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Arlington Renegades

Key Observations from Arlington Renegades’ 15-9 Loss to the San Antonio Brahmas

Despite having a two-game lead for second place in the south division, the Arlington Renegades find themselves at .500 after their 15-9 home loss to the San Antonio Brahmas.

It was the “same song, different verse” situation where the defense allowed under 200 yards with one interception in the game. The offense once again struggled to score points as for the fifth time this season had under 250 yards of total offense. Two Drew Plitt turnovers ended up being the difference in the game for Arlington.

The first Plitt turnover ended up being a scoop and score for San Antonio to put them up 9-0 in the second quarter. Arlington’s third quarter was good as the team scored nine points including a Taylor Russolino field goal and a Plitt touchdown pass to LuJuan Winningham that might go down as one of the best catches of the season.

As for the fourth quarter, two field goals by John Parker Romo would give the Brahmas a six-point lead. One of the toughest moments of the game was Renegades kicker Taylor Russolino missing a 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game at 12-12. Plitt was able to drive the team down the field on the last drive before he threw an interception to seal the loss.

Arlington moves their record to 3-3 on the season, but the good news is that they are still in second place in the south division behind the Houston Roughnecks. The bad news is that San Antonio went to 2-4 on the year and is now just one game behind the Renegades.

Key Observations from Renegades’ Loss

Passing Game Halts…. Once Again

MARCH 26, 2023: The San Antonio Brahmas against the Arlington Renegades at Choctaw Stadium on March 26th, 2023 in Arlington, TX. (© Michael Ainsworth/XFL)

Fingers are going to be pointed in every direction this week with fans looking at the offensive coaching staff for not putting the players in a position to succeed. They will look at play caller Jonathan Hayes for calling for deep passes on third and short. Some will even look at the quarterbacks and say that they are not played to the standard that they need to be at. The truth is, it’s all of the above.

Coach Hayes, Coach Chuck Long, and the rest of the coaching staff deserve to take a portion of the blame as the offense has only eclipsed 250 yards of total offense once and their season-high was…253 yards. At some point, the coaching staff must figure out what kind of offensive talent they have and figure out how to use them correctly. The players are not set up for success because the coaching staff isn’t putting them in the right spots. I asked the coach during his press conference after the game if he was considering any changes to the play caller or quarterbacks and his answer was short and clear.

“No, not at this point.”

Arlington Renegades Head Coach Bob Stoops

All eyes are always on the quarterbacks and how they play. Kyle Sloter came in as the starter for Sunday’s game and was rotated in with Drew Plitt. Sloter completed six of 13 passes for 22 yards in the loss. He threw for one touchdown and four interceptions in four games with Arlington. To top it off, he has been critical of the play calling from coach Hayes asking for more passes on television interviews. All of that resulted in Sloter being released by the team on Monday.

This doesn’t mean Drew Plitt is out of the woods either with the team. Plitt has only completed 62.9 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and three interceptions in three games played. During the Brahmas game, he threw a touchdown but had a fumble that was scooped up and ran in for a touchdown as well as an interception that sealed Arlington’s fate. After the game, one of the reporters asked Coach Bob Stoops about Plitt’s performance and the coach shut down any idea of him earning the starting job.

“No. You can’t give up a turnover for a touchdown. You glossed over that like that was no big deal. Just a difference in the game, I believe, right? And I don’t even count the other turnover at the end of the game, he just tried to make something happen. And I believe the receiver wasn’t on the same page as him, but neither one of them has. So, we’ll keep at this, trying to give them both an opportunity and see if somebody can’t catch their stride and get some kind of rhythm for us.”

Arlington Renegades Head Coach Bob Stoops

De’Veon Smith and Leddie Brown Good 1-2 Combo?

