In my preseason rankings, I was sure to disclaim we’d have a lot of movers. We do. While we got a pretty good sense of where teams were at during the offseason, everything was on paper and we now have raw tape to go off of. Lots of exciting action, surprises and disappointments, and we’ve taken that all into account here at XFL News Hub.
1. D.C. Defenders (1-0)
With a statement 31-19 win vs the Seattle Dragons in week one, the Defenders have solidified themselves as the XFL’s team to beat. The Pep Hamilton – Cardale Jones partnership is off to a phenomenal start, as the 27 year old passer went 16/26 for 283 yards and 2 scores. Jones big arm and mobility (28 rush yards) kept the offense moving as he accounted for all but 40 of the team’s 351 yards. Their run game could use some work, but as the backs and line get more in rhythm this season, that should pick up.
Their defense held their own against QB Brandon Silvers, who fielded decent play in his own right. Bradley Sylve and Rahim Moore Sr. each picked him off, and the latter did so to seal the game with a minute left in the game. Dallas Renegades castoff and recent signing Jonathan Massaquoi also proved to be a great pickup as he brought Silvers down with a key sack.
2. Houston Roughnecks (1-0)
It was a tough call whether or not to put them up top because PJ Walker and co had a fantastic outing against the LA Wildcats in a 37-17 blowout. Their team looked to be running on all cylinders here but I want to see more from them because the Wildcats are a mess at this point.
However, we can’t ignore the fact that the Roughnecks performed incredibly in all phases of the game. PJ Walker threw 4 Touchdowns and appeared to be in full control of the offense, also adding 26 yards on the ground. Their RB stable will need to find footing going forward however, as they rank dead last in the league with just 24 yards on 12 attempts.
The Defense is another strong point here, and it looks like their pass rush will breathe down on QB’s all season. They had 5 as a unit, with LB LaTroy Lewis (2) SS Deatrick Nicholls (1), LB Carl Bradford (1), and DE’s Kony Ealy & Corey Crawford (0.5 each) got to the Wildcats’ QB’s. Their unit is tied for first in sacks with NY, but they have a whopping 16 QB hits to their name as a team. I’m saying it now, they’ll lead the league in pass rushing, with Kony Ealy (0.5 sacks, 5 QB Hits) leading the way.
3. St. Louis BattleHawks (1-0)
I hoped I was wrong about the BattleHawks, and I was. On paper, they had an unproven coach and a raw young QB. On the field, they boasted an unstoppable rushing attack (191 yards, 1 TD), a confident, athletic Jordan Ta’amu and a Defensive front that held Phillip Nelsen and co to just 3 field goals.
I’m impressed with Ta’amu’s debut in the XFL, and while the 22 year old passer may have some growing pains this season he looks great right now. He went 20-27 for 209 yards and a score, with 77 yards on the ground. He also had the luxury of leaning on that run game spearheaded by the 6’2″ 239 pound Matt Jones, and that offensive balance should keep the team grounded all season.
Their defense is shaping up as well, as LB’s Terrence Garvin (8 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tfl) and Dexter McCoil (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tfl) lock down the middle of the field, with Safeties Will Hill & Kenny Robinson patrolling the back end. The unit overall had 4 sacks, 7 tackles for loss and a pick on the day.
4. NY Guardians (1-0)
Matt McGloin had a good day in their 23-3 win over Tampa, going 15-29, for 182 yards and a score. As he’s done his whole career, he kept finding ways to get it done. While he suffered more than a few drops at the hands of his targets, the veteran QB looks rocksteady in the new league. RB’s Darius Victor (9-32) and Tim Cook (4-10) didn’t do a whole lot, but we’ll see how their seasons play out.
The Defense here was stifling, and they truly exposed Aaron Murray’s weaknesses as a passer. They brought him down with 5 sacks, Bryce Jones and Andrew Soroh both picked him off, and they didn’t allow a single score. Linebackers Bunmi Rotini Jr and Ben Heeney were all over the field, and Rotini Jr is our first ever XNH Defensive Player of the Week. They did let the Vipers get away with 150 yards on the ground however, and a team with better QB play could’ve capitalized on that momentum.
Overall though, this is a solidly built roster all around with a veteran QB at the controls. They also get bonus points for those uniforms. Too crispy.
