DC Defenders XFL 2020 Schedule Analysis

DC Defenders Schedule

When is a game more than just a game? When an entire league’s reputation and perception are potentially at stake. Superbowl III was more than just a game. The truth is that while talks were on-going and probably inevitable, of a merger between the NFL and AFL back in the late sixties, the two league experiment wasn’t going very well. The NFL was the superior football league and the first two non-NFL championship game “Superbowls” were noncompetitive and just glorified exhibitions. They didn’t draw very well and lacked credibility in the football world. The AFL didn’t appear as if it really belonged.  As heavy underdogs, the Jets carried the burden of an entire league on their shoulders when they upset the Baltimore Colts. A year later, the Chiefs would go to win the Superbowl and solidify the now AFC forever.

On Saturday, February 8th, 2020.   The XFL is actually going to get a second chance to make a first impression. The original XFL’s first chance to make an impression failed in spectacular fashion. The league debuted in front of a sold-out crowd in Las Vegas on primetime network television.  For a first-year league playing its first-ever game, the expectations and ratings were through the roof. Unfortunately, the game and the entire league crashed through the basement floor. The league wasn’t ready for primetime and it never really recovered from the premiere game in the public’s eyes. The play and product did get better as the season progressed but it was too little, too late. This time around, the league is debuting on ABC and Fox, in a back to back network doubleheader in the afternoon but the same stakes are in place. The question leading into the XFL 2020 schedule reveal was, “How would the current XFL go about scheduling their first and arguably most important game of the season?”  In terms of the mainstream public, none of the games have more importance than the first impression that the XFL makes. How the premiere game plays out will have an effect on football fans who are on the fence about watching the XFL, and whether they will decide to continue watching the league.

The choice for the premiere game could have been in Dallas. After all, Texas is football country. Globe Life Park is being retrofitted and reimagined for pro football. Bob Stoops is making his return to the sidelines, with the Innovator of the Air Raid Offense, Hal Mumme calling plays for Stoops former Quarterback Landry Jones. While Dallas Cowboys legend Daryl “Moose” Johnston watches the Renegades team he constructed along with Stoops.

The kickoff game for the XFL could have been St. Louis in The Dome. The return of pro football to the River City.  It could also have been in Los Angeles, with the Wildcats kicking off the season from the city where LA’s last pro football champions played. The premiere game could have been on the biggest stage possible with New York at Metlife Stadium. What’s old is new again could have been the theme with June Jones and his legendary run and shoot offense making a spring pro football comeback to the city of Houston. Decades after lighting up scoreboards with the Houston Gamblers in the USFL. The XFL season could have started in Tampa, six days after the Superbowl is played in the very same venue. One of the best and most passionate sports cities in the world in Seattle could have also played host to the XFL’s return.

The DC Defenders are getting the honor and distinction of being the team that kicks off the XFL season at home. Arguably the most important game of the entire XFL season and league is the first one.  At the start of any season, there is always pressure to win and get off on the right foot. This opening game goes beyond just the normal pressures of winning and losing. The DC Defenders and Seattle Dragons share in the same pressure of being the game that sets the tone and creates a new first impression for the league.

WEEK 1- HOME VS THE SEATTLE DRAGONS- SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8th, 2PM  ET/11AM PT, AUDI FIELD, ABC

A lot of firsts in this game. This will be Pep Hamilton’s first-ever game as a pro football head coach. It could be Cardale Jones first-ever start as a pro football quarterback. Both the Head Coach and Quarterback are finally getting their chance to shine in roles they have waited quite some time for.  Legendary Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Jim Zorn brings his Seattle Dragons, to the scene of his previous crimes in DC. At least that’s the way, DC football fans feel about Jim Zorn and his time coaching there. This is a very early game for Seattle, so it’s possible that the Dragons come out to DC a day or two earlier just to get adjusted. The setting is a unique one. While XFL teams like Seattle, play in tradition football stadiums, the Defenders will be playing their home games at the home of Major League Soccer’s DC United. A beautiful smaller-sized stadium that is designed to make the fans feel like they are on the field with the players.  Early returns on ticket sales have been positive and this game has the potential to be at or near capacity come February. If you are a fan of football weather in the winter, this game has a chance to fill that need. Two of the teams playing in the coldest weather environments will be playing at home in week one in NY and DC, and it would make for an interesting style of play if this game ends up with snowy conditions.

WEEK 2- HOME VS THE NEW YORK GUARDIANS- SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15TH, 2PM/ET, AUDI FIELD, ABC

DC has 4 games currently scheduled on ABC, with a potential 5th in the final week of the season. This is the Defenders’ first divisional game on their schedule. The two markets have pro football history going back between one another for many years now. They are natural rivals. DC has 4 of their first 6 games at home. So these home divisional games are going to be very important for the Defenders.

WEEK 3- AT THE LOS ANGELES WILDCATS- SUNDAY FEBRUARY 23rd, 6 PM ET/9 PM PT, DIGNITY HEALTH SPORTS PARK, FS1

Much like the Defenders, the Wildcats play in a soccer stadium that the Chargers and MLS’s LA Galaxy share. This is DC’s longest road trip of the season after starting off the first two weeks at home. To their benefit, it is a later game and they do have an extra day to prep for it. The weather can be a complete contrast from what DC has seen up until this point. Cardale Jones returns to LA, the place he has been in the NFL since 2017.

WEEK 4- AT THE TAMPA BAY VIPERS- SUNDAY MARCH 1ST, 7PM ET, RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM, ESPN 2

The second straight road and night game for the Defenders. This can technically be considered the league’s first prime time game. This is also the first game where the Defenders will be playing in a traditional pro football stadium.

WEEK 5- HOME VS THE ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS- SUNDAY MARCH 8TH, 3PM ET/2 PM CT, AUDI FIELD, FS1

The Defenders return home after a 2 game road trip. This will be their second straight divisional matchup. The game features a  battle of two first time head coaches in Hamilton and Jonathan Hayes. Hamilton, Hayes and Winston Moss are the three coaches in the league who all share the same distinction. FS1 is a frequent home for Defender games during the season. This is also the third of five straight Sunday games for the Defenders.

WEEK 6- HOME VS THE THE DALLAS RENEGADES- SUNDAY MARCH 15TH, 4 PM ET, AUDI FIELD, FS1

This could be a preview of the XFL Championship game. Two of the more accomplished Quarterbacks in the entire league face off in Cardale Jones and Landry Jones. This is a crucial stretch for the Defenders before they close the regular season playing 3 of their last 4 games on the road. The Renegades are projected and rightfully so to be one of the league’s best teams. This is another market in Dallas, that DC has a long-standing natural rivalry with.

WEEK 7- AT THE HOUSTON ROUGHNECKS- SUNDAY MARCH 22ND, 6PM ET, TDECU STADIUM, FS1

In a wide-open fast-paced league that the XFL figures to be, this matchup is one of the reasons that DC went so corner heavy in their DB draft, taking 7 corners in total. You need them all against June Jones and the Run and Shoot offense.

WEEK 8- HOME VS THE TAMPA BAY VIPERS- SATURDAY MARCH 28TH, 2P ET,  AUDI FIELD, ABC

The final home game of the season at Audi Field for the DC Defenders. If the Defenders win the Eastern Division, they will not be able to host a playoff game at Audi Field, as the venue will not be available. It’s unfortunate but the drawback to not being a primary tenant. DC hopes to be in that position by the end of the season. The league would have to set up potential alternate sites. RFK is not in the cards and FedEx may not be either. So it’s possible that in the DMV, Navy or Maryland’s football stadiums could be alternate sites. Since the league’s championship game figures to be at a neutral site. This would only be a 1-week issue. The Defenders are going to have to win this game to keep any home game playoff scenarios a reality. They are finally back playing on ABC and on Saturday afternoon.

WEEK 9- AT THE NEW YORK GUARDIANS- SATURDAY APRIL 4TH, 2 PM ET, METLIFE STADIUM, ABC

Huge divisional matchup. The Defenders close out their season with two straight divisional games on the road. If DC makes the playoffs, they will have earned it.

WEEK 10- AT THE ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS- SUNDAY APRIL 12TH, GAME TIME TBD, THE DOME AT AMERICA’S CENTER, ABC/FS1

The time and channel that this game will air are yet to be determined. Disney and Fox are supposed to make that decision in March. The western division playoff teams could  be decided on Saturday. It’s all about the East on Sunday. Depending on where the Defenders and BattleHawks stand by seasons end. This could end be the toughest road game for any team in the XFL. If the playoffs are on the line in this game. St. Louis is going to be electric. New York and Tampa play on this final day of the regular season as well. So all 4 division teams play each other in the final weekend. Only two of them are going to the playoffs. There’s a chance that DC could be headed right back here in the following week or that St. Louis could be headed to play DC. Rather fitting that DC could be in the position of starting and finishing the XFL regular season.

Seattle Dragons Phase 2 – XFL Draft Recap

RD 1 : Isaiah Battle OT

With the first pick of the offensive linemen phase, the Seattle Dragons selected Isaiah Battle from Clemson. In 2015, Battle was drafted in the 5th round of the supplemental draft by the St. Louis Rams. He went on to play for 3 more teams before being waived by the Panthers back in May. Battle should start the season as the Dragon’s LT and will have a big duty to keep Silver’s blindside clean.

RD 2: Venzell Boulware OG

Seattle went for the 6’3 306 lb guard Venzell Boulware with their 2nd pick in this phase. Boulware originally played for Tennessee but then transferred to Miami for the 2018 season. Boulware has the capability to play both guard and tackle but is listed as a guard and should start the season there.

RD 3: Dillon Day C

Seattle chose the Mississippi State product as their first center in round 3. Day went undrafted in the 2015 NFL draft but he did play for 5 NFL teams and won a super bowl with the Broncos. Milehighreport.com had this to say about Day: “Intelligent with strong competitive streak. Rarely busts on tape and is assignment-oriented. Good vision and anticipation of twists and games up front. Can come off of block quickly to pick up twist or blitzer. Thick through middle with good bubble. Plays with desired toughness at the point of attack and is a fighter in tight quarters. Not always pretty, but gets guys blocked.” Day is the favorite to start at center for the Dragons in February.

