It is getting close to kickoff and the Guardians, like all their sister XFL teams, had their official 52 man roster announced at noon on January 27, 2020. There were some leaks from other social media sources several days before, taking away some of the surprises, but it is just cool knowing they are heading into full game preparation.
The release of the roster omitted those on injured reserve, and no mention of them was done. Their first and third wide receiver picks both suffered injuries in preseason camp and is not on the roster, Deangelo Yancey and Tanner Gentry will both start off the season nursing these wounds. It is hoped that they will both be able to return later in the season, however, there is no mention of them on the roster at all for now. Here are the Guardians going into week 1 action:
Without a doubt the starting QB is Matt McGloin. He has been a lock at this ever since the Guardians QB allocation was announced. He has been strong all camp and looks primed to use his experience and arm strength to lead this team to what will be many wins.
The backup situation is a little more interesting, Marquise Williams has been here from the beginning, but now will be pushed by late pre-season trade addition in Luis Perez. Williams has a unique skill set which may allow them to keep all 3 active at times. Perez was a starting AT QB for the Birmingham Iron, but he struggled In camp for the Los Angeles Wildcats and he was traded to NY, whose reserve QB’s struggled with INT’s in scrimmages while in Texas.
I had heard Perez was in danger of being cut outright if they could not find a place to trade him. It will be interesting to see how many QBs they will dress each week.
One of the bright spots in minicamp and training camp has been the performance of their running backs. They have been running with the same group since the beginning and all 4 of this group will be staying with the team.
Tim Cook and Darius Victor will likely be the cowbell backs for this team. Both are very powerful and strong runners. Victor had his stock rise more than any other offensive skill player while in Houston. He was hard to stop and literally ran over a defensive back in a now-iconic social media video clip.
Justin Stockton will be the main change of pace back, excellent out of the backfield on passing plays, he is explosive and fast and can break big plays on any down. Stockton will look to make the most of his opportunities and I would not be surprised to see him out wide at times in some packages. The other back is Matthew Colburn can be a hybrid back who may get some time in what should be an excellent rotation, We will see how the coaches utilize him from a week to week basis
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
As mentioned, earlier, the Guardians are missing Deangelo Yancey and Tanner Gentry. This will really hurt their depth and really opened up a couple of spots for guys that will be pushed to stay in the league if these injuries heal. Darius Prince a late minicamp add was surprisingly not on the final roster despite a couple of explosive plays in training camp. The Guardians also chose to keep 4 tight ends, which is something you really do not see,
Mekale McKay will be going from the #2 receiver to the #1 and as if to draw attention to this fact, he is changing his jersey number for the regular season to #1, On the opposite side at the #2 receiver spot is likely going to be Teo Redding. Redding joined the team after minicamp and has repeatedly shown the ability to go downfield and make plays over the defense with well-timed leaps. The former Lion/Redskin/Packer is going to benefit the most with the injuries and looks to show his camp was not a fluke and he can handle the elevated duties.
The first slot position will likely belong to Colby Pearson. The former BYU product is shifty and he also spent time in the camps of Packers and Falcons over the last couple of years. The 4th-6th WR slots will be between Justice Liggins, the former Colt and Charger preseason player, who also impressed with some difficult catches and late camp adds Joe Horn Jr (the son of the former Saints WR famous for the cell phone celebration) and Austin Duke who spent time with the Carolina Panthers preseason roster and Toronto Argonauts in the CFL.
The Guardians kept all 4 tight ends from minicamp. EJ Bibbs will be the main pass-catching threat out of the tight ends. The super athletic player was their first tight end pick in the draft. The coaching staff has raved over his athleticism. Jake Sutherland, who scored a preseason touchdown, will surely see time as well and is a real good blocking tight end, who at 6’5 and over 260 has the size of a pro-TE. Sutherland also has special teams experience, which will be important in the XFL. Local product Jake Powell is also a big tight end at 6’6 though not as heavy at 230. Powell has a reputation of being more of a blocker, He does have some ability as a pass-catcher averaging nearly 12 yards per catch in college at Monmouth. Keenan Brown also made the team. Brown is a fairly fast TE and is more of a tight end/big receiver hybrid and may serve more as a second-string in pure passing situations to Bibbs.
The Offensive Line is huge, it also may be a strength of the team. It is also made up of many players who were not with the team after the draft, Ian Silberman was drafted but did not report to minicamp as he was on an NFL practice squad. He joined the team heading into training camp at Houston and he has appeared to win the starting Center position, a position he just picked up when with the Raiders in 2017, He will be backed up by Garrett Brumfield.
