Seattle Dragons (0-0) vs D.C. Defenders (0-0)
Saturday, February 8th 2020 2:00 pm EST @ Audi Field (ABC)
Favorite: Defenders -7.5 (Bovada.com)
Dragons and Defenders Kick off the XFL Season
In the XFL’s first game, Jim Zorn’s Seattle Dragons will travel to Washington D.C. to face off against Pep Hamilton’s Defenders. The Defenders are the clear favorite here at -7.5, and there’s been a ton of hype building behind them all offseason. From QB Cardale Jones to WR’s Rashad Ross and Eli Rogers, they have some high-profile talent ready to make some waves.
The Dragons, while undervalued at this point still have a lot going for them, and HC Jim Zorn is one of the XFL’s more accomplished coaches. A former QB himself, he’s been a valued position coach there for years, with gigs as an OC and HC in the NFL. He’s starting QB Brandon Silvers, who had a successful run in the AAF last season after beating out Johnny Manziel for the Memphis Express starting gig.
Brandon Silvers (12) vs Cardale Jones (12)
Silvers and Jones have taken two vastly different routes to the league. Brandon Silvers was a 4-year starter at Troy but went undrafted in the NFL. He found a spot in the AAF and earned his way on the field, putting up efficient and steady play in 2 starts, going 1-1.
Jones won a National Championship at Ohio State, but never started a full season there. He competed for the job with JT Barrett, Braxton Miller and Joe Burrow his whole time as a Buckeye. He shone with big play ability on the national stage, and was drafted by the Bills in 2016. He hasn’t seen much playing time in the pros, but flashes tools that coaches drool over, and doesn’t shy away in big moments.
S Jordan Martin (33) vs WR Rashad Ross (15)
The Dragons have a deep secondary, but they’ll have their hands full trying to cover a WR corps full of NFL talent. The most important matchup here, with the most game-breaking potential, is Martin vs Thompkins.
Martin is a free safety with good length and speed and will be tasked locking down the back end of the field. Ross is a speedy vet with 4.4 speed and was the AAF’s leading receiver last year. If he gets over the top, Cardale Jones can unleash his cannon and send deep strikes all day long. This matchup could determine some of the game’s biggest plays.
LB Steven Johnson (59) vs RB Jhurell Pressley (26)
The Defenders air attack looks pretty dangerous, but how Seattle contends with it’s run will play a big part in establishing the pace. If Dragons LB and NFL vet Steven Johnson can step up and stuff rushers at the line, it’ll go a long way towards neutralizing that offense. He started 7 games with the Denver Broncos and has played with the Titans, Steelers, and Ravens. Last year he and Pressley both played on the Arizona Hotshots, where he made 5 tackles, good for top 5 in the league.
Jhurell Pressley led the AAF in rush yards last spring and is a slasher in the run game. He has the speed to get to that edge, and if he can break off some chunk plays, it could sink the Dragons’ hopes.
Injury Report (via Draft Kings)
OT Isaiah Battle – Out (ankle)
TE Cam Clear – Out (-)
S Tyson Graham – Out (hand)
WR Kasen Williams – Out (quad)
WR Alonzo Moore – Questionable (hip)
WR Deandre Thompkins – Out (foot)
LB Scooby Wright III – Out (knee)
S Shamarko Thomas – Questionable (thigh)
DE Travis Barnes – Probable (arm)
S Matt Elam – Probable (thigh)
G Dorian Johnson – Probable (shoulder)
DB Bradley Sylve – Probable (thigh)
The Dragons are heavy underdogs here, but we can’t count them out. Jim Zorn is a fantastic coach and they have the ability to slow the Defenders attack and score points of their own. However, it’s hard to overlook the high scoring potential that DC’s offense brings to the field, and I think we’ll see an exciting contest either way.
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