RD 4: Cyril Richardson OG

Richardson has the most NFL experience out of all these linemen so far. He was an all-american for Baylor in college and got drafted in the 5th round by the Buffalo Bills in 2014. Richardson started 4 games for them and signed with the Bears in 2016. Richardson is also the fifth San Antonio Commander on the roster as he played under Mike Riley there and should be used to the scheme. Richardson is a powerful blocker and should move piles for the Dragons in the run-game.

Rd 5: Quinterrius Eatmon OT

A heralded recruit, Eatmon played his college ball at Southern Florida and was a key cog in an offensive line that helped Marlon Mack (starting RB for the Indianapolis Colts) run for 1000 yards in 2014. Eatmon signed as an undrafted free agent with the Raiders where he saw limited action. Eatmon also participated in the Spring League in 2018. Eatmon will battle to be a starting tackle for the Dragons this upcoming Winter.

Rd 6: Michael Dunn OT

The Maryland product was a versatile linemen for the AAF’s Birmingham Iron this past spring and got signed to the Miami Dolphins shortly after the AAF folded. Dunn played both guard and tackle for the Iron and was a top 10 run blocker in the AAF. He will battle for starting jobs across the line and should end up contributing to this Dragons team.

Rd 7: Kirk Barron C

Barron was a UDFA out of Purdue and has been on both the Dolphins and the Bengals. Barron is explosive, he ran a 5.19 and can dunk a basketball but has not been able to be given a true shot yet. The athletic center will get his shot to prove himself with the Dragons and will hope to lock down an interior line spot.

Rd 8: Jordan Rose OT

The Spokane native played at the University of Idaho and was Sun Belt honorable mention his senior year. At 6’6 315 Rose will battle for a position on the Oline with some of the other later round picks

Rd 9: Robert Myers OG

Myers was a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft by the Ravens. He played for 3 more teams over the next 2 years and played with the AAF’s Memphis Express last Spring. A scouting report on Bleacher Report said this about Robert Myers “A solid technician, Myers wins with footwork and toughness in the trenches and in space. He has the movement skills to pull and trap and has shown he can get out of his spot and make impact blocks. He’s tough and plays with the instincts and football IQ coaches love.” Myers was the 3rd Guard taken in the draft for Seattle and will compete for playing time.

Rd 10: Craig McCorkle OG

The 6’5 290 linemen played 30 career games at Cal U of Penn. McCorkle was extremely productive in college as he anchored a really good Oline and earned 1st team all-conference honors his last two years. McCorkle will have to battle for a roster spot but has versatility which should help him.

DC Defenders XFL Draft Recap

NFL teams have an entire year to prep for an upcoming draft class. Countless resources and hours are spent scouting and dissecting potential draft eligible prospects. All of this is done to draft 7 players. Some teams stockpile picks and end up drafting 10, 12 or maybe even 14 players. Now imagine if you will, having to draft 70 players. That’s quite the task for any pro football franchise, let alone eight of them. The coaching staffs and front offices in the XFL had their work cut out for them.

The process of scouting players was a collaborative effort between the league’s football operations department and it’s in house scouting department in ‘Optimum’, led by Eric Galko. The league conducted eight separate combine style showcases this past summer, where nearly 900 players worked out in front of coaches and team executives. Very late in the draft preparation process, the XFL added 295 players into their 1,000 plus player draft pool. 209 of those players that just missed the cut in the NFL in late August, ended up being drafted by XFL teams.

One of the areas that XFL teams leaned on with their player personnel departments, is having members of those offices, who were just recently in the AAF earlier this year. There’s Daryl Johnston (San Antonio to Dallas), Tony Softli (AAF Director of Scouting to Seattle), Josh Hinch (Orlando to Tampa), Randy Mueller (Salt Lake to Houston), Trip MacCracken (Arizona to NY), Dave Boller (San Diego to Dallas), Chris Thompson (Atlanta to NY), Robert Morris (San Antonio to Dallas), Will Lewis (Memphis to Houston), John Peterson (San Antonio to NY) and Trey Brown (Birmingham to St. Louis). This also extended to the individual coaching staffs. The experience of building a team in a spring pro football league, and the insider knowledge of the AAF’s 400 plus players was helpful.

The DC Defenders like the LA Wildcats, went a different route with their Director of Player Personnel positions. The Wildcats hired highly respected NFL personnel evaluator Joey Clinkscales, who was just recently with the Oakland Raiders. The Defenders GM/Head Coach Pep Hamilton leaned on one of his past connections in Greg Gabriel, from Hamilton’s time  coaching with The Chicago Bears. Greg Gabriel brings to the Defenders, three decades of NFL scouting experience, including a decade as the Chicago Bears Director of College Scouting and most recently with the Philadelphia Eagles. Prior to working in Chicago, Gabriel spent two seasons scouting for his hometown Buffalo Bills and then 16 seasons in the New York Giants personnel department. Like most of the team personnel people in the XFL. Gabriel hit the trail, going to NFL camps this summer to scout players. One of the players that was heavily scouted by all XFL teams, in the NFL preseason this summer, ended up being the DC Defenders assigned quarterback.

 

Cardell Jones Drafted to the DC Defenders

QUARTERBACK ASSIGNMENT: CARDALE JONES- OHIO STATE

Can you win the day before the draft has even started? It sure felt that way when just hours before the XFL began their five phase player draft, Cardale Jones was officially announced as being the Defenders assigned quarterback. From day one, Cardale always seemed like the type of Quarterback that the league would be interested in. Jones recently revealed in an interview , that the XFL had  been in contact with him for quite some time.  Last year,  XFL Executive VP Doug Whaley reached out to Cardale, a player he drafted in Buffalo, to let him know that the XFL has a spot waiting for him,  if he were to become available. Cardale was scouted heavily by several XFL teams this summer. Tampa’s Marc Trestman and LA’s Norm Chow were in Chargers camp watching Cardale Jones. Why the heavy interest in a player that only started 11 games in college, and has just 11 career pass attempts in his NFL career?

At 6’5 250 pounds, with a strong arm and good mobility in the pocket, it’s never been a question of physical talent with Cardale Jones. He’s always had elite physical traits. What has really stood out the last two years is how well he has developed and matured as a Quarterback.  You’d have to be looking very closely to notice that, since Cardale’s best work has been during the summer in the NFL the last two years. Cardale finally started to mature as a quarterback and make real strides in his development. Jones completed 68 percent of his passes this past summer, and earned the praise of his coaches in Los Angeles. Ultimately, Jones lost out to the numbers game in LA. His time had run out. With Phillip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor and draft pick Easton Stick in the mix at QB for the Chargers. There was no more room for Cardale. A month ago, Jones was signed to the Seahawks practice squad. A familiar place for him, a spot he held for the entire season last year with The Chargers.

Not ready and too much too soon would be the best way to describe Cardale’s career thus far. He started out as a backup for the Buckeyes, was thrust into a starting role, and became an instant superstar at Ohio State. He sprung onto the scene, lit the college football world on fire and won a National Championship. He was so great, right out the gate, that many people were discussing the possibility of him being a surefire top 5 pick in the NFL draft. Cardale decided to go back to school. The following year, Cardale ended up being a co-starter with the player he replaced due to injury the prior campaign, JT Barrett. The expectation level was through the roof for Jones but he didn’t live up to it. A year after potentially being earmarked as a first round pick, Cardale surprised many by declaring for the draft. His stock had taken a hit but Jones decision ultimately came down to supporting his family. Jones ended up being drafted in the 4th round of the 2106 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. Cardale’s immense talent and upside, got him drafted,  and he was put into the role of being a third string developmental quarterback. Cardale only saw the field for Buffalo in relief duty. The Chargers ended up trading for Jones and his upside. Cardale spent 2017 as a backup, never seeing the field. 2018 is where Cardale started to show signs of his potential. It earned him another full season with LA. Jones credits being on the same team as Phillip Rivers, as one of the reasons for his growth as a Quarterback.  Cardale’s improvement during this past summer, made it appear, as if he wouldn’t be a realistic target for any of the XFL teams…..  However, Cardale ran out of room in LA, and the Seahawks signed him briefly as insurance for Russell Wilson and Geno Smith. Cardale looked as if he’d always be arrested in development. That’s ultimately the reason, he chose the XFL, despite having teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars  show interest in signing him to their practice squads.

Cardale’s dream is to one day be a starting Quarterback in the NFL, but he is at a cross roads in his career, only 27 years old, but stuck in neutral.  With the XFL, Cardale finally gets a shot to play, start and lead his own team in DC. This has the potential to be the type of story that Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna, Jake Delhomme, Brad Johnson and Tommy Maddox were, when being given an opportunity to shine in another pro football league.

 

PHASE 1- SKILL POSITION PLAYERS

WR Rashard Davis has the distinction of being the first pick overall in the XFL Draft.  Would he have been the first pick overall if the draft format had every position involved?  Did the Defenders reach for him? They could have gone with someone who has more of an established pro resume with their first pick. Taking Davis sends a clear message. The Defenders not only project Davis to be their #1 target in their passing game, but potentially the best receiver/weapon in the entire league.  Davis was a superstar on the FCS level, but what got him that distinction was his electrifying open field skills as a returner. As a former dual threat quarterback in high school, The 5’9 Rashard Davis started out his college career as a gadget player. It wasn’t until his final year at JMU, that Davis broke out and was a game changer. As a senior he played in all 15 games, making 12 starts. He set a JMU and CAA single-season record with an FCS-best four punt returns for  touchdowns. Davis had 15 punt returns for a JMU single-season record 426 yards and four scores. He also tallied 42 receptions for 530 yards and three touchdowns. Davis was named the CAA Special Teams Player of the year. Rashard went undrafted but was signed by The Philadelphia Eagles.  He spent the entire 2017 season, on and off the Eagles practice squad. Davis earned himself a Superbowl ring as a member of the Eagles in his rookie season, to go along with his FCS championship, that he won in 2016. Davis would end up making the Eagles practice squad in his second season, only to be cut and then signed by Oakland. Davis would finish the year on the Raiders practice squad. This past April, he was cut by the Raiders, then claimed by the Chiefs, only to be released on cutdown day in late August. The fact that an FCS player was taken first overall sends a strong statement. Cardale Jones was there in the DC draft room and announced Davis as the first  pick. Hopefully it’s a sign of many more connections to come between the two.