MARCH 26, 2023: The San Antonio Brahmas against the Arlington Renegades at Choctaw Stadium on March 26th, 2023 in Arlington, TX. (© Gerald Leong/XFL)

All Renegades fans are looking for some kind of light at the end of the tunnel for this offense and honestly, there is something to be excited about. While the team only ran for 79 yards in the game against San Antonio, there is something to be said about how De’Veon Smith and Leddie Brown ran the ball. There are some signs of life that both backs can be contributors to the offense.

Smith ran for 42 yards and Brown ran for 38 yards with both backs averaging at least 3.5 yards per carry. Both backs had at least one run that went for over ten yards and was able to attack the holes when they became open. Multiple times they would get three to four yards and be so close to breaking it loose for a big gain.

The identity of the offense has been to be as balanced as possible between running the ball and passing the football. Arlington would obviously love to see more consistency with their runs, but with the passing game struggling, it’s hard to establish the run when the passing game can’t ever get into a rhythm. Look for Brown and Smith to continue to get better and better as the weeks go on.

Defense Rises to the Occasion Again

MARCH 26, 2023: The San Antonio Brahmas against the Arlington Renegades at Choctaw Stadium on March 26th, 2023 in Arlington, TX. (© Joshua Gateley/XFL)

A round of applause to one of the most overlooked units in the XFL as this defense came through once again with a great performance on the field. The defense held the Brahmas’ offense to 162 total yards and got an interception from Donald Payne that led to a Renegades field goal. Outside of a Jacques Patrick 32-yard run, the offense of San Antonio was unable to do much of anything in the game.

Massive credit has to go to one of the leading tacklers in the XFL Donald Payne who came through again with ten tackles, one tackle for a loss, and an interception. Payne was all over the field for Arlington always around the ball carrier and having great instincts to make the tackle. Coach Stoops understood his importance to this defense.

“Yeah, Donald’s a heck of a player. Smart guy and getting everybody lined up. Always plays well, covers well, tackles. Yeah. Big interception. He had to give us some juice. But, yeah, Donald’s a guy who you can always count on.”

Arlington Renegades Head Coach Bob Stoops

What has helped Payne this season is his relationship with co-defensive coordinator Tim Lewis who he played under in 2022 with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers. That connection is part of what has helped Payne play so well this season.

“He was actually my DC in the USFL last year and in the USFL last year, I led the USFL in tackles so I kind of came into the exact same system I was last year, know the game plan, know what coach wants from us. So just my job to go out there and when it’s my opportunity to make a play, make a play. Big thing. I am wanting not see ball, go get Ball so to sense. But always be around the ball, as in once I get my alignment, get my key, get my assignment done and I go chase the ball. So same DC as last year. Have great respect for him. He brought me over here to Arlington. He’s the reason I’m here and so it’s kind of a blessing I get to reunite with him. So, to go out and make plays, that’s my job.”

Arlington Renegades Linebacker Donald Payne

Final Analysis

Fans shouldn’t overreact to the loss despite how the game went. There is still reason to be optimistic as the team remains in second place in the south division. The Houston Roughnecks just lost their second straight game on Monday night to the DC Defenders which keeps the Renegades just a game behind them for first place. A playoff visit is still within reach.

Another positive is that the offense can only improve from here as the addition of Victor Bolden should open the offense. JaVonta Payton’s presence in a short time paid off dividends with his big 47-yard completion this past Sunday. Bolden has similar traits as a deep threat and can make a major impact on special teams returning the ball.

The door has been opened for quarterback Kevin Anderson to compete with Drew Plitt for the starting job. It remains to be seen whether the team will sign another quarterback to compete, but for now, it appears Anderson and Plitt will be the guys. It wouldn’t come as a surprise should Plitt start on Friday night against the Seattle Sea Dragons. At the same time, Anderson should get some playing time as well as Arlington looks to fix the offense and make the most of their last four games of the season.

Renegades Final Stats

Team Stats

Offensive Stats

Defensive Stats

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Anthony Miller is a credential reporter and writer for XFL NewsHub. Anthony writes about the NFL, specifically the Philadelphia Eagles. Follow Anthony on Twitter @ByAnthonyMiller.

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