5. Dallas Renegades (0-1)
Bob Stoops & Co couldn’t get it done with their backup QB this weekend in a 9-15 defensive battle. I’m not sure if it was just scheme or arm talent, but they looked afraid to push it downfield with Nelsen under center. They’ll be eager to have Landry Jones back next week.
Nelsen may have completed a high percentage of his passes, going 33 for 42, but Dallas couldn’t get out of a dink & dunk pass game and they didn’t commit to the run. Lance Dunbar did okay on 5 carries for 27 yards, but they didn’t call on him much. Cameron Artis-Payne broke out a big one late in the game, but it was called back on a hold and he had just 6 rush yards on the day.
I’m not sure why the play callers ran the ball just 10 times with their backup QB under center and had him make 42 throws. Hopefully, they’ll find their balance, and their identity with Jones. With their starter back, the high volume approach could work though.
On defense, Tegray Scales came through in a big way, making 5 stops with a sack and 3 tackles for loss. Moving forward, he should be a centerpiece on this unit.
To all the Dallas fans, I’m just going to say: R-E-L-A-X. Yes, the offense under Phillip Nelsen looked stale and their run defense got pounded by STL, but they’re primed for a comeback next week against the Wildcats. Hang in there.
6. Seattle Dragons
Despite a 19-31 loss to the Defenders, the Dragons did a lot of things well, and fans shouldn’t be too disheartened. Through Brandon Silvers threw a couple of picks late in a comeback try, he put some good play on tape as well. He passed for 217 yards and 3 scores, and the connection with Austin Proehl is apparent. The son of longtime NFL wideout Ricky Proehl, he had 5 receptions for 88 yards and 2 scores.
Their platoon of Ja’Quan Gardner, Trey Williams and Kenneth Farrow was solid on the ground, but they had to throw early and often after losing the lead to D.C.
The defense gave way to Cardale Jones’ attack, but I can already tell Steven Johnson is going to be the leader of this unit. The former Denver Bronco made plays all over the field, and we’ll be seeing his name a lot this season.
7. LA Wildcats
The Wildcats are in a tough spot. They’re without starting QB Josh Johnson, and replacement Chad Kanoff couldn’t get it done on Saturday. Kanoff was called on a lot as the Roughnecks pulled ahead to an early lead, but he couldn’t deliver. He completed 53% of his passes, threw an interception, and scored TD’s on through the air and on the ground. No word on whether he’ll start next week, but he was pulled twice in favor of Jalan McClendon in the 4th quarter. McClendon contributed 5 yards to the offense.
The run game didn’t get much traction as Elijah Hood led the back with 43 yards at 3.6 ypc. Hood is a good back, but having a reliable air attack would be a massive help.
The Wildcats defense is in limbo right now. After giving up 37 points to the Roughnecks, Winston Moss fired Defensive Coordinator Pepper Johnson, and cut Defensive Captain LB Anthony Johnson. So. We don’t know who the new DC is yet, and I can’t imagine firing two leaders of that unit bodes well for the locker room. On a brighter note, Shawn Oakman looked to be all that was promised in his Pro Football debut, as he got himself a sack, a tackle for loss and swatted down a pass at the line. Definitely a player to watch.
8. Tampa Bay Vipers
There was a lot of hype before week one for the Vipers, and I understood none of it. Sure, Marc Trestman is a wizard who has put together some fantastic teams in the CFL, but I didn’t see any magic on the field on Sunday. Aaron Murray struggled mightily, completing just 47% of his passes, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. They pulled him a couple times for Quinton Flowers, but he played almost the entire game.
The offense actually seemed to find some life with Flowers in as a dual threat, and DeVeon Smith had a solid day with 79 yards at 4.9 a clip. However, if they continue to start Aaron Murray, and he continues to struggle, this offense is in trouble. Daniel Williams and Nick Truesdell are good targets, but they need better play under center.
Their defensive squad struggled as well. They had no sacks, only two tackles for a loss and gave up 2 TD’s. The only real positive here was CB Anthoula Kelly, who broke up 3 passes on the day.
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Defensive Coordinator Pepper Johnson Fired by LA Wildcats, Anthony Johnson Released by Los Angeles...