Tre McBride was the Defenders second selection in this phase. McBride is yet another player on the Defenders who was released at cutdown day by an NFL team (Jaguars). McBride is a small school product out of William & Mary, a track star, who ran a 4.3 at 6’0 and 210 pounds. It got him drafted in the 7th round by The Titans in 2015.  Despite his skillset as a potentially dynamic receiver and returner. McBride at just 26 years old,  has been on 5 NFL teams, but has never been able to break through.  The Defenders also drafted former Penn State speedster DeAndre Thompkins at the receiver position in this phase. Thompkins is an undrafted rookie signed by the Eagles, who ran a 4.33 40 at PSU’s Pro Day.  The Eagles obviously saw something they liked in him,  because they reportedly paid him $85,000 guaranteed to sign, which was the third-most paid out  among the NFL’s undrafted free agents. He  was cut by the Eagles this summer, after battling a shoulder injury.  In his Penn State career, Thompkins caught 83 passes for 1,245 yards and six touchdowns. He was also a factor in the return game, where he averaged 10.2 yards on 66 punt returns and scored two touchdowns. This is another projection pick by the Defenders, as Thompkins wasn’t a big receiving  star in college but he is loaded with upside. Rounding out the receiver group in this phase is the son of former NFL great, WR Ed McCaffrey, and the brother of currently off the charts great running back, Christian McCaffrey. Max McCaffrey, only 26, has been on 5 different teams in the NFL, and has only 1 career catch. A heady player with good size and football smarts, McCaffrey could be headed to a potential slot role in the Defenders offense.

It can be argued that DC has the best running back duo in the entire league. Jhurell Pressley is another example of a talented runner, who hasn’t been able to rise up the depth chart in the NFL. Despite being a star in college at New Mexico, and running a 4.40 in the 40 yard dash coming out. Pressley went undrafted,  and has been on 5 different NFL teams, but has never carried the rock  in the regular season. It wasn’t until Jhurell Pressley joined the AAF and was allocated  to the Arizona Hotshots, that he would finally get his chance to shine. The Defenders Offensive Line Coach & Run Game Coordinator Chris Scelfo, had one of the AAF’s best three headed backfield attacks with Pressley, Tim Cook and Justin Stockton. All three were drafted into the XFL. No surprise that Jhurell would be high on DC’s board. Teaming up with Jhurell will be the NCAA’s Division I all-time leading rusher in Donnel Pumphrey. The 5’8 176 Pumphrey, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. It was considered a disappointment that he “only” ran a 4.48 coming out of college. Pumphrey ended up tearing his hamstring as a rookie, and missing the entire season. He did earn a superbowl ring with fellow teammate Rashard Davis. The following season, Pumphrey was released on cutdown day, claimed by the Lions on their practice squad, only to be cut again and return to Philly on their practice squad. Pumphrey didn’t make the Eagles roster at cutdown day over a month ago. If Pumphrey can stay healthy at his size, he can finally have the opportunity to display his talents on the field.

The Defenders drafted three tight ends in this phase. Khari Lee, Orson Charles and Adrien Robinson. Lee is a small school receiving star out of Bowie State in Maryland. Lee has spent  time with 4 different NFL teams. Lee’s upside is such that he was actually traded for by the Bears, which is very rare for an undrafted free agent. While Lee at 6’4 and 235, is strictly a receiving talent. Orson Charles is an excellent in-line blocker, who has played fullback in the NFL. A former 4th round pick and John Mackey award finalist out of Georgia. Charles has been on six NFL teams as a role player. He spent the entire season last year with The Browns, lead blocking for Nick Chubb. This past summer, he was released by Denver at final cuts.  Adrien Robinson is also a former 4th round pick. He has been with the Giants, Jets and Memphis in the AAF. Robinson’s end in the AAF made headlines, when he was charged $2,500 dollars  for his own lodging on his credit card.

One of the best picks in the skill player draft was undrafted rookie Quarterback out of Buffalo, Tyree Jackson. The Defenders took him in the 9th round of this phase. Jackson was the MVP and Most Outstanding Offensive Player in the MAC.  The 21 year old, 6’7 248 pound Jackson, declared early for the NFL draft. He was voted team MVP at the Senior Bowl, but went undrafted and then signed with The Buffalo Bills. Jackson spent the entire preseason with Buffalo,  but did not make the final cut. Surprisingly despite his size and mobility, Tyree is not on an NFL roster. That might still change, but there’s no questioning the upside or quality of this pick.

 

PHASE TWO- OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

There are now 7 XFL Draft picks and counting, that have been signed by NFL teams since the draft. The Defenders top draft pick, Kyle Murphy was signed to the Texans practice squad a day after being drafted. A clear example that the DC front office valued a player that is NFL worthy.  DC retains Murphy’s rights, should he become available again. Logan Tulley-Tillman has never been lacking for talent. The 6’7 former 4 star recruit that landed at the University of Michigan, had off field issues as Wolverine, and  ending up transferring in college. His pro aspirations have been sidetracked as a result. Tillman is still fairly young and coming off of a season of development in the AAF. De’Ondre Wesley is a career NFL practice squader. The mammoth 6’7 330 pound tackle, has had some injury issues since coming out of BYU. Jon Toth is a former All SEC Center, who has also had stints in the NFL as a backup. Former UAB/Colts undrafted rookie Rishard Cook follows along a theme of summer NFL cuts on the Defenders. The 340 pound rookie helped the lead the way for one of the nation’s best rushing attacks. Chris Brown is a former 4 star recruit from USC, and another UDFA, that played with The Chargers this summer. Undrafted out of LSU, Toby Weathersby has spent time in the NFL with the Eagles and Pats, and was most recently with the Express in the AAF. According to Pro Football Focus, Center James O’Hagan earned the No. 1 pass blocking grade among all draft-eligible centers during the 2016 and 2017 seasons before returning to finish his career at Buffalo during the 2018 season.  In 2018, O’Hagan took a slight step back in as a pass blocker (No. 4) but finished as the No. 1 overall center in college football thanks to his No. 1 run blocking grade. The New York Giants signed O’Hagan as an undrafted rookie free agent following the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft,  as most teams passed over him solely due to his size. O’Hagan is a former teammate of Defenders Quarterback Tyree Jackson. Cardale Jones former Ohio State teammate Chase Farris, can play guard or tackle, after originally starting his college career as a defensive lineman. Casey Tucker also provides the same type of versatility. He played both tackle spots and guard at Arizona State.

 

PHASE 3- DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN

James Vaughters was a surprise 1st round pick, much in the same way that Rashard Davis was in the skill position draft. Vaughters has been a journeyman edge rusher since coming out of school at Stanford. Vaughters was at Stanford, when his now Head Coach  Pep Hamilton was there, as was his former teammate, current XFL Director of Football Operations, Sam Schwartzstein. Vaughters has been with 4 NFL teams but his best  gameday production has come in the CFL, where he won a Grey Cup Championship with the Calgary Stampeders. It led to Vaughters signing a contract with The Chicago Bears. Vaughters impressed during  the  2019 NFL preseason with three sacks and two forced fumbles. Not only did his performances get the attention of Bears coach Matt Nagy, but they drew some pretty lofty comparisons too. Matt Nagy compared Vaughters pass rush ability and propensity for causing fumbles to Khalil Mack.  Vaughters initially made the Bears practice squad to only be released in mid September. A month later, Vaughters is drafted onto an XFL team.

Charles Harris is another tweener edge rushing type who was also in Bears camp this summer. Elijah Qualls, a former 6th round pick of The Eagles in 2017, has prototypical Nose Tackle size at 320 plus pounds, but enough natural agility to be more than just a two down run stuffer. Leading the linebacking corps in the center of the Defenders defense should be Scooby Wright. A former 7th round pick and star linebacker in college, Scooby Wright was just recently released off of the Patriots practice squad on October 1st. Tracy Sprinkle, who had a five-year career at Ohio State, ran into many, many obstacles in his path to the NFL. Dealing with injuries throughout his career, Sprinkle went undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has since spent time in the AAF and with The Browns.  Sam Montgomery is one of the better veterans, that is slated to play in the XFL. The former 3rd round pick out of LSU, has had a unique journey to say the least. He has played in multiple leagues, including 3 different NFL teams. Montgomery has always been stout against the run and dependable.  Undersized Linebacker Jonathan Celestin has been a fringe player in the NFL for a few teams and has spent time on practice squads. His measurables and athletic ability have held him back, despite playing well and showing good instincts on the field. The XFL could be the perfect place for him to finally get a chance to prove himself. Keshun Freeman has had a similar path as Celestin. He’s an extremely high character player with leadership traits, who just hasn’t been able to stick in the NFL. He played in the Alliance with the Atlanta Legends. Daryle Banfield is an all Ivy league player, who also has the same character traits as Freeman. Banfield can play inside or outside, depending on the scheme used.

 

PHASE 4- DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD

The Defenders went Cornerback with their first 6 picks in this phase. Starting with former Browns DB Elijah Campbell, who  ran one of the fastest 40 times (4.34),  of the nearly 900 players who worked out for XFL teams at their eight Summer Showcases.  From Campbell’s playing days  at UNI, he has always had a nose for the football and is a good open field tackler. CB Des Lawrence has the prototypical size and length at 6’1, to project to be a good press and zone corner. A late bloomer in college,  Lawrence has spent time with the Lions and in the Alliance. The Defender DB picks all leaned on physical traits and that’s no more evident that the selection of Cornerback Jalen Myrick. One of the fastest players in the XFL, the former 7th round pick of the Jaguars in 2017, ran a 4.28 40 at the combine. DC won’t be lacking for speed at corner. That’s for sure. Myrick was most recently with the Falcons, where he was cut on 8/31.  Doran Grant is a young veteran corner, who can play the slot. Grant is a former 4th round pick of the Steelers. Former Alabama DB Bradley Sylve is a 6 foot corner with 4.3 speed with  a highly decorated track background. He has spent time with the Bills, Saints and earlier this year with the Birmingham iron. Sylve came into football late in college,  and is still developing. Reggie Cole has only two years experience playing Corner, after initially playing receiver. He was a standout player at UMHB, but is very raw.

