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XFL 2023: Houston Roughnecks Week 1 Recap

The Houston Roughnecks kept their undefeated streak alive on Saturday night, taking down the division rival Orlando Guardians 33-12 and giving the team a 6-0 record dating back to 2020. Of course, they are only 1-0 in 2023, but the Roughnecks still looked like the squad to beat across all eight teams who played over the weekend.

Not only did Houston score the most points in any game (33), but they also had the largest margin of victory (21). While the Guardians were generally viewed as one of the weaker XFL teams heading into this season, the Roughnecks got the job done and look more than prepared for their matchup against the Arlington Renegades on Sunday. 

Top Performers (Offense)

Deontay Burnett, WR, USC

Burnett’s outing in the season opener would have the average person thinking he was coming off a week in the NFL. However, it has been over two years since Burnett suited up for his last professional team, the Philadelphia Eagles. The former USC Trojan was targeted 12 times against the Guardians, and finished the game with 8 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown (all team highs). Burnett also had the most highlight-worthy play of the evening, catching a 46-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Silvers early in the second quarter. 

Max Borghi, RB, Washington State

As expected, Borghi looked like the XFL version of Christian McCaffrey this past weekend, touching the ball 12 times (8 carries, 4 catches). He also recorded 74 total yards and a touchdown, the latter of which came on a 27-yard run shortly after Burnett’s score in the second quarter. That 27-yard run helped Borghi average 5.3 yards per carry on the ground, an efficient number for an efficient offense. While Borghi will likely have some better performances as the season progresses, he’s certainly a player who could be ready to jump back into the NFL.

Brandon Silvers, QB, Troy

While Silvers slowed down in the second half, he had the Roughnecks rolling early, picking up right where he left off in the The Spring League (TSL). It was nothing spectacular for the 28-year-old (26/42, 272 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT), but Silvers proved he knew the offense and was capable of taking shots downfield. As I mentioned in my preview article, the leash on Silvers is a short one, but there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be starting in week 2. It also helps that he finished week 1 as the XFL’s second-leading passer in terms of yardage, coming in behind the Sea Dragons’ Ben DiNucci.

Top Performers (Defense)

Trent Harris, LB, Miami

Harris arguably had the best defensive performance across the XFL, recording 4 solo tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks. The Super Bowl LIII champ has established himself as a leader in Wade Phillips’ scheme, and will look to be even more disruptive against a Renegades team that had a strong defensive performance of their own in week 1. 

Tim Ward, LB, Old Dominion

Trent Harris wasn’t the only force to be dealt with for the Roughnecks up front, as former Kansas City Chief and New York Jet Tim Ward recorded 4 solo tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. Some of these numbers can be attributed to poor offensive line play by the Guardians, but even then, Ward will have no problem racking up league awards if this continues. 

Sean Davis, S, Maryland

Davis recorded 5 solo tackles and an interception against the Guardians, an above-average performance for the six-year NFL veteran. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart coached Davis for three of his four years in college, and the connection between the two proved to be helpful on Saturday. The former Pittsburgh Steeler turns 30 in October, so although his return to the top will be harder compared to some others on the team, he is making a case for himself early.

Honorable Mentions

Jontre Kirklin, WR, LSU (5 catches, 71 yards, 1 touchdown)

Tavante Beckett, LB, Marshall (4 solo tackles, 1 interception)

Thoughts & Notes

When the Guardians went up 6-0 early after a controversial touchdown call, the Roughnecks took it personally, scoring 24 unanswered points and essentially putting the game away by halftime. The team played with plenty of aggression, and wanted to let their opponents know they weren’t afraid of anything. As was stressed many times before, the Guardians shouldn’t be the biggest test of the season, but week 1 gave the Roughnecks an opportunity to say “we’re here and we’re not leaving.” 

A lot of the discussion surrounding the Houston Roughnecks heading into 2023 was whether or not they could carry the momentum from 2020, as they were one of the more exciting teams to watch and found great success on both sides of the football. While no team is exactly perfect even if the record indicates it, these Roughnecks already look like championship contenders right out of the gate. The crowd may not have been as big as it was three years ago, but the fans wouldn’t have let you know that with their constant participation and energy. The love for this team is strong, and will only build over the coming weeks.

After causing the only blowout in week 1 of the season, the idea that this team can get even better seems somewhat unrealistic. However, with a deep roster and experienced coaching staff, the ceiling is extremely high. The Roughnecks certainly need to capitalize on their talent over the next two weeks, as they will remain at home and face more opponents within the division. On a final note before week two preparations, the best word to describe this team having watched them live is “intimidating.” 

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Football journalist/scout/future coach covering the Houston Roughnecks. Air Raid/Run-and-Shoot enthusiast.

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