Seattle Sea Dragons at D.C. Defenders Final Score: 18 – 22
On Sunday, the Seattle Sea Dragons kicked off their 2023 season on the road in an exciting matchup against the D.C. Defenders. Heading into the season, both teams had pretty high expectations, and their opening performance did not disappoint. Unfortunately for Seattle, they couldn’t come away with a week 1 win, but there’s a lot for Sea Dragons fans to be excited about based on the performance.
We saw sloppy football at times, but without a preseason, that’s to be expected early on. The beginning of the NFL regular season can be sloppy too, even with a preseason, so this is nothing out of the ordinary.
The good news is the XFL put an entertaining product on the field for the entire opening weekend and there was a solid fan turnout throughout the league. Additionally, the quality of play will only continue to improve as teams get more comfortable playing with each other.
- WR – Jahcour Pearson
- WR – Josh Gordon
- RB – Brenden Knox
Honorable Mention: WR – Blake Jackson, RB – Morgan Ellison
- CB – Bryce Thompson
- OLB – Emmanuel Smith
- ILB – Jordan Evans
Honorable Mention: ILB – Tre Walker, CB – Chris Jones
|##||Seattle Sea Dragons||Comp/Att (%)||Yds||TD||Int||LG||Sack – Yds|
|6||Ben DiNucci||35/54 (64.8%)||282||1||2||31||2 – 8|
|12||Steven Montez||1/2 (50.0%)||6||0||0||6||0 – 0|
|##||Team||36/56 (64.2%)||288||1||2||31||2 – 8|
|##||Seattle Sea Dragons||Att||Yds||Avg||TD||LG|
|##||Seattle Sea Dragons||Rec||Yds||Avg||TD||LG||Tgts|
|##||Seattle Sea Dragons||Fum||Lost||Rec|
|##||Seattle Sea Dragons||Solo||Ast||Total||Sacks – Yds||TFL||INT||FF||FR|
Thoughts & Performance Grade
There was no shortness of excitement in Seattle’s first game of the 2023 XFL season. From big touchdowns to game-changing interceptions, hard hits, fans not allowing venue security to take away their beer snake, and even the throwing of lemons onto the field. The football was fun, and the fans were rowdy. You couldn’t ask for much more to end the opening weekend of XFL football.
Seattle came out the gates hot, with quarterback Ben DiNucci marching the Sea Dragons down the field on their opening drive, making some nice throws, and finding wide receiver Josh Gordon in the endzone on a Mahomes-like flip pass. After a quick stop on defense, DiNucci led Seattle’s offense on another nice drive ending in a field goal, giving them a 9-nothing lead early in the game.
After the field goal drive, Seattle subbed in quarterback Steven Montez for Ben DiNucci. Since there was no preseason, I assume this was done to see what Montez can do in live game action, as Montez and DiNucci might’ve measured up rather closely in camp.
Montez’s drive quickly stalled out, and DiNucci returned to the game on the next series. Unfortunately, DiNucci didn’t look quite the same for the rest of the game after that point, and it killed Seattle’s momentum.
DiNucci went from getting the ball out quickly, making near NFL-quality throws and decisions, to doing the exact opposite. Seattle didn’t score throughout the whole second quarter and missed a 40-yard field goal along the way.
They’d start to put things together again in the 3rd quarter, with running back Brenden Knox doing some tough running, bouncing off people like a pinball machine, and eventually finding his way into the endzone on a 13-yard touchdown run.
Things really took a turn for the worse on Seattle’s next drive. After a penalty backed them up in their own endzone, Ben DiNucci threw a bad pick-six to Defenders defensive back Michael Joseph.
For whatever reason, despite a pretty successful run game between Brenden Knox and Morgan Ellison, the Sea Dragons decided to pass the ball for every remaining play of the game besides one after that, and D.C.’s defense fully took over.
DiNucci opened the 4th quarter with another bad interception on their own 19-yard line, allowing Ta’amu and D.C.’s offense to score an easy touchdown for the lead.
Seattle’s final three possessions ended in a punt, a turnover on downs, and a fumble lost on Seattle’s final run attempt, which came with 26 seconds on the clock and no timeouts in the redzone.
Needless to say, playcalling late in the game needs to improve. There’s no need to abandon the run game when you’re ahead halfway through the 3rd quarter, and you definitely shouldn’t finally go back to the run on what could potentially be your last play of the game with no timeouts and only 26 seconds on the clock.
All things considered, Seattle’s defense played well, with the highlight being cornerback Bryce Thompson’s interception off Defenders’ quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. The Sea Dragons’ defense kept D.C. in check for a large portion of the night. That said, they’ll need to improve their pass rush moving forward, as their only sack came on a 2-point conversion attempt, which doesn’t count toward the stats.
With Ta’amu slinging the ball and backup quarterback D’Eriq King subbing in for option packages on occasion, the D.C. Defenders will be difficult to beat all season. It wasn’t Ta’amu’s strongest showing through the air, but he’ll surely improve as the season goes on.
It should be noted Seattle’s linebackers played a solid game. Jordan Evans and Tre Walker made some good plays for the Sea Dragons, and Emmanual Smith made some plays off the edge despite the team’s lack of sacks.
Overall, the Seattle Sea Dragons showed they can be a dangerous team in the XFL, but playcalling and consistency on offense have to improve. It probably isn’t the best idea to bench the guy who just gave you momentum and a 9-point lead, but I do understand wanting to see what Montez could do before we get too deep into the season.
Ben DiNucci made some great throws, and he made some really poor throws too, but the offense as a whole showed they’re a talented group. If DiNucci cleans things up a bit and Seattle leans into their run game with Brenen Knox and Morgan Ellison a little more, I think they’ll be in a good spot moving forward. As for the defense, it’ll be interesting to see how their pass rush stacks up against other opponents.
Not Always Pretty, But A Lot To Be Excited About In Seattle.
Performance Grade: C+
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