The undefeated 5-0 D.C. Defenders are back practicing on Wednesday as they prepare for what could be an XFL championship game preview this coming Monday night. D.C. will welcome the 4-1 Houston Roughnecks to Audi Field—a setting where the Defenders have never experienced defeat. The team is 6-0 all-time at Audi.
The Kings in the North will be looking to lay claim as Kings of the XFL in Week 6. Depending on what happens on Saturday and Sunday, the Monday Night measuring stick game could also be the first of the season to have playoff implications. The Roughnecks can clinch a playoff berth if Arlington beats San Antonio Sunday on ABC and Houston triumphs over the Defenders.
D.C. has opened up as 2.5-point favorites over Houston. And despite an early projection of potential rain showers at Audi Field on Monday night. The oddsmakers have set the point total at 42. Any wet weather would swing the favor directly toward the Defenders. Because as they have proven this season already more than once, D.C.’s smashmouth style is built for that type of game.
D.C. Defenders Practice Schedule (Monday, March 20 – Monday, March 27)
*Defenders train in Mansfield, TX;* Practice schedule subject to change
Monday, March 20 – No practice
Tuesday, March 21 – No practice
Wednesday, March 22 – 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET
Thursday, March 23 – 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET
Friday, March 24 – 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET
Saturday, March 25 – 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET
Sunday, March 26 – No practice (travel to D.C.)
Monday, March 27 – Defenders vs. Roughnecks, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
D.C. Defenders Standing Tall Atop The North And XFL
Reggie Barlow’s squad has raced to the top of the league after star rookie running back Abram Smith and the Defenders conquered the St. Louis Battlehawks for a second time this season.
By virtue of their head-to-head victories over the dually 3-2 Battlehawks and Sea Dragons. D.C. has a three-game lead in the North Division with five weeks left to play in the regular season.
The Defenders have opened their season with five straight divisional victories. As a result, every tie-breaker scenario favors them. Their last regular season game against a North opponent will arrive in Week 8 when D.C. squares off against the Dragons in Seattle.
Because of D.C.’s formidable stronghold. The road to the XFL championship game Saturday, May 13th, on ABC in San Antonio will likely have to go through the District.
XFL NORTH STANDINGS
Defenders Get Back Their Defensive Leader MLB Francis Bernard
In the last two games, the Defenders have had to soldier on without some of their best defensive players in the interior because of suspensions. Veteran defensive tackle Gabe Wright returned in Week 5. But another significant piece to the puzzle, Linebacker Francis Bernard, returns in Week 6. After he has finished a two-game suspension for a late-game melee with St. Louis in Week 3.
The Utah standout Bernard didn’t have gaudy stats in his first three games: 10 solo tackles, 3 for loss, and one forced fumble. But the defensive signal-caller was a crucial cog in Gregg Williams’s defense as an every-down player.
The last two opponents for D.C., Vegas, and St. Louis, had some success running the football against the Defenders.
The Defenders’ Week six opponent presents a different challenge for Gregg Williams’s unit on Monday night. The Roughnecks’ offense forces teams to play light in the box with their pass-heavy four wide receiver sets. However, Houston has shown the propensity to pop off runs from that formation. They had a long TD by Brycen Alleyne called back last week in Seattle.
A player like Francis Bernard will be vital in diagnosing Houston’s offense in the pass-and-run game.
To further aid the Defenders up front, D.C. has activated veteran d-linemen Fadol Brown off the team’s reserve list. The 6’5, 282lb Ole Miss grad and NFL vet has been a solid rotational piece upfront as a player who can play defensive end or swing inside to tackle. Brown has 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss in three games played.
D.C. Defenders Week 6 Practice/Injury Report
The big news coming out of Houston this week is that they have lost superstar WR Jontre Kirklin for the rest of the season to a chest injury suffered in Week 5. The Roughnecks have a deep receiving corps, but Kirklin was their best playmaker, especially down the field.
The Roughnecks are hoping to get back the league’s leading sack artist Trent Harris, who missed week five action in Seattle.
The Defenders are relatively healthy coming off their victory in St. Louis. One situation that bares watching is the back end of their secondary. Safety Kentrell Brice is questionable heading into Week 6 after suffering a toe/cervical injury against the Battlehawks. He started the work week limited in practice.
Four Defender defensive backs in total were limited on Wednesday. (Michael Joseph, Anthoula Kelly, Montae Nicholson, and Kentrell Brice). None of these injuries appear to be serious, however, against a wide-open passing attack like Houston’s. You don’t want to go into the game banged up.
One of the players to monitor is RB Ryquell Armstead, he missed Week 5 with a calf injury. D.C. dressed only two running backs against St. Louis. Which led to Abram Smith garnering his heaviest workload of the season. Recent signee, former Rams KR/RB/WR Raymond Calais served as Smith’s backup. But jack of all trades QB Eric Dungey, also saw time at RB, and TE last week, could line up in the backfield again on Monday night.
The consummate team/role player, Dungey has also chipped in on special teams coverage. Defenders OC Fred Kaiss has yet to utilize the XFL’s double forward pass rule. But with Dungey and D’Eriq King dressing. It has to be coming at some point. Perhaps against the Houston Roughnecks in Week 6.
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