The 2020 XFL Season has arrived. The New York Guardians kickoff their season at MetLife Stadium this Sunday, 2 pm ET on Fox. The Guardians will start and end their regular season with the Tampa Bay Vipers.
Here’s everything you need to know about the New York Guardians heading into the 2020 XFL season:
Guardians Head Coach/General Manager Kevin Gilbride, Running Backs Coach Jerald Ingram, and Defensive Coordinator Jim Herrmann all won a SuperBowl championship on the same staff. Gilbride and Ingram won two side by side with the New York Giants. In an entirely brand new league in the XFL, with eight brand new teams, having prominent members of the staff, who have already won together at the highest level, is an added advantage.
The XFL is essentially a league of eight pro football expansion teams. Kevin Gilbride and Jerald Ingram have a strong history in that area as well. They were both key members of the 1995 Expansion Jacksonville Jaguars staff. The Jaguars were one of two expansion teams at the time. Jacksonville’s roster featured mostly fringe NFL players and castoffs. Players like Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith became stars, once they finally got an opportunity to showcase their talents. Within two years, with Ingram coaching the running backs, and Gilbride calling the offense, Jacksonville made it to the AFC Championship.
Despite this being over two decades ago, it still holds relevance to the present day XFL. The league’s rosters are very similar to the expansion teams of the NFL back then. A collection of players that just missed out in the NFL, or players that have been overlooked. The Guardians have two prominent coaches that have experience in finding and developing those types of players on a brand new team in Kevin Gilbride and Jerald Ingram.
ANDY REID RECOMMENDATION
Back in mid-December, the New York Guardians held a fan event at MetLife Stadium. Guardians Team President Janet Duch, ESPN’s Diana Russini, and members of the Guardians’ front office played host and held an open forum. It was during this event that it was revealed that current Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid played a big part in bringing Quarterback Matt McGloin to New York.
Guardians’ Director of Player Personnel Alan ‘Trip’ MacCracken, spent time with Andy Reid in Kansas City from 2013-2017. MacCracken was the Chiefs Director of Football Administration during that period. Andy Reid contacted the Guardians front office and highly recommended Matt McGloin after spending time coaching him in 2018. Matt McGloin was already on the Guardians radar as a potential target, but getting a stamp of approval from one of the game’s very best quarterback gurus in Andy Reid helped cement that decision.
THE WAY UNDER 30 CLUB
Of the 52 players currently on the Guardians roster. Only one player is thirty years old, and it’s starting Quarterback Matt McGloin. The second-oldest player on the Guardians is NFL veteran defensive tackle TJ Barnes, at 29 years old. Forty-five players on the New York roster are 26 years old or younger. The majority of the young players on the Guardians’ roster all have NFL experience, in one form or another.
Matt McGloin’s experience in the NFL is of most importance, especially when it comes to leading the charge on offense and in the locker room. Despite being the senior member of the roster, at what is not an old age for quarterbacks, McGloin has a lot of similarities with his teammates, and he embodies the type of player that is in the XFL.
McGloin has had to earn his keep the hard way. He was a walk-on at Penn State, who, through hard work and determination, eventually became a star for the Nittany Lions. McGloin then went undrafted and had to work his way onto a roster in the NFL with the Raiders. McGloin made it as a third-stringer, a role he would hold for the majority of his career. When called into action as a rookie, McGloin held his own and earned the respect of his teammates and fans. He did that throughout his NFL career as a third-stringer, a role that most teams in the NFL do not have anymore. Matt McGloin was never called on or expected to be the leading man, that is until now. His performance in the classroom, locker room and on the field will ultimately determine how far the Guardians go this season.
THE ODD GROUP OF ODDS
Vegas and many different odds-makers online have set the projected win totals and championship probability numbers for all eight XFL teams. When it comes to the Guardians futures, the odds-makers are all over the map. It’s not surprising considering that this is a new league.
BetMGM has the New York Guardians odds set at (+350). New York has the second-best odds to win the XFL Championship. The Guardians are only behind Dallas (+250)
Caesars Casino and Sportsbook have the Guardians in the middle of the pack. New York is at +900. The Vipers, Renegades, and Defenders are ahead of them, respectively, as projected XFL Champs.
BetOnline has the New York Guardians at a projected win total of four games, and second to last to win an XFL Championship at +750. Ahead of only the Seattle Dragons at +900
CBS SPORTSLINE has the New York Guardians as the favorite with Dallas to win it all in late April, giving them 4-1 odds to do so.
