A Tale of Two Halves – Dallas Renegades at Seattle Dragons

Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers went 21 for 34, for 204 yards and one interception. (Credit: XFL.com

48 degrees, cloudy and a 100% chance of football at Century Link.

This past Saturday, the 1-1 Dallas Renegades traveled to Century Link to play the 1-1 Seattle Dragons in a battle for second place in the West. The Renegades and the Dragons were both coming off games where the offense started off extremely slow but came to life in the second half and led them to week 2 victories.

From the first drive, this stadium was humming. As Landry Jones entered the shotgun about to take the first snap of the game, this crowd got loud. Screaming and waving their orange towels, Dragon fans made their presence felt forcing two pre-snap penalties and aiding the Dragons defense in forcing an early three and out.

Renegade players admitted that the crowd noise did affect them. “At first it impacted us greatly,” said running back Cameron Artis-Payne. “But around the third drive we kind of got it together.”

Artis-Payne said that around the end zones, the Renegades had to switch to a silent snap count.

The Dragons immediately responded with one of their best offensive drives of the season. Brandon Silvers completed 3/4 passes for 43 yards and had an impressive 1st down scramble. On 3rd & 10, Silvers hung in the pocket and took a hit as he delivered a 21-yard touchdown strike to Austin Proehl. The quick 6-0 lead built by the Dragons would not last, though.

The Renegades responded by storming back down the field and scored on a 12-yard catch and run by wide receiver Flynn Nagel. Landry Jones started out slow, peppering the running backs with targets for minimal gains, but eventually got going after two straight 3rd down pass interference calls kept the Renegades offense on the field. Jones found big targets, Donald Parham and Jazz Ferguson, for first downs before hitting Nagel for the score.

After two quick scores, the offenses for both teams would hit a wall. A little punting and some ill-advised throws later, it was still a 6-6 game and the Dragons had the chance to take the lead going into halftime. Coming off an interception, Silvers responded well making some huge throws; a 29-yard completion to Austin Proehl and the 19 yard TD pass to running back Kenneth Farrow. Farrow, one of the three dynamic running backs for the Dragons, ran a great route, beating the linebacker, and Silvers dropped in a perfect throw.

Coach Jim Zorn was impressed by the play of Brandon Silvers this week. “He definitely improved (from week 2 to week 3),” said Zorn. “We were a lot better on third down and he managed the game very well.”

Silvers also said that he was more comfortable and felt that he played a lot better in the first half.

Going into the locker room, the Dragons had played one of their most complete halves of the season. They had, for the most part, shut down the Renegades offense and had put together some impressive drives on offense. Up 12-6 and getting the ball to start the half, the Dragons were in a good position

Then the second half happened. The Dragons offense sputtered, having three 3-and-outs and the defense was on the field 24/7, eventually allowing some big plays to the Renegades offense. Among the second half stars on offense for the Renegades were running back Cameron Artis-Payne and tight end Donald Parham. Artis-Payne had 110 total yards and Parham had 101 yards and 2 touchdowns. Parham’s 65 yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter really put the game out of the Dragon’s reach.

When asked about Artis-Payne running wild in the second half, Zorn said that [Artis-Payne] did a great job hitting the holes but the Dragon’s defense lost contain on some of the plays.

Despite the big turnaround, Renegades Coach Bob Stoops said that the team did not make any huge adjustments at halftime.

“It was mostly the coordinators communicating with people in the box on what our issues were in the first half. There was just some talk like ‘If we get in this set and run this or that we have a better chance rather than a certain other set’,” said Stoops. “We don’t all of the sudden find new plays but we may call some other things and different sets more often. That is what we did in the second half with the two-back sets which helped set up the run game and the play action.”

“They brought a little bit more pressure and they were coming off the edge,” said Silvers in regards to the halftime adjustments made by the Renegades. “We just did not make enough plays. They are a good team but us not scoring anything in the second half cannot happen.”

The Renegades went on to win 24-12 and the Dragons fell to 1-2 on the season, putting them in 3rd place in the West.

This game had shades of the week 1 loss when the offense just sputtered late in the game after going toe-to-toe with the opposition for most of the game. Zorn said it was encouraging because he knows the mistakes are very fixable but it still stings because they were so close.

The Dragons will fly away from Century Link next week and begin a little road trip with the St. Louis Battlehawks first on the docket. The Dome in St. Louis could be a tough place to play as they are projected to match the Dragons has the highest attended games. The Dragons could be in for a loud, hostile environment like the one the Renegades had to play in today.

In regards to injured wide receiver Kasen Williams’ status, Zorn was non-committal. “His quad was not responding so we had a procedure last week where they ejected blood pooled up in his quad,” said Zorn. “I am hoping for improvement and to see some progress this week now that we got some stuff to heal his quad.”

“It is a nuisance to him,” said Zorn. “He wanted to be out on the field last week and I can’t put him on yet.”

At least there is some improvement in the status of Williams but it does not sound like there is a huge chance he plays this coming week.

