On Monday, the Tampa Bay Vipers, along with the other seven XFL teams, released their official post-training camp rosters. However, it’s important to note that these rosters will be fluid throughout the season, possibly even leading up to the first week’s games. That being said, here’s an analysis of Tampa Bay’s roster and the cut-downs made after camp.
Quarterbacks: Aaron Murray (#11), Taylor Cornelius (#4), Chase Litton (#8), Quinton Flowers (#9)
Call it three-and-a-half quarterbacks. That’s a lot, as some XFL teams kept as few as two. This does give the Vipers some roster flexibility during the season, and also allows them to dangle a QB in a trade if they’re looking to upgrade another position.
Although not reported at the time, it was revealed that Litton was acquired in a trade with Seattle that brought the Vipers DT Shane Bowman in exchange for WR Alonzo Moore and G William Campbell on January 19. Had Litton arrived earlier in camp, he could’ve challenged Taylor Cornelius for the backup job. He still may be in position to do that.
Flowers, despite being the fourth QB, will likely be active on gamedays as a backup running back and potential special teamer. Some of the offensive wrinkles that will be included in XFL gameplay could work to the advantage of a player like Flowers.
Running Backs: De’Veon Smith (#24), Jacques Patrick (#29), Mack Brown (#34)
Injured Reserve/Designated for Return: Tarean Folston (#25)
Released: DJ May
The Vipers went with three running backs with Flowers also likely rotating in. I don’t have a strong sense for what the rotation might look like now, though based on training camp videos and reports, Smith seems like a good bet to get the bulk of the carries early on. This could be a position in which the playing time for all three transition throughout the year based on production and matchups.
Folston is on IR/Designated for Return, but it’s hard to see how he’ll crack the roster when he’s ready unless injuries strike or someone proves to be ineffective. Brown, who was added to the roster during training camp, managed to beat out May for the last running back spot. DT Nikita Whitlock has experience at fullback and could see time there in short-yardage situations.
Tight Ends: Nick Truesdell (#85), Colin Thompson (#86), DeAndre Goolsby (#80)
Released: Kano Dillon, Pharoah McKeever
The Vipers went traditional at this spot by keeping three tight ends. Truesdell could be a focal point of the Tampa Bay passing game. It’ll be fun to see how the Vipers get him involved in the offense after his big spring last year in the Alliance of American Football. Given the number of wide receivers the Vipers kept, they may only keep two tight ends active on gamedays. Dillon was released after being placed on injured reserve in camp.
Wide Receivers: Seantavius Jones (#15), Antonio Callaway (#5), Stacy Coley (#14), Reece Horn (#18), Jalen Tolliver (#17), Daniel Williams (#81), Ryan Davis (#83), Tanner McEvoy (#19), Donteea Dye (#13)
Released: Jawill Davis, KJ Maye
The Vipers may be planning to replace a couple offensive linemen on the field with wide receivers based on the startling nine receivers they’re keeping. This position group underwent some major changes during camp, as two of my projected three starting receivers were jettisoned in trades (Freddie Martino and Alonzo Moore).
In their stead arrived the controversial Antonio Callaway, who is currently under suspension by the NFL, and Stacy Coley, a trade acquisition from Dallas. Both add speed and the ability to stretch the field, which will help out QB Aaron Murray. If Callaway can stay on the straight and narrow, he could make a huge splash in Marc Trestman’s offense. Like at the running back position, there could be jockeying for playing time that occurs over the course of the ten-week season.
Offensive Line: OT Martez Ivey (#73), OT Isaiah Williams (#71), OT Marquis Lucas (#78), C Jordan McCray (#63), C John Yarbrough (#50), G Jerald Foster (#67), G Andrew Tiller (#75), G Daronte Bouldin (#76)
Released: OT Christian Morris, G Tre Jackson, OT Rod Taylor, G Tony Adams
A couple of position changes from the training camp roster, as Yarbrough, once listed at guard, is now at center. He’ll back up Jordan McCray there. Foster was originally listed as a tackle and is now a guard, which could indicate he’s moved into the starting lineup in that spot. Lucas and Williams were both listed as guards in camp. It looks like, at the least, Tampa is doing a lot of cross-training of its linemen, which is wise if they’re keeping low numbers at the position.
