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D.C. Defenders Set 51-Player Roster For The 2023 XFL Season, Breakdown/Analysis

The D.C. Defenders have set their 51-player roster for the upcoming 2023 XFL season. The XFL today announced that all the league’s eight teams had finalized their 51-man rosters for the 2023 season. 

All XFL team rosters can be found here.

A short while ago, the league’s football operations team and team personnel voted to expand the regular season roster from 50 to 51. The purpose of such was to give each team the option to dress three quarterbacks on their active roster. A rule that could be in the future cards for the NFL after what transpired in the NFC Championship game, where the San Francisco 49ers were left short-handed with emergency quarterback options.

Let’s take a look at who made the Defenders’ final roster. Mind you, with injuries, and performance, nothing in football is ever final. But this is the group that D.C. DPP Von Hutchins, head coach Reggie Barlow, and their entire staff have decided to march toward week one of the XFL season with.

D.C. Defenders 2023 51-Player Roster

Quarterback: (3): Jordan Ta’amu, D’Eriq King, Eric Dungey

Running Backs: (4): Abram Smith, Ryquell Armstead, Artavis Pierce, Pooka Williams (WR)

Wide Receivers: (6): Josh Malone, Chad Hansen, Jequez Ezzard, Lucky Jackson, Josh Hammond, Chris Blair

Tight Ends: (3): Briley Moore, Ethan Wolf, Trae Barry

Offensive Line: (9): C, Ty Clary, G, Cody Conway, G, Liam Fornadel, T, D’Marcus Hayes, C, Mike Maietti, T, Kyle Murphy, T, Liam Ryan, T, T.J. Storment, G, Rod Taylor

Defensive Line/EDGE: (9): EDGE, Davin Bellamy, DE, Fadol Brown, EDGE, Malik Fisher, EDGE, Andre Mintze, DE, Jarrell Owens, EDGE, Jacob Panasiuk, DT, Caraun Reid, DT, Joe Wallace, DT, Gabe Wright

Linebackers: (5): Francis Bernard, Jamal Brooks, Ferrod Gardner, Anthony Hines III, Reggie Northrup

Defensive Backs: (10): S, Joshua Allen, S, Kentrell Brice, CB, Travon Fuller, CB, Michael Joseph, CB, Anthoula Kelly, S, Cameron Lewis, CB, Dejuan Neal, S, Santos Ramirez, CB, Nydair Rouse, CB, K.J. Sails

Specialists: (2): Kicker Matthew McCrane, Punter, Daniel Whelan

D.C. Defenders 2023 Unofficial Depth Chart

The harsh reality is that to get down to 51; the following Defenders players were released. RB Brian Herrien, WR Menasseh Bailey, OL Mike Brown, DE Markell Utsey, DT Denzel Chukwukelu, LB Terrill Hanks, DB Parnell Motley, DB Reggie Robinson, and LS Brett DioGuardi.

Injuries are a given in football. So it’s possible that some of these players could cycle back into the league.

Offensive Linemen Dwayne Wallace, who is not on the final 51, could return after week one’s action. He has an upper-body injury. It’s also worth noting that D.C. has TE Kahale Warring on their reserve/designated to return list.


Washington, D.C. – The D.C. Defenders announced today that they had set their 51-man roster to start the 2023 XFL season. A sortable alphanumeric roster, unofficial depth chart (subject to change), and pronunciation guide are attached.

“I’m thrilled about the roster we’ve put together for the Defenders,” said Head Coach Reggie Barlow. “These talented athletes have competed daily in training camp and are more than ready to show D.C. what we’ve been working towards. You will see us defend The District on the field and support our city in the community. The real countdown now begins, and we will see you on February 19th at Audi Field. Get your shields and Beer Snake ready, D.C.!”

The Defenders open the season at home against the Seattle Sea Dragons on February 19th at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.

D.C. Defenders 51-Player Roster Breakdown/Analysis

There are some surprises with the Defenders’ final cuts. However, not as many as you would expect in the unpredictable nature of a league starting from scratch.

Of the Defenders’ 51 players, if you count the kicker, and you should. There are only four players that are 30 years of age or older. (K Matthew McCrane, DB Santos Ramirez, DT Gabe Wright, DT Caraun Reid)

D.C. Defenders Offense

The quarterback position is one of D.C.’s strengths. And it would not shock me if they get some phone calls during the season with teams showing interest in someone like D’Eriq King. But the Defenders staff loves their QB room and the versatility of all three signal-callers. Ta’amu, King, and Dungey. All three can be on the field simultaneously, with King and Dungey’s playing experience at WR and TE, respectively.

Another area of strength for D.C. is at RB. No real surprises here. Abram Smith, Ryquell Armstead, Artavis Pierce, and RB/WR Pooka Williams form a formidable quartet. The latter should be a factor in the slot and on returns.