Going into next week, the Dragons are in an almost make or break spot already. Falling to 1-3 and having to play Houston right afterwards is not a good spot to be in. It is crucial to win one of the next two games at least and in St. Louis is their best chance.

Until next week, Go Dragons!

Crowded Stadium and Crowded Backfields – Vipers at Dragons Recap

Coach Jim Zorn and the Dragons celebrate their first win of the XFL season. (Credit: XFL.com)

This was the XFL game of the year so far and I feel like that is fairly undebatable. It was the closest game of the year and the environment was top notch. The Dragons attracted the largest attendance by far, 29,172, and the environment at CenturyLink was crazy. The play on the field was a little sloppy but it got exciting towards the end of the game and the fans were into it. The Dragons offense left a lot to be desired but the defensive effort was spectacular. There were positives and negatives for every position group so lets dig in.

QB Play: Sloppy

Brandon Silvers would be the first to tell you that he did not play well at all. Silvers completed 7 of 19 balls for 91 yards a TD and an INT. 68 of those 91 yards also came on a single TD pass to Keenan Reynolds. I made some excuses for Silvers last week but there really was not any to be made this week. Silvers missed a ton of open receivers and left a lot of yards on the field. That one interception could also have easily been multiple. The fans were not happy with Silvers performance either as “BJ” chants filled the stadium. Zorn stuck with his young QB though, saying that he did not ever consider switching QBs. Silvers made no excuses for his performance and was not bothered by the chants. “They were right I wasn’t playing good enough”, said Silvers, “Play good and that won’t happen.” It is good that Silvers acknowledges his performance but it will be tough to win games with that type of offense so hopefully it improves tremendously. Silvers does get a full week of practice this week as opposed to only one day this past week so that should help a little bit

Run Game: Fine

The run game was a big part of this offense but I don’t think that was a huge testament to their success because the offense was so lackluster. There was a lot of volume but the efficiency was not anything special. Williams had 11 carries for 45 yards, Farrow had 10 for 45 and Gardner had 10 for 27 for a total of 117 yards on 31 carries. The run game did start to get going more as Williams and Farrow both had some big first down runs in the second half but I think where we were really missing them was in the passing game. A big part of the week one offense was passing to the RBs and we only saw one target between the three of them this week. That is something I would like to see early and often next week.

Receiving Corps: Blameless

I do not think this receiving corps played a bad game at all. In fact, I think they played better than last week. There was not a lot of opportunities for them to shine and when they did pass, Silvers did not hit them. The possible addition of Kasen Williams should help, though. The week one star, Austin Proehl was quiet and took a backseat to Keenan Reynolds who paced the team in targets (8) and got wide open on the 68 yard game-changing TD. I think these guys were fairly blameless and their production should improve as this passing game matures

Offensive Line: Alright

I do not think this offensive line was to blame for this performance. They kept Silvers clean for the most part and were alright in run-blocking. They did not dominate or even perform as well as last week in my opinion, but they went out and had a respectable effort. I think in the XFL, where we have seen some bad O-Lines, the Dragons have one of the better O-Lines. Top OT Isaiah Battle and OG Cyril Richardson are also both injured right now and should provide a tremendous boost when they return.

Defensive Front: Swarming 

I called these guys swarming last week because they were fast and around the football but once again there was some missed tackles. However, missed tackles or not, I was pleased with this performance. The pass rush was happy that they did not have to tackle the monstrous Cardale Jones and actually hit home with 4 sacks (even though 2 came from the secondary). Vipers RBs Jacques Patrick and De’Veon Smith both had some big runs as the Vipers but did not take over the game. The big success was containing the electric Quinton Flowers who only had 15 yards on 5 carries. Steven Johnson was once again the tackles leader with 10 and had 2 TFL as well. You also can’t forget about Marcell Frazier’s Pick 6 which was the best play of the year for the Dragons. This unit is a definite strength of the team and I can’t wait to watch it continue to develop.

Secondary: Sterling

This secondary played an amazing game. The Vipers only had 172 passing yards and a lot of those came on the last drive in prevent defense. CB Jeremy Clark played a fantastic game with his interception and 2 pass breakups as well CB Steve Williams who had 1.5 sacks and 2 TFLs. Dan Williams, the XFL’s leading receiver in week 1, was held to only 22 yards, which was a huge testament to this secondary. While the Viper’s offense is not a powerhouse, a strong showing like this is still a great sign. This defense is hot and when they play like this, the Dragons always have a shot

Special Teams: Improved

By no means did the Dragons dominate on special teams but compared to their week 1 performance, it was a huge upgrade. John Santiago and Austin Proehl both had some solid returns and the Dragon’s coverage team held the Vipers in the return game. Punter Brock Miller had some punts downed inside the five and had a very underrated performance. Ernesto Lacayo badly missed an early field goal but responded to hit a huge field goal in the final minutes to put the Dragons up 8. Of course, the big positive was no punts blocked for a TD, which was the killer in week 1. Overall, this unit put together a much better performance and coach Chip Garber should be happy with his unit.

