New rules for the upcoming XFL season dominated the news outlets this week as they brought many innovative ideas to the table, but the Dallas Renegades had an eventful week of their own that could have major implications to the start of the regular season.
Quarterback Landry Jones Injured
Besides the rule changes to the league, Landry Jones’ injury was one of the biggest stories of the new XFL season. During Monday’s practice, Jones suffered a knee injury that has resulted in him being off the field for 4-6 weeks. Some will see this as a major blow to the Renegades and the league in general as he was not only the first player to sign with the league, but he is considered one of the faces of the league. With this injury, it could result in him being inactive for the opening game of the season or even miss two to three games. It could also mean that he might bounce back before then and be ready to start with the team from game one. That decision will depend on how fast he can heal and how soon coach Bob Stoops wants to get him back into the lineup.
This leads to the team turning to backup QB Philip Nelson to be the next man up. He has shown great ability in both mini-camp and training camp that he has great deep ball accuracy and high football IQ with his extensive knowledge of offensive coordinator Hal Mumme’s offense. He’s been working closely with Jones on getting the terminology down so he can go out and play without overthinking it. He went into the season as one of the better backups in the league and he might have a chance to showcase it in the opener against the St. Louis BattleHawks. With the injury comes big concerns about the depth of the quarterback position, which resulted in the team acting quick and finding a new quarterback to fill in.
“[Director] @DarylJohnston and our player personnel guys have had [QB @EricDungey] on their radar for quite awhile — big, good-looking athlete, he’s got a good arm, so he fits in with us well,” @CoachBobStoops said.
— Dallas Renegades (@XFLRenegades) January 10, 2020
Eric Dungey Signed, Jerrod Heard Plays at QB
Former Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey was called upon to join the quarterback conversation as the Renegades brought him in to be the new backup quarterback. This week though, he has had more time just learning the offense and get comfortable with the play calls. Wide receiver and former Texas Longhorns quarterback Jerrod Heard was moved back into his old position as he took snaps at quarterback to help with depth until Dungey can get back up to speed. Stoops didn’t seem phased by his new quarterback situation though when discussing their play.
“[Philip Nelson] looks really strong, doing a great job with more reps that he’s getting,” Stoops said in an article on xfl.com. “Eric Dungey came in and filled in well today, and Jerrod Heard also is getting some snaps and he’s looked better the more reps he gets. So they’re all doing a good job.”
If Dungey is able to learn quickly and get in some reps, this could present a quarterback controversy that was not anticipated for training camp. Dungey displays good arm strength and accuracy along with his experience with spread offense. He’s comfortable in the pocket in shotgun formations and has pin point accuracy on short yardage passes. His only real big knock is his inability of staying healthy. In his first three seasons at Syracuse, he suffered injuries in all, but was able to make ever start in his senior season which is a plus. Week two will be a defining point in Dungey’s young XFL career to determine if he can take the job away from Nelson.
New Helmet Radio Communication
The XFL did announce new rules when it came down to how radio communication is handled with all skill players getting radios inserted into their helmets for the league to promote quicker play calls and more of a chance to not huddle up. The Dallas Renegades were the first ones to test it out earlier in the week to see how it would work. Hal Mumme spoke about how it was going learning how to adjust to the new communication system in the league.
“Speed is obviously the biggest difference because I can get the play out to six guys at a time,” Mumme said on an article on xfl.com. “I think it’s pretty cool. I always hated headsets until now.”
This radio system works perfectly with the style of offense that the Renegades are going to be running. The Air Raid offense is almost exclusively run in the shotgun which should help the quarterbacks make the calls easier and this should help all the skill players to line up correctly without any issues of misplacement in where they are on the field. It will be an adjustment for all eight of the XFL teams, but one that could benefit teams that might want to move up the tempo offensively and help avoid delay of game penalties with the new 25 second play clock.
Long Snapper Owen Gilbert Waived
The Renegades will be faced with an interesting situation in regards to what they will do at the long snapper position. Owen Gilbert was announced as being waived from the team on Thursday. His story was interesting in the fact that former Indianapolis Colts long snapper Matt Overton was originally offered a spot on the team as their long snapper, but he couldn’t commit to it. Instead, he recommended Gilbert to them and Dallas ended up signing him. Now the team may either look on their roster or somewhere in free agency for a new long snapper.
Camp Standouts: Jazz Ferguson & Josh Hawkins
Jazz Ferguson has to be looked at as a potential sleeper to make this team and probably get significant playing time. Time and time again on social media, we have witnessed Ferguson making some spectacular catches in the end zone. He has obviously proven to be a deep threat to this team and has gained the confidence of his quarterbacks. In a time where the team may not have their starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, having a player like Ferguson will give them more confidence to throw it up to him to make a big catch. I would not be surprised to see him in the starting lineup during training camp and possibly at the beginning of the season.
Josh Hawkins is one of many defensive backs on the team who stood out in week one of training camp. With the winds being strong and the weather being so-so in Houston, the secondary did an outstanding job in coverage and creating turnovers. They had the tough task of shutting down some of the fastest receivers in the league and all indications have been they were able to do that and more. Hawkins was one of those ballhawking corners to have an impressive week one. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as he has NFL experience from his time with the Green Bay Packers where he actually started three games in 2017 and recorded six pass deflections. He will play a key role in this defense as a veteran presence and could earn a spot in the starting lineup.
— Bob Stoops (@CoachBobStoops) January 10, 2020
As a former morning sports anchor at KGNC 710 AM in Amarillo, TX and a former TV news reporter at KFDX in Wichita Falls, TX and KXII in Sherman, TX, I have a passion for all things sports (specifically football and basketball). The new look XFL got my attention as a spring football league that can work. I look forward to writing about all things XFL Dallas and covering it for the upcoming 2020 season.