Scouting The Spring League: Five players who could find their way onto XFL rosters in 2021

Before the entire sports world shut down in mid-March, The Spring League completed their developmental football season in Las Vegas. Last year, the XFL partnered with the TSL to test potential rules and host the Summer Showcases. Players were able to perform for XFL coaches and scouts during this time.

More than 25 TSL alumni were in XFL camps this winter, and many more were included in October’s draft pool. In order to keep the quality of play at a high level, the XFL will turn over every stone in their effort to find the best players available.

With that in mind, here are a few prospects who stood out to me in researching TSL talent from the latest season. I combed through the entire player list to identify five who could have a future in the XFL in 2021 and beyond. Full rosters can be found here:

C Deveric Gallington, Texas Tech: Standing 6’3” and weighing 335 pounds, Gallington has the requisite size to be a force on the offensive line. He’s used to playing in an up-tempo offense at Texas Tech, which should ease his transition to the XFL’s 25-second play clock. He also played in the Air Raid system there under Mike Leach and Tommy Tuberville, a system that has found its way to the XFL thanks to the influence of Dallas assistant coach Hal Mumme. Gallington was a 2013 undrafted free agent of the Arizona Cardinals, but failed to break camp with the team. He also played in the AFL. A steady presence on the Red Raiders’ line, Gallington made an impressive 38 consecutive starts at right guard and center.

LB Aamir Petrose, Wesley: I wanted to choose five players who seemed to be off the XFL’s radar, but I cheated a little with Petrose. He was in the league’s supplemental draft pool in November but was not chosen. His production warrants another look, however. As a defensive end in college, Petrose accumulated 13 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss as a senior. He stuffed the stat sheet with three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 13 pass break-ups in 14 games. It is said that when you play at a lower level collegiately, you need to dominate to have a chance to survive in the upper ranks of pro football. Petrose did just that. Post-college, he had a CFL tryout and played in the Alliance of American Football.

OT Jeremiah Poutasi, Utah: It can be difficult to find quality offensive linemen for alternative football leagues. Poutasi stands out because of his NFL regular season experience (12 games), something afforded only a few TSL players. Still relatively young at 25, Poutasi needs to show the mobility to handle edge rushers while carrying 340 pounds on his 6’4” frame. He may be a candidate to kick inside to guard, where he does have some familiarity. Poutasi was a 3rd round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2015. He was with the Cardinals as recently as this past season, and also dabbled in the AAF.

DT Khalil Sommerville, Buffalo State: From Division III Liberty League comes all 6’1”, 295 pounds of Sommerville. After a mini-camp tryout with the hometown Buffalo Bills in 2018, Sommerville plied his trade with the Salt Lake Stallions in the AAF. Despite playing inside on the defensive line, Sommerville was able to notch 125 tackles, 32 for loss, and 12 sacks in 31 collegiate games. Four tackles per game for an interior defensive lineman catches your eye no matter what the level or scheme you play in. His size gives him versatility to play end in a 3-4 or tackle in a 4-3.

RB Lavance Taylor, Central Missouri: At 27 years old, Taylor could be coming into his prime as a runner. He spent a short time with the Kansas City Chiefs, signing as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He also had a brief stint with Ottawa in the CFL. His college numbers are eye-popping: Taylor averaged 7.8 yards per carry on 245 rushes as a senior, including 15 rushing touchdowns. He also caught a total of 66 passes in his final two collegiate seasons. His pass-catching ability could come in handy in the XFL, where that is an integral part of many offenses in the league.

XFL Seattle Dragons running back Kenneth Farrow is optimistic

Kenneth Farrow
Seattle Dragons running back Kenneth Farrow (Credit: XFL.com)

In a shortened XFL season, Seattle Dragons running back Kenneth Farrow was just getting started. But the dream season ended when the XFL had to cancel its remaining games, essentially cutting the season in half.

“It kind of took everybody by surprise,” Farrow said, referring to the sudden end of the XFL season. “We kind of saw everybody else falling and felt we weren’t too far behind.”

Farrow recalled that once the NBA season and “March Madness” were cancelled, they knew that the XFL season was sure to be the next to go.

And it was.

Speaking from his home in Houston, instead of preparing to play week eight of the XFL season where the Seattle Dragons were scheduled to travel to Dallas, Kenneth is staying safe and practicing good social distancing.

“I’m back in Houston and everything’s good. I’m feeling great,” Farrow said. “So just kind of trying to stay indoors and stay away from everything that’s going on right now.”

Still he can’t help but feel blessed to have been part of the XFL’s Seattle Dragons, even in the truncated first season.

“That was a fun time. Anytime you get to go out there and play in front of millions on TV, you know, that’s kind of what you live for,” he said. “It was definitely a great opportunity for us to get out there and be able to showcase what we got on the football field.”

Also, being part of a team is an essential part of what gave Farrow the feeling that the opportunity of playing in the XFL was worthwhile.

“Being able to be a part of the team and, you know, make new relationships with new guys that we played against each other and maybe never had chance to be on the same team. So, it’s definitely a fun opportunity for everybody,” Farrow said.

Farrow should be satisfied with his XFL 2020 performance. In a crowded backfield, he shared running back duties with Ja’Quan Gardner and Trey Williams.

“We had a little rotation going there. Keeping everybody fresh,” Farrow explained.

The three running backs gave the Seattle Dragons strength in the backfield, something Farrow considers to be an important part of their game plan.

“That was going to be kind of a strength of our team and you know, kind of looking back, we were able to run the ball. It was pretty effective.”

Considering the season had just hit the halfway point, we wonder how the Seattle running game would have evolved to become. Of course, this is something we will never know.