Coaching: Solid

Zorn did not go out there and dominate Trestman but he coached a solid game and led our guys to a win. The big question mark was the QB situation but Zorn sticking with Silvers did lead to big TD. Their was not too many 4th down decisions but one positive was that Seattle started going for 2 after TDs instead of 1, which is the better call. Zorn did what he could and won this hard fought game and I believe he should get credit for it.

Fans: Loud

This was the largest crowd by far at an XFL game and the fans were loud, especially late in the game. Both HC Trestman and QB Cornelius both said that the crowd did not affect their performance but there was some false starts and miscommunications. This stadium was packed and I really hope we see this at the next four home games.

Overall Performance: Resilient

This performance wasn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination but the guys hung in there, fought it out and came out with the win. There are a lot of things this team needs to work on but I think this team will get better (as will all the XFL teams) and start putting everything together.

Until next week, Go Dragons!

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!

Seattle Dragons week 1 preview

The run game, including Ja'Quan Gardner, could determine the Seattle Dragons' fate in Week 1 against the DC Defenders.
Seattle Dragons Running Back Ja’Quan Gardner. Photo: XFL.com

It is almost here! It seems like we have been waiting forever for this day but alas, here we are. On Saturday, the Seattle Dragons will travel to DC to take on the Defenders. Usually, during the season, I will publish two Dragon articles each week. A review of the last game and the preview for the next game. Since this is week 1, I will just be briefly reviewing the preseason game and previewing Saturday’s showdown in one article.

Preseason Game Recap

In a dress rehearsal game, the Dragons squared off against the Defenders in Houston. There were not official stats but by following social media, you could get an idea of what was going on. In the scrimmage, BJ Daniels got the start over Brandon Silvers, which will not be happening in week 1. However, the Daniels-led offense had a little bit better results. Daniels led a TD drive early as the Dragons got out to an early 10-0 lead. Cardale Jones and the Defenders ended up storming back and took the lead on pick-6 thrown by the Brandon Silvers. Ja’Quan Gardner got the Dragons back in the game with a 35 yard TD run but it was not enough as they fell 21-16.

I would not take too much from this scrimmage, a lot of the players that played in this game are not even still on the roster. While it was a little bit concerning to see those interceptions by Silvers, they happen and the fact that he was named the starter despite them is a nice bode of confidence. Knowing we have Daniels to come off the bench in relief if things go bad is also a good thing. A big bright spot was Ja’Quan Gardner. Gardner took one to the house from 35 yards out, trying to cement himself in this RB rotation. Gardner was frequently compared to MJD in the AAF and played up to the name too, frequently busting out long runs. It looks like he has not missed a beat and could be a great option in the backfield.

Week 1 Preview

There will be a lot of eyes on the Dragons on Saturday, not just because it is week 1 – but the Dragons vs Defenders is the first game on the 4 game weekend slate. The Defenders have opened as early favorite across every gambling market, usually sitting at about 7 point favorites. For season-long odds, the Defenders are also usually near the top (projected to be good) while the Dragons reside near the bottom (projected to be bad). This is a little concerning as a Dragons fan but I am not too worried about it. This is pure speculation and the fact of the matter is that the Dragons do not have a lot of big, recognizable names i.e. Cardale Jones.

Injuries

The big concern for the Dragons right now is that they are probably the most injured team in the XFL. LB Brandon Bell, WR Rueben Mwehla, LB Gionni Paul and DT Tani Tapou are already on the IR and this weeks practice report was a little too full for a week 1 game. Isaiah Battle, Kasen Williams, Tyson Graham and Cam Clear have all been declared out for this week’s game. Jeremy Clark, Mohammed Seisay and Alonzo Moore were all limited participants.

It is also too early to say if they injured players are huge contributors because we just don’t know. The Dragons are healthy at QB, which is a luxury right now in the West division. The fact of the matter is, thought, that we would like to be a lot more healthy.

Defenders on offense

If you were to rank the top receiving cores in the league, it would be a travesty to not have the Defenders in the top 2. Former NFL contributor Eli Rogers, LSU standout Malachi Dupre, and speedsters Rashad Ross and DeAndre Thompkins (Thompkins has been declared out) make up the wide receiving core. TE Khari Lee has gotten great camp reports and we have seen RB Jhurrell Pressley be utilized out of the backfield as a receiver in the AAF. I expect this team to test the Seattle secondary early and often with XFL MVP favorite Cardale Jones at the helm. This is a huge test for the Dragons here in week 1.

Matchups in the secondary will be huge for the Dragons. Starting CBs Jeremy Clark and Channing Stribling ran 4.4 and 4.6 40 times, respectively, so trying to neutralize fellow 4.4 receivers, Thompkins and Ross with Clark would be the best bet.