Some football players are notoriously known for one play during their careers. Despite being a quality veteran safety his entire career, and a quality pick by DC. Rahim Moore is known for one moment in time.  In the 2012-2013 NFL playoffs. Denver was leading Baltimore 35-28 with less than a minute left in the game. Baltimore lined up for what was essentially a Hail Mary towards the end zone. Joe Flacco unloaded a bomb to Jacoby Jones. Moore was well-positioned to make a play on the ball but misjudged the trajectory and the pass was completed to Jones for the game-tying touchdown. Baltimore would go on to win the game 38-35 in double overtime and eventually win Super Bowl XLVII. Here’s hoping that one day, Rahim plays the hero in his next playoff setting.

Safety Tyree Kinnel was a 4 star recruit and 3 year starter/team captain for Pep Hamilton’s former team  at Michigan. Despite that, he went undrafted. Kinnel had a good preseason with The Bengals but did not make the roster in September. Carlos Merritt is a ballhawking cover safety from small school Campbell University. Ladarius Gunter has 18 NFL starts in his career, all with the Green Bay Packers. Despite being undrafted and  having less than ideal 4.6 speed. . He’s still only 27 years old and has always gotten by being a physical corner. Gunter last played for the Orlando Apollos.

 

PHASE 5- OPEN DRAFT

There are some notable names in this group of 30 players, and some real sleepers. Since the Defenders went with 7 corners in their DB phase. It stood to reason that the safety position would be addressed again, and the most notable name in the group is former NFL 1st round pick, Matt Elam. He was an electrifying player in college. Elam never lived up to his billing in the NFL. A combination of injures, immaturity and off field legal troubles ended his NFL run after 4 seasons in the league. At 28 years old, Elam  hasn’t played pro football since 2016. That’s why despite his talent and pedigree. Elam wasn’t drafted in the DB phase of the league. If he’s got his head on straight. He can rewrite his legacy.

The Defenders drafted a lot of players from NFL roster cuts, and from specific teams. The Bears and Eagles were heavily scouted. Two former stomping grounds for Greg Gabriel. One of the universities that is highly represented in this class is the University of Buffalo. Greg Gabriel’s home town. One of the best open draft picks who was also from Buffalo, is Defensive Lineman Kristjan Sokoli. A former 6th round pick of the Seattle Seahawks. Sokoli has had a strange journey in the NFL. He was a very good player in college playing next to Khalil Mack. Seattle drafted him, and tried to convert to be a center, a position that he never played before. Based on his great agility at 300 pounds, and his absurd strength. Sokoli was mis-cast and ended up being released a year after he was drafted. From the Colts to the Saints and to The Giants roster. Sokoli went back and forth playing on both sides of the football. In the summer of 2018, he appeared to be making real progress with The Giants. Sokoli unfortunately tore his ACL and has been out of pro football for over a year. It’s nice to see a player like him come back from that and  get another shot.

Measurables were a big factor in the Defenders Draft and that extended to the pick of former Arizona Hotshots WR Deion Holliman, who has an absurd 65 inch vertical leap. LB AJ Tarpley from Stanford has good cover skills and can run and hit. He could be a starter on this team. At 6’4 335 pounds, 22 year old Former Oklahoma NT Du’Vonta Lampkin has untapped potential but he had characters issues in college. Lampkin prematurely came out for the NFL draft as a redshirt sophomore, and went undrafted.  Every NFL draft season, there are countless numbers of players who declare early and don’t make into the league. The numbers game is difficult to begin with, but some “unfinished” players have no place to go if the NFL door closes on them.

Conclusion

DC’s draft stood out from the rest of the league’s other seven teams. That’s not to state that it was the best or worst. Much like Dallas and Houston, the Defenders draft had it’s own individual style and personality. The majority of the XFL teams had a specific formula for  the types of players they drafted. The Defenders leaned more towards player upside and measurables, more so than any other team in the league. The offense under Pep Hamilton, Tanner Engstrand and Chris Scelfo, should be very good. Look for the Defenders to play power football and throw the ball down the field. The team has two big strong armed mobile quarterbacks who are built for outdoor football. On defense, it appears to me that DC may be leaning towards playing a 3-4 defense. Defensive Coordinator Jeffrey Fitzgerald has history coaching in both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive systems. One of the coaches he worked under is Chuck Pagano. No shock to see defensive players who spent time with the Chicago Bears this summer on the DC defense. Pagano is running his 3-4 base with the Bears, and there’s no doubt that Fitzgerald leaned on his mentor for some intel on players. Two of the more important players on the entire roster are Rashard Davis and James Vaughters. They were drafted in positions that suggest that they will be elite players in the league. Vaughters as a pass rusher and Davis as a game changer. If DC hits on these two, like they did with their Quarterback, the team will be a serious contender.

Houston Roughnecks XFL Draft Recap

Overall, twenty-two of the 42 players added to the Houston Roughnecks roster through the inaugural XFL Draft have been on active NFL rosters in their careers. Twelve of those players played multiple seasons in the NFL.

 

QUARTERBACK ASSIGNMENT: PHILLIP WALKER

A four-year letter winner at Temple University (2013-2016), Phillip Walker is the Owls’ all-time leader in pass attempts (1,410), completions (803), passing yards (10,273), TD passes (72), and total offense (11,100). In 2015 and 2016, the New Jersey native led TU to two of their three 10-win seasons and their first ever back-to-back bowl appearances in school history, along with their first conference title in 49 years (2016). Walker spent three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts (2017-19 practice squad).

 

PHASE 1- SKILL PLAYER DRAFT

Connor Cook: An experienced and productive college quarterback at Michigan State, Connor Cook was drafted in the 4th round by the Oakland Raiders in 2016. Cook is a well-versed pro-style quarterback who consistently displays the footwork, timing and crispiness in his fundamentals as a high quality quarterback. He has ample arm strength to finish throws on the perimeter and down the field, and has the toughness to stand tall and drive the ball regardless of pressure around him. Cook’s experience, confidence and decisiveness make him a reliable, rhythm passer for an XFL offense.

Sammie Coates: He played college football at Auburn, where he played in the 2013 SEC Championship Game and 2014 BCS National Championship Game, and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons in the NFL, including 12 games with the Texans in 2018.

Cam Phillips: Wide Receiver who played college football at Virginia Tech. Signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent on in May 2018. He was waived on September 1, 2018 and was signed to the practice squad the next day. He was promoted to the active roster on October 18, 2018. He was waived on November 5, 2018 and was re-signed to the practice squad. He signed a reserve/future contract with the Bills on December 31, 2018, but waived by the Bills in August 2019

Jalen Saunders: Earning All-WAC honors at Fresno State and All-Big 12 honors at Oklahoma as a slot receiver, Jalen Saunders had stints with five NFL teams before posting 1,909 receiving yards in two season in the CFL. Developing into a more multiple threat as a hybrid inside-outside receiver as a professional, Saunders’ greatest trait still remains his catch-and-run ability. With high-quality instincts and athleticism, he displays the ability to change the game with big plays on both offense and special teams.

Kyle Hicks: The first running back selected by the Roughnecks. A former TCU Frog, he was an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection in 2016.

Devin Gray: Wide receiver who played college football at Cincinnati.  Signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent on May 1, 2018. He was waived on September 1, 2018 and was signed to the practice squad the next day. On August 31, 2019, Gray was waived by the Falcons, but he was re-signed to the Falcons practice squad on October 23, 2019, making him a maybe for the start of the XFL training camp.

Andre Williams: He played college football at Boston College, where he was a finalist for the 2013 Heisman Trophy, and won the 2013 Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back. During the 2013 season, Williams became only the 16th player in NCAA history to rush for over 2,000 yards and he finished his college career ranked 5th all-time for most yards rushed in a single season with 2,177 yards. Drafted by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

 

PHASE 2- OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

Cornelius Edison: Played college football at Portland State and was signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2015. Also appeared on the Falcons and Vikings roster.

Terry Poole: A former JuCo transfer, Terry Poole started 25 games at San Diego State before being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL draft. Spending three years in the league, Poole eventually found himself back in San Diego with the AAF, where he started eight games at tackle. Poole’s measurables and rhythm in pass protection are strengths, as are his lateral quickness and hand placement.

Demetrius Rhaney: Analysis: Best suited in a zone-blocking scheme, Demetrius Rhaney played two years at Tennessee State and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the seventh round of 2014. After five years in the NFL with three teams, Rhaney developed into a full-time starting center in the AAF. The high-effort player generates a lot of lower body power and moves well vertically with strong, choppy steps.

Gerhard de Beer: Offensive tackle who played college football at Arizona. Signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He most recently played for the Green Bay Packers.

Patrick Lewis: Center who played college football at Texas A&M. Lewis was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2013. In the 2014 season, he played in six games for the Seahawks, who kept a 4-0 record with Lewis as starting center. Lewis was not named the starting center before the 2015 season. However, he regained the starting job from Drew Nowak prior to Week 10.  On January 12, 2019, Lewis was signed by the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football.

Tayo Fabuluje: Offensive tackle who played in the 2012 season for TCU. He was originally drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.

 

PHASE 3- DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN

Trenton Thompson: Defensive tackle who played college football at the University of Georgia. Thompson graduated from Westover Comprehensive High School in Albany, Georgia, where he earned All-USA Defensive Player of the Year honors by USA Today. Scouts compared him to All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He was signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but later released. Signed by the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football on January 18, 2019. After a four tackle performance in a 38-22 week 1 victory over the Salt Lake Stallions, Thompson was named by Pro Football Focus to their Week 1 AAF Team of the Week. After the AAF ceased operations in April 2019, Thompson signed with the Washington Valor of the Arena Football League, and later briefly signed by the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, but released just prior to the 2019 season.

Edmond Robinson: A linebacker who played college football at Newberry. He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round, 232nd overall of the 2015 NFL Draft. He was the first NCAA Division II player to be selected in that year’s draft. Started in week 15 in a loss against the Arizona Cardinals and was credited with one tackle and a pass defensed.  A week later in the Vikings’ blowout win over the New York Giants, he recorded five tackles despite playing just six snaps on defense. After being cut by the Vikings, and moving from the New York Jets to the Arizona Cardinals, he was signed with the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football for the 2019 season.