Farrow was marginally the top Seattle running back with 38 carries for 156 yards, an average of 4.1 yards per carry. He had one touchdown, a pass into the end zone from quarterback Brandon Silvers in the game against the Dallas Renegades.

YouTube video

 

Surely though, there was more to come.

Last year, Farrow was a standout running back with the San Antonio Commanders. During week four of the AAF season, Farrow recorded 142 yards on 30 carries against the undefeated Birmingham Iron’s second-ranked defense, to lead San Antonio to a 12–11 victory. He was named the AAF Offensive Player of the Week for this effort. Unfortunately, the AAF season was cut short after week eight when the league suspended operations.

With the XFL season being cut this year, one might think this must sound like déjà vu for Farrow.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Farrow said. “I kinda saw it coming and I kind of expected it, a little bit more than maybe some of the other guys.”

Still, he takes the setback with a good attitude, and is taking his off-time as an opportunity to work with the “Grind with a Purpose” Foundation, something that is near and dear to his heart.

“It’s a mentorship program, we do with inner city kids out here,” Kenneth explained.

“We started back in 2017 in Houston and we’ve done a couple of sessions in Seattle. We were able to get to an elementary school and kind of talk with some kids there. But out here in Houston we’ve had about 80 kids total go through the program. It’s like a 10-week program, just character building and trying to teach the kids better ways of going about their daily lives.”

Kenneth reports that he has brought in other Seattle Dragons players such as BJ Daniels and Trey Williams to help out with the foundation.

Next week the foundation plans a live Instagram broadcast, as they are continuing their work even in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.  People should look for more information on Twitter @KennethMFarrow or on the website grindwithapurpose.org

As for Farrow, when asked where we may see him next on a football field, he leaves all options open, and is positive about being able to step up in his career.

“I’ll definitely get an opportunity at the next level,” Farrow said optimistically. “And go in there and take full advantage of it. Whether it be the NFL or the XFL, I definitely think I’ll put tape out there to show that I can still play at a high level.”

We all know a good attitude can often lead to opportunity, and we wish Kenneth Farrow all the opportunities we know he deserves.

“You know, who knows,” Kenneth said. “Who knows where I land next. But, I’ll definitely be ready when that time comes.”

You may hear a longer interview with Kenneth Farrow in Episode 32 of the XFL Xtra podcast

Episode 32 – Grind with a Purpose – Kenneth Farrow and Jackson Conner

First, host Mark Nelson talks with Seattle Dragons running back Kenneth Farrow about the shortened XFL season, the success of the Seattle Dragons, especially with the fans in the city of Seattle, his work with the “Grind with a Purpose” foundation, and his plans for the future. Then we hear from XFLBoard.com Seattle Dragons team reporter Jackson Conner. Jackson talks about the shortened XFL season, which players are headed to the NFL, and what we can expect from the XFL leading up to season two.

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XFL Players signed to NFL Squads

With COVID-19 paralyzing the majority of the sports world, NFL Free Agency has been the main focus of sports fanatics across the country for the last week. Included in that are twelve XFL players who have agreed to NFL contracts at the time of this article.

After the NFL and XFL finally allowed XFL players to make the jump officially on Monday, the best of the XFL have been leaping at the chance to make their mark on the National Football League.

Here are the players from each team that have signed to NFL contracts:

  1. Houston: QB PJ Walker to the Carolina Panthers
  2. Houston:LB DeMarquis Gates to the Minnesota
  3. Houston: CB Deatrick Nichols to the New Orleans Saints
  4. St. Louis: QB Jordan Ta’amu to the Kansas City Chiefs
  5. NY: S Dravon Askew-Henry to the New York Giants
  6. NY: DE Cavon Walker to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  7. NY: OT Jarron Jones to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  8. Dallas: TE Donald Parham to the LA Chargers
  9. Dallas: LS Christian Kuntz to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  10. DC: TE Khari Lee to the Atlanta Falcons
  11. DC: S Tyree Kinnel to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  12. TB: LS Nick Moore to the Baltimare Ravens

PJ Walker signed the most lucrative contract we know of so far, agreeing to a two year $1,565,000 contract with a $150,000 signing bonus.

Jordan Ta’amu will back up NFL superstar and Super Bowl Champion Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, giving the Chiefs a viable backup option who can slide right into the offense if Mahomes is out. This was an emphasis for the Chiefs in the offseason after Mahomes missed two games during the 2019 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed the most XFL players to NFL contracts, bringing 4 XFL athletes to the Steel City. These players are Cavon Walker, Jarron Jones, Christian Kuntz and Tyree Kinnel. Pittsburgh brings the XFL sack leader, a versatile DB in Kinnel and two players in Kuntz and Jones who have played on both sides of the ball in their pro football careers.

While twelve players have made the jump, stars such as Cam Phillips, Josh Johnson, Cardale Jones, and many more XFL standouts have yet to agree to XFL contracts. Look for these players and others to sign NFL deals after the draft, which was recently confirmed by Roger Goodell to be held April 23-25.

In the meantime, with a move that impressed the sports world, the XFL will pay all players their full contracts, even though the 2020 season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 viral pandemic. Even those twelve players who have agreed to NFL contracts will likely not sign officially until after the NFL draft in order to receive their full financial compensation from the XFL.

So, while you are in quarantine or self-isolation, check out some NFL free agency news or maybe re-watch an old XFL game. In a time where the news is not always good, take solace in the people who after months and years of hard work, will now get a shot at their dream: playing in the National Football League.