Differing philosophy on the other side

While the Defenders look to have an explosive air attack, the Dragons are going to have a different philosophy on the offensive side of the ball. When you draft RBs with your first two picks, keep five TEs on the roster, and your team president says the team’s greatest strengths are going to be “running the football and playing defense”, I would expect this team to air it out a little less.

When depth charts dropped there was a little unexpected shakeup to the RB rotation. Ja’Quan Gardner was listed as the starter on the depth chart with Farrow and Williams after him. As mentioned earlier, Gardner had a big run in the preseason and he did match the production of these two in the AAF. I would still expect to see a huge split in carries between the three and given the fact that I project Seattle to be the highest volume running team, there should be enough to go around.

I expect Seattle to try and keep Silvers clean with a run-heavy and quick to intermediate passing game. The Dragons could have an advantage rotating in and out five fresh TEs. The starting WRs Seattle expects to trot out are Keenan Reynolds, Kasen Williams, and Austin Proehl. Expect Reynolds to be heavily involved both catching, running and even passing the ball on some trick plays. Also, keep an eye on John Santiago. The UND alum is a converted RB and is the expected kick returner, he is explosive and someone Zorn and OC Mike Riley would be wise to get involved.

At the QB position, BJ Daniels could still possibly be in the mix, we don’t know what Zorn has up his sleeve. I would expect the leash on Silvers to be a little longer than one game but there could be specific packages for Daniels and his unique skillset.

Special Teams

The Dragons have had quite the kicker carousel so far this season. Cole Tracy was looking like the starting kicker coming out of camp but a surprise cut led to the signing of Garrett Hartley. However, Hartley’s stint was unfortunately short with the Dragons as the XFL did not permit him to play due to injury concerns. Now the Dragons will be rolling with Ernesto Lacayo in week 1. The 30-year-old kicker has been very experienced in smaller football leagues, with stints in the IFL, PIFL, CPIFL, CIF and AFL.

What I’m looking for on Saturday

Creativity – How creative will this offense be? We are expecting a lot of running but will we have creative schemes, WR runs, wildcat runs or BJ Daniels appearances.

Offensive Line – OL play was incredibly suspect in the AAF early on and without Isaiah Battle it will be interesting to see how this unit performs

Rotations – How often will Zorn want to sub his players in and out? There is depth at positions like TE and DL but OL and LBs could be undermanned.

XFL – Win or lose, I am just excited to see this team and league in action. That being said, I will be rooting for the Dragons like crazy.

Have a good week 1 everybody and Go Dragons!

Breathing Fire: Seattle Dragons mini-camp

Seattle Dragond Minicamp. Photo by Jackson Conner.
Seattle Dragons Minicamp. Photo by Jackson Conner.

On a cold, rainy Saturday morning, a crowd was gathering outside of Seattle Memorial Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The gates would not open for over 30 minutes, but the lines were already beginning to form. As 9:00 neared, the lines warped back and across the parking lot, and Dragon Nation was ready to see their team.

The gates opened and fans were greeted with classic stadium activities like a beanbag toss and an inflatable QB throwing area. Most importantly, Dragon fans overlooked the field where multiple players had started warming up. Fans then took a seat in the south stands where they watched practice and listened to speakers such as Jim Zorn, Oliver Luck, and director of player personnel Tony Softli.

At approximately 9:23, players started to huddle up and cheer as an electric sense filled the air. The punt team took the field first and punter Brock Miller blasted some balls into the rainy air. Back on the punt return team for the Dragons was Trey Williams, Fred Ross and Austin Proehl. Towards 9:30, the offense and defense split up. At this time, the stands were starting to fill up and speakers would be coming soon. Towards the east endzone, QBs and RBs worked together perfecting mesh points and passes to the RBs.

The Dragons have an impressive room of running backs, all of which can catch passes. “We just might have the best stable in the backfield,” said 1st round pick RB Trey Williams. “Y’all get ready, get your popcorn because it’s about to go down.”

In the QB room, only Brandon Silvers and BJ Daniels were practicing today. Chase Litton was absent for a non-football related reason and of course, Joe Callahan was signed by the Detroit Lions. Both looked pretty solid, and it is still a competition, but I would give Brandon Silvers the slight edge. In 11-on-11s, Silvers was calm in the pocket and threw with good accuracy to the short and intermediate-ranges but rarely pushed the ball too far down the field. The offense seemed the rely on a quick passing game and showed some pizzaz with end-around to players like Keenan Reynolds.

The WRs that really stood out to me were Austin Proehl and Reuben Mwehla. Austin Proehl ran most of his routes out of the slot and consistently beat man coverage. Reuben Mwehla was a YAC monster and was a guy they really wanted to get involved in the screen game.

Towards the middle of 11-on-11s, the defense really started to get the better of the offense. Good coverage enabled a pass rush to hit home and force the QBs to get out of the pocket or force throws. Ja’Quan Gardner and Trey Williams both sprung some big runs but the defense did not allow any splash plays in the passing game.

