Three, long years of waiting at last were answered with a rousing opening slate of games for the XFL. Speculation was met with real live game action for the first time since March of 2020. More has been written in regard to how the league would survive and operate far more than about any actual games played, but finally there can once again be reflections on gridiron action. With week one in the books, here are a few takeaways on the first four games of XFL 3.0.
The Vipers’ Receiving Core is Legit
The Vegas Vipers had the unenviable task of playing on the road in the league’s inaugural game against the Arlington Renegades. A mistake-filled second half ultimately doomed them as they fell 22-20, but the loss did not come without some revelations about their squad. The Vipers were able to take a 14-3 lead in the first half in large part due to the outstanding play from their receiving core. Spring league veteran Jeff Badet at last was about to emerge with his lightning speed as he hauled in six passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
One of the most notable players in the league, Martavis Bryant, also made contributions alongside fellow NFL veteran Geronimo Allison. Possession receiver Matthew Sexton proved to be a viable fourth option as he helped move the chains for the Vipers. Luis Perez’s 2 pick-sixes were a detriment to the team’s aspirations for a road upset, but it is apparent based on early results that Vegas can rely on a strong pass-catcher room.
The Guardians’ Offensive Line is in Trouble
It mattered little whoever was taking snaps under center for the Guardians in a 33-12 loss. The Houston Roughnecks brought constant pressure all night and caused bedlam for both Guardians’ quarterbacks Paxton Lynch and Quinten Dormady. Wade Philips’ scheme wrecked Orlando’s plans as they racked up seven sacks. Defensive lineman Trent Harris notched four sacks on his own and defensive back Sean Davis recorded 5 tackles for loss.
While o-line play varied across the league in all four games, Orlando’s was by far the most overwhelmed and factored into the biggest loss of the weekend. It goes without saying that priority number one for the Guardians is to address their inept line performance, or else they will be in more games like Saturday night’s debacle.
No Leads Are Safe
One of the most standout aspects of the XFL in its 2020 iteration were its rulebook. In addition to player safety being highlighted, scoring was also altered in a revolutionary way. The return of the unique kickoff, scoring and conversion rules returned in a major way this weekend and greatly impacted the St. Louis Battlehawks win over the San Antonio Brahmas. With less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Battlehawks put the rules to good use with a touchdown to make a 15-3 deficit 15-9., A 3-point conversion made it 15-12 followed then by a 4th-and-15 attempt from their own 25-yard line.
After an improbable conversion, the Battlehawks drove down the field and scored on an AJ McCarron 14-yard touchdown pass to Austin Proehl to steal a stunning victory in the Alamodome. St. Louis was able to take optimal advantage of the XFL’s unique rules to mount a normally insurmountable comeback. Indeed, no leads are safe in the XFL.
DC Defenders’ Home Crowd is as Rowdy as Ever
A heavily anticipated aspect of the XFL returning in 2023 were the sights of their 2020 fan bases. The DC Defenders’ faithful were notably one of the most raucous of the 2020 teams as they rode a 3-0 home record in their debut season. Part of their antics included the famous “beer snake” in which fans stacked their plastic cups once filled with alcohol and amassed a massive snake-like configuration. This was one of the most charming aspects of the league and there was little doubt the tradition would return in 2023. Apparently, the Audi Field security staff did not get the memo. Any attempts to construct a serpent were thwarted by security guards as they broke up every attempt.
With their precious beverage servant commandeered by security, the fans turned to an unconventional item to get the attention they sought: Lemons. Sour projectiles showered the field as Defenders supporters expressed their displeasure. This all culminated in the Sea Dragons operating towards the citrus fruit-riddled end zone during the third quarter. Seattle quarterback Ben DiNucci was sacked and then immediately after threw a pick-six to defensive back Michael Joseph, reigniting the home crowd. A 14-0 run ensued resulting in a 22-18 home victory for the Defenders fans once again proved they are on the league’s most rambunctious collectives. “Lemongate” will forever characterize this bizarre Sunday night.
Offensive Cohesion is a Work in Progress
Most sports books had every game at an over/under below 40 total points. Surprisingly to some, three of the four games were able to break the points total threshold. That being said there are still plenty of kinks being worked out of every team’s offensive personnel. There were some misfires from quarterbacks attempting to connect with receivers, offensive lines still attempting to gel, and some turnovers for most of the quarterbacks. Offensive production will take time to come together as brand-new units attempt to build chemistry in the absence of preseason games and limited training camp practices.
Week 2 kickoffs in Seattle on Thursday night 9:00 PM ET on FX channel as the Sea Dragons take on the Battlehawks.
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