AAF 2019: Garrett Gilbert, Drew Jackson top five best performances of the season's first half

It may have gotten off to a slow start, but there really has been a lot of great football in the AAF through the first half of the season. What continues to be impressive is the level of commitment and focus these players have toward getting a second chance. Maybe that will lead to another shot in the NFL. Maybe it means ending their careers out on a positive note. Whatever the reasons, there has been a lot of hard-nosed football being played on Saturdays and Sundays. 

With five weeks under our belt, it's time to look at five of the more memorable performances. Obviously, there's no list long enough to capture each and every breakout game, but as a general rule only one player per team was given consideration, save for the honorable mentions section. 

1. Orlando Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert vs. San Antonio Commanders (Week 2)

Stat line: 19-of-28, 393 yards passing, 2 TDs, 134.5 passer rating

You could make a case this performance could be shared with Gilbert's favorite target, Charles Johnson, who caught seven passes for a single-game high 192 yards -- at 27.43 yards per touch -- and a score. So call it 1A and 1B. Gilbert was unstoppable against the Commanders' pass defense, though San Antonio allowed a lot of deep passes that day. Still, hitting guys downfield in stride takes good ball placement and it was Gilbert's most efficient performance of the season with an average of 14 yards per pass attempt. 

2. Memphis Express linebacker Drew Jackson vs. San Diego Fleet (Week 4) 

Stat line: 14 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 4 PBUs, 1 INT

Jackson was eh-ver-ry-where in the Express' only win, a 26-23 come-from-behind effort against the Fleet. Sometimes box scores don't always tell the whole story; not this time. He was just as effective behind the line of scrimmage, in the open field and in coverage. Jackson has been solid all season -- he made our midseason All-AAF team -- but this was far and away his best game and among the most well-rounded, completely dominant defensive performances. 

3. Arizona Hotshots wide receiver Rashad Ross vs. Salt Lake City Stallions (Week 1)

Stat line: 5 catches on 7 targets, 103 yards, 2 TDs

Ross has easily been the most consistent wideout in the Alliance from Week 1 to Week 5. He's recorded two 100-yard games, both of which obviously deserve recognition as his best. His debut against the Stallions, however, still marks the only time he's nabbed two touchdowns in a game. Ross is a true deep threat capable of taking the top off of any defense. Even though the Hotshots are on a three-game losing streak, he's the matchup nightmare for Orlando's pass defense in Week 6. If there's a player who can stop the bleeding and keep up with the Apollos, it's him. 

4. San Diego Fleet cornerback Kam Kelly vs. Salt Lake Stallions (Week 5) 

Stat line: 6 tackles, 4 pass deflections, 3 interceptions

The trio of picks stand out and that's justified. In one game Kelly tied the league high for interceptions. When you break them down, the first two were more closely attributed to poor throws by Stallions quarterback Josh Woodrum, but they nevertheless required good body control and hands from Kelly. The final pick, however, was a perfect break on the ball and returned all the way for a touchdown. Kelly had a well-rounded game, too, with six tackles and four passes broken up. 

5. Salt Lake Stallions defensive end Karter Schult vs. Birmingham Iron (Week 2) 

Stat line: 6 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 4 QB hits, 1 FF

One of the AAF's premier edge rushers against one of the least consistent lines early in the season? That's what we call a matchup nightmare. Schult has been disruptive all season, but he was at his best in Week 2 against the Iron. The Stallions lost 12-9 after entering halftime with a 9-0 lead, but that's hardly Schult's fault. He was constantly in the backfield and got his only strip sack of the season against Luis Perez. 

Honorable mentions: Orlando linebacker Terence Garvin vs. Atlanta (11 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 pick-six), Atlanta quarterback Aaron Murray vs. Memphis (306 yards passing, 1 TD), Orlando cornerback Keith Reaser vs. San Antonio (3 PBU, pick-six, 6 yards allowed on three receptions and eight targets), San Diego defensive end Damontre Moore vs. Salt Lake (2 sacks, 4 QB hits, 1 FF and 1 FR). 

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories