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D.C. Defenders Add Five New Players, Release Six Others As XFL Teams Enter Second Phase Of Training Camp

The D.C. Defenders and all eight XFL teams have already started fine-tuning their rosters as the league inches closer to the start of its regular season on Saturday, February 18th.

D.C. will kick off its 2023 campaign on Sunday night, February 19th, at Audi Field against the Seattle Sea Dragons. Reggie Barlow and his squad have already started ingratiating themselves in the District as the team made the rounds meeting with media and fans in the DMV on Saturday.

D.C. Defenders Training Camp Transactions

Through their PR department, the XFL announced this weekend that team rosters would be trimmed down to 70. The Defenders’ have been very busy this past week, adding five new players while releasing six others., like the league’s eight new expansion-like pro football teams, is a work in progress until February. As an example, initially, LB Trent Harris was listed on DC’s roster. Now he has shown up on the Roughnecks team.

Defenders Add And Subtract To Current Roster

Counting former New Jersey Generals and West Virginia offensive lineman Mike Brown, who joined the team before the Defenders’ recent wave of transactions. D.C. has added five new players, signing Kicker Matthew McCrane, Guard Rod Taylor, Offensive tackle Kyle Murphy, and XFL Supplemental draft pick LB/S Ferrod Gardner, who has officially joined the team after finishing the season on the Washington Commanders practice squad.

To make room for the new additions, the Defenders have released RB Shane Simpson, TE Bernard McCall, OT Jalen Flye-Sadler, C/G Lawrence Keys, DB CJ Anthony, and veteran Punter Jacob Schum.

Players like Simpson, McCall, Flye-Sadler, Keys, and Anthony all fell victim to the numbers game. Veteran players with NFL experience are replacing the talented but largely inexperienced group.

In the case of Shane Simpson and Bernard McCall. Both players faced uphill battles to make the roster because of the Defenders’ impressive depth at RB and TE.

RB/KR Shane Simpson was not only competing with Baylor standout rookie Abram Smith, who was D.C.’s first-overall draft pick. But three other players who have recent NFL experience in Ryquell Armstead, Artavis Pierce, and Pooka Williams. As well as versatile Ohio State running back Brian Herrien. Simpson was also competing with the likes of Williams and Jequez Ezzard for return duties.

Bernard McCall faced a similar challenge against two experienced NFL tight ends, Kahale Warring and Ethan Wolf. As well as promising rookies Briley Moore, Trae Barry, and Tommy McIntrye,

Jalen Flye-Sadler and Lawrence Keys are two inspirational underdog linemen who have been let go to make room for two more experienced pro players in Rod Taylor and Kyle Murphy.

Taylor and Murphy are two former NFL draft picks with playing experience in the big league. Ironically enough, OT Kyle Murphy was drafted by the Defenders in 2019 as a first-round selection in the offensive line draft for XFL 2020. But he never played with D.C. because Murphy would sign on and play two seasons with the Houston Texans before moving on to the New Orleans Saints.

Kyle Murphy is a sixth-round selection in 2019 out of Stanford by the Green Bay Packers. Murphy has three career NFL starts under his belt at RT. As a result, it’s not far-fetched to project that he could be starting at tackle in Week One for D.C.

Rod Taylor is a former seventh-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018. The former Ole Miss standout at OT has also played guard. An unprecedented lifetime ban derailed his NFL career after multiple suspensions. Due to P.E.D. use. It remains to be seen if he can keep his head on straight in the XFL and whether or not he can capture his collegiate form. But Taylor is definitely a candidate to start based on his pedigree. That’s if he shakes off some rust in camp after not playing pro ball in a while.

With the Defenders having 12 defensive backs on their roster, the talented but raw C.J. Anthony fell victim to the numbers crunch. The 6’3 former receiver turned defensive back out of Gardner City Community College and was one of the more impressive players in the XFL showcase process this summer. His workouts were enough to land him on an XFL roster. And perhaps another XFL team could have him on their shortlist as the season approaches.

The Defenders have shaken up their special team’s room by bringing on veteran NFL kicker Matthew McCrane, shifting UC Davis standout Daniel Whelan back to his natural punting position, and in the process bidding adieu to veteran punter Jacob Schum. The latter might not be out of work for long because of his pro experience.

Two of D.C.’s most impressive acquisitions in their latest move of transactions is the signing of two players who finished the NFL season on team practice squads. Maryland standout S/LB Ferrod Gardner and Miami EDGE/linebacker Trent Harris.

Gardner is one of the most intriguing players on D.C.’s roster. The rookie linebacker/safety hybrid made it to final cuts with the Commanders before ending the NFL season on Washington’s practice squad. It was Gardner’s second stint on the Commanders’ reserve roster.

Rather than signing a futures deal. Gardner joins a Defenders team that drafted him on New Year’s Day.  The Ragin Cajun is a former defensive back who is slightly undersized at 6’0, 215 pounds. Gardner was a productive multi-year starter in college, and he registered 247 tackles in 45 games. XFL scouts were impressed with Gardner at 2022’s NFLPA collegiate bowl, and several of the league’s coaches coached in that particular showcase event.

Despite being less than four weeks away from the regular season, XFL teams are far from done with retooling their rosters as the season rapidly approaches. The Defenders have upcoming joint practices and scrimmages with other XFL teams in the coming days and weeks as they ramp up toward February 19th. The results of those events could lead to more moves before teams trim their rosters to 50 for the regular season.

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I am a pro football writer who has extensively covered and reported on multiple leagues over the years. I started covering the XFL back in 2001. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell

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