Their first offensive line pick, Jarron Jones, will anchor one of the tackle spots The other spots on the line are not as clear as the other players have some versatility with the ability to play Guard and tackle. Likely starter Avery Young was a Tackle while in his stint with the AAF last year, identified as a Guard when he signed and Guardians obtained him in a trade. The 27-year-old veteran of every North American outdoor league is likely to be starting on the line somewhere. Damian Mama was also a late camp additions to the roster and he will likely start at one of the Guard positions along with local product Anthony Coyle, Brant Weiss and the massive John Kling will be vying for time at the other tackle. Versatility is something Gilbride wants on the line and I would not be surprised to see some Guards also playing tackle at times and Centers playing guard if needed,
In my mind, the single most deep player group on the team is the defensive backs.
They will be led by the AAF star cornerback Jamar Summers, He was their number 1 pick as a defensive back and he will see a lot of time on an island, He showed the league what he can do with a pick 6 in scrimmage off DC starter Cardale Jones. He will be joined at CB by Bryce Jones, the former Houston Texan practice squad player, Ranthony Texada (former Redskins camp member), Terrence Alexander (former Viking who gave up a 100K a year job to play), Dejuan Neal and Wesley Sutton.
The Safeties are very strong led by Dravon Askew-Henry, who spent time with the Steelers and Demetrious Cox, who spent time most notably with the Bengals. Expect to see a lot of Andrew Soroh, who is a big hitter who played a rover linebacker position in college before joining the Chiefs, and AJ Hendy, a University of Maryland star who played special teams for the Dolphins before spending time with the Chargers and Texans. All 4 of these guys have the ability to start and all can really play. If one goes down, do not expect to see much of a drop-off.
The linebacker core is really loaded. Like the safeties, we have a lot of talent and if someone goes down, there will not be a big drop off, if any at all. Ben Heeney is the leader of the group as an experienced NFL player with the Bills, he figures to captain the defense. D’Juan Hines, who played in 13 games for the Browns and figures to see a lot of time at one of the outside spots and may figure in special teams as well. Frank Ginda spent time with the Dolphins and Cardinals practice squads before joining the AAF’s San Diego fleet, where he opened eyes as the team’s leader in tackles, at 22, the youngster is ready to continue his progress and expects to see a good amount of time, especially in 3-4 looks.
Nick Deluca, who saw active duty in the NFL, will likely also start for this team This speedy outside linebacker also has a history of being a team leader and is expected to make a big impact here.
In a pass-happy league, you need some LB that can cover also, no problem! The Guardians will be able to roll out Jawaun Johnson, a fast linebacker and former Northern Illinois and TCU product who had 7 INTs in his college career (5 in one season!) when there is an extra TE or FB to account for. Rounding out the linebacker corps will be former KSU and Hamilton Tiger-Cat (CFL) Ryan Mueller, another former college team captain, who can also play DE and is versatile enough as a pass rusher and a tackler. Finally, is former Wisconsin Badger Garrett Dooley, who has spent time in the camps of the Lions and Vikings. Dooley has a very similar skillset and position versatility as Mueller.
For me, this group is both interesting and full of question marks. The strength of the team is up the middle at Defensive Tackle. Joey Mbu saw time in the NFL (active) and in the AAF. He is a big and athletic run stuffer.
Local football fans should know TJ Barnes, another massive tackle who played for the Jets and Bills, amongst others, and spent time with the AAF’s Atlanta Legends. Toby Johnson, who was a star in an indoor league in 2019, spent time with 6 NFL teams and saw active time with the Vikings. Will serve as the primary backup and is expected to be rotated regularly. Cavon Walker may see time at tackle and end depending on need.
The natural defensive ends are a real question mark in terms of professional ability, Charles Wright is a Vanderbilt product with a great story, but he has a history of injuries and missing time. Jarrell Owens, who spent time in camp with the Browns, was a standout for Oklahoma State.
He was never a great stat producer but wows people with his athletic prowess (39 inch vertical) and they hope he can develop into a bigger disruptor. That leaves Bunmi Rotimi who had 19 sacks in college in just over 40 games played. Clearly, nobody here is proven and I expect to see some of these versatile Linebackers also seeing time as de facto ends and used as pass rushers. They are clearly going to be difficult to move up the middle, but it remains to be seen how they will generate regular pressure on the edge,
There has been no change since minicamp. Matt McCrane will be handling the placekicking with Justin Vogel handling the punting and holder jobs with Scott Daly acting as the long snapper. There is good high-level experience here and some NFL kicking time. These guys have been working together for a couple of months now and should be able to operate smoothly when the games start.
There you have it. This is the team they will take the field within less than two weeks when they take on the Tampa Bay Vipers. Tickets are on sale at xfl.com and ticketmaster.com. It is time to play some football.
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