July 8, 2021
By Adam Ruffner
19. Detroit Mechanix
The results are no different, but the Mechanix offense has visibly improved in 2021, reflected by their improved scoring and team completion percentage from the 2019 season. A primary reason for the growth has been the insertion of Bryan Walsh into the handling unit. Through six games, Walsh leads the team in assists (20) and throwing yards per game (372), and is second in completions per game (51.50). Walsh has an incredibly powerful flick huck, but also uses the space of the field creatively with his throws, which leads to easy opportunities downfield for cutters Jack Havey and Andrew Sjogren.
18. Tampa Bay Cannons
Saturday was Tampa Bay’s fourth loss in a row, and it was the third time this season an opponent has won by 10 or more goals. Injuries are a big part of the Cannons freefall, and the lack of consistent offensive rotations has crippled their production; the team ranks last in scoring, turnovers per game, and completion percentage. Billy O'Bryan continues to have a phenomenal season in the trenches, and ranks in the top three on the Cannons in virtually every statistical category. He began the season as a defensive handler, and has cycled through almost every role until most recently landing on offensive initiator, where he’s racked up 14 total scores and over 1000 yards of total offense in his last two games.
17. Indianapolis AlleyCats
In 2019, the AlleyCats were just one of two teams in the league to have a winning record despite failing to generate at least 10 blocks per game. The ‘Cats are averaging almost the exact same number of takeaways this season, but their luck has run out in close games, and as a result they’ve fallen to a 2-4 record to start 2021. Even Levi Jacobs having a career night and Cameron Brock’s return last Saturday could not buoy Indy, as their lack of defensive pressure allowed Madison to score 26 with relative ease.
16. Seattle Cascades
It was a tough two-loss road trip for the Cascades as they were held to just 32 goals on the weekend against Dallas and Austin; Seattle scored 28 in their Week 4 home game against Austin, for comparison. And after a few feisty defensive performances to start the season, the ‘Scades have now given up 71 goals in their last three games. The problem is not the defensive unit, though. Shane Worthington ranks second in the league in blocks (10), and the defense as a whole is fifth (!!!) in the league in defensive efficiency. Seattle’s offense, however, is second to last in offensive efficiency, giving opponents lots of break opportunities.
15. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
The Thunderbirds finally ended their winless drought in 2021, reclaiming the Commonwealth Cup at home over their rivals from Philly. It was the Thunderbirds best performance of the season on both sides of the disc, as they committed a season-low 11 turnovers as a team, while also converting a tidy 7-of-13 on their break opportunities. Thomas Edmonds, Max Sheppard, CJ Colicchio, and Jimmy Towle all had good-to-great performances for the O-line, and the return of Jon Mast to the backfield is a huge part of why the team turned the disc over so few times. But the star of the night was Captain Sam VanDusen and his big lefty backhand. The D-line bomber had over 500 yards of total offense on fewer than 25 touches, and played great single coverage defense on Sean Mott throughout the game.
14. Philadelphia Phoenix
The Phoenix are reeling, having endured three straight road losses after starting the season 2-0. Offensive efficiency is the main culprit for the team’s struggles, as the Phoenix rank third worst in the AUDL after the first month of play. As an example: Each of Philly’s top five throwers (i.e., most completions) from Saturday had at least two throwaways. The Phoenix may have only committed 15 turnovers as a team, but when 10 or more are coming from the players touching the disc the most, it is hard to win.
13. Los Angeles Aviators
The Aviators are in the midst of a two-week bye, which was much needed given their struggles with execution and unforced errors. And through the first part of the season, Calvin Brown has acted as weathervane for this team’s success (or lack thereof). One of the most talented throwers (players?) in the West, when Brown is rolling the Aviators look potent, able to switch easily and dangerously between small ball weaving drives and big huck attacks. But he’s also had at least six throwaways in each of his three starts in 2021, and is completing a woeful 87.10 percent of his 163 throws; LA as a team ranks second to last in completion percentage.
12. San Jose Spiders
Same as their divisional rivals, the Spiders are currently enjoying a two-week midseason bye, which gives them some much needed time to work on their slow start to games. San Jose is getting outscored 48-38 by their opponents in the first half of their first four games; working out of an early game deficit puts a lot of strain on offenses, and the Spiders haven’t looked in-rhythm for a full game yet this season. Still, San Jose averages over 21 scores per game. If the offense can find their groove, the Spiders could make some noise: The San Jose defense is currently sixth in the league in takeaways per game.
11. Madison Radicals
The Radicals gave undefeated Chicago their toughest challenge of the season, staying tight for three quarters before the Union pulled away down the stretch. The offensive backbone of Victor Luo, Logan Pruess, and Rami Paust are really coming into their own, and their success makes one wonder where this team might be with a fully healthy Kevin Brown, who hasn’t played yet in 2021 and was expected to be a centerpiece of the offense. Kevin Pettit-Scantling had a four-block showcase on Saturday vs Indy, and now leads the league with 16 blocks through 7 games; he is on track to narrowly break his own career high of 27 blocks set back in 2017.
10. Austin Sol
The Sol took care of business at home over Seattle, and now has scored 22+ goals in each of their first five games of the season; Austin is the only team with 20+ goals in each of their games in 2021. Jake Worthington had a fairy tale start to his pro career, getting a momentum-swinging Callahan on his first touch in the AUDL. But the difference maker in this game—and in each of their three wins this season—has been the presence of offensive striker and rookie Evan Swiatek. Averaging nearly 400 yards of total offense and five total scores per game in his three appearances so far in 2021, Swiatek does most of his damage with his legs, gauging defenses with huge gainers and relentless motion. His most impressive stat, however, might be his five blocks, as Swiatek has been a monster in earning the disc back for the Sol.
