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D.C. Defenders Continue Tweaking Roster, Three Weeks Away From Their Season Opener

The D.C. Defenders are exactly three weeks away from their home opener at Audi Field on Sunday, February 19th, against the Seattle Sea Dragons. With the regular season rapidly approaching, the Defenders continue tweaking their roster.

D.C. Defenders Continue Tweaking Roster

It’s been a busy January for D.C. Defenders Director of Player Personnel Von Hutchins, head coach Reggie Barlow, and their entire staff. As the evaluation process continues heading into go time by mid-February.

The team selected 12 players through the New Year’s Day XFL supplemental draft. The D.C. Defenders then added eleven additional players to their training camp roster. Many of them through the NFL Alumni Academy. To top things off, those 23 additions were paired with the official announcement that XFL 2020 quarterback Jordan Ta’amu had rejoined the league in D.C.

In the last couple of weeks, the Defenders have signed kicker Matthew McCrane, wide receiver Chad Hansen, defensive back Michael Joseph, Alcorn State/Green Bay Packers wideout Chris Blair, West Virginia guard Mike Brown, and were assigned nose tackle Rod Henderson off waivers from Vegas.

D.C. has also added veteran NFL veteran offensive linemen, guard Rod Taylor and offensive tackle Kyle Murphy. In between all this activity, LB/S Ferrod Gardner was activated off the reserve/other league list after he ended the NFL season on the Washington Commanders practice squad.

To make room for all these acquisitions. WR Jazz Ferguson (hamstring) and NT Niles Scott (bicep) were placed on the reserve/injured list. The Defenders also waived punter Jake Schum, running back Shane Simpson, tight end Bernard McCall, cornerback C.J. Anthony, and offensive linemen Jalen Flye-Sadler, and Lawrence Keys.

The Defenders have 71 players on their preseason roster as of press time. However, the situation is fluid and can change daily. As evidenced by all the recent team activity throughout the XFL.

The league’s teams have participated in joint practices and are expected to play scrimmage games in the upcoming days, with ESPN on hand, to conduct a dry run/dress rehearsal before the 2023 season. There’s been talk of half games being played between all eight XFL teams as soon as potentially this upcoming week.

Before the season kicks off, XFL teams will pare their rosters to fifty players. (45 active/5 inactive).

On Saturday, D.C. made yet another roster move, executing a trade with the Houston Roughnecks.

*Update: On Sunday, the Defenders announced another trade with the Roughnecks. DC sends DT Josh Avery to Houston for Ole Miss defensive end Tariqious Tisdale. Avery, the former Green Bay Packer, was selected by D.C. in the fourth round of the supplemental draft. The 6’5, 290lb Tisdale was drafted by the Roughnecks. The former JUCO standout and Ole Miss player spent last summer with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent.

Defenders trade LB Caliph Brice to the Roughnecks for Merrimack Standout Linemen Sam Cooper.

The Defenders continue adding talented players with NFL experience to their offensive line. D.C. has swung a deal with Houston to acquire Merrimack standout and former Baltimore Ravens/Houston Texans offensive lineman Sam Cooper. In exchange for Cooper, the Defenders shipped off supplemental draft pick FIU linebacker Caliph Brice.

Sam Cooper, 25, is among the more intriguing young offensive linemen in the XFL. The Nigerian-born Cooper’s journey and ascent in football were well documented during the NFL draft process in 2021. His starring turn as a leader and captain led him to a contract with the Baltimore Ravens, and then eventually on the practice squad and offseason roster with the Houston Texans in 2021/2022.

Sam Cooper overcame a lot of adversity in his young life to get to this point. In 2006, the then-eight-year-old lost his older brother Hassan to cancer. Three years later, his father, John, was murdered in his home country.

The pre-teen Sam Cooper had promised his brother and father that he would one day become a professional athlete. But making that promise and dream a reality wasn’t easy. His move to the United States with his mother was a challenging transitional process, where he was often bullied as a child.

In a new land, despite all the difficulties he encountered. Samuel Cooper’s desire to keep his word to his departed family members motivated and drove him to athletics.

The 6-foot-2, 315-pound offensive guard/center transferred to Merrimack college from the University of Maine and quickly became a team leader as captain. The dean’s list student, Cooper, had a significant impact in Merrimack’s first season at the Division I FCS level, starting in every game he appeared in at guard.

The lineman became a mainstay for the number two scoring offense in the NEC, helping the Warriors become one of the nation’s most efficient rushing teams. But Cooper’s late rise as a player would be sidetracked when COVID canceled his senior season at Merrimack.

Nevertheless, Cooper’s collegiate efforts would not go unnoticed by the NFL scouting community. Despite his small-college background, Cooper was invited to several prestigious All-Star games during the NFL Draft evaluation process. The East/West Shrine Game, NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Hula Bowl, and the Tropical Bowl, where he competed against the top College Football players in the country.

During those showcase games and his pro day, is where NFL teams were forced to take notice of Sam Cooper’s great physical traits. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 35 times and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.1 seconds with a 1.69 10-yard split. Cooper’s maximum bench press is 515 pounds, and his maximum squat is 650 pounds.

There’s no doubt that D.C. has added an elite physical talent to their offensive line in Sam Cooper, who has one of the more inspirational backstories of any player currently in the XFL.

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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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