Davis Tull: A linebacker who played college football at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, signed a 2.5 million dollar contract, but placed on injured reserve early in the season. Tull bounced from the Atlanta Falcons to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, to the LA Rams and finally to the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football.  In August 2019, Tull was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but released with an injury settlement during final roster cuts on August 30, 2019. Later, he was suspended by the NFL for four weeks beginning on Oct. 19.

Beniquez Brown: Linebacker who played college football at Mississippi State. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2016, but released soon after. In 2018, Brown signed with the Birmingham Iron of the AAF for the 2019 season.

 

PHASE 4- DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD

Deji Olatoye: Cornerback who played college football at North Carolina A&T. He was originally signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2014, and appeared on the rosters of the Chiefs, Cowboys, Falcons and Buccaneers before joining the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football in 2019.

Robert Nelson: Undrafted out of Arizona State, Robert Nelson played in 20 career NFL games. He is a quick, sudden athlete with good play speed to stay in phase with receivers downfield. He shows good burst to the ball in zone coverage and flashes playmaking skills when he trusts his instincts.

Trae Elston: Safety who played college football at Mississippi. Signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent on May 2, 2016.  Moved through the rosters of the Bucaneers, Browns, Bills, Eagles, Dolphins and Saints.

Marqueston Huff: Selected in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Titans. He played 41 games as a rotational safety and cornerback in the NFL. He offers good range and physicality from the backend. His aggressive play has tone-setting potential.

Ed Reynolds: A 2013 First-Team All-American at Stanford and was selected in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL draft by the Eagles. He played in 16 NFL games, including 10 starts. He is a smart, instinctive safety with above average ball skills. He is a reliable tackler in the box or in space.

Brendan Langley: A 3rd-round NFL draft selection by the Broncos in 2017. He played 16 games over two seasons in Denver, primarily as a reserve defensive back and return man. The former college wide receiver possesses good ball skills. He has desired size and speed with strong upside as a zone corner.

Deatrick Nichols: A 3-time All-AAC performer at South Florida before signing with the Cardinals. He was a member of the team’s practice squad in 2018, appearing in 2 games. He has slot corner size and traits with good ball production. He plays sticky man coverage with desired range in zone.

 

PHASE 5- OPEN DRAFT

Akrum Wadley: Running back who played college football at Iowa. He was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2018.  In 2019, he signed with the Atlanta Legends of the Alliance of American Football.

Marquez Williams: Fullback who played college football at Mars Hill and the University of Miami. He was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft and has also played for the Cleveland Browns.

Blake Jackson: Wide receiver who played college football at Mary Hardin–Baylor. After going undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, Jackson signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League, but released by the Stampeders at the conclusion of training camp. After attending The Spring League Showcase in La Jolla, California in July 2018, Jackson signed with the Cleveland Browns as a wide receiver on July 27, 2018, and elevated to the Browns’ active 53-man roster on December 28, 2018. Jackson was waived with an injury designation on August 2, 2019. After clearing waivers, he was placed on the Browns’ injured reserve list. He was later released with an injury settlement. \

Isame Faciane: A guard who played college football as a defensive tackle at Florida International and was signed by the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He went from the Vikings practice roster, to a reserve/future contract, and back to the practice roster. He was released by the Vikings on October 18, 2016 following a DWI arrest. Later, he spent time on the Bills and Dolphins rosters, and with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Indoor Football League

Kony Ealy: The former 2nd round pick had 28 sacks at Mizzou, 15 in the NFL, and holds several Super Bowl records. He was a lone bright spot in Carolina’s loss to the Denver Broncos in SB 50, with 3 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception.

Carl Bradford: Lnebacker who played college football at Arizona State, and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He has also been a member of the San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, and Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL; the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL; and the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF.

Austin Rehkow: Punter and placekicker who played college football for the Idaho Vandals football team at the University of Idaho. He moved through the rosters of the Bills and Giants without earning a starting position before he was signed by the Salt Lake Stallions of the Alliance of American Football as a punter.

Anthony Johnson receives a professional football opportunity with the Seattle Dragons

Anthony Johnson
#91 Anthony Johnson (FIU Athletics)

On October 16th, in the 13th round of the open phase of the XFL draft, Defensive Lineman Anthony Johnson was selected by the Seattle Dragons. When Anthony found out he had been picked, he was washing his car.

“Throughout the whole day, once the fourth phase that ended with the corners and safeties and all that, I was waiting for a little while. I was just getting too impatient and I actually went and washed my car,” Anthony said. “I was vacuuming out my car, just to kill some time and to get my mind off of things. And as soon as I got done, I sat down in my car and I turned my car on and then I finally got the phone call.”

Even a defensive lineman can be a little nervous when it comes to waiting for a phone call that will tell them they get a chance to play the game they have loved since childhood.

Anthony began playing football when he was about four or five years old. He started off as a safety, and then as a receiver, but as he grew older, and grew larger, coaches began to place him on the defensive line. By the time he graduated from Camden County High School in Kingsland, Georgia, he was given a good look by many college recruiters. Anthony chose to join the Florida International University Panthers.

In his junior year with the Panthers, Anthony began to earn a starting position on the team. That same year he appeared in eleven games, getting the starting nod seven times. He recorded 39 total tackles and tallied seven sacks, which was a tie for the team lead. Then, in his senior year, Anthony appeared in thirteen games at defensive tackle, making 12 starts on the defensive line, and recorded a total of 40 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

After graduation, Anthony was excited to be invited to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie mini-camp.

“It was a good experience. I had a great time,” Anthony said. “You know, just my short time of being with them, I learned the ins and outs… and what to expect from being in the NFL and playing professional ball.”

However, after the mini-camp ended, and no NFL contract was offered, Anthony started to look at other leagues. In consultation with his agent, he applied for an XFL playing position. A little later, he was told he was invited to the Summer Showcase in Tampa Bay, and the rest his history as Anthony’s showcase performance led to him being drafted by the Seattle Dragons.

When asked what excites him about the XFL, Anthony said, “What excites me the most is that it’s a new league. Being able to say that I was one of those stepping stones to help get this league started is pretty cool. I’m excited to see where this goes and witness where it actually takes me.”

At his time at FIU, Anthony put in over 400 hours of community service by visiting children’s hospitals and talking with schoolkids at a local middle school. Now, Anthony also wants to continue to have a role in the community by supporting at-risk children.

“Growing up I didn’t have too much of that, and I could see the way that can impact a child’s life,” Anthony explained. “A lot of the kids that I work with are at-risk children and don’t really have a father figure at home… you know, mom always working or different things like that. So, I just feel like giving back.”

“Just being able to see the smile on kids’ faces just makes my day,” Anthony added.

For his work with at-risk children Anthony is even working hard to establish a charitable organization named “The Gut Foundation,” named for the nickname a college teammate gave him in his junior year.

“We were short defensive tackles, and I knew I had to put on some weight just to get the opportunity to get on the field. So, I put on about 25 pounds,” Anthony explained.

One of his teammates Chris Miller, encouraged him by saying, “You got to feed that gut!” Soon, Anthony became known as “The Gut,” a nickname he proudly retains to this day.

In fact, his Twitter handle is @TheGut91. Check it out, and follow along, as Anthony enters training camp with the Seattle Dragons.

Hear an entire interview with Anthony Johnson in episode 8 of our XFL Xtra podcast.

 

XFL Xtra Episode 8-2019 – Two Anthonys – Anthony Johnson and Anthony Miller

In this podcast we introduce two guests, Seattle Dragons draft pick Anthony Johnson and XFLBoard.com Dallas Renegades team reporter Anthony Miller. Anthony Johnson, a stellar Defensive Lineman for the Florida International University Panthers, completed his senior year in 2018. Last summer he attended an XFL summer showcase, which led to him being invited to the XFL draft, and eventually being picked by the Seattle Dragons. We talk to Anthony about his football career, his future with the XFL, and his desire to help at risk kids in the community. Then we talk to Anthony Miller. He provides insight into the XFL schedule, the draft, and what to expect in the upcoming XFL season.

Music: Are You Ready – Free music archive.

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Analyzing the St. Louis BattleHawks 2020 XFL Season Schedule

St. Louis BattleHawks Schedule

It was the fall of 2018, nearly an entire calendar year had passed since Vince McMahon made public, his intention of relaunching the XFL in February of 2020.  Another spring pro football league in the AAF,  jumped out in front of the field for a February 2019 launch. The Alliance had secured it’s eight locations for the start of their season. The XFL had yet to announce where their proposed eight teams would end up playing. Then finally after months of speculation, the league announced that it would reveal it’s eight team cities and stadiums on December 5th, but prior to the big reveal, word leaked out that St. Louis would be one of the league’s team cities, and that their games would be played at The Dome at America’s Center. The XFL’s first big score was the hiring of Oliver Luck as it’s CEO and Commissioner, but it felt like it’s first big victory came, the day St. Louis was revealed to be one of the league’s cities.

Here we are, nearly a year later and St. Louis has become the BattleHawks. The front office and coaching staff has been put in place and the team just conducted a 70 player draft. The league and its teams have been built from scratch, brick by brick, building momentum towards the moment when the league finally gets on the field in February. With team uniforms, the league rules and training camps on the horizon, the league has unveiled it’s 2020 Season Schedule. The BattleHawks are now open for business.

WEEK 1-  AT THE DALLAS RENEGADES- SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9TH/ 4PM CT/5PM ET/ GLOBE LIFE PARK/ESPN

This week, the XFL is saving their best game for last. This always seemed like potentially the marquee game for week one of the season. The who and what is a perfect fit. The when and where is certainly not what was expected. The feeling was that St. Louis would be kicking off the season for the league at home. Dallas with Bob Stoops at the helm, certainly seemed like a strong contender to be playing in the league’s premiere game. The XFL’s two most interesting teams are playing each other in week one, but they are not kicking off the season, and they are not playing in Saint Louis. Instead, the game is being played in a stadium that is currently being renovated and retrofitted for football. Dallas playing at home in week one is a surprise, beyond the location of the game itself. There are so many built in storylines for this game. From Bob Stoops returning to the sidelines and coaching pro football for the first time, to St. Louis making it’s return to Pro Football. Then there’s the  Stoops-Jonathan Hayes connection dating back to their days together at Iowa and Oklahoma. You also have, Daryl ‘Moose’ Johnston leading another Texas spring pro football team, except this time back in Dallas. There’s the battle of two Air-Raid offensive coordinators in the legendary Hal Mumme and Doug Meacham. Another key storyline is, All Big 12 West Virginia Safety Kenny Robinson turning pro, before he is draft eligible for the NFL. The oddsmakers haven’t set a line for this game yet, but you have to figure that Dallas is the heavy favorite. St. Louis is potentially starting a rookie quarterback in Jordan Ta’amu, on the road. While Dallas trots an NFL veteran quarterback in Landry Jones, who reunites with Stoops, and gets to run Hal Mumme’s lethal passing attack. This is a big spot for St. Louis. A statement game if you will. Winning this game could set the team on course for big things the rest of the way.