XFLBoard 2020 All-XFL Team

We asked our XFLBoard contributors to collectively weigh-in on their choices for a 2020 All-XFL team. Four of our reporters stepped up, took the challenge, and voted for their squads: Jackson Conner, Mike Mitchell, Greg Parks, and Pat Traina. Here are the results!

OFFENSE

 

PJ Walker, Quarterback, Houston Roughnecks

  • Walker was undoubtedly the MVP of the league, leading the league in passing yards (1,338) and touchdowns (15).  ~ Pat Traina
  • Not only the top QB in the league, but the MVP through the five weeks of the season. No one at this position was as consistent a playmaker as Walker. ~ Greg Parks
  • It was only a five-game sample but the argument can be made that Walker was the most dynamic pro quarterback that has played in a non-NFL league in decades. ~ Mike Mitchell
  • This was honestly a lot harder of a decision than I thought it would be. Josh Johnson and Jordan Ta’amu have very impressive cases for this spot but I had to stick with PJ. Walker leads the league in yards (1338 passing, 99 rushing), in touchdowns (15 passing, 1 rushing) and his team is 5-0. Walker should continue his impressive tear into the second half of the season and find himself back on an NFL roster.  ~ Jackson Conner

Cameron Artis-Payne, Running Back, Dallas Renegades

  • Artis-Payne was the only RB with more than 15 carries to average over 5.0 yards per rush. He also showed well in the throw game, catching 23 passes. ~ Greg Parks
  • Toughest position to pick just one player. A large part of success is based on the supporting cast and scheme. ‘CAP’ averaged over 5 yards per carry (highest among all feature backs) and garnered 23 receptions. ~ Mike Mitchell
  • CAP is one of two running backs with 350+ total yards, averaging 5.1 yards per tote, has the sixth highest elusive rating per PFF and is PFF’s #2 graded running back. That is an impressive resume and what is also equally as impressive is that CAP has taken over the second half of games. In the Renegades two game winning streak, CAP had game-clinching runs and was a major factor in their victories. ~ Jackson Conner

Cam Phillips, Wide Receiver, Houston Roughnecks

  • Phillips production level was off the charts. (9 touchdowns in 5 games) ~Mike Mitchell
  • Walker’s favorite target with an explosive nine touchdowns in just five games. Like Walker, Phillips was the clear best receiver in the league. ~ Greg Parks
  • Philips was the best receiver in the league; leading the XFL in receptions (31), receiving yards (455) and touchdowns (9). ~ Pat Traina
  • An obvious choice, his 31 catches for 455 yards easily lead the league but the real crazy stat is his 9 TDs. For some reference, the next closest receiver has 4 touchdowns. ~ Jackson Conner

Tre McBride, Wide Receiver, LA Wildcats

  • Formed arguably the best 1-2 receiver tandem in the league with Nelson Spruce – and a pretty good 1-2-3 if you include Jordan Smallwood. ~ Greg Parks
  • McBride was hurt to start the season but after his return he has averaged almost 100 yards per game and scored in all three. ~ Jackson Conner

Daniel Williams, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Vipers

  • Dan Williams was a tackle breaking machine in the open field. ~Mike Mitchell

Donald Parham, Tight End, Dallas Renegades

  • The top receiving tight end in the league, and it wasn’t really close. ~ Greg Parks
  • The league’s best diamond in the rough. Parham lived up to his otherworldly physical tools. ~Mike Mitchell
  • Parham led all tight-ends in every receiving category; 24 receptions for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns. ~ Pat Traina
  • Donald Parham has been phenomenal this season. In a league that has barely utilized tight ends, Parham is 3rd in receiving yards and 2nd in touchdowns among ALL receivers. Parham has 170 more yards than the next closest tight end (Brandon Barnes) which in itself makes this choice very easy. ~ Jackson Conner

Avery Genessy, Offensive Lineman, Houston Roughnecks

  • Genessy has allowed 1 pressure and 0 sacks on 317 snaps in a high passing volume offense. ~ Jackson Conner
  • Behind every great QB is usually a darn good offensive line. Gennesy may have been the best of Houston’s rock-solid group. ~ Greg Parks

Storm Norton, Offensive Lineman, LA Wildcats

  • The #1 pick in the offensive line phase of the XFL draft lived up to his billing protecting Josh Johnson’s blind side. ~ Greg Parks

Bruno Reagan, Offensive Lineman, St. Louis BattleHawks

  • A mauler in the trenches for a strong St. Louis squad. ~ Greg Parks
  • Reagan has allowed 1 sack but only 3 pressures on 368 snaps.  ~ Jackson Conner

Damien Mama, Offensive Lineman, New York Guardians

  • Damien Mama, NY: The USC product played well in both the pass and run game for the Guardians. ~ Greg Parks

Jordan McCray, Center, Tampa Bay Vipers

  • Tampa’s top offensive line selection anchored a Vipers line that was in flux at various times during the year. They finally seemed to settle on the best starting five when the league suspended play. ~ Greg Parks

DEFENSE

Cavon Walker, Defensive Lineman, New York Guardians

  • Walker, led the league with 5 sacks.  ~ Jackson Conner
  • The leader in sacks after five weeks wreaked havoc in the backfield of opponents. ~ Greg Parks
  • Congratulations to the New York Guardians for discovering such an under the radar player. ~Mike Mitchell

Will Sutton, Defensive Lineman, Seattle Dragons

  • A former 2nd round draft pick in the NFL, Sutton showed he still has it with five QB hits and four tackles for loss. ~ Greg Parks
  • Wil Sutton showed his pedigree. ~Mike Mitchell
  • Sutton is also producing at a high level with a top-5 run defense grade to go along with 10 total pressures, 2 sacks and 3 QB hits.  ~ Jackson Conner