An added wrinkle to the 11-on-11s was the shortened 25 seconds play clock. The official rulebook is slated to come out later this month, but Oliver Luck says that coaches already know the rules and are coaching to them. The field’s play clock was set to 25 seconds but the Dragon’s offense could not meet that pace. It is a very tough adjustment, and will require weeks more of practice, but the Dragons will eventually have to move at that expeditious pace.

Another new innovation that the XFL has is the balls. I could not see a difference in ball flight, but they are definitely a little different than a standard football. “They are a little skinnier than the NFL ball and they have a little more grip to them,” said Kasen Williams. “I like them. For a new ball, something different, I like them.”

Trey Williams could also feel the difference too. “They are tough but we are getting the hang of it,” said Williams. “It’s a football you know. You can not go wrong with a football-shaped ball regardless.”

The final innovation I saw implemented was the new kickoff rules. Ten players lined up across from each other and the kicker stood on the other side of the field by himself. Keenan Reynolds was tasked with returning kicks for the Dragons. Oliver Luck said the main things he wants to see out kickoffs is cutting down injuries and making it an exciting play again, i.e., eliminating touchbacks. This rule had been tested extensively and the kickoffs I saw seemed to flow fine.

For special teams players, this is a new wrinkle from what they are taught, and have to learn a whole new way to play kickoffs. Kasen Williams was on the kickoff team and is trying to get adjusted to this new rule. When asked about what he looks for, Williams says he tries to watch both the returner and the ref at the same time. Williams keys off when the ref’s hand goes down and/or when the returner catches the ball. This is one of the more interesting rule changes to look for in the XFL this year

My favorite moments occurred at the end of the practice when the Dragons met at midfield and faced the fans. Dragon Nation started chanting “Seattle…Dragons” and “Breathing…Fire”. You could tell the players really enjoyed this moment.

“This whole fan base is real,” Trey Williams said. “As players, we really appreciate that.”

Clearly, the players appreciate the fans and it is obvious that the Seattle football world appreciates the Dragons.

Seattle Dragon’s Offensive Training Camp Battles to Monitor

The Seattle Dragons and the rest of the XFL have started mini-camps this month and will start training camps the month after. The Dragons had 73 players drafted through both the normal and supplemental drafts. Throughout these preseason practices, the roster will be cut down and there will be positional battles for almost every spot. Right now, I am assuming the players with the highest draft capital have the inside track at the starting job. However, once you get on the field, all that stuff goes away. It’s about who performs, not where you were drafted.

QB:

Brandon Silvers should be the early favorite for the starting job but I would imagine the Dragons will spend a lot of time evaluating all their QBs. Joe Callahan has signed with the Lions, but the Dragons signed Chase Litton and he will join BJ Daniels in the QB room. If the Dragons retain only two QBs, I would think Silvers has a guaranteed spot and the real battle will be for the backup job. The battle between the 30-year-old Daniels and 24-year-old Litton should be an interesting one.

RB:

As most of you know, Dragons OC Mike Riley was the head coach for the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders. The Dragons went ahead and drafted multiple RBs and TEs that were on the Commanders. RBs Trey Williams and Kenneth Farrow were the two lead backs on the Commanders and the Dragons selected them with their first two picks. On the Commanders, Farrow out-touched Williams 101-52 in games they were both active, but I would expect that to even out in the XFL given Williams was picked first. I would guess Farrow gets the slight edge in early-down and goalline work but Williams takes over in passing situations.

Don’t forget about the Dragon’s duo of phase 5 RBs though. Lavon Coleman and Ja’Quan Gardner both have great shots to contribute this year as well. Coleman rushed for 2000 yards at the University of Washington and proved he could catch passes as well (31 in his college career). Ja’Quan Gardner was an ultra-efficient home run hitter in the AAF and is also proficient in the pass-catching department. While his production tailed off a bit towards the end, Gardner came out of the gates hot posting 8-55, 15-104-2, 12-122-1 lines to start the year.

Farrow and Williams have the inside tracks at the starting spots but the drama from this position will come from how well Gardner and Coleman perform.

WR:

It is with deep regret that I inform you that Malachi Jones will not be playing for the Dragons in 2020 as he has signed with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. Jones was a baller in the AAF and I was looking forward to watching him do more of the same in the XFL. Nevertheless, the Dragons are deep at receiver. They drafted four others in Phase 1, picked up six more in Phase 5 and drafted one in the supplementary round. The phase 1 WRs were Fred Ross (pk3), Keenan Reynolds (pk5), Kasen Williams (pk7) and John Santiago (pk8). Ross and Williams are both typical outside WRs above 6’0 while Reynolds and Santiago fit more into the slot receiver mold. Being picked in the 3rd round, Ross is the favorite to be the alpha receiver early.

Kasen Williams has gotten a lot of publicity and looks to be the favorite to start opposite of Ross on the outside. In the open phase and supplementary rounds, the Dragons added bigger receivers in Jalen Rowell, Korey Robertson, and Tyre Brady. The unfortunate nature is that they probably can’t keep all of these guys so their might be some cuts out of this group. The winner of this battle, though, can easily push to be a starting outside receiver.

