Houston Roughnecks Head Coach Curtis Johnson has work to do

Houston Roughnecks head coach Curtis Johnson in a UFL Week 1 game versus Memphis Showboats (ESPN)
Houston Roughnecks head coach Curtis Johnson in a UFL Week 1 game versus Memphis Showboats (ESPN)

You do not have to tell Houston Roughnecks head coach Curtis Johnson that his team started the season with a less than ideal result. He is fully aware of what occurred.

Sunday’s game was not an perfect start for the Roughnecks, but they did show positives in the second half of the game. It was just too late to stop the slide against the surging Memphis Showboats. When asked what he told his team to motivate them for their next game against the D.C. Defenders, Johnson referred to a man known as “The Greatest.”

“I told them the story of Muhammad Ali,” Johnson said. “When Muhammad Ali got knocked down by a great left hook by Joe Frazier, he jumped up and said, ‘I got up, and most people wouldn’t have got up.'”

Yes, the Roughnecks got up, and their head coach is focused on making them a better team.

“The one thing about us is we competed throughout the whole game,” Johnson added. “It didn’t go our way. We made a bunch of mistakes. You got to be brutally honest with what happened in that game. But, the one thing you got to do is be confident and positive. We have to be a good team. We’re not a good team right now, but we’ve got good individuals. We just have to come together.”

According to Johnson, the Roughnecks had a great practice on Wednesday and he felt they were becoming better prepared. However, in their next game they are playing against one of the best pass rushing defenses in the league. How does Johnson plan to give his quarterback Jarrett Guarantano better protection and more time in the pocket?

“I think you’ve got to simplify,” Johnson explained. “I thought what Memphis did was pretty smart. They had seven or eight guys blocking a bunch at two and three receiver routes. We got to do more, and see if our guys can get open on their four or five guys… and then Jarrett has to get the ball out of his hands quick.”

Johnson pointed out how the Roughnecks were passive in the first part of the Memphis game, and managed to change things up.

“One thing we did is we were sitting back a little bit in the first couple of drives and they got some good third down plays,” Johnson said. “We began to put a little bit more pressure on them, and we went from man to man coverage and mixed some zones in, but it was a little bit more man to man. I thought we covered them pretty well towards the end of the first quarter.”

With problems Coach Johnson is having to deal with going into the second game of the season, you wonder if the UFL is missing out on not having any pre-season games where teams could have at least one round of exhibition games to tune things up before they hit the regular season.

“It took us about halftime before we began to settle in and play,” Johnson noted. “I think that would be good for us to have at least something where you’re coming out of the tunnel and you play in front of a crowd. You walk back in for halftime, you know, you do get all the kinks out, and the nervousness will be out. I would love to see a preseason, even if it’s a preseason half of a game.”

Coach Johnson and the Houston Roughnecks get a chance to put a notch in their win column in this weekend’s game against the D.C. Defenders on Sunday, April 7 at 4:00 PM ET (FOX) at Audi Field in Washington. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster and Stubhub.

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