WEEK 2-  AT THE HOUSTON ROUGHNECKS- SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 16TH/ 5PM CT/6PM ET/ TDECU STADIUM/FS1

You have to wonder if BattleHawks Head Coach and General Manager Jonathan Hayes will consider staying in Texas during these first two  weeks. The league-wide training camp will take place in Houston in January. So the BattleHawks will be spending a lot of time in the state during the early part of 2020. This is a tough two game stretch. The BattleHawks defense will be tested in these opening two weeks. First with Hal Mumme in week one, and then followed up by June Jones and the Roughnecks offense. Despite these first two weeks being non-divisional opponents. The BattleHawks would love to come out of Texas 2-0, heading into their home opener. No team in the league has a tougher task than St. Louis to start the season.

WEEK 3-  HOME VS THE NEW YORK GUARDIANS- SUNDAY,  FEBRUARY 23RD/ 2PM CT/3PM ET/ THE DOME/ ESPN

The most intriguing home opening game of the entire league comes in week 3. This is a historic game for the city and it should be a very emotional setting. In a 10 game season, every game is important, specifically divisional games. If the BattleHawks come in flying high at 2 and 0. They will be unstoppable in this setting. If they come into this game at 0 and 2. This might be just what the doctor ordered to save their season.

WEEK 4-  HOME VS THE SEATTLE DRAGONS- SATURDAY,  FEBRUARY29TH/ 4PM CT/5PM ET/ THE DOME/ FOX

After 3 straight Sunday games, St. Louis finally plays on Saturday, and finally on broadcast network television for the first time this season. This will be their third non divisional game in the first quarter of their season. It’s usually at this point of the season where the teams begin to hit their stride and have their on field identities established. In a new league with eight newly formed teams. There is going to be a growing process early on. The game has two former longtime NFL players, coaching against one another in Jonathan Hayes and Jim Zorn. St. Louis and Seattle have had plenty of history against each other in a previous pro football life.

WEEK 5-  AT THE DC DEFENDERS- SUNDAY, MARCH 9TH/ 2PM CT/3PM ET/ AUDI FIELD/ FS1

The BattleHawks begin another two game road stretch, both of the games are against division opponents. In any football league, stealing road games against division foes can pay huge dividends for later in the season. St. Louis will have eight days to get ready for Cardale Jones and Pep Hamilton’s DC offense.

WEEK 6-  AT THE TAMPA BAY VIPERS- SATURDAY, MARCH 15TH/ 4PM CT/ 5PM ET/RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM/  FS2

The 3rd straight Fox Sports airing of the BattleHawks. First game on FS2. St. Louis plays 4 of their first 6 games on the road. These games are very important, if the team can come out of this stretch at 3 and 3 or better. They will be in good shape. With 3 of their last 4 games at home.

WEEK 7-  HOME VS THE LOS ANGELES WILDCATS- SATURDAY, MARCH 21ST/ 4PM CT/ 5PM ET/THE DOME/ FOX

Another Fox Sports airing, but this time on network television. Many XFL supporters were hoping for this game to take place in week one. Being that both these teams are in separate divisions. This game could have been at LA, but the league’s schedule makers did the fans a great service, by putting this game in St. Louis. The history between LA and STL in pro football is well known. There’s bad blood between both of these markets, and this is a natural rivalry because of it.  The bad blood spills onto the sidelines, as former on field rivals Winston Moss and Jonathan Hayes, also have history with one another, dating back to their on field clashes. Winston Moss made a point to playfully call out Hayes during his introductory press conference in LA earlier this year. The buildup to this game should be a lot of fun.

WEEK 8- AT THE NEW YORK GUARDIANS- SATURDAY, MARCH 28TH/ 4PM CT/5PM ET/METLIFE STADIUM/  FOX

You would think that St. Louis was back in the NFC West, with all these Fox games on the schedule. This is a make or break stretch for the BattleHawks. They play three straight divisional games. This is their final road game of the regular season. They close out the year at home in the last two weeks. Because of the league’s brilliant scheduling of all divisional games in the final three weeks. The majority of the league’s teams will still be in contention for a playoff spot, regardless of record. How teams fare in this stretch will determine, who competes for a chance to get to the league championship. Depending on what transpired in week 3, this could be St. Louis looking to exact revenge on New York for spoiling their homecoming, or St. Louis looking to complete a season sweep on New York.

WEEK 9- HOME VS THE TAMPA BAY VIPERS- SUNDAY, APRIL 5TH/ 11AM CT/ 12PM ET/ THE DOME/ ESPN

The earliest game of the season for St. Louis. With  New York and DC playing on Saturday, The BattleHawks will have a good idea where they stand, if they are in the division or playoff chase. You have reached the point of must win territory. This is the Vipers and BattleHawks second meeting in 4 weeks. One of the scheduling quirks that happens in smaller leagues. The AAF experienced this last year when San Antonio played San Diego in weeks one and three, and when Arizona also played Salt Lake in weeks one and three as well.

WEEK 10- HOME VS THE DC DEFENDERS- SUNDAY, APRIL 12TH/ 2PM CT/3PM ET/ THE DOME/ ABC*

The BattleHawks finally make their debut on ABC…. maybe. The start time and network that this game airs on is still tentative. Both Disney and Fox have reserved the option to switch this game with the New York-DC game, which is currently slated to be on FS1 at 6pm eastern. Naturally, the assumption is that this weekend’s games are being flexed depending on which divisional matchup has better playoff implications. However, the network press releases for the league schedule, has a decision date for the potential switch of this game set for a month earlier in March. So the game may be switched due to network programming changes. St. Louis could be in a prime position on the final Sunday of the season to clinch a playoff berth or division at home. This would be a great way to cap off St. Louis’s return to Pro Football.

St. Louis BattleHawks XFL Draft Recap

St. Louis has had a long and intriguing history in Pro Football.  Four pro teams in total. Two of them, the All-Stars and Gunners, played briefly in the NFL in the 20’s and 30’s and folded. The other two teams were relocated franchises in the Cardinals (1960-1987), and the Rams (1995-2015). In between it all,  as a failed expansion bid in the early 90’s for a team to be called ‘The Stallions’, and in the biggest what if scenario. The purchase of the New England Patriots in 1992 by St. Louis native James Orthwein, who planned to move the Patriots after the 1993 season to St. Louis, only to have the teams stadium owner, Robert Kraft pull a power play to wrestle away ownership and keep the Pats in New England. The rest as they say is history, and the history of pro football in St. Louis can be best described as bittersweet.

The BattleHawks are looking to become the first pro football team in St. Louis, to be born in the market and stand the test of time. The truth is, if the XFL suffers the same fate as other pro football leagues have before it.  Seven of the league’s eight team markets will be disappointed but ultimately and eventually, they will move on. St. Louis is a different story altogether. There’s a lot at stake here for the city. There may come a time again, where the River City finds another gateway into the NFL, but it may hinge on how well STL does with the XFL.  The success of San Antonio in the AAF opened eyes for the NFL, and that city will certainly be on the radar if the 100 year league ever expands again. Jacksonville’s great success in the USFL, where they would routinely sell out the Gator Bowl, led to multiple NFL teams looking to relocate there, before the city ended up outbidding St. Louis for an NFL team of their own. How well the BattleHawks are embraced by the city, will go along way in changing the perception that Saint Louis is not really suited or meant for Pro Football. The XFL and St. Louis share the same goal and mindset, they are both out to prove that they belong on the pro football landscape.

The St. Louis BattleHawks are cleared for take off after last week’s 70 player five-phase draft. Before we take an in depth look at the Quarterback, who was assigned to St. Louis,  and the players they drafted.  It’s important to note the person who is running St. Louis’s player personnel department. Trey Brown, only 34 years old, the former player turned executive, has risen quickly up the pro football ranks in such a short period of  time.   Brown started out as a scout for the New England Patriots, he then moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he rode up the ranks to become the team’s Director of College Scouting. Trey Brown barely in his 30’s, interviewed for the GM jobs of the Buffalo Bills in 2017, and the Oakland Raiders in 2018. Earlier this year in the AAF, Brown was the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Birmingham Iron. There’s been plenty of debate among XFL followers about the BattleHawks draft.

One thing that can’t be overlooked is the fact, that three of the players drafted by St. Louis, have already  been signed by NFL teams. Corbin Kaufusi signed on to The New York Jets practice squad. Wes Saxton signed onto the Washington practice squad, and Tyler Gauthier signed onto the New England Patriots practice squad as well. Another draft pick, Center James Murray has also worked out for NFL teams recently. This is a clear indicator that the BattleHawks front office values players, that the NFL and it’s teams also covet. Keep that in mind when dissecting the BattleHawks roster. Specifically when it comes to the Quarterback they earmarked and signed to be their projected starter.

 

QUARTERBACK ASSIGNMENT: JORDAN TA’AMU- OLE MISS

This is the equivalent of a team drafting a Quarterback for the future, except in this case, the future might be right now.  The 21 year old Jordan Ta’amu is an undrafted rookie quarterback, who spent the summer backing up Deshaun Watson in Houston. The ‘Throwin Samoan’ doesn’t have the track record that the other seven XFL Quarterbacks have, but it can be argued that no other quarterback has more talent or upside than Ta’amu. He is as raw as it gets.

