The Arlington Renegades showed great promise during their open practice Saturday and the defense didn’t disappoint.
So much attention is always on the offense and who is going to start at quarterback, but not enough attention is heading the defense’s way. This unit has been regarded on paper as one of the best in the XFL heading into the 2023 season. When fans see how quick, instinctive, and aggressive they are in practice, it’s easy to understand why experts feel that way.
Secondary Bright Spots to Renegades Defense
When speaking to the media, head coach Bob Stoops gave high reviews to Josh Hawkins and Will Hill for how they have performed in training camp. Not a massive surprise as the veterans were seen as early training camp favorites to start on the team. A keynote is when Hill was on the field, former Miami Hurricane defensive back Jamal Carter was with him on the field which could mean Carter might be a starter on the roster.
One stand out from the practice was De’Vante Bausby who performed well throughout the practice. Bausby had multiple pass breakups in practice and showed to be a shutdown corner. Based on his success in the NFL and AAF with the San Antonio Commanders, this wasn’t a surprise as he should be a day-on starter at the corner.
If there was an educated guess on who would be in the secondary for the Renegades in week one, Bausby, Carter, Hill, and Hawkins seem to be the guys who could get the start. They all seemed to work together well and did a good job shutting down any big pass plays to occur from the offense. This group seems like the strength of the defense and will be leaned on to help the defense.
One last note on the secondary as they were able to create a turnover during practice in the form of an interception. An off-throw pass by Drew Plitt went into the arms of recently signed defensive back Nasir Greer. While it may or may not play a factor in their roster decisions moving forward, Greer making an impact so quickly shows how good this secondary can truly be.
Linebackers Looking for Right Combination
Donald Payne is the big name from the linebacking core as he is expected to be a starter after dominating in the USFL. Payne got to see the field plenty on Saturday at the linebacker position and looks to be on his way to starting from game one. He was quick and got to the ball carrier with his instincts which are something fans are accustomed to seeing.
On the field with Payne was Isaiah Graham-Mobley who joined him as the two linebackers in a defense that was set up as a 4-2-5 defense. This might be an early indication of who the Renegades are looking at as the starters at the linebacker position.
Other linebackers to keep an eye on are Nick Temple and Ryan Mueller. Any time they were on the field, they also were flying around and did a good job making plays. They should see the field and be in the rotation at linebacker when the season begins.
Defensive Line Plugging Middle of the Line
Tomasi Laulile was out on the field often causing problems in the middle of the line similar to what he did in the USFL last season and with the Renegades in 2020. Because of his familiarity with coach Bob Stoops and the defense, Laulile should be an early favorite to be one of the starters at the tackle position. Glen Logan is another tackle that got some action in practice and could be either a starter or at least in the rotation.
Off the edge on defense, Bruce Hector should be a guy to watch out for the Renegades. Hector showed great force and speed off the edge to apply pressure on the quarterback. He looked impressive at the defensive end and should find himself on the field this season.
Will Clarke is easy to see why he was drafted by the team and made an instant impact. Clarke’s leadership and veteran experience should help make him successful for the team. Fans should see Clarke on the field this year whether he’s a starter or in the rotation.
It’s hard to predict or get an idea of how this defense will look this season as there is so much talent on that side of the football. The defensive line will go through a lot of different rotations as they figure out the best combo. Arlington’s linebackers are deep with talent and will at times see three or four on the field at a time. Fans know the reality is the secondary is strong, deep, and will be the focal point of the defense this season.
One note to make was the type of defense that is being run. There were a lot of four defensive linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs sets. This is interesting to note as the Renegades’ defensive coaching staff led by co-defensive coordinators Tim Lewis and Jay Hayes are aware of how deep their secondary is. Hence why fans have seen so much more from the secondary compared to the other units.
The expectation this season is that the defense is going to be the strength of this team as it was back in 2020. With so many veterans that have been there and done that in the NFL and other alternative football leagues, this group should excel more than they did in 2020. The old saying defense wins championships could come into a factor for the Renegades this season and fans are looking forward to seeing it.
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