In the slot, Keenan Reynolds was the most highly drafted followed by John Santiago. Both of these guys ae converted, Reynolds from QB and Santiago from RB. They are dangerous with the ball in their hand and if neither wins the slot job they can still have an impact on the offense. Gadget plays can be huge parts of XFL offenses and Reynolds and Santiago are guys you want to get in space. Utilizing them on endarounds, screens, and even in the return game would be huge in opening up this offense. The other possible slot receivers are Mikah Holder, Rueben Mwehla, and Austin Proehl. All of those guys can compete for playing time at wide receiver but the Dragons would be hard-pressed to keep all of them.

TE

The Dragons went pretty overweight at TE, drafting 6 of them. Former 2nd round pick Jace Amaro was the first one drafted. He was a big-time receiver in college but failed to bring that to the NFL. Hopefully, he can be a reliable target over the field for Silvers or any other Dragons’ QB. Cam Clear and Evan Rodriguez were teammates in the AAF on the – guess who – San Antonio Commanders. Clear is more of a blocking TE but he still posted 10 catches in the AAF. Rodriguez was a guy that got a little hot streak going to close out the AAF season, catching 8 balls for 139 yards over the last 3 weeks. Rodriguez should compete with Amaro for the receiving TE job.

In the open phase, the Dragons picked Connor Hamlett, Colin Jeter, and Ben Johnson. Ben Johnson caught 61 balls in his time at Kansas, Colin Jeter caught 21, and Connor Hamlett caught 104. I expect the Dragons to utilize the TEs pretty heavily but keeping 6 is a stretch. I bet they keep four with one of them used for almost exclusively blocking.

Big Picture

Overall, I expect the Dragons to be in 12 personnel a lot, to run the football and utilize the TEs and RBs in the passing game. The drafting of two RBs early and 6 TEs signifies that they want to run the ball and run the offense through those guys. Another personnel they could use a ton is 21 personnel; they drafted their RBs early and getting them on the field together could be beneficial to this offense. There is no way to say this for certain but I am just following the draft capital. Zorn did say that he wants to get a little tricky with the offense too at times and having a former QB in Keenan Reynolds could allow for some pretty nifty trick plays.

My projected starting lineup is only based on draft capital right now:

  • QB: Brandon Silvers
  • RB: Trey Williams/Kenneth Farrow
  • WR: Fred Ross, Kasen Williams
  • SL: Keenan Reynolds
  • TE: Jace Amaro, Cam Clear, Evan Rodrigues
  • Returner: John Santiago

My favorite phase 5 picks:

  • RB: JaQuan Gardner
  • TE: Connor Hamlett
  • WR: Austin Proehl
  • WR: Jalen Rowell

I will keep you guys updated as practices rage on and roles start to become more defined. Go Dragons!

XFL Seattle Dragons – Defensive Front Seven (Phase 3) Recap

Phase 3 Seattle Dragons Recap

RD 1: Stansly Maponga DE

The 28-year-old edge rusher from TCU was drafted in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2013 NFL Draft. Maponga went on to play for 3 other NFL teams before getting drafted by the Dragons. A scouting report by Wes Tueve (Bleacher Report)  said this about Maponga “Despite being somewhat undersized, Maponga plays with power. He can be seen driving offensive linemen backward, and he is rarely overpowered himself. Maponga’s pass-rush repertoire includes a variety of moves to get to the quarterback. Though only 6’2″, Maponga has long arms (34.125″) and strong, active hands that show up in both the run and pass games.” Being their first selection the Dragons probably intend to make Maponga one of their primary pass rushers.

RD 2: Nick Temple LB

The Bearcat LB is another former Commander player as the Dragons keep loading up with familiar faces for Mike Riley. Temple is a shorter (5’10) LB but he was extremely productive at Cincinnati. He bounced around between the NFL and the CFL before playing with the San Antonio Commanders in the AAF.  While he may be smaller, Dragon’s fans will love Temple as he will fly from sideline to sideline and be the captain of this Dragon’s defense.

RD 3: Will Sutton DT

Sutton was 3 star DT coming out of high school and committed to Arizona State. Sutton flourished at ASU, he was an All-American and earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. He was drafted in the 3rd round by the Chicago Bears and played there for 3 years. Sutton followed that up with brief stints in Minnesota and San Francisco. Last spring, Sutton played 8 games for the AAF’s Arizona Hotshots where he posted 15 tackles, one sack, and two pass knockdowns. Sutton was the first defensive tackle drafted by the Dragons and will be a key cog in this front seven.

RD 4: Tenny Palepoi DT

The second-team All-Pac 12 selection recorded 74 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks at the University of Utah before going undrafted in the 2014 NFL draft. Palepoi signed with the Chargers but lost his full 2015 season to injuries. In 2018, Palepoi joined the Bills camp in the off-season. Like Sutton, Palepoi played in the AAF and was a key part of the Salt Lake Stallions run defense – which was the best in the league.