The Action Network via Draft Kings Sportsbook has the Guardians in their top three teams at +450
Bovada has the Guardians as their second-best bet behind only Dallas at +320
THE GUARDIANS OFFENSE
Kevin Gilbride will be calling the plays but with assistance from his staff in Quarterback Coach G.A. Mangus and Wide Receivers Coach Mike Miller. Mangus is a former Quarterback and coaching disciple of Steve Spurrier. He brings many of the same principles from Spurrier’s “Fun ‘n’ Gun” attack. Miller is a longtime assistant and former offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals. In 2008, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston each gained over 1000 receiving yards; a feat only accomplished five times in NFL history.
The passing game will be led by Matt McGloin, but Luis Perez and Marquise Williams are two capable young quarterbacks with upside.
Although Kevin Gildbride is mostly known for his work in the early days of the ‘Run N Shoot,’ over his four decades as a coach Gilbride’s offenses have been more multiple. An often overlooked aspect in his tenure as a play-caller is the success of his rushing attacks over the years. A significant credit to that goes to RB coach Jerald Ingram.
Back in 2008, The New York Giants became only the fifth team in NFL history with two players to rush for more than 1,000 yards: Brandon Jacobs (1,089) and Derrick Ward (1,025). Throughout the years, Gilbride’s offenses have favored using multiple runners in multiple formations.
The Guardians’ have a very versatile and talented young backfield in Tim Cook, Justin Stockton, Darius Victor, and Matthew Colburn. Cook and Victor are two power runners who break tackles and run through you. Stockton has blazing speed and can run away from the defense. Colburn is a jack of all trades type back who can run around you and make defenders miss in space. Expect all four to factor in New York’s ground game.
The breakout fantasy star for New York is Mekale ‘Big Play’ McKay. Throughout his coaching career, Kevin Gilbride has had big receivers who can make plays down the field and in the red zone. Players like Plaxico Burress and Hakeem Nicks. The 6’4 McKay is cut from the same cloth. The Guardians’ are not lacking for skill or size at the position. DeAngelo Yancey (6’2), Teo Redding (6’1), and Tanner Gentry (6’2), all can win when the ball is in the air. Getting Yancey and Gentry healthy in the early season will be crucial. BYU’s WR Colby Pearson has spent time in the NFL with the Packers and Falcons. He has good speed and quickness to play in the slot. Wide Receivers, Joe Horn Jr., and Austin Duke were late arrivals to the Guardians but made enough of an impact to stick. Speedy Justice Liggins rounds out the receiving unit.
Former All-Big 12 and John Mackey Award Finalist veteran tight end EJ Biggs should also help provide a reliable target for Matt McGloin, in what looks like will be a very balanced offensive attack. Backing up Biggs are do-it-all type tight ends, Jake Sutherland and Jake Powell. Two small school tight ends from Morehead State and Monmouth, can both be effective in-line blockers and in space. Texas State’s Keenen Brown has significant upside as a pass-catcher. The Graduate transfer from Oklahoma State was named a First-Team All-American tight end by Pro Football Focus after having the top overall grade among tight ends with 86.6 and catching 76.1 percent of targeted passes.
The key to the Guardians attack will be their offensive line, coached by veteran Ronnie Vinklarek. The team’s top draft pick upfront is Notre Dame’s, Jarron Jones. A former DT now Left Tackle, who has excellent athleticism and a defensive player mentality when it comes to battling in the trenches. New York has recently acquired Auburn Tackle Avery Young and former USC Guard Damien Mama, both of whom have had experience in the NFL with several teams. Center Ian Silberman, a former sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, will play a pivotal role upfront. Local product Guard Anthony Coyle from Fordham was a two-time First Team All-Patriot League player. 6’7 349 pound John Kling, known as ‘Kling Klong,’ the former UB product is a mauler upfront. LSU’s Garrett Brumfield was a two-year starter in the bayou. He can play center and guard. Toledo’s OT Brant Weiss is an excellent pass blocker who can play LT and RT. Finding the right combination up front and creating continuity will be no simple task, but there’s certainly a lot of talent and versatility in this unit.
