XFL: D.C. Defenders Use Crowd Energy To Slither Towards Opening Victory
The Defenders remain undefeated at 4-0 in the District. However, D.C.’s 2023 season nearly got off on a sour note. But the combination of Gregg Williams’s defense and a beer-snake-deprived crowd turned lemonade into lemons.
Everything about D.C.’s box score in Week 1 against Seattle reads like a loss. And for all intents and purposes, you could argue that the Defenders’ 22-18 triumph over the Dragons should’ve gone the other way.
The Sea Dragons outgained the Defenders 331 to 177. Seattle possessed the football for nearly 36 minutes. D.C. punted the ball six times and had only had two offensive drives that went longer than twenty yards.
The Defenders’ defense bailed the team out with two game-changing interceptions by Michael Joseph, one for a score. And yet, it took the second worst goal line play in Seattle pro football history, a Ben Dinucci fumble in the final seconds, for D.C. to slither away with a victory.
Other than the favorable result, there were some positives to build up on D.C. as the 2023 season progresses. Most specifically, the team’s defense, led by seasoned pro-Gregg Williams. Because of that side of the ball, the Defenders will be a contender all season long.
D.C. Defenders Offense A Work In Progress
However, Fred Kaiss’s offense needs to get better production overall, specifically from his receiving corps, and perhaps D’Eriq King, who showed flashes of brilliance, will become more of a fixture in the offensive attack.
D.C.’s tandem at quarterback of Jordan Ta’amu and D’Eriq King completed only 9 of 21 passes in week 1. The team threw for a grand total of 93 yards. The Defenders leading receiver Lucky Jackson led the team with four receptions for a paltry 25 yards. In today’s game of pro football, those numbers are only mildly acceptable if a successful ground attack accompanies them.
The problem was that the Defenders’ ground game produced only 2.5 yards per rush on 33 attempts. D.C. was committed to getting their ground game going. But the lack of a passing attack made it easy for Seattle’s defense to key in and shut them down.
Week 2 in the XFL could be a reality check for D.C. if they don’t improve offensively.
XFL 2023 Week Two: D.C. Defenders @ Vegas Vipers Early Preview
Saturday, February 25, 2023
- 7:00 PM-FX/ESPN+, Cashman Field, Las Vegas, NV
- Line: VGS -3.0
- O/U : 36.5
This Saturday, the oddsmakers have 0-1 Vegas as three-point favorites at home. The point total is 36.5, and based on how well Gregg Williams and Cris Dishman’s defense played in week one, the under seems like an obvious play.
Rod Woodson’s Vipers squad is an angry bunch coming off a 22-20 loss to Arlington in the league opener. The Vegas defense played well enough for them to win, but two backbreaking pick-sixes were poison for the Vipers. They did, however, show signs of a solid passing game.
Perhaps not from start to finish, but the Vipers’ passing attack made some key plays early and late, striking three touchdown passes through the air. Vegas has a formidable receiving corps consisting of veterans Jeff Badet, Martis Bryant, Matthew Sexton, and the emerging Cinque Sweeting.
The Defenders, who gave up some plays in the passing game to Seattle, will see it’s secondary challenged again on Saturday.
D.C., which begins its practice week today, will attempt to fluster Luis Perez into the same mistakes he made in Arlington. That’s provided that Perez gets the call again for Vegas at quarterback. Late arrival Brett Hundley, right off the Baltimore Ravens roster, is waiting in the wings.
Offensively, the Defenders will try to get their ground game going against a Vegas front that allowed only 2.7 yards per rush to the Renegades. However, the area to watch in week two will be if D.C. starts to make some personnel changes on offense. TE Ethan Wolf had a rough week one, with a drop and penalty, and the Defenders’ receivers struggled to create separation. Late arrival, Josh Malone could see an uptick in snaps, as could Chad Hansen, who missed the opener due to an illness.
Importance Of Divisional Games In A Shorter Season
It seems foolhardy to overstate the importance of a game in Week 2; however, because of a ten-game season and teams having only six divisional games, each game has more meaning in the standings.
D.C. and St. Louis are tied atop the North Division at 1-0, and the Vipers and Dragons are 0-1. By virtue of their victory over the Dragons, the Defenders are 1-0 in their division. Beating Vegas on the road to get to 2-0 while knocking the Vipers back down will provide an early season advantage in the playoff hunt.
And depending on what transpires between Northern rivals, St. Louis and Seattle on Thursday night. A week two victory by the Defenders could give D.C. sole possession of the North.
The Defenders open the season with five straight divisional matchups, D.C. will return home in Week 3 to square off with St. Louis on March 5th before welcoming the Vipers to what should be a fully realized Beer Snake at Audi Field a week later.
D.C. Defenders Practice Schedule (Monday, February 20 – Sunday, February 26)
*Defenders train in Mansfield, TX;* Practice schedule subject to change
Monday, February 20 – No practice
Tuesday, February 21 – 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET
Wednesday, February 22 – 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET
Thursday, February 23 – 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET
Friday, February 24 – No practice (Travel to Vegas)
Saturday, February 25 – at Vegas Vipers (7 p.m. ET)
Sunday, February 26 – No practice
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