RD 5: Jacquies Smith DE

The former 2nd team All-Big 12 Selection bounced around between the NFL and CFL before settling into Tampa Bay in 2014. Smith recorded 17 combined tackles, 13 solo tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble for the 2014 season in only 8 starts. Smith struggled with injuries the next few years and bounced around to a few more NFL squads. Now Smith is looking for an opportunity with the Dragons and will hope to be an impactful EDGE rusher this Spring.

RD 6: Steven Johnson LB

Johnson is one of the oldest players on the team and in the league but is just as hungry. Johnson had no college offers coming out of high school so he enrolled at Wyoming Seminary. Johnson started to catch some college scouts attention with his 62 tackles, two interceptions, and four rushing TDs in 5 games. Unfortunately, Johnson tore his ACL and LCL in what was a career-threatening injury. Johnson rehabbed and rebounded by walking onto the University of Kansas football team. In his career with Kansas, Johnson recorded 225 total tackles, 3 sacks, and an interception. Johnson went undrafted in 2012 and made the 53 man roster on the Denver Broncos, starting 7 games over 3 seasons. After a 6 year,Johnson signed with the AAF’s Arizona Hotshots and had a pick-six in their season opener. Johnson should provide some great leadership on this team given his experience but make no mistake, he is here to compete as well.

RD 7: Taniela Tupou DT

Another local product gets a shot with the Dragons as they drafted Tupou in the 7th round of the front seven draft. Tupou attended Archbishop Murphy high school, played for UW football and the Seattle Seahawks. Tupou started a game at FB for the Seahawks but was drafted as a DT for the Dragons. Tupou also played for the AAF’s Arizona Hotshots and recorded 5 tackles and a sack in a game for them. Tupou will look for a big run-stuffing role this Spring.

RD 8: Danny Ezechukwu DE

Ezechukwu was an honorable mention All-Big 10 linebacker and defensive end for Purdue and signed to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent. Ezechukwu saw action in the preseason for the Eagles but could not stick there long term. Ezechukwu did not receive a combine invitation but still posted impressive numbers at his pro day. He ran a 4.68 40 yard dash, posted 26 reps on the bench press, and had 31.5 inches on his vertical and 117 inches on his broad jump. Ezechukwu has a real chance to be a solid pass-rusher for this team.

RD 9: Pasoni Tasini DT

The 6’3 307 lb. DT from Utah was selected with the 9th pick in the front seven draft by the Seattle Dragons. Tasini recorded 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 6 pass breakups in college. Tasini spent time between the Cardinals practice squad and active roster for 2 years and now looks to make an impact on opposing teams run games come February.

RD 10: Praise Martin-Oguike DE

Martin-Oguike was born in Abia State, Nigeria and moved to New Jersey at the age of 10. Martin-Oguike went on to play college football at Temple and recorded 124 tackles, 20 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, 6 blocked field goals, and an interception. Martin-Oguike spent the 2018 summer with the Miami Dolphins and the 2017 summer with the Arizona Cardinals. Martin-Oguike will hopefully be apart of a solid Dragon’s pass-rush rotation.

Seattle Dragons Phase 2 – XFL Draft Recap

RD 1 : Isaiah Battle OT

With the first pick of the offensive linemen phase, the Seattle Dragons selected Isaiah Battle from Clemson. In 2015, Battle was drafted in the 5th round of the supplemental draft by the St. Louis Rams. He went on to play for 3 more teams before being waived by the Panthers back in May. Battle should start the season as the Dragon’s LT and will have a big duty to keep Silver’s blindside clean.

RD 2: Venzell Boulware OG

Seattle went for the 6’3 306 lb guard Venzell Boulware with their 2nd pick in this phase. Boulware originally played for Tennessee but then transferred to Miami for the 2018 season. Boulware has the capability to play both guard and tackle but is listed as a guard and should start the season there.

RD 3: Dillon Day C

Seattle chose the Mississippi State product as their first center in round 3. Day went undrafted in the 2015 NFL draft but he did play for 5 NFL teams and won a super bowl with the Broncos. Milehighreport.com had this to say about Day: “Intelligent with strong competitive streak. Rarely busts on tape and is assignment-oriented. Good vision and anticipation of twists and games up front. Can come off of block quickly to pick up twist or blitzer. Thick through middle with good bubble. Plays with desired toughness at the point of attack and is a fighter in tight quarters. Not always pretty, but gets guys blocked.” Day is the favorite to start at center for the Dragons in February.

RD 4: Cyril Richardson OG

Richardson has the most NFL experience out of all these linemen so far. He was an all-american for Baylor in college and got drafted in the 5th round by the Buffalo Bills in 2014. Richardson started 4 games for them and signed with the Bears in 2016. Richardson is also the fifth San Antonio Commander on the roster as he played under Mike Riley there and should be used to the scheme. Richardson is a powerful blocker and should move piles for the Dragons in the run-game.

