With training camp in full force for the XFL, the Arlington Renegades have created a strong roster full of talented players. Now it’s about figuring out who will be starting for the team heading into the 2023 regular season.
It’s always every team’s biggest challenge when having a whole new roster of players is putting the puzzle pieces together to create the perfect depth chart. The good and bad news of the Renegades is they have enough talent on each side of the ball that they must make tough decisions on who to put on the field for week one against the Vegas Vipers.
Making predictions are always tough because they are not always right. We can make assumptions based on previous experience, but fans never really know what the final decisions will be from the coaches, which makes it all that much more fun. Let’s review all three sides of the ball and who could be starting where.
Arlington Renegades Roster Breakdown
The quarterback position is always the most intriguing because making a wrong decision on who to start could make or break the season. Fortunately for the Renegades, they have a good group of quarterbacks who could make an immediate impact as a starter. While Kevin Anderson brings experience and compliments the quarterback room, it’s safe to assume that this is a two-way battle for the job between Kyle Sloter and Drew Plitt.
It’s also safe to assume that Sloter comes in as the favorite to win the job due to his experience in the NFL and the success he had with the USFL last year. Plitt comes in with plenty of upside potential after having a good showing in the preseason for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2022. The difference between the two is height as Sloter is two inches taller than Plitt, but Plitt is more mobile than Sloter. Either way, it’ll make for a great battle in training camp for the starting job.
Talk about having depth in a position. The running back room is crowded with talent and experience. Kenneth Farrow and De’Veon Smith will go into camp as the favorites to start due to their success in the AAF and the XFL the past four years. Keith Ford also came from the XFL in 2020 and should make for a good short-yardage back. Don’t sleep on De’Montre Tuggle as he could be the versatile running back they need.
Sal Cannella headlines the pass catches as Cannella was one of the best tight ends in the USFL last season with Sloter so that combo should still be in sync for 2023. Jordan Smallwood and Flynn Nagel were previously from the 2020 XFL and could go in as favorites to earn starting jobs. Chad Williams was a former draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals and has shown glimpses of being good which could help him. Lujan Winningham is a guy to watch out for as he has the potential to be the top receiver on the team.
Cameron Hunt and Garrett McGhin headline a very strong offensive line unit. Both players were All-USFL offensive linemen last season so it would be safe to assume they will be starters on the line. The biggest question comes to how offensive line coach Jonathan Himebauch wants to set up the line. Most players they drafted have experience at guard, so it’ll be interesting to see how he lines them up.
Projected Starters Offense
QB – Kyle Sloter, Drew Plitt
RB – Kenneth Farrow, De’Veon Smith, Keith Ford, De’Montre Tuggle
WR – Jordan Smallwood, Flynn Nagel, Lujuan Winningham, Chad Williams
TE – Sal Cannella
OL – Mike Horton, Cameron Hunt, Jake Stetz, Garrett McGhin, Darta Lee
Will Clarke comes in with experience in co-defensive coordinator Jay Hayes’ system from the St. Louis BattleHawks in 2020 so he could get starting playing time on the team. Tomasi Laulie could be a front-runner as the starter at the defensive tackle position due to his experience in co-defensive coordinator Tim Lewis’ system with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL last year and playing for coach Bob Stoops in 2020. Davonte Lambert and Josiah Coatney could make a run at it for the starting job at defensive tackle though so two other names to watch.
The one outliner is how Donald Payne is going to be used in this defense. Another player who played in coach Lewis’ system in the USFL last year, Payne was the leading tackler at linebacker but was listed as a defensive lineman on the XFL website. Does this mean he will play a hybrid role of linebacker and defensive end? That will be one storyline to watch out for.
As for the other linebackers, this group has a wealth of experience in spring football with Nick Temple, Edmond Robinson, and Ryan Mueller finding success in the 2020 XFL which should give time the edge at starting. Jessie Lemonier had to playtime in the NFL and was recently with the USFL last year as he will compete for a starting job.
This secondary unit could be considered one of the best in the XFL as they also have a ton of experience playing in the NFL. Rahim Moore and Will Hill look poised to have the safety positions covered on the back end. Da’Vante Bausby, Josh Hawkins, and Robert Nelson all played in the XFL with success in 2020 which will make them favorites to start. Hawkins was on coach Stoops’ Renegades team while Nelson was with coach Hayes in St. Louis in 2020.
Projected Starters Defense
DE – Will Clarke, Bruce Hector
DT – Davonte Lambert, Josiah Coatney
DE/LB – Donald Payne
OLB – Nick Temple, Jessie Lemonier
MLB – Ryan Mueller, Edmond Robinson
CB – Da’Vante Bausby, Josh Hawkins, Robert Nelson
S – Will Hill, Rahim Moore
This unit seems pretty clear on who is starting where, but it is worth mentioning that this is also one of the strongest units in the XFL. Taylor Russolino was a top-notch kicker for the BattleHawks in 2020 as his performance landed him a short stint with the Denver Broncos during the 2020 NFL season. It’s baffling how Marquette King did not land a punter job after leading the XFL in 2020 with average yards per punt so he should find similar success this season. Antonio Ortiz has shown the ability to hold his own as the long snapper so all the main positions are covered on special teams.
The only lingering question comes on who will be on special teams for the Renegades. A good guess would be Joe Powell coming in as the favorite for the simple reason of he returned the first kickoff for a touchdown in the XFL for the BattleHawks in 2020. Look at one of the young receivers to be brought on to take kickoffs or punts as a returner as well, but Powell seems like a good choice as a returner.
Projected Starters Special Teams
K – Taylor Russolino
P – Marquette King
LS – Antonio Ortiz
Returner – Joe Powell
These predictions are simply based on what players have done in the NFL and other alternative pro football leagues in the past. For a good portion of them, they haven’t played since the XFL closed shop in 2020 so it could be interesting to see how quickly they get into football shape. The advantage for the younger players is that they come from college and NFL camps which mean they are already in football shape. They just need to get used to the speed of the game.
Back on the experience, fans will notice a lot of players that used to be on the St. Louis BattleHawks with the sole reason being the Jonathan and Jay Hayes connection from 2020 which is an advantage as the BattleHawks had a 3-2 record before the season shut down. There are previous connections to the Houston Gamblers thanks in part to Tim Lewis co-running the defense with Jay Hayes. Those connections also play a factor in these predictions.
A lot of decisions need to be made in the next four weeks for the Renegades coaching staff. The good news is that they have talent and depth in the majority of the positions so they should be set up for success. It’s all about making sure the right players are put on the field to lead the Renegades’ charge come week one of the XFL season.
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