Nikita Whitlock, Defensive Lineman, Tampa Bay Vipers

  • Small for a defensive tackle, Whitlock still managed to produce to the tune of 19 tackles and five for loss.~ Greg Parks
  • Whitlock has clogged up lanes as PFF’s #1 rated run defender but is also 2nd among defensive linemen with 12 total pressures. He is the clear best DL in the league.  ~ Jackson Conner

Bunmi Rotimi, Defensive Lineman, New York Guardians

  • Rotini leads all edge rushers in QB hurries (12) and tackles (18) and even though he only has 1 sack, those stats are a tribute to the disruption he has caused.  ~ Jackson Conner
  • Another under the radar player discovered by the Guardians. ~Mike Mitchell

Stephen Johnson, Linebacker, Seattle Dragons

  • One of the most active and effective every down backer in the entire league. ~ Mike Mitchell
  • The league leader in tackles also made six of them for loss. ~ Greg Parks
  • Steven Johnson has been a tackling machine as he leads the league with 36 of them.  ~ Jackson Conner

Beniquez Brown, Linebacker, Houston Roughnecks

  • The Roughnecks offense gets all the attention, but their defense, led by Brown, was underrated. ~ Greg Parks
  • Brown has been impressive on multiple fronts, allowing 4.7 yards per target, collecting 6 total pressures and 31 tackles. ~ Jackson Conner

 Jamar Summers, Cornerback, New York Guardians

  • Summers was as advertised. A true shutdown corner who gave up no touchdowns, committed no penalties and made game changing plays. ~ Mike Mitchell
  • Summers was debatably the defensive player of the year in the AAF and he had carried his success to the XFL. Summers has been targeted 24 times on 307 snaps and has only allowed 10 catches for 140 yards and 0 touchdowns. That is good for a 41.7% catch rate and 5.8 yards per attempt when targeted. Summers also has an interception and a pass breakup and unlike most other corners he has not been penalized. ~ Jackson Conner

Dravon Askew-Henry, Defensive Back, New York Guardians

  • A hybrid DB’s, who was an elite player all season. ~ Mike Mitchell

Ajene Harris, Cornerback, Houston Roughnecks

  • Not just an accomplished returner, Harris broke up seven passes in just five weeks of play. ~ Greg Parks

Josh Hawkins, Cornerback, Dallas Renegades

  • Hawkins, a true man corner, held Cam Phillips to one catch in the “Texas Throwdown.” ~ Mike Mitchell
  • Teams didn’t often throw in this ballhawk’s direction as the season progressed. ~ Greg Parks
  • Josh Hawkins has also been extremely impressive in coverage this year. On his 305 snaps, Hawkins has been targeted 23 times allowing 10 catches for 152 yards and 0 touchdowns. That is good for a 43.5% completion rate, 6.6 yards per attempt and a measly 29.6 passer rating when targeted. Hawkins also tags on two interceptions and three pass breakups. ~ Jackson Conner

Rahim Moore, Safety, DC Defenders

  • Through four weeks, he had not allowed a first down in coverage according to PFF.  ~ Greg Parks
  • Rahim Moore has been absolutely outstanding in coverage but has been surprisingly efficient as a pass-rusher as well. Moore has five total pressures in just 16 pass rush snaps. In coverage Moore has allowed 3 receptions for 9 yards on 12 targets, a whopping 0.75 yards per target and a 0.0 passer rating against. Moore also tacks on 2 interceptions and 2 pass breakups. ~ Jackson Conner

SPECIAL TEAMS

Austin MacGinnis, Kicker, Dallas Renegades

  • A perfect 10-10 in field goals. If not him, then who? ~ Greg Parks
  • MacGinnis never missed a field goal. (10/10) and led the league in yards per kickoff and touchbacks (4). ~ Mike Mitchell

Drew Galitz, Punter, Dallas Renegades

  • 50% of Galitz’s punt were inside the 20, Galitz has zero touchbacks, and his net punt is the highest in the league at 40.7. ~ Jackson Conner
  • Toughest position to pick from, with so many good punters such as King, Niswander, and Vogel. Galitz was third in the league in punting average. (43.7) but more impressive than that was his hang time on punts. Opposing punt returners averaged only 4 yards per return. (Best in the XFL) ~ Mike Mitchell
  • Dallas: Third in the league in gross average, first in net punting, no blocked kicks. That’ll do. ~ Greg Parks

Austin Walter, Kick Returner, Dallas Renegades

  • Walter was just starting to scratch the surface to become a difference maker. ~ Mike Mitchell
  • Walter has returned 17 kicks for 431 yards (25.4 average) and has a return touchdown. ~ Jackson Conner
  • The Renegades special teams were pretty good. Walter registered the first kick return for a touchdown that didn’t involve trickery. ~ Greg Parks

Player photos courtesy of XFL.com.

End-of-season Tampa Bay Vipers positional grades

Tampa Bay Vipers quarterback Taylor Cornelius (Credit: XFL.com)

Quarterbacks: C: Aaron Murray struggled mightily in his lone start in week one, then lost his job to Taylor Cornelius once he finally did get healthy. Cornelius had his own struggles, which makes it all the more curious Tampa Bay never did go back to Murray. I could understand if Cornelius was playing lights-out, but that wasn’t the case. Cornelius made strides over the course of his four starts, but never showed the consistency that would make him the unquestioned starter going into the 2021 season. Tampa seemed content to use Quinton Flowers as a gadget player, though Flowers himself wasn’t content with that usage. Will he get his trade wish this offseason? That won’t make the already-tenuous fanbase happy. If Murray and Cornelius both return, it should be an open competition for the job in camp.