9. Boston Glory
The next two weekends could very well decide Boston’s playoff fate. With a 2-3 record entering Week 6, Glory host the Phoenix this Saturday in a virtual tune-up for their first-ever battle with the Empire in Week 7. There is not a bigger rivalry in American sports than Boston-New York, and given the competitiveness of the Atlantic Division in 2021, the tone of their AUDL matchup should be no different. It bears mentioning: We have not seen a fully healthy Boston yet. They return bigs Orion Cable and Tannor Johnson this weekend, and are still integrating Noah Backer and Josh Markette into their lineups, both of whom are excellent with the disc.
8. Minnesota Wind Chill
Like Boston, Minnesota has yet to show it’s true form in 2021. The Wind Chill face a gauntlet this weekend on the road, facing Indy on Saturday before turning around and playing the 5-0 Union in Chicago on Sunday. The Minnesota offense is currently seventh in scoring (23 goals per game), and its defense is second in takeaways (13 per game), showing the balance up and down this roster. But the Wind Chill don’t want to be “balanced”, they want to win the division. And in order to do that, they will need a win on the road this Sunday, or they will lose their season series to Chicago, and with it the chance to host a playoff game.
7. New York Empire
The Empire played their worst game as a team in nearly three years in DC in Week 5 and suffered the consequences, ending New York’s 19-game winning streak that dated back to August 2018. Without Jack Williams and Elliott Chartock, the Empire offense lacked discernible rhythm, leading to unexpected errors from normally flawless vets. And yet despite the personnel absences and a season-high 20 turnovers, the Empire were a break away from pushing the Breeze numerous times. New York has not resembled their championship-level selves yet in 2021, and they’re still formidable on a week-to-week basis.
6. Dallas Roughnecks
News of Kyle Henke’s month-long absence due to a shoulder injury is especially tough for a Dallas team still working to solidify their lineups. The Roughnecks have been experimenting with a variety of players in new roles, and one that is clicking is the switch of Kaplan Maurer from defensive specialist to offensive distributor. Always careful with the disc, Maurer has risen to a new level in 2021, accounting for just five turnovers while tossing 17 assists, scoring 13 goals, and completing 144 passes. Maurer’s quickness in small spaces is deadly, and his array of crafty throws and release angles make him elite in the red zone for the Roughnecks offense. They will need a big weekend from Maurer in their doubleheader against Austin to determine second place in the West.
5. Raleigh Flyers
The Flyers continue to cruise after their 0-2 start to the season, picking up their third straight win by dominating the Cannons in Tampa Bay. It was also the third time in five games this season that the Flyers have held an opponent to 19 goals or fewer. And after starting the season in the bottom five in takeaways, Raleigh has climbed into the top 10. This is a major development, as the Flyers are quietly third best in defensive efficiency, thanks to the counterattacking of first year Flyers Seth Weaver and Elijah Long.
4. San Diego Growlers
With their win over Dallas, the Growlers hold pole position in the division and control their own playoff fate for a potential, all-important home game to determine who gets to Championship Weekend out of the West. San Diego had a lot of new pieces to fit during the first month of the season, and their growing pains showed, despite a 4-1 record. But now those pieces—especially Paul Lally, Khalif El-Salaam, and team leader in goals Lior Givol—are paying huge dividends for the team. San Diego hosts Austin in Week 7 before the rematch with the Roughnecks in Dallas in Week 8.
3. DC Breeze
The Breeze came out swinging against the Empire, knocking the defending champs down with a 6-3 first quarter and never letting New York back up with a wire-to-wire 20-17 win for DC. Jonny Malks, Rowan McDonnell, and Zach Norrbom continue to anchor the most efficient offense in the AUDL, completing 146-of-150 combined against New York. And yes, they have another handler emerging as a star alongside them in Zach’s younger brother Gus Norrbom. With five assists and over 400 yards of total offense against the Empire, Gus operated alongside Zach with a Gotrunks-level chemistry, seeing lanes and spaces open up long before any defender could react to them. Now the sterling Breeze offense gets its biggest challenge of the season in a can’t-miss “Game Of The Week” matchup with Atlanta on Saturday.
2. Chicago Union
It would be incorrect to say that the Madison defense “got to” the Union last Friday night—Chicago still completed 98 percent of their 300 throws as a team. But the Radicals showed that discipline and pressure can eventually wear on the Union offense, and throw Chicago off of their rhythm. For moments, at least. But it took relentless effort and a few lucky breaks for the Radicals to even stay within striking distance of Chicago. Pawel Janas had another sensational individual performance, but it was once again a Drew Swanson block that set the tone for Chicago. The second-year defender now has nine blocks in just three games this season, and might be the most impactful single defender in the league right now.
1. Atlanta Hustle
The Hustle continue to occupy the top spot in the rankings because of their overall playmaking, depth, and balance across their lineups. Mentioning one player usually invokes at least two others. For example: Austin Taylor is having a MVP-caliber season running the Hustle offense from the backfield, but he wouldn’t be without the complementary skill sets Parker Bray and Antoine Davis working downfield, who are both also having terrific seasons. Atlanta has many individual stars when you look through their roster. But the team’s strength is its unity, just like the Breeze team they will have to face on Saturday night for the top spot in the Atlantic.
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