A true developmental quarterback, who only has two years of big time college football experience under his belt, the 6’3 gunslinger with impressive mobility, started out at the New Mexico Military Institute for two seasons before transferring to Ole Miss in 2017. Jordan started out as a backup behind Shea Patterson, but took over as the teams starter for the final five games, when Patterson went down to Injury.  Ta’amu threw for over 1,600 yards in that brief stretch, completed 66 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. He also proved to be quite the mobile threat with 4 touchdowns on the ground. Patterson transferred to Michigan, while Jordan took over as the full time starter in 2018.

Ta’amu had a fantastic senior season, finishing second in the SEC in passing yards, behind only Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.  Ta’amu completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,918 yards with 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He also rushed for 342 yards and 6 touchdowns.

The knock on Ta’amu, and the reason he went undrafted is two-fold. He’s not a polished product. Ta’amu has a big arm and great mobility, but his lack of experience and overall consistency with his mechanics show up on film. He’s still a maturing Quarterback, that needs more seasoning to work on his accuracy and timing. The other knock against Ta’amu, was the passing targets that he worked with at Ole Miss, and the lack of variety in his throws. Three of Ta’amu’s top passing targets with the Rebels, are all in the NFL in DK Metcalf, AJ Brown and Dawson Knox. BattleHawks Offensive Coordinator Doug Meacham has quite the task at hand to develop and work with Jordan’s skillset. Part of Meacham’s mode of attack is to do just that, attack down the field frequently. That is one of Jordan’s strengths.

The team may end up addressing this position again somewhere before or after minicamp in December. Perhaps with a veteran. However, there’s no denying that the sky is the limit for Ta’amu. The question is, will he be ready for take off come February.

 

PHASE 1- SKILL PLAYER DRAFT

It’s time to speculate. It’s what football fans do. There’s a reason to believe that the BattleHawks were targeting Connor Cook in the skill position draft. The Brogan Roback selection in this round strongly suggests that Quarterback was high on the teams list of priorities. As is customary, in sports league drafts. A team will take a player that you coveted off of your board, which may lead you into a different direction. For example, the Dallas Renegades recently stated that one of the players they targeted in Phase 2 of the draft, was taken ahead of them by The New York Guardians. In true team-speak fashion, Dallas says that their  first 17 selections were all the #1 players on their board when their pick came up. Another piece of evidence that Connor Cook may have been on the BattleHawks radar before Houston picked him second, is the fact that Connor Cook worked out at the St. Louis Summer Showcase in front of Jonathan Hayes and his entire staff. Exhibit B, Connor Cook was on the Bengals roster, when Jonathan Hayes was coaching on that offensive staff. Am I reaching perhaps? Maybe, but the fact that STL took a QB with their second pick suggests to me that this was a position they were targeting, to hedge their bets on their talented assigned rookie Quarterback.

If RB was Plan B, The BattleHawks knocked this position out of the park. There was a time where Christine Michael and Matt Jones were projected to be feature backs in the National Football League. Both players are relatively young, and do not have the usual thread on their tires, that running backs, their age usually have. Michael is supremely gifted. A former track star and five star recruit. Coming out of Texas, he won the Walter Payton award for being the best high school player in the entire nation. A former 2nd round pick, who never really broke through to become a feature back in the pros. A career 4.3 yards per carry, on only 254 career carries, he didn’t start in the pros until his 3rd year in the league, and has only 9 career starts under his belt. His career stat line reads like a single season, 1,080 rushing yards with 7 touchdowns. Jones is a former 5th round pick. A bruising 6’2 231 pound back with good movement skills. Jones was thrust into a starting role in the NFL, but was never able to stay healthy. He’s still only 26 years old, and is the perfect compliment to Michael.

BattleHawks receivers coach, Az Hakim will have a lot of talent to work with.  Six receivers were taken by the BattleHawks in this phase. Standing out from this group is De’Mornay Pierson El and local Missouri product L’Damian Washington. Pierson El had an impressive stint in the AAF, and with the Raiders this past summer. He has great open field ability and can be a lethal punt returner. Washington is 6’4 with long speed. Trey Brown has familiarity with him from his time in Birmingham. What a journey it has been for L’Damian as a pro. He’s 28 years old, but has been on count ’em, 7 NFL teams, 2 CFL teams and an AAF team. He’s never been able to stick anywhere or break through despite his immense talent. Doug Meacham’s Air Raid offense is ideally suited for these two potential starters.

Marcus Lucas is another Missouri player. A jumbo sized WR at 6’4 250 lbs, who can also play TE if need be. Lucas like Washington has been on several NFL teams since going undrafted in 2014. Nine different NFL teams, Lucas has bounced back and forth from practice squads and futures contracts.

Alonzo Russell spent time with Jonathan Hayes in Cincinnati.

The final pick in this phase, Jordan Lasley is a former 5th round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. As a Junior, he led the Pac-12 in receiving yards. Lasley’s issues have been off the field. He was suspended in his junior season for 3 games, for undisclosed reasons. Then as a pro, this past summer. He was waived by Baltimore after getting into a fight with multiple teammates. The Raiders claimed him off waivers but he was subsequently cut weeks later. There was a stretch there at UCLA, where he was a dominant player, that led to him being drafted despite his off field issues. It’s possible that Lasley never sees the field in the XFL, but that’s up to him.

 

PHASE 2- OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

Solid group all around. Matt McCants stands out as the senior offensive lineman in this phase. The 30-year old former NFL draft pick, has spent most of his career as a swing lineman in the NFL. He really shined last season with the Birmingham Iron in the AAF. Another Trey Brown tie in. Coincidentally, the Iron’s head coach Tim Lewis, is STL’s DB’s coach. So there is direct knowledge of this player in the front office and on this staff.

When talking about tie-ins to St. Louis, there’s former St. Louis Ram, Brian Folkerts. He is another veteran offensive lineman, who can play guard and center. He has 28 NFL games under his belt, but like McCants, he’s been mostly a swing lineman in the pros.

Dallas Thomas may end up being one of the league’s better guards. He’s a former 3rd round pick of the Miami Dolphins, has 26 career starts under his belt.

In secondary football leagues, the hardest area to find quality players is on the offensive line. Sometimes coaches lean on connections, and that is spelled out throughout this entire draft. Trent Perkins from Texas, spent two years with The Cincinnati Bengals. He was coached by BattleHawks line coach Brian Braswell, who came over with Jonathan Hayes to STL. Perkins has been shifted back and forth off the Bengals practice squad since 2017. In August of this year, he decided to retire and was subsequently waived by Cincy. Two months later, he came out of retirement to finally get a chance to start,  and rejoins his former Bengals coaches, who certainly had a hand in him restarting his career.

Jake Campos spent an entire season on the Cowboys practice squad in 2018. A very good player at Iowa State, Campos, a college OT projects inside to guard. A transition he has been making since turning pro.

This is a strong group from 1 to 10. Murray is being worked out by NFL teams. Gauthier is on the Patriots. Dejon Allen was an all conference player at Hawaii, and Juwann Bushell-Beatty is a monster tackle with tons of upside. A late bloomer at Michigan, who needs to control his weight.

 

PHASE 3- DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN

Another strong group from top to bottom. While many of these players are not household names. Once you start digging deep, it’s hard not to see the upside in the majority of these players.

The most notable players selected here are Marcus Hardison, Khyri Thornton and Casey Sayles. All three have good college pedigrees and NFL backgrounds. Defensive Coordinator Jay Hayes, who has made a living coaching up defensive lineman in the NFL for years, has some experienced  D-Lineman to work with.

Channing Ward is a player that Hayes coached up in Tampa with The Buccaneers. Ward is an undersized 279 pound DT with pass rushing skills, who hasn’t been able to stay healthy as a pro.

Andrew Ankrah was a big time defensive star in the FCS for James Madison. He also flashed in the AAF with Orlando.

Another Apollo, Terrance Garvin was arguably the best all around linebacker in the AAF. Where Garvin stands out is his ability to play sideline to sideline.

Nicholas Grigsby is a similar type player. Grigbsy has been on and off 6 separate NFL team practice squads. A 6’2 230 pound linebacker with 4.50 speed. Grigsby is also a hard hitter, who could end up being a tone setter on this defense.

The biggest sleeper in this entire phase is Jamell Garcia-Williams. He might not make it to the roster come February. The 6’7 255-pound edge rusher from UAB, had 9.5 sacks last season and 15 tackles for loss in his senior season.  He went undrafted and was signed by the Niners, before being waived at final cuts. NFL teams including the Raiders have worked him out, and JGW is on NFL teams radars. No shame in not making the Niners roster, who currently boast the NFL’s best pass rush and pass defense.

Another player that was part of NFL roster cutdown day is Gimel President. The versatile edge rusher can play at DE and has stood up as well at outside linebacker.

 

PHASE 4- DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD

The BattleHawks took a very unique approach in this phase of the draft. While every other team seemed to go CB heavy with their first few picks. The BattleHawks decided to attack the safety position, and boy, did they ever, using four of their first five picks at Safety. There is a caveat to that. Herb Miller, who is listed at safety, can also play corner. Miller is a long player with great open field tackling skills, who has experience playing in the nickel and at safety. He’s not a traditional outside corner because of his lack of speed, but he can be a very effective cover safety who can exclusively play in the slot and jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. Miller tried out for the Chiefs this summer, and impressed enough to earn himself a contract. He didn’t make it at final cuts, but I doubt that his playing days in the NFL are over.

The biggest story coming out of this phase for St. Louis is Kenny Robinson. The All Big-12 safety who is projected to be a day two NFL draft pick, has decided to turn pro now, as a way of getting prepared for the NFL draft when he is draft eligible. Robinson was highly rated by Pro Football Focus for his coverage skills at West Virginia. He’s coming into the perfect situation. Playing alongside two quality veteran safeties in Will Hill and Dexter McCoil.

Cornerback D’Montre Wade is very similar to Herb Miller, a strong press corner who plays very physical. You get the sense that Tim Lewis, who will be coaching up the defensive backs, is going to be playing a lot of zone and press coverage.

Marquez White is a real sleeper in this group at corner. Former 6th round pick of the Dallas Cowboys from Florida State. He played opposite Jalen Ramsey in college and played shutdown corner opposite him, only allowing two touchdowns in two seasons as a starter. If you are the other corner opposite Ramsey, teams are going to throw your way. White held up his end of the bargain.  Puzzling that he hasn’t stuck in the NFL after being with Dallas for two seasons as a deep reserve. White started at corner for the Orlando Apollos earlier this year and received high grades.