Running Backs: A: De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick made for a formidable 1-2 punch at the running back position. With the QB spot in flux, the backs were able to chew up yardage on the ground and take some pressure off the signal-callers. They complimented each other well and kept each other fresh – that is, until Patrick got hurt in week five. Smith struggled with a heavier workload, and it’s part of what cost the Vipers their 17-point lead, and the win, against Los Angeles. Mack Brown and Tarean Folston, the two #3 backs on the season, were mostly relegated to special teams work. A pass-catching third back could open up a new dimension in the offense so that Smith and Patrick don’t have to carry the water in the pass game as well. With no fullback on the roster, TE Colin Thompson occasionally lined up in the backfield as lead blocker.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B: The team’s top three receivers, Reece Horn, Jalen Tolliver and Daniel Williams, combined for 66% of the team’s total targets in the passing game. They were the clear top three threats and played well despite the inconsistency at the quarterback spot. Williams and Tolliver succeeded in the vertical game, while Horn worked underneath to the tune of less than nine yards per catch. Injuries hampered Nick Truesdell’s production and he caught just nine passes. A healthy Truesdell will be key to the offense next season. DeAndre Goolsby made a few plays but he and Colin Thompson were mostly used as blockers. Only four receptions were made by wide receivers other than the top three. If Antonio Callaway returns from injury next season, he will help beef up the depth at this spot.

Offensive Line: B-: The Vipers finally seemed to settle on a starting five when the season was cancelled. The right side of the line in particular was ineffective early in the year; right tackle Isaiah Williams was eventually replaced by Marquis Lucas, and right guard Daronte Bouldin was sent to the bench in favor of Andrew Tiller, who returned from injured reserve in week four. Jordan McCray played well at center, as did Martez Ivey at left tackle. Jerald Foster was serviceable as the left guard. Having Bouldin and Williams in relief provided game-tested depth. While the run game numbers look good on paper, much of that yardage was gained by the backs on their own. Like the passing game, the pass blocking had its moments, but was not consistent enough. They tied for the most sacks allowed in the league.

Defensive Line: C: A healthy Obum Gwacham would’ve helped this unit, and he was rounding into form just as the league closed up shop for the year. His pass rush prowess was much needed as the Vipers didn’t generate enough from the edge. Gwacham registered the only sack from the line in five games, which just isn’t good enough from a four-man front. Veteran Nikita Whitlock led the team in quarterback hits and tackles for loss, and paced the line in tackles. Ricky Walker was more effective than Josh Banks at the other tackle position; they seemed to receive about equal playing time. As time went on, Bobby Richardson accumulated more playing time than Deiontrez Mount at the end position opposite Gwacham. Mount, the team’s second-round draft pick, disappointed with just six tackles.

Linebackers: C+: Jerry Glanville’s 4-2-5 defense doesn’t put a premium on the linebacker position, making that spot difficult to grade on a weekly basis. Terrance Plummer and Reggie Northrup each had a sack, but their in-game contributions came more on special teams than defense. Middle linebacker Lucas Wacha led this group with 14 tackles. Curiously, despite the de-emphasizing of the linebacker spot, the Vipers still spent four of their 10 draft picks in the defensive front seven phase on this spot. Thurston Armbrister, who has 31 games of NFL experience, was added from Team Nine just prior to the shut-down. It would’ve been interesting to see if he could’ve elbowed his way onto the defense.

Defensive Backs: B-: The defensive backfield allowed a completion percentage of just 52.8%, but also gave up nine touchdowns while picking off just three passes. Anthoula Kelly played well with eight passes defensed and 23 tackles. Marcelis Branch paced the team with 33 tackles, 10 more than the second-place tackler. Tarvarus McFadden also deserves a shout-out with two interceptions and three passes defensed. Micah Hannemann was challenged often as the nickel back but defensed three passes. The safeties offered ample support in the run game. The Vipers found a gem in the open phase of the draft, picking up starting safety Robert Priester out of Wyoming. Priester had a sack, an interception, and a pass defensed. Of the ten picks in the defensive backfield phase, only Hannemann and Branch saw significant playing time. A trade for former NFL 2nd round pick Jalen Collins prior to the season didn’t amount to anything of value.

Special Teams: C: The altered kickoff rules were supposed to encourage longer returns. The Vipers apparently didn’t get the message, as they averaged less than 20 yards per return. Punt return numbers weren’t much better, as they averaged just 5.5 per run back. This could be another area a healthy Antonio Callaway could improve. Jake Schum’s punting was fine, about average when it comes to the rest of the league in both gross and net yardage. Andrew Franks missed his only two kicks of 50+ yards but was otherwise relatively accurate. Reggie Northrup led the team with seven special teams tackles, while Gwacham had five in just two games. If Tampa Bay decides Callaway isn’t the answer, the return game could use some juice heading into next season.

Episode 31 – XFL taking stock and looking forward – Greg Parks

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing governments to dictate regulations regarding public gatherings, and considering the health and safety of XFL players, coaches and staffs, the XFL had no choice but to officially cancel the remainder of their 2020 season. To discuss the present situation, and talk about the future, host Mark Nelson has invited Tampa Bay Vipers team reporter Greg Parks to the podcast. Greg is a regular visitor to this podcast, and we always enjoy his football knowledge, and his keen memory of players, and their playing history. You can find Greg on Twitter, imparting his wisdom at @gregmparks, and sharing fascinating spreadsheets of players and their statistics.

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XFL: A Thank You to our Fans

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the most recent local and state regulations, have left the XFL no choice but to officially cancel the remainder of the 2020 season. This decision has been made with the health and safety of the entire XFL family as our top priority.