Morris and Jackson are listed under releases here, but they were not listed as being released on the XFL.com transactions page. It could be that they’ve been placed on some other reserve list besides the injured reserve, as they are not on Tampa’s active roster.
Defensive Line: DE Deiontrez Mount (#53), DE Jason Neill (#96), DE Bobby Richardson (#91), DE CeCe Jefferson (95), DT Ricky Walker (#97), DT Josh Banks (#92), DT Nikita Whitlock (#49)
Injured Reserve/Designated for Return: DE Obum Gwacham (#58)
Released: DE Devin Taylor
It was a surprise to see the Vipers release Taylor, who has extensive NFL experience, considering their first-round front-seven pick and fellow DE Gwacham will start the year on injured reserve. Taylor was the only Viper player released on cut-down day to be claimed by another team, as Taylor is now a member of the LA Wildcats.
Gwacham’s absence puts pressure on the other defensive ends on the roster to produce early on. Jefferson was a quality pick-up during training camp and he could benefit most from Taylor’s release and Gwacham’s injury. The Vipers will rotate four ends, keeping just three tackles. Walker and Banks are two young, talented players. Whitlock is one of many on this team who can play multiple positions.
Linebackers: Emmanuel Beal (#43), Lucas Wacha (#45), Terrance Plummer (#41), Ike Spearman (#56)
Released: Reggie Northrup, Anthony Stubbs
Like a few of the offensive linemen, neither Northrup nor Stubbs show up on the XFL transactions page as having been cut, but they’re also not on Tampa’s active roster. The number of defensive linemen kept indicate Tampa running a 3-4 defense, but keeping only four linebackers doesn’t fit with that theory. What’s most likely to happen is that Tampa will predominantly play nickel or dime defense, where only one or two linebackers are on the field at a time.
Defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville has four young linebackers to choose from, none of whom have made their mark professionally to this point. Plummer could end up as the leader of this position group and see the most playing time on defense, at least early on. With the XFL’s rules putting a priority on kick returns, linebackers being able to contribute on kick coverage will be key.
Defensive Backs: CB Demontre Hurst (#30), CB Jalen Collins (#32), CB Bryce Canady (#28), DB Tarvarus McFadden (#20), CB Shelton Lewis (#33), DB Anthoula Kelly (#23), S Corey Moore (#31), S Marcelis Branch (#35) , S Micah Hannemann (#27), DB Rannell Hall (#22), S Robert Priester (#21)
Released: CB Herb Waters, S Robenson Therezie, CB Rodney Randle
If there was any doubt what kind of league the XFL was going to be, Tampa keeping nine receivers and 11 defensive backs should give you an indication. Hall made a successful transition from wide receiver to defensive back during training camp. Being listed at DB indicates he’s working at both corner and safety. Same for McFadden and Kelly.
With the XFL’s 25-second play clock, it may behoove teams to keep more defensive backs. Running downfield with fast receivers play after play with little downtime in between could necessitate more frequent substitutions than we see in the NFL or in college. There’s still a lot we don’t know about how teams will take advantage of the new rules and on the defensive side of the ball, how they’ll compensate for the rules intended to increase offense.
Special Teams: K Andrew Franks (#3), P Jake Schum (#10), LS Nick Moore (#42)
Released: K Matthew Wright
As expected, Franks won the kicking job. Schum and Moore had no competition in camp. The Vipers may have one of the stronger special teams in the league. But like offense and defense, there will be new rules kickers and punters have to adjust to, especially when it comes to kickoffs and ball placement for punters.
Greg Parks is a columnist for Pro Wrestling Torch (pwtorch.com). He covers the XFL and the Tampa Bay Vipers for XFLBoard.com. He has written extensively about the XFL. He resides in Naples, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @gregmparks.