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XFL 2023: Houston Roughnecks Week 8 Recap, Top Performers

On Sunday afternoon, the Houston Roughnecks got their fifth win of the season, and more importantly clinched a playoff berth with over 1 million people tuning in on ABC. It sure wasn’t pretty, as the Roughnecks had to go into overtime with the now 2-6 Brahmas. However, as it’s often said in football, “a win is a win.”

Top Performers (Offense)

Max Borghi, RB, Washington State

Borghi only averaged a measly 1.4 yards per carry on 7 attempts, but he finished the afternoon as Houston’s leading receiver (3 catches, 49 yards). It was another slow day on offense for the Roughnecks, but Borghi continues to be a playmaker two months into the season.

Michael Bandy, WR, San Diego

Bandy led the team in targets (9) against San Antonio, and while he only ended up catching 4 passes for 29 yards, it was a step in the right direction for the former Charger. Hopefully, he will continue to see an increase in production through weeks 9 and 10. 

Brandon Silvers, QB, Troy

Although he only completed 47 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions, Silvers was still able to lead a promising touchdown drive on Houston’s first possession. This put them in a dominant position for the rest of the game, even if they failed to capitalize on some plays down the stretch. It’s also worth noting that the offensive line had a rather poor outing, meaning Silvers was under more pressure than normal while coming off an injury.

Top Performers (Defense)

Tavante Beckett, LB, Marshall

Beckett became a tackling machine against the Brahmas, recording 14 total (4 solo) along with a tackle for loss and pass deflection. The Marshall alum has been a consistent performer this season, and stepped up with Emmanuel Ellerbee out.

Caliph Brice, LB, Florida Atlantic

Brice, a camp body who was part of final roster cuts and recently re-signed, had a breakout performance Sunday afternoon. The former FAU Owl recorded 10 total tackles (3 solo), 2 tackles for loss, and a pass deflection. He too helped fill the void left behind by Ellerbee, and it’s now clear that the Roughnecks might have the deepest linebacker room in the XFL. 

Jack Heflin, DT, Iowa

Heflin was one of several players on the Roughnecks defensive line who impressed on Sunday. He finished the game with 8 total tackles (4 solo), 1 sack, and 1 tackle for loss. Heflin hasn’t been talked about much this season, but like many on the team, is proving to be a valuable asset.

Honorable Mentions

Garrett Owens, TE, Duquesne (1 catch, 5 yards, 1 touchdown)

Trent Harris, EDGE, Miami (4 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss)

Thoughts & Notes

As I mentioned in my preview article last week, this was supposed to be a “get right” game for the Roughnecks. While they were able to come away with the win, it became much more of a challenge than it should have been, and there are still several unanswered questions with just two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Houston’s performance was reminiscent of what they had earlier in the season, but not in the best of ways. The offense got off to a hot start, then cooled off much more than they normally do. It was one of the few issues back when the Roughnecks had their winning streak going, but it’s even more amplified now with playoffs on the horizon. Fortunately, the defense kept the team alive, and made some adjustments that had been missing in recent weeks. Of course, the “strength of opponent” argument comes into play here again, with San Antonio being a weak team in the weaker of the two XFL divisions.

It’s also clear that the Roughnecks still miss Jontre Kirklin more than anybody. The offense has taken a very notable dip in production since his departure, and no replacement has emerged even a month later. As I’ve said in the past, Deontay Burnett has the best shot to make up for that loss, but he finished Sunday’s game with just 2 catches for 8 yards. He still had a touchdown and the game-winning play in overtime (Cole McDonald helped with that, too), but it’s those successful shots down the field that have been missing for far too long. Michael Bandy is another candidate, however, it might be too late in the season for him to reach his full potential.

On a more positive note, the defense is still one of the best units in the XFL, recording 6 sacks and 7 tackles for loss in Sunday’s win. Tavante Beckett, Caliph Brice, and Jack Heflin were my picks for top performers of the week, but there were several more players on that side of the ball who made a difference (CJ Brewer, Will Likely, Chauncey Rivers, etc.). There can be more trust put into them right now, but they will have to carry a lot of weight if things don’t change.

All in all, this game wasn’t what it should have been, yet Houston still got the job done when it mattered most. After three straight losses, it was refreshing to come out on top, even if there was a lack of confidence. Most importantly, there is still time to correct the issues and re-focus on the team’s identity. 

I’ll end this article with one of my favorite highlights of the season (shoutout to Trevon Mason)

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

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