While we are disappointed to not complete the 2020 season, our hearts are full of appreciation for your overwhelming support.

Your passion, your commitment to your favorite XFL team and your love of football made our season a success beyond our wildest dreams. We’re grateful for the incredible response and look forward to playing full seasons for you — and with you —  in 2021 and beyond.

When our teams return to the field, we’ll make every effort to ensure your faith in us is rewarded with even more fun and excitement. Your passion is our purpose, and everything we do, every day and for every season to come, is For the Love of Football. 

We hope you will stay connected to our league and team social and digital channels for news, features, and updates along the way.

From all of us at the XFL, be safe, stay healthy, and, again, thank you. Here’s to 2021!

Sincerely,

Oliver Luck
XFL Commissioner + CEO

Jeffrey Pollack
XFL President + COO

New York Guardians XFL 2020 Season Recap: A look back at the Guardians season and what might have been

New York Guardians cornerback Jamar Summers. (Credit: XFL.com)

Every XFL team has faced this dilemma in the last few days since their regular seasons were suspended due to the worldwide pandemic known as (COVID-19).  The fans and teams are left to wonder what might have been and what was still to come. The only thing that remains, for now, is what was.

The New York Guardians finished the regular season in a three-way tie for first place in the East, along with the DC Defenders and St. Louis BattleHawks. All three teams were standing at 3-2, with half a season left to go.

New York was set to face off with the undefeated 5-0 Houston Roughnecks this past weekend on their home field, a place where the Guardians had yet to lose. There were three remaining divisional games left for New York to play. The Guardians had destiny in their own hands after appearing to be completely lost just a few short weeks ago.

How the Guardians got to 3-2, and this position is where the story lies.

After three weeks, the Guardians looked like the most fractured franchise in the entire league. Two consecutive blowout losses to division foes, DC and STL, plus a lack of discipline and division within the team, led to Kevin Gilbride confessing on the sidelines to his star receiver Mekale McKay, that he had misread the team, and had chosen the wrong leaders. Gilbride was looking for others to step up.

In a ten-game season with very little time to reflect and reset, Kevin Gilbride did just that. He took command of the team and turned to new leadership in his locker room. By seasons-end, New York was a completely different team off the field and on. A big credit goes to Kevin Gilbride and his coaching staff, in recognizing the issue and correcting the teams’ course in mid-stream.

The first leader emerging from the ashes was Quarterback Luis Perez. The Guardians had traded for Perez from the LA Wildcats at the tail-end of training camp in January. Perez went from being the Wildcats assigned starting quarterback to a third-stringer with New York.

Luis Perez picked up G.A. Mangus and his offensive scheme quickly and got to work. No player stabilized the New York Guardians season more than Perez. He brought balance and calm to the franchise. Perez, in his first start at Quarterback, exacted revenge on the team that initially anointed him as their starter. The Guardians back home defeated the explosive Josh Johnson led LA Wildcats 17-14.

New York Guardians quarterback Luis Perez rallies the squad. (Credit: XFL.com)

The following week in Dallas, with Luis Perez back at the controls, he gave his team this speech before the game.

“Our season can go two ways right now, Up or Down. Today’s the day we turn it around. Obsession to detail,  play in, and play out. Do your job, trust the guy next to you, and I promise you, we will come out victorious.”

    • New York Guardians Quarterback Luis Perez addressing his teammates before the start of their game against the Dallas Renegades.

The Guardians took their next step forward, delivering their best overall team performance of the entire season in a 30-12 victory over the Dallas Renegades. The offense produced nearly 400 yards. The Guardian’s defense and special teams continued their run of making game-changing big-plays.

New York had turned their entire season around. After the back to back victories. At the midway point of their campaign, Gilbride had found his new leaders and the Guardians announced their 2020 Team Captains publicly.

At seasons-end, The New York Guardians looked like a legit contender to be playing for a championship in Houston on April 26th.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the team:

NEW YORK GUARDIANS OFFENSE

New York boasted a strong multi-headed backfield with tackle-breaking runners in Darius Victor/Tim Cook, and had begun incorporating the 4.3 speedster Justin Stockton into the mix with success. Highly respected Running Backs Coach Jerald Ingram was at the controls of yet another talented group.

The Guardian’s offensive line under Ronnie Vinklarek had stabilized after some early issues. New York had retooled their depth up front with the acquisition of players like Derek Dennis. Guard Anthony Coyle was named to the Official All-XFL team. The offensive line was playing better as a whole after the continuity of playing half a season together. Tackles John Kling and Jaron Jones were very consistent. Center Ian Silberman brought a lot of tenacity and toughness to the team. Sometimes too much, but he was a force on the inside.

The Guardian’s passing attack was the team’s biggest weakness early on. G.A. Mangus and WR Coach Mike Miller had some early issues to deal with. Thanks to Luis Perez and New York getting healthier at the receiver position. The sky was the limit with the potential of Mekale McKay, Colby Pearson, Tanner Gentry, and the returning DeAngelo Yancey being at full force.

At Tight End. EJ Bibbs was mister everything. He contributed as a lead blocker in the run game, playing multiple positions. Jake Powell was starting to emerge as a receiver and developed good chemistry with Luis Perez. The Guardians got selfless play from this group with talented young players like Jake Sutherland.

NEW YORK GUARDIANS SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Matthew McCrane and Punter Justin Vogel were clutch all season long. They were difference-makers, especially in New York’s second win of the season versus LA. The Guardians wouldn’t have won that game without them performing at a high level. The Guardians had also uncovered an explosive returner in Justin Stockton, to strengthen the overall unit further. Linebacker and Special Teams Captain Frank Ginda led the charge for New York. Jeff McInerney and Ray Rychleski were a great tandem in coaching up special teams and assisting the team in other areas as well.

