In the last 24-hours, the Tampa Bay Vipers released their offensive and defensive depth charts for the season opener on February 9th. The full depth chart can be found here. Now we take a look at the decisions made by head coach Marc Trestman and some surprises from the reveal.
Again, this depth chart was distributed by the team, and it was made clear that this is the depth chart for week one. So it is possible and probable that changes will be made several times throughout the season.
In the XFL’s short 10-game season, there is no time to waste. Only four of the eight teams will make the playoffs, so there will be pressure on every team to be in the top-half of your division.
All-in-all there were no big shocks on offense. Seemingly, towards the end of training camp we had an idea of who the starting quarterback, running back, tight end, and most of the offensive line would be. The team announced Aaron Murray as the starter under center for week one last Friday. The placement of guard Andrew Tiller on injured reserve left a question mark on the offensive line for the time being, as the team brought in a tackle to fill his roster spot in Na’Ty Rodgers. Tampa Bay named guard Daronte Bouldin starter in place for Tiller. Bouldin was with the Vipers throughout all of training camp and was certainly going to make the roster, but widely wasn’t considered in contention for a starting job. The injury allows the Vipers to develop Bouldin, the 25-year-old Ole Miss product into a young piece that can fill-in when needed at four spots on the line.
There was some surprise on the depth chart at wide receiver for the Vipers. But heading into camp, it was considered the team’s deepest position and they kept nine wideouts on the 52-man roster. Despite the team losing their clear cut WR1 in Antonio Callaway to a lower-leg injury that landed him on the injured reserve.
Starting Receivers: WR1: Jalen Tolliver WR2: Reece Horn WR3: Dan Williams
The surprise comes with Williams, who Vipers offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo named when asked after practice yesterday. Many expected Seantavius Jones and Stacy Coley to be in the running for a bigger role offensively, but we will find out Sunday how snaps will be distributed to receivers on the depth chart.
Flowers was the biggest question mark on the roster when it came to where the former University of South Florida standout would end up on the depth chart. As of now, coach Trestman has made Flowers the third quarterback on the team. After training camp, Flowers could’ve winded up anywhere from QB2 to RB2 or even the second option at slot receiver. There’s no doubt Flowers will play Sunday, but in what capacity is yet to be determined. The full playbook for Flowers may not be on display Sunday, and may not even be brought out in the regular season, but we will find out a lot about this offense on Sunday.
.@XFLVipers coach Marc Trestman said today that Quinton Flowers will play in the season opener (role TBA). He added Flowers missed some time in training camp for “personal reasons.” @USFFootball pic.twitter.com/83h7kvIflZ— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) January 28, 2020
It’s likely that the new XFL rules will force every team to play fast, but the way this Vipers offense is built solidifies that is what coach Trestman is going for. Murray is a traditional pocket-style passer, there is a more dual-threat option in Flowers, but the offense is better-suited for Murray’s style.
It’s like clockwork ⏰ pic.twitter.com/E7ThnbqJIC— Tampa Bay Vipers (@XFLVipers) February 5, 2020
With De’Veon Smith filing the role of RB1 on the depth chart, you can expect that he will be the first down back in most situations. But the Vipers’ offense will not run exclusively through the running back position, so it’s fair to say that all three backs (Smith, Jacques Patrick and Mack Brown) will see snaps.
The same may not be true for the tight end position. Nick Truesdell, the teams TE1, should see the vast majority of snaps at tight end. As of now, it seems unlikely the team will run many plays with a two tight end look, but DeAndre Goolsby is the backup at the position.
The Vipers made a trade early in December sending Arrion Springs, their first round pick in the secondary draft for Jalen Collins. Collins was a second-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, and has above average size at the cornerback position. Currently, the Vipers depth chart has Collins as the team’s third cornerback, fourth if you take the nickel corner spot into consideration. There’s no proof that Springs would have been the team’s top corner, but the early draft capital should usually result in expectations, and playtime.
In addition, we found out what the team’s plan is for the defensive end position. When official rosters were released, the end position was among the weakest positional group on the Vipers’ roster. Much of that is due to the team placing Obum Gwacham on injured reserve during training camp. Gwacham was likely to start on one side of the defensive line, and it was expected that Deiontrez Mount would start on the other side. Mount was named starter alongside Jason Neil.
Defensive Ends: DE1: Mount DE2: Neil DE3: Bobby Richardson DE4: CeCe Jefferson
The biggest takeaway defensively is the scheme the team will run. A non-traditional defensive front that features six players in favor of an extra defensive back. After the 52-man roster was released, this was expected based upon roster construction. The team will march out a defense that will look like this:
The move for an additional corner is in correspondence to the pace of play the XFL is expecting. Many teams are constructing rosters to play more ‘outside the numbers’ and less ‘between the tackles’.
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