Closer than it seemed – Dragons at Defenders Review

Quarterback Brandon Silvers in action against the DC Defenders in the XFL's opening game. Credit: Seattle Dragons
Quarterback Brandon Silvers in action against the DC Defenders in the XFL’s opening game. Credit: Seattle Dragons

Whelp. The Dragons started off the season with a very frustrating loss. Cardale Jones was as good as advertised but the Dragons defense had a solid game, only giving up 19 offensive points. The offense was a little bit hot and cold but showed some solid signs of life in the running and downfield passing game. The main problem was special teams. A blocked punt TD was a killer and the kickoff fiasco before half cost us three points. The dagger that killed the Dragons, though, came when Austin Proehl slipped and Bradley Sylve took a Brandon Silvers pass back the other way. Between those three plays, that is 15 points that the offense or defense didn’t have a direct effect on. Let’s go position by position here.

QB play: Inconsistent

There was some good and some bad in the performance by Brandon Silvers today. Unfortunately, the bad played a huge role in the outcome of the game. The pick-six was brutal for the Dragons but I dont know if you can completely blame that one on Silvers. Proehl slipping (was one of many players that slipped today) caused the Silvers throw to go right into the hands of Defenders defensive back Bradley Sylve and he took it to the house. Silvers threw another pick that was very ugly looking and CB Elijah Campbell dropped another potential pick-six. Silvers third turnover sealed the game as he messed up an exchange with Ja’Quan Gardner at the five yard line. The positives were Silvers pocket movement and downfield passing. Silvers had some very impressive plays where he maneuvered the pocket and kept his eyes downfield. The 57 yard TD to Proehl was the one everyone remembers but he almost had another one if it wasn’t for a great PBU by a DC Defender. Silvers threw it deep way more routinely than I expected and had some great accuracy. He pushed a few a little too far out of bounds but he dropped some dimes. Unfortunately, outside of Dontez Byrd, his receivers could not make a play on the ball. I don’t think Silvers lost this game for the Dragons, but he could have done a little more to help win it. I am still 100% behind Silvers for next week as long as he is healthy, I am surprised to see so many Dragons fans clamoring for BJ.

Run game: Efficient

I expected the Dragons to run the ball a little more but the backs were efficient with their touches, turning 19 carries into 93 yards (4.9 ypc). Farrow was the most impactful with some good short yardage carries and a big run to set up a score at the end of the first half. I would expect to see this 3-headed timeshare continue as these guys can all be valuable contributors. Look for possibly more rushing volume next week against the Vipers.

Receivers: Uninspiring

This grade could have been a whole lot worse if Austin Proehl did not suit up today for the Dragons. Proehl had a great game, getting open out of the slot and being a go-to target for Silvers. He did a great job getting open and breaking tackles en route to a 57 yard TD after Silvers eluded the sack. Outside of Proehl and a nice catch from Byrd, there was little life. The receivers struggled to gain much separation and could not go up to get many jump balls, Kasen Williams should help in that aspect. The TEs were pretty non-existent in the passing game, a few good plays from Rodriguez and Johnson but nothing more than that. I think the RBs are going to be a great weapon for us if we find a little bit better way to use them in the passing game. Williams had a huge TD catch and Farrow had a huge 1st down catch but the screen game was ineffective, I want to see them improve upon that because it could be a huge weapon for us. I hope getting Kasen Williams back injects some life into the outside receivers and we can get the ball in Keenan Reynolds’ hands.

Offensive Line: Underappreciated

I was very impressed by what this offensive line did on Saturday. Silvers got sacked once for a 4 yard loss and was given time in the pocket to throw downfield. The run game was consistent and the OL opened some solid holes. I was pleasantly surprised by the depleted unit and I think they could develop into a real strong unit that anchors the offense. To think that this unit could be getting back Isaiah Battle is a huge positive as well. These guys were an obvious bright spot for me and not one that people realize

Front Seven: Swarming

There were some concerns but this front seven was SWARMING. The fact that Cardale Jones only got sacked once is more of a testament to his toughness than this pass rush. They were constantly in the backfield but could not bring down Cardale. I believe more sacks will come and when we play a less mobile QB, they will come in bunches. This run defense was impressive as well. Pressley and Pumphrey showcased some serious speed but way more often then not, the defense was right on them. They combined for 16 carries for 36 yards (2.3 YPC) and were bottled up all night. The only issue I saw was tackling. To often on 3rd and long we could not bring down Cardale or we missed an initial tackle. The defense played pretty fast and got to people but needs to be a little better in the tackling department.

Secondary: Meh

This was a tough task for this secondary which was missing Seisay and Graham but they let up some crucial, big plays. The trick play was blown and the go ahead Rashad Ross TD was poorly played. These two plays were bad, but they were also some of the only signs of life the Defenders had. The secondary had a tough task and played great most of the game but those plays were killers. Cardale also did a great job of extending the play and when he did that, the secondary had some trouble at times staying glued to their man (which is understandable, these are tough receivers and you can’t cover them all day). All in all, they let some big plays up but with some key pieces back, they could be a good little unit for us.

Special Teams: Troublesome

When you think of special teams in this game, you think of that blocked punt. This was just one of the huge mishaps by the Dragons but another HUGE mishap happened right before half. The kickoff did not make it to the 20 yard line and the Defenders got the ball at Seattle’s 45 (a new XFL rule). This basically gifted the Defenders three points and those points came into play in the second half. Outside of those two plays, everything was solid and pretty standard. However, those two plays changed the course of the game and cannot happen again.

Coaching: Solid

I was interested to see the mindset of this team and I was a bit surprised at time with what I saw. Zorn made a baffling call to punt on 4th and 1 early in the game but got a lot more aggressive as the game went on (which I believe is a positive). I would have liked to see 2pt conversions instead of 1pt conversions but I was pleased with Zorn’s 4th down aggressiveness later in the game. The play-calling was fine as they were fairly balanced and pushed the ball down the field. I think Zorn put his players in a solid spot to win the game but the team just made crucial mistakes at the wrong moment. I am still in on Jim Zorn.

Overall performance: Frustrating

Frustrating was the word I used to describe this game. I think we have the team that could have beaten DC on Saturday but little mistakes and stuff that did not go our way cost us the game. This team is not 12 points worse than DC in my opinion. I am excited for the rest of the season but this one kind of stings. The overall game was great for the XFL, I think quality football was played but as a Dragons fan I left with a sour taste in my mouth. Next week we will travel back home and look to get back to .500 with Seattle behind us. Go Dragons!

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