What they don’t have is a sense of how all of those pieces will fit together, which could be problematic facing a Union squad that is very well defined in its core strategies.
4. Atlanta Hustle (Previously 5th)
The Hustle were missing major defensive starters in their Friday night loss to the defending champs, and they still bit at the Flyers’ heels all night long and showed they absolutely belong among the league’s elite. Khalif El-Salaam and Brad Seuntjens are both still adjusting to their new team, but the early returns are very promising; El-Salaam finished second only to Austin Taylor in total yardage despite playing 33 of his 41 total points on defense, and Seuntjens had five goals and over 500 receiving yards in the two games. Atlanta doesn’t play again until they host Austin on May 21, and this two week bye could be essential in making a whole out of the Hustle’s many interesting parts.
3. DC Breeze (Previously 4th)
Trite as it sounds, the Breeze had one of the most impressive losses of the last two seasons in their Week 1 setback against New York. DC committed just 10 total turnovers, were a perfect 5-for-5 on hucks, and completed 251 throws as a team at a 97 percent clip. The problem is that for all the upgrades they added during the offseason, the Breeze and their defense could not figure out a way to disrupt the Empire offense last Saturday night. And for all the impressive victories DC is about to rack up this season—they could very probably go undefeated against non-NY teams in the East—they ultimately define themselves by their ability to win against their rivals from New York. They have one more game in the regular season with the Empire, and DC will be honing themselves every day until that June 10 rematch.
2. Carolina Flyers (Previously 1st)
Week 1 was a great four-quarter win for the Flyers as their defense stifled a potent Hustle offense, limiting Atlanta to just 14 goals on opening night. It all starts at the point of attack for the Carolina defense, as their ability to get after and pressure opposing handlers and throwing lanes is second to none. Free agency pickup Charlie McCutcheon came up with two crucial blocks, including a bookends score that gave the Flyers the final momentum for the win. And after wondering all offseason how Anders Juengst could improve on his ROTY 2021 season, he showed a subtle refinement in numerous areas of his game, including the ability to make a backbreaking defensive highlight when he scored his layout Callahan. And when the Flyers needed to close out the game, it was Juengst finding goals at the front cone in the fourth.
1. New York Empire (Previously 2nd)
After their impressive road win in DC—and with news this week that college star John Randolph will be joining the team in June—it really does start to feel like it’s the Empire’s title to lose this year. The New York offense was all but flawless against a top-three Breeze defense, allowing just four break opportunities all game, and having a league-best O-line conversion rate of 80 percent. Ryan Osgar and Ben Jagt had 17 scores and over 900 yards of total offense between them, and looked in-rhythm the entire game. Charles Weinberg and Antoine Davis both came up with big highlights in their NY debuts, and the general depth additions to this Empire lineup has them looking equally as competitive as their 2019 undefeated team. New York’s flaw from last season was their over reliance and heavy usage of their stars, but those worries appear to be out of sight.
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