Wide Receiver is an interesting spot for the Defenders. They’ve had to make some late changes to this group. D.C. has recently added three new names, with recent NFL experience in Josh Malone, Chad Hansen, and Chris Blair. Because of injuries to K.D. Cannon (knee) and Jazz Ferguson (hamstring). Hansen and Malone could be starting eventually. For now, Lucky Jackson and Josh Hammond are positioned to take the reins at receiver. Jequez Ezzard can be a breakout star in the slot and the return game.

Tight end is also an intriguing position for the Defenders, and Briley Moore and Trae Barry profile as promising young options in the passing attack. Veteran Ethan Wolf, however, could be the team’s best in-line blocker, and he may end up wearing several hats for D.C. on offense and special teams.

It’s not often you see teams carry nine offensive linemen. Whether D.C. does on game day remains to be seen. The Defenders coaching staff loves their mix of NFL veterans and young players up front. The late additions of vets Kyle Murphy and Rod Taylor will help fortify the team’s overall depth. But names like T.J. Storment, Liam Fornadel, and first-team All-SEC player Michael Maietti can break out as league standouts.

D.C. Defenders Defense

Defensively, Gregg Williams’s group will be multiple in nature. On paper, the team has nine defensive linemen but four of those players, like potential XFL star Davin Bellamy, profile as edge rushers who can play standing up at linebacker.

The linebacker position has only five players. However, technically nine if you count the edge players up front. Bernard and Hines profile as 3-4 inside linebackers. As does Jamal Brooks and Reggie Northrup who has a lot of spring league experience. The latter is expected to start at the WILL alongside Francis Bernard.

However, the player to watch as the season pushes forward is pro rookie Ferrod Gardner. The Cajun standout is an every-down backer who can play safety if needed. Gardner finished the NFL season on the Washington Commanders roster. Former longtime NFL player and linebackers coach Jamie Sharper has a talented young group of players to work with.

The big surprise in the secondary is the release of CB Parnell Motley. In November, he was the Defenders’ first overall selection in the DB phase of the XFL draft. The D.C. native, unfortunately, didn’t make the cut.

Perhaps the reason for that is the late additions D.C. made in their secondary. Most specifically, small-college superstar Michael Joseph, who defied the odds to become an NFL player with the Chicago Bears over the last few years. The Cliff Harris award winner. An honor reserved for the nation’s top-small college defensive player has the profile to stand out in the XFL.

Dejuan Neal and Anthoula Kelly are two players who have performed at a high level in spring pro football. But as evidenced by today’s cuts leaguewide. Stellar experiences in XFL2020 or the USFL don’t guarantee you a spot. You have to prove yourself all over again. That’s something that Neal and Kelly have done to earn roster spots.

D.C. has four safeties on its roster. Veterans Kentrell Brice and Santos Ramirez, who has experience in Gregg Williams’ system, will man the backend of the secondary. Late arrival, LSU’s Cameron Lewis has a chance to break out. Along with Joshua Allen. Lewis recently joined the team through trade.

D.C. Defenders Special Teams

Unless this changes in the coming days. Probably the most curious move by D.C. is their decision to go to war in week one without an established long snapper. Perhaps, the team could give Centers Michael Maeitti and Ty Clary a shot at the gig. But for now, the team has positioned TE Trae Barry as the Defenders’ long-snapping specialist, who does have experience in this area and has done the task in camp.

Barry’s duties as a long snapper saves D.C. a roster spot.

However, one must tread carefully in this department. Because of errant snaps, you can’t afford to have missteps in the kick-and-punt game in week one.

Matthew McCrane and strong-legged Irish punter Daniel Whelan have the chance to be one of the XFL’s best specialists duos. McCrane’s experience in New York, back in 2020, where he was perfect for the other Guardians team, will be an asset simply because the NFL vet will likely encounter winter-like weather in the District. D.C. is one of the few XFL teams that must deal with the elements.

Final Analysis

It’s been three years since the beer snake has seen the light of day or night. The shield is also returning on Sunday night, February 19th, at Audi Field against the 2020 week one opponent, the Dragons.

This is a different group of Defenders’ than you saw three years ago. D.C. back then was in a three-way dogfight for first place when the world hit the pause button.

The oddsmakers, for whatever reason, don’t see the 2023 Defenders as a contender.

I beg to differ. The team has a very talented QB room, a strong stable of runners, and versatile receivers. To go along with an experienced defensive coordinator with proven talent mixed in with promising young players on defense.

All eight XFL teams are in the same boat, trying to gel early on and operating from ground zero. The combination of Von Hutchins and Reggie Barlow has set the Defenders up for contention.

But we will surely find out when the shields rise in a week from Sunday.

XFL Championship Odds 2023

Renegades+500+500+450 ❄️+500
Brahmas+550 🔥+550 🔥+500 ❄️+500 ❄️
BattleHawks+400 ❄️+500+500+500
Sea Dragons+450+550 🔥+550 🔥+375 ❄️
Vipers+600+600+650 🔥+500 ❄️
Roughnecks+750+600 ❄️+700+800 🔥
Defenders+650+650+700 🔥+550 ❄️
Guardians+750+650 ❄️+800 🔥+800 🔥

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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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