Trey Caldwell is a former 5th round pick by The Browns, out of ULM. He has 4.34 speed but stands at only 5’9. Another player at the bottom end of NFL rosters that never broke through.

Ryan White is yet another player who can play safety and corner on this roster.

The theme continues from picks 1 through 10.

 

PHASE 5- OPEN DRAFT

With the first pick in the open phase of the draft, St. Louis went kicker with Elliott Fry. Just days prior, the New England Patriots worked him out. Fry was perfect in the AAF for Orlando, going 14 for 14 in his 8 weeks of play. That landed him with the Bears in a kicking competition with Eddy Pinero, who ultimately won out. Fry then finished up with Baltimore before being let go. No way, he was replacing Justin Tucker. Despite Fry’s quality as a kicker, many have questioned STL’s decision to draft a kicker so early in a 30 round phase.

The one area that was surprisingly not addressed was the Quarterback position. The feeling was with two very young signal callers on the roster in Ta’amu and Roback, that Saint Louis would consider taking one of the veteran Quarterbacks remaining in the draft pool. Players like Joe Callahan and BJ Daniels were drafted in this phase, and a  veteran like a Zach Mettenberger was also available.

The BattleHawks continued to address their offensive line depth by taking capable lineman who could have easily gone in Phase 2, in Andrew McDonald, Avery Young and Korren Kirven. The majority of the XFL teams are carrying up to as many as 15 offensive lineman going into mini-camp in December.

One of the biggest sleeper picks in the entire draft is TE Connor Davis, out of Stony Brook. I watched him first hand impress at the New York Summer Showcase at Montclair State. He sticks out like a sore thumb at 6’8 270 plus pounds. A great athlete at that size as well with a 10-foot broad jump. He has untapped potential, and with Phase 1 TE Wes Saxton, currently in the NFL, and with Jonathan Hayes, a former NFL tight end, and former tight ends coach. This is the team you want to be on if you are a tight end looking to develop.

 

Conclusion

The team is well built upfront on the offensive line and on the back end of their defense. OL, DT, S and RB are the teams strongest position groups.  What will make or break the BattleHawks this season is their Quarterback play. Despite Ta’amu’s upside, he’s a question mark as a rookie pro quarterback. On the plus side, It really pays to have a Director of Player Personnel like Trey Brown,  that has just gone through the experience of being in a spring pro football league earlier this year. There’s a strong AAF imprint on the entire roster.  Trey Brown also has NFL experience of scouting players for two great organizations in Philly and New England.  It also helps to have a head coach like Jonathan Hayes and Jay Hayes, who both were in the NFL last season, and have been quality assistants in the NFL for a long time.  Their knowledge and experience helped them land quality players that were on the back end of NFL rosters in 2018, and this summer… players with upside who haven’t had the chance to be starters. That’s really what the XFL is all about.

Analyzing the Dallas Renegades 2020 XFL Season

Dallas Renegades Schedule

The next step in progressing the XFL season took place Tuesday when they release team schedules for the upcoming 2020 season. The Dallas Renegades are one of the most highly anticipated teams of the season simply due to Bob Stoops coming out of retirement to coach the team while also teaming up with his former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.

We will examine the Renegades’ ten game season and see which of the games to watch out for and how their home games stack up to their road games.

Week 1: St. Louis BattleHawks (Home, Sunday, February 9th at 4:00 pm CT on ESPN)

One of the most anticipated games of the season comes in week one where Globe Life Park will, for the first time, not be a baseball stadium and we get a first look at how Stoops, Landry Jones, and the high-flying offense operates. BattleHawks’ offense will test Chris Woods’ crew early with Jordan Ta’amu’s mobility and strong backfield. BattleHawks safety Kenny Robinson from West Virginia may give Jones some issues as he debuts as the first college player to leave school for the XFL.

Week 2: LA Wildcats (Away, Sunday, February 16th at 2:00 pm CT on ABC)

First road challenge for the Renegades as their defense has to play good pass defense against Norm Chow’s offense. Should be interesting to see how they do playing an earlier game on the west coast, especially for those younger players who may not be as experienced with it as some of the NFL vets like Jones and Lance Dunbar.

Week 3: Seattle Dragons (Away, Saturday, February 22nd at 4:00 pm CT on Fox)

Brandon Silvers really impressed in the last few weeks of the Alliance season with the Memphis Express which could cause some problems for the Renegades’ secondary. Another road test for the Renegades on the west coast and on a shorter week should show us how good the Renegades are. CenturyLink Field is one of the toughest, loudest places to play in the NFL and the crowd noise could play a factor in how the Renegades’ offense plays out.

Week 4: Houston Roughnecks (Home, Sunday, March 1st at 3:00 pm CT on FS1)

The only in-state rivalry in the XFL should have the state of Texas excited for the XFL’s version of the Lonestar Showdown. Also a great showdown between two great former college coaches in Stoops and June Jones. Dallas’s rush defense will have to be on full display as they could be facing one of the best backs in the league in Andre Williams. Hopefully by this week, Landry Jones and the offense is comfortable enough to be going full speed.

Week 5: New York Guardians (Home, Saturday, March 7th at 4:00 pm CT on Fox)

Matt McGloin leads an offense that has plenty of talent at the receiver position with DeAngelo Yancey and Mekale McKay. Back-to-back home games should help the team play well behind their home crowd.

Week 6: DC Defenders (Away, Sunday, March 15th at 3:00 pm CT on FS1)

Cardale Jones plays in front of his home crowd as this team is loaded with talent on offense and defense. This may be their toughest challenges of the season being on the road and having to deal with Pep Hamilton’s offense.

Week 7: Tampa Bay Vipers (Away, Saturday, March 21st at 1:00 pm CT on ABC)

Tampa Bay has a great-looking running game with De’Veon Smith and defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville’s crew looks tough from top to bottom. Traveling back-to-back weeks on the east coast, this game may be a trap game for the Renegades as we dive deeper into the second half of the season.

Week 8: Seattle Dragons (Home, Sunday, March 29th at 5:00 pm CT on FS1)

The Dragons will make their debut in Dallas as things start to get interesting in terms of the playoffs picture as both teams have been fans’ choices to be the two best teams in the west.

Week 9: Houston Roughnecks (Away, Thursday, April 2nd at 7:00 pm CT on Fox)

The first of two straight weeks playing in prime time on Thursday has the rematch of the Lonestar Showdown from a month prior. Getting closer to the playoffs should make this game a must-win for the Renegades to fight or secure a spot in the playoffs. A short week will makes things interesting and show which coach is up for the task of getting their teams ready for the game.

Week 10: LA Wildcats (Home, Thursday, April 9th at 7:00 pm CT on Fox)

Both teams look good enough on paper that this game could determine who goes to the playoffs or who stays at home. It could even be a preview of the Western Finals game the next week. Either way, both offenses will be putting up a lot of yards so should be a fun game for fans to watch on the Renegades’ second straight prime time game on Thursday.

Conclusion

The early west coast road trips could cause a hiccup or two for the Renegades early, but their home games should be in favor of them. Week 9 could present a challenge with a short week, but they got to love the fact that they could be on prime time the last two weeks of the season for all fans to see. This shows the league understands that the Renegades have two of the biggest names in the league (Stoops and Jones) and they want them on national television as much as they can. The expectations are high as many have picked the Renegades to either win the XFL title or make the title game. If they lose both of their first two road games of the year, it could smell trouble for their season. The best part about a ten game season? Every game counts.

Why it is in the XFL’s Best Interest to Tap into the Female Football Fan Base?

In the “old days” when men joined clubs, ones that intentionally excluded women, there is no doubt that some women craved to be part of that inner circle. Women have simply resisted to succumb to the expression “It’s a man’s world”. Women are pushing through barriers, moving past stereotypes and rolling up their sleeves by showing they are capable of being part of the sports world. After all, more women are playing college sports, women are breaking into the refereeing profession, women are appearing in the football coaching realm, and becoming reputable in the analyst role. Why? Women want to be part of the club and prove they are competent in talking football.

So, why is it in the XFL’s best interest to seek out and involve female fans?!

Just think, if all those players on the field got their moms, wives, fiancés, girl friends, sisters and she-friends on board to going to an XFL game… this could lead to more ticket sales, more butts in seats, and more noise to hype up the environment.

Okay, with females being a viable market, how can the XFL draw female fans?

Female consumer behavior is important; including drinks that women tend to lean towards such as white claw, skinny margs, lighter beers is a good start. However, I recommend looking deeper into their intrinsic wants and engaging them through emotion in a meaningful way:

1.       Women want to feel venerated and appreciated all while socializing/ bonding with other like-minded women with gripping stories. Make time during an XFL game where players honor women who have inspiring stories; cancer survivors, served in the military, selfless mothers, etc. Have them walk on the field, and highlight their resilience! It’s a plus that they are there to watch their baby, their boo, their big brother, etc.

2.       Women who are mothers always want what’s best for their child. Have a players meet and greet for moms to take their little ones to. If the kids are excited to attend games, not only do moms save time in the baby-sitter search, but more importantly it can have such a positive impact on young ones who so often look up to pro athletes.

3.      Women also care about safety. If the XFL can make an obvious effort to show how they are working on helmets to reduce concussions or enforcing rules that protect players, women with connections to players on field will feel comforted and encouraged to support their men in their love for the game (on or off the field).

4.      Beyond women’s nurturing qualities, women are multi-tasking, productivity seeking beast who love efficiency. The XFL should emphasize their efforts towards shortening the game, making it more fast paced and action filled, thus being an attractive sporting event while not sucking out too much time from the weekend.

5.      Last but not least –yes, I’ll be the one to write it –women love to capture moments and are lured to “basic”, picturesque scenes. Why not set up backdrops for all those Instagram enthusiasts. Give them a reason to post a fun-conversation-starter picture of them attending an XFL game!

Women want to be involved! Let’s get more chicks in football stadiums!

Yours truly,

The XFL Chick

XFLBoard would like to welcome “XFL Chick,”  a reporter who will be giving us XFL news from a female perspective!