(Credit: XFL.com)

NEW YORK GUARDIANS DEFENSE

The New York Guardians’ defense was a bright spot all season long. Experienced long time defensive assistant Jim Herrmann did a great job coordinating the entire group.

A big key to the Guardians’ defensive success was their fantastic young secondary. They were coached by former NFL All-Pro Chris Dishman.

Cornerback Jamar Summers played as advertised. The second-highest graded corner in the AAF by Pro Football Focus was stellar from week one. No penalties, no touchdowns allowed in five games, and made game-changing plays in New York’s two victories at home against the Vipers and Wildcats.

The Guardians secondary also got terrific play from Dravon-Askew Henry. A corner/safety hybrid from West Virginia, who was stellar in coverage and in tackling. Week after week, Askew-Henry forced incompletions by opposing passers. He led the XFL against Dallas with five pass-breakups.

Not to be outdone was CB Ranthony Texada. The TCU standout, shut down opposing receivers all season. In week 4, Texada played 35 coverage snaps against LA, without allowing a single yard.

Safeties A.J. Hendy and Andrew Soroh provided excellent smarts, toughness, and leadership. Hendy was the team’s sheriff in their secondary.

The New York Guardians’ front seven also raised its level of play to match their stellar secondary. Two young players who emerged were defensive linemen Bunmi Rotimi and Cavon Walker.

New York boasted three mountain men defensive tackles with NFL experience in TJ Barnes, Toby Johnson, and Joey Mbu, but it was Walker and Rotimi that were consistent disrupters for opposing teams offenses.

Former NFL defensive linemen C.J. Ah-You deserves a lot of credit for coaching up a very young and unproven group of players. An assist in uncovering these gems also goes to the Guardian’s front office of Alan “Trip” MacCracken, John Peterson, Chris Thompson, and Evan Ostrow.

Bunmi Rotimi was one of the league’s very best-run defenders. He took up real estate in opposing teams backfields all season long. Rotimi also led all edge rushers in hurries (18).  Cavon Walker led the league with 4.5 sacks in five games. Defensive End Jarrell Owens also started to emerge, his two sacks in week 4 helped lead NY to victory.

Defensive Captain Linebacker Ben Heeney led the team in tackles, and the Guardians linebacking corps with D’Juan Hines, Frank Ginda and tweener Ryan Mueller, were an extremely active group. The ability of these players to play every down against the run and the pass was one of the keys to New York’s success on defense. Assistant Kevin Kelly coached up this unit very well.

SEASON ENDING AWARDS

  • OFFENSIVE TEAM MVP: QUARTERBACK LUIS PEREZ
  • DEFENSIVE TEAM MVP: CORNERBACK JAMAR SUMMERS
  • SPECIAL TEAMS MVP: KICKER MATTHEW MCCRANE

FINAL SUMMARY

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be writing this in mid-March. Part of me is still in denial. A promising and exciting climax of the XFL season denied to these players, coaches, and fans.

The New York Guardians were going to have an uphill battle to make the playoffs, based on the numbers. Despite having two home games against division foes, STL and DC, in weeks 8 and 9. Based on net touchdowns from all games and total points in head to head matchups. (The #2 and #3 tie-breakers after head to head) The Guardians would have had a hard time breaking ties if they had finished the season with the same record as the Defenders or BattleHawks.

A 4-1 finish to get to 7-3, might have been what was required. The entire XFL 2020 season is a “What might have been” scenario.

One things for sure. The New York Guardians were headed in the right direction as one of the league’s better teams. One may never know what could have become of the season, and we may not know what’s to come, but the New York Guardians plan to be back on duty in 2021.

Until 2021! (Credit: XFL.com)

COLUMN: The XFL 2020 autopsy: Four key aspects of the league’s first season to analyze, critique, and review

In 2020, St. Louis BattleHawks fans filled the lower bowl of “The Dome.” (Credit: XFL.com)

And so it ends – not with a bang, but rather a thud. Seemingly as soon as the XFL season began, it, like all major American sports organizations, was put on ice. While the decision to suspend the XFL season at the midway point was met with consternation from some fans, confirmation that it was the right call came when it was reported that an unidentified Seattle Dragons player had tested positive for COVID-19.

The XFL was unable to finish what was a promising season on many fronts. Ratings and attendance were decent, quality of play was high, and several rule changes and game innovations were lauded by the mainstream sports media. Before we look ahead to season two, we’ll take a look back at the four most important aspects of the league and how they fared.

RATINGS

Without a doubt, this is the most important metric in which to measure the league. The XFL business model will only be sustainable if they can acquire a sizeable monetary deal from a network in exchange for broadcast rights. Their three-year deal with ESPN/ABC and FOX is a prove-it contract. The hope is either network will want to renegotiate before those three years is up and offer the XFL a big-money deal, or that the product will be hot enough to shop it to multiple bidders at the end of the three seasons.

Prior to the season, The Sports Business Journal predicted a “respectable” average of 1.5 million viewers on broadcast TV (ABC and FOX); the XFL averaged 2.27 million. They predicted a “healthy” average of 800,000 on FS1 and ESPN; the XFL averaged 1.292 million.

The early weeks heavily skewed these numbers, as the XFL was closer to averaging 1.5 million on ABC and FOX in week five and was under a million for both the FS1 and ESPN games in the same week. The potential was there for the numbers to have drifted lower in the second half of the season, so the ability to walk away from year one with the numbers they did works to the league’s benefit.

