Saturday was the official kickoff for day one of practice for all XFL teams, but all eyes are on the hub spot home team Arlington Renegades and how they will look.
The expectations for the Arlington Renegades as just as high as they were back in 2020 due to the man running the show for the team head coach Bob Stoops. Coach Stoops’ experience as a national champion in college and the only returning head coach for the XFL puts him at an advantage over some of the newer head coaches in the league. He has made sure the coaching staff is also filled with plenty of experience that should help the players get ready sooner.
Speaking of players, the roster has a wealth of knowledge and experience in all three phases of the game. There are many uncertainties when it comes down to the roster which always makes training camp exciting for everyone to speculate on who will start, who will play, and who will miss the cut. The camp battles that will be taking place the next month will be the most fascinating part other than the season starts.
Top Arlington Renegade Storylines
Starting Quarterback Battle
Back in the 2020 XFL training camp, there was no question for the Renegades on who would be their signal caller under center. Landry Jones was the first player signed by the league in 2019 and was instantly the face of the XFL. It was clear as day he was going to be the starting quarterback. Except for an injury early in camp that cost him a chance to start in week one of the regular season.
Things are a little different this time around as it might not be as clear who the starting quarterback will be for Arlington. Some would say that even though there are three quarterbacks on the roster, it might all come down to two quarterbacks: Kyle Sloter or Drew Plitt.
Both quarterbacks can use their feet and have great arms. The difference comes with Sloter having more professional football experience and a taller stature than Plitt. While those are key, Plitt is seen as more athletic and has more upside to develop into a good quarterback.
All fans will have their sights on the quarterback battle taking place in training camp simply because it is the most important position on the team. The quarterback position was a concern for the Renegades in 2020 due to injuries, inconsistent play, and turnovers. Coach Stoops knows that he needs to get this correct in order for his team to be competitive.
XFL Experience Headlines Backfield
Loyal Renegades fans are foaming at the mouth seeing the deep, experienced, talented backfield they will be watching this season. Between Kenneth Farrow, De’Veon Smith, and Keith Ford, Arlington has plenty of reasons to believe they will be one of the top rushing attacks in the league. All three played in the 2020 XFL season with all three seeing good playing time.
Smith was the leading rusher in the league through five weeks with 365 yards on the ground. Farrow finished 12th in rushing yards with 156 yards. Ford didn’t rush as much as the other two but did finish tied for third in rushing touchdowns with two on the season.
While all three have a lot of professional football experience, the 2020 XFL season was the last time all three players played football at a high level. Smith was previously going to play in the USFL for the Pittsburgh Maulers last year but was released from the team. It may take a bit for all three to hit the ground running, but make no mistake that by the end of the season, the Renegades will be among the best rushing the football.
Defense Fueled With Veterans
The XFL better be ready to face off against a defense that has experience at all three levels on the defensive side of the ball. Starting on the defensive line, Will Clarke and Tomasi Laulile both previously saw good playing time in the 2020 XFL playing key roles. While the XFL website has Donald Payne listed as a defensive lineman, Payne proved to be the top tackler in the USFL last season at the linebacker position.
Edmond Robinson and Nick Temple were also players that had plenty of playing time in the 2020 XFL season at linebacker. Ryan Mueller is another linebacker who played for the New York Guardians as well. It’ll be interesting to see if Payne will move to linebacker and defensive end or just stay on the defensive line.
De’Vante Bausby, Will Hill, and Rahim Moore all headlines the secondary that showcased each of them has NFL experience. Josh Hawkins also has NFL experience but played under coach Stoops with the Renegades in 2020 so he knows what is expected of the defense. While Joe Powell was more of a special team returner with the only XFL kickoff return for a touchdown in 2020, he too understands what it takes.
With all these veteran players on the roster, this could end up being a blessing in disguise or could backfire on the team. Each team should have a good balance of veteran experience with young talent. The roster has a feel of more of a veteran-heavy unit, but all those players mentioned in this section will make immediate impacts and help develop the younger players for years to come.
How the 2023 Renegades Look Compared to the 2020 Team
The reality is the setup of the Renegades will be a little bit different from what fans saw back in 2020. One of the biggest differences comes with the offense and how it’ll look. Former offensive coordinator Hal Mumme ran the air raid offense which relied on passing the football and has versatile running backs. Co-offensive coordinators Jonathan Hayes and Chuck Long will be leaning more on the running game and moving the quarterback on the run.
Former defensive coordinator Chris Woods ran a 3-4 defense back in 2020 that saw the linebacker position splitting up between rushing the passer off the edge or standing back at linebacker. Fans might see something similar with co-defensive coordinators Jay Hayes and Tim Lewis’ system. Based on the league website, Donald Payne is listed as a defensive lineman which could mean he might linebacker as well.
Coach Stoops has assembled a team filled will veterans at key positions including the running backs, secondary, and special teams. That focus of the draft could give a clear indication of what positions coach Stoops has deemed to be the most important for the team. Especially in alternative pro football leagues like the XFL, it’s important to have a good amount of veterans who know how winning teams should practice.
There are many unknowns as to who will make the team and who will be a day-one starter. Fans will be speculating throughout the next four to five weeks on everything surrounding the team. Regardless of what happens, coach Stoops has assembled a strong coaching staff with veteran players that should make them competitive for the upcoming season.
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