The first-ever minicamp practices of the DC Defenders have wrapped up and the team many believe will be one of the strongest teams in the league showed fans what they have to look forward to. The Defenders wrapped up their practices approaching playing shape and as a tighter cohesive unit. Everybody was clearly just happy to be back and enjoying playing ball.
In the Quarterback room, the Defenders clearly can conclude that they have one of the strongest rooms in the league. Cardale Jones, arguably the XFL’s biggest household name, showed a strong arm and desire to be not just a leader on the field, but an organizational leader. Jones throughout Minicamp was one of the most active players on Social Media and in the community. Cardale is well on his way to being a fan favorite not only with the Defenders but in the entire league. 6 ft 7 QB and former highly coveted NFL undrafted free agent, Tyree Jackson, had a sharp camp by all accounts. I believe I could make a pretty good argument that Jackson would be in line to be a starting Quarterback with several other XFL franchises. Vad Lee, James Madison University and former Georgia Tech option ace had a good camp too, sticking around on the roster through the first round of cuts. This will be an extremely fun group to watch in Training Camp, under the tutelage of the guy that made such a positive impact on Andrew Luck.
The Defenders strategically put together one of the most proven and electric Runningback groups in the entire XFL. We got our first look at NCAA career rushing yard leader and NFL 4th round pick, Donnel Pumphrey Jr., who I fully expect to light up league defenses if consistently healthy. According to team observers, Pumphrey has held on to his infamous speed, showing it throughout camp. Competing with Pumphrey, you have the AAF’s season rushing yard leader Jhurell Pressley, who brings expansion league success and a more bruising dynamic than Pumphrey. Rounding out the group, you have another James Madison University standout in Khalid Abdullah. Abdullah, the second-leading rusher in JMU history, had a solid camp. According to the current roster, the Defenders also have 2018 Penn State Graduate John Thomas on the roster.
For the Wide Receiver group, it’s clear that Cardale will have some weapons to throw to. Eli Rogers, DeAndre Thompkins, and Max McCaffrey (Christian’s older brother) reportedly all had their moments in camp. There is no reason to believe that Eli Rogers won’t be one of the most dominant receivers in the league after being a standout at times for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Other Wide Receivers in camp that had moments and are still listed on the roster include Tyler Palka, NFL veteran Tre McBride, University of Alabama champion Richard Mullaney, Frank Brown, Deion Holliman, and Malachi Dupre. The Defenders have a deep and experienced core, even after losing their number 1 pick in the draft, Rashard Davis, to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans (where he caught his first NFL pass in week 17). If minicamp was evidence, there are some tough decisions incoming.
At tight end, local Bowie State product Khari Lee is definitely vying to become a force within the Defenders offense. Lee was reportedly one of the most consistent pass-catchers in camp. In addition to Lee, the Defenders have 4 other tight ends still currently listed on the roster that got some practice time.
By DC Defender team reports, the Offensive Line was a tough position to evaluate during the practice periods. A few notes confirmed that Jon Toth should expect to be a physical anchor on the Offensive Line. A couple of other key standouts were Cole Boozer (a very popular player on the Defenders Twitter feed) and UTEP’s Logan Tulley-Tillman.
The defense for the Defenders is certainly a bigger question mark than the offense. The Defenders lost several drafted players to the NFL, like James Vaughters. Vaughters was probably slotted to be a starter and pass-rushing star in the league, after dominating the Canadian Football League. Vaughters is now with the Chicago Bears, playing in 3 regular-season games.
According to team observers, the defensive line showed out throughout Minicamp. Big Albanian Defensive End, Kristjan Sokoli, stood out on many of his plays. Tracy Sprinkle joined Sokoli on having a strong camp. Apparently Tavaris Barnes had an excellent camp, but wasn’t listed on the Training Camp roster shared here, but is still being included on the team’s Twitter account. Don’t forget that the Defenders also have Jay Bromley, a very experienced NFL veteran, getting back on the field for practices. Seems like there will be some good battling in camp to sort out who starts and who provides depth.
The Defenders have a lot of athletic linebackers to choose from. One of the most recognizable names and the one that dominated camp is All American Scooby Wright. Scooby is clearly a natural leader and is ready to make an impact on the Defenders. Rounding out the linebacking core, you saw some action from Jesse Aniebonam (Maryland), Jonathan Celestin (Minnesota), Koa Farmer (Penn State), KeShun Freeman (Georgia Tech), Kerron Johnson (Coastal Carolina), Sam Montgomery (LSU), AJ Tarpley (Stanford), and Jameer Thurman (Indiana State). Koa Farmer is an interesting player to watch, as a 6 ft 1 Safety/Linebacker hybrid. He played both positions at Penn State and is so athletic that he even had 408 kick return yards as a Freshman. Sam Montgomery was also a name mentioned as a practice standout by Defenders content staff.
In the secondary, the Defenders showed some potential at Cornerback and a ton of NFL experience at Safety. DC Defender staff seems to have anointed Cornerback Reggie Cole as one of the best players of the entire camp.
“The two-time Division II national champion made big play after big play, but also showed the character and leadership needed to build team chemistry.”
Another player worth mentioning is Deion Harris, who seemingly picked up right where he left off from the Washington Redskins training camp where he showed flashes. Northern Iowa CB, Elijah Campbell, also apparently showed a knack for some big hits. Look for him to try to rack up some viral hits, based on observations from camp.
At Safety, you have two very experienced NFL veterans in Matt Elam and Rahim Moore. Elam, an NFL first-round pick, immediately took the reins as a defensive leader for DC. According to observers, Carlos Merritt also showed a propensity in camp to find that big hit, so keep a lookout for him.
In a fun experiment, Hunter Niswander will be handling both punting and kicking duties. In camp, DC Defenders staff reported that he was making kicks consistently from long distances.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Konnor Fulk excelled in the Sports Management Program at Georgia Southern University. He spent several seasons working with the Washington Redskins in fan engagement, strategy, and sales strategy. Additionally, Mr. Fulk continues consulting services across the sport of NASCAR. Konnor has a longstanding obsession with the concept of Spring Football and is looking forward to sharing his expertise and opinions about the XFL relaunch. Connect with Konnor on LinkedIn or give him a follow on Twitter @XFLKonnor
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