From week one to week five, the ABC viewership declined 53%, while the FOX game dropped 55% in that same time span (averaging together the two FOX games in week one). The ESPN contests dropped 66% and the FS1 game from week two to week five (there was no FS1 game in week one) saw a 43% decrease in viewers.

As respectable as the numbers are, they likely won’t start from the same high-point in year two as they did in year one. The XFL needs to hope viewership sustains better in 2021. Just the fact that the league will return for a second season, when so many others haven’t, may be the tonic some football fans need to assure them it’s okay to invest time in the XFL.

ATTENDANCE

In 2001, the XFL averaged 23,410 fans per game in attendance. In 2020, that number was 18,125. I expected closer to the 2001 number, shooting for 20,000 per game. St. Louis and Seattle were the two best home draws for the league and they only had two home games on the docket. Had they ended the season with three home games rather than two, that would’ve affected this year’s average.

There are many reasons why a league that was ridiculed in 2001 would average more in attendance than the more generally-accepted version in 2020. In bigger markets in 2020, the teams are in tougher competition for entertainment dollars. The stench of the 2001 version may not have helped, nor did the tanking of the Alliance of American Football just a season before, further casting doubt on the viability of spring football. WWE used its television to steer fans to the XFL two decades ago; WWE’s audience is just a fraction of what it was then, and this time, the two entities are under separate corporate umbrellas with no crossover.

The AAF in 2019 averaged 15,292 fans per game, but they went into smaller markets than the XFL. The good news for the XFL is that of the four teams that had a third home game before the season ended, two saw their attendance numbers increase from the second game, and one (Houston) even bested their home opener.

I don’t worry about attendance for 2021. This time will give team presidents more opportunity to establish roots in the community, something each one has done a nice job with already. Like the ratings, fans will continue to come out when they sense the league and the teams are here to stay.

Facility changes could help with attendance, or at least the appearance on television. Tampa Bay and New York both play in large, NFL stadiums, which is nice for giving the perception of a major league franchise, but not so good when you only fill 1/7th of the bowl.

Hopefully the XFL looks at smaller venues in those communities during the offseason, as the fan experience would likely improve with those changes as well. Some of the best atmospheres seemed to be in those stadiums where fans were closer together and closer to the field.

QUALITY OF PLAY

The most important influence on ratings and attendance would be the quality of play. It was what the XFL in 2001 lacked amid all the other bells and whistles. From the outset, I noted that quarterback and offensive line play would be the two key positions that would determine, in large part, the on-field product.

Could the linemen keep the QBs upright long enough for them to make plays? Could they open holes in the run game for long gainers? Could the QBs provide enough of a spark so that the offenses could put points on the board in numbers that would create enough interest for fans?

While quarterback play was decent enough, with some standout performers and others who stubbed their toes (leading to coaching staffs eventually finding the right guy), it was the offensive line play that impressed me most. The lines were not sieves that some expected, and sacks were harder to come by than you’d think against lines that didn’t have a lot of time to gel together.

There were a few games where the number of penalties were an issue, but others were played relatively cleanly. Spotty QB play and laundry getting frequently tossed are both qualities we see in NFL regular season games at times, too. The referees didn’t seem to over-enforce, either, and generally let the players play. Whether that was a mandate from the league office, Dean Blandino, or just the officiating style of the men and women in the zebra shirts, it was refreshing.

INNOVATIONS/RULE CHANGES

The XFL spent over a year finding, refining, and putting into action the rule changes they wanted to enact for the 2020 kickoff. Some ideas were scrapped, others were tweaked, and still other changes need to be made for 2021 (I’m looking at you, penalties enforced on the kickoffs).

The league wanted the game to still resemble football, but to alter it to encourage the safety of its players and a more exciting game. I think they succeeded on both fronts. Starting with the kickoff, perhaps the league’s biggest triumph, one that has some sportswriters crowing that the NFL should steal it and implement it this year.

The 25-second play clock to speed up the game was met with few hiccups. The ball-spotter was a nice addition to the on-field crew. Pulling back the curtain on the replay official didn’t always provide riveting television, but it’s certainly more entertaining than staring at an official looking under a hood for five minutes. Speaking of which, replay officials were quick on their calls, too.

Most of the innovations were positive at best, benign at worst. The two issues were with the clock rules under 2:00 in each half, and the double-forward pass. As for the latter, teams simply didn’t employ it enough, a concern I had in one of my earlier columns. The XFL didn’t want “gimmicks,” yet that’s what this was. It has the potential for excitement but wasn’t in the game plan for most coaches.

The last 2:00 of each half slowed to a crawl because of the league’s Comeback Period rules, made to feel even longer when the rest of the half flies by because of the running clock. The game often had to be stopped so the referee could reset the game clock or the play clock or remind the clock operators not to start the game clock until the play clock reached 25 seconds.

I don’t mind the rules on paper, but in practice it was a little sloppy. One could argue these rules contributed to the mess at the end of the Seattle vs. Houston game, in which the time expired despite :03 remaining with time for one last play. I don’t think the timing rules necessarily need to be scrapped, as the more coaches, players, officials, and clock operators get used to the system, the smoother it should run.

CONCLUSION

It’s a shame the XFL didn’t get a chance to finish its season. Ratings hopefully would’ve stabilized; attendance would’ve continued to increase to bump the average up, including St. Louis potentially hitting the 40,000 mark; the league would’ve continued to provide exciting moments with the on-field product and the innovations it established. Not everything was perfect, but the XFL built a great foundation in which to work for 2021. So let’s not say goodbye to the XFL…let’s just say, see you later.