THE GUARDIANS DEFENSE
Size upfront won’t be an issue in Jim Herrmann’s 4-3 defense. The team boasts three former NFL veteran space-eating tackles in TJ Barnes (362), Toby Johnson Jr. (350), and Joey Mbu (336). Maryland’s Cavon Walker is the polar opposite of these three at 288 pounds. Walker can play inside and outside and can provide some interior pass rush. The teams pass rush at defensive end will come from former All-SEC pass rusher Charles Wright out of Vanderbilt, Bunmi Rotini (Old Dominion), and former Second Team All-Big 12’s Jarrell Owens(Oklahoma State). Former NFL Defensive Lineman C.J. Ah You is this unit’s position coach.
New York has a versatile group of sideline to sideline linebackers coached by longtime college coach Kevin Kelly. The captain of the defense is former Kansas standout, Ben Heeney. He’s expected to be the teams’ primary signal-caller. Heeney is a former 2015 fifth-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders. The issue with Heeney during his pro career has been durability. He just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. On the field, he’s flashed smarts, sound tackling, and excellent cover skills. Heeney is joined in this group by a very similar group of players in D’Juan Hines, Nick DeLuca, Jawuan Johnson, and Frank Ginda. The Guardians’ boast perhaps the league’s most athletic linebacking corps. Johnson and Hines are former college safeties. DeLuca is a four-time FCS national champion from North Dakota State. He can play inside or outside. Frank Ginda is a player to watch from San Jose State. Only 22 years old, As a junior in 2017, Ginda was the NCAA leading tackler with 173 total tackles, with 94 being solo. Ginda’s 173 total tackles were the most in Mountain West Conference history. After the season, he declared for the 2018 NFL Draft, preceding his senior season. In hindsight, it was a mistake. He landed on the Cardinals and Dolphins but was unable to stick. Ginda got a real opportunity with the San Diego Fleet last year and showed flashes of brilliance. He is a potential break out star. Garrett Dooley (Wisconsin) and Ryan Mueller (Kansas State), are very similar players with tweener ability as pass rushers.
Former NFL All-Pro Chris Dishman is coaching a very talented young group of defensive backs. The Guardians’ boast arguably the league’s best corner tandem in TCU’s Ranthony Texada and AAF Standout Jamar Summers. Texada is a top man corner coming from playing on an island in Gary Patterson’s defense. Stanford Defensive Back Terrence Alexander transferred to LSU because he wanted to get a football education at playing in the SEC. National Champion Coach Ed Orgeron called Alexander, one of the smartest players he has ever coached. Alexander turned down a six-figure paying salary in cybersecurity to continue playing football. Alexander has experience playing in the slot, and his superb tackling has seen him play safety as well. Former Michigan State safety Demetrious Cox is a jack of all trades himself. He has NFL experience and can play in the slot. Cornerback Bryce Jones also has NFL experience, the former Akron/Boston College track star, has excellent speed and length. Shepherd University’s CB Dejuan Neal is a raw but physically gifted player who has received a lot of accolades from his coaching staff. Northern Arizona standout safety Wes Sutton was a superstar All-Big Sky player. Maryland’s AJ Hendy has been a practice squad player in the NFL. He is a physical in the box safety who can also cover. The Guardians’ secondary is rounded out by hard-hitting safety Andrew Soroh, and West Virginia’s ball-hawking safety Dravon Askew-Henry.
THE GUARDIANS SPECIAL TEAMS
New York has a steady group of specialists with NFL experience in Kicker Matthew McCrane, Long Snapper Scott Daly, and Punter Justin Vogel. The XFL’s new kickoff and punt rules, however, could require an adjustment period for all three of them. Particularly Vogel, who won’t be able to coffin corner kick. The one area that is up in the air is who will be returning kicks. Running backs Justin Stockton and Matthew Colburn are both capable of doing so.
INSIDE THE GUARDIANS SCHEDULE
Most important game: Week 1 at home Sunday against the Tampa Bay Vipers on Fox. The Guardians start the season with three straight divisional games. The Guardians don’t play at home again until week four against Los Angeles on Saturday, February 29th. The first half of the teams’ schedule ends with a road trip to face the Dallas Renegades. In a ten-game season, it can become late real early. The oddsmakers have the Vipers as a three to four-point favorite coming into MetLife. New York can ill afford to lose their opener before heading to DC and then playing St.Louis in their home opener. Beating the Vipers in week one would send a statement and get the team off on the right foot.