Rd 5: Quinterrius Eatmon OT

A heralded recruit, Eatmon played his college ball at Southern Florida and was a key cog in an offensive line that helped Marlon Mack (starting RB for the Indianapolis Colts) run for 1000 yards in 2014. Eatmon signed as an undrafted free agent with the Raiders where he saw limited action. Eatmon also participated in the Spring League in 2018. Eatmon will battle to be a starting tackle for the Dragons this upcoming Winter.

Rd 6: Michael Dunn OT

The Maryland product was a versatile linemen for the AAF’s Birmingham Iron this past spring and got signed to the Miami Dolphins shortly after the AAF folded. Dunn played both guard and tackle for the Iron and was a top 10 run blocker in the AAF. He will battle for starting jobs across the line and should end up contributing to this Dragons team.

Rd 7: Kirk Barron C

Barron was a UDFA out of Purdue and has been on both the Dolphins and the Bengals. Barron is explosive, he ran a 5.19 and can dunk a basketball but has not been able to be given a true shot yet. The athletic center will get his shot to prove himself with the Dragons and will hope to lock down an interior line spot.

Rd 8: Jordan Rose OT

The Spokane native played at the University of Idaho and was Sun Belt honorable mention his senior year. At 6’6 315 Rose will battle for a position on the Oline with some of the other later round picks

Rd 9: Robert Myers OG

Myers was a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft by the Ravens. He played for 3 more teams over the next 2 years and played with the AAF’s Memphis Express last Spring. A scouting report on Bleacher Report said this about Robert Myers “A solid technician, Myers wins with footwork and toughness in the trenches and in space. He has the movement skills to pull and trap and has shown he can get out of his spot and make impact blocks. He’s tough and plays with the instincts and football IQ coaches love.” Myers was the 3rd Guard taken in the draft for Seattle and will compete for playing time.

Rd 10: Craig McCorkle OG

The 6’5 290 linemen played 30 career games at Cal U of Penn. McCorkle was extremely productive in college as he anchored a really good Oline and earned 1st team all-conference honors his last two years. McCorkle will have to battle for a roster spot but has versatility which should help him.

Seattle Dragons Phase 1 Draft Recap

As most of you know, the XFL draft took place this past week in a total of five phases. I will be reviewing all 71 players that the Seattle Dragons drafted phase by phase over the next few weeks starting off with QB assignment and phase one.

Brandon Silvers

QB Assignment: Brandon Silvers

I was not really expecting to get Silvers here but boy was I excited when we got him. Silvers threw for over ten thousand yards and had a 71:29 TD to Int ratio from 2014-2017 at Troy. I was not really too familiar with him at Troy but I watched every single one of his AAF games and the guy is a baller. While his AAF stats were solid (64% completion, 799 yards, 4TDs, 2ints), it was how he gave life to a previously lifeless team that impressed me. The Memphis Express were a 1-win team and Silvers made this team go toe-to-toe with two of the best teams in the AAF. Zachary Gartin (@The_Sideline10 on twitter) charted Brandon Silvers’ accuracy in the AAF and it was fairly impressive. He charted Silvers as 70% accurate (77% short, 67% medium, 47% deep). Silvers threw short 43% of the time which sets up great for Seattle’s weapons (Trey Williams, Jace Amaro, Keenan Reynolds, John Santiago). Overall, I think Silvers will get the job done as the Dragon’s QB and should be able to go toe-to-toe with anyone.

RD 1: RB Trey Williams

What are the chances! Anyone that followed my work in the AAF knows that I was a HUGE Trey Williams fan and even I did not expect him to go this high. I am not complaining though, as Williams will be electric for the Dragons and was definitely handpicked by Mike Riley. Mike Riley was the head coach for the San Antonio Commanders in the AAF, which is where is connection to Williams is. William averaged 5.0 YPC in the AAF and I would expect him to be used in an Alvin Kamara type role for the Dragons. He should get plenty of work, both on the ground and in the air and will be a centerpiece of this offense

RD 2: RB Kenneth Farrow

In round 2, Zorn and the Dragons go right back to a Commander RB. Farrow was Williams running-mate in the AAF and actually handled a bigger workload than Williams (106 carries for 372 yards). I would expect Farrow to take the Mark Ingram role and be a good 1-2 punch with Williams. Farrow could handle some more short-yardage work as he had 4 TDs in the AAF. It will be interesting to see how this RB split shakes out but based on draft capital, these two have the upper-hand early.

RD 3: WR Fred Ross

For their first WR, the Dragons nabbed the Mississippi State product, Fred Ross. Ross balled out at Mississippi State posting 199 catches for 2528 yards and 22 TDs in a little over 3 seasons worth of game. Ross is a good athlete, as he runs a 4.51 40 at 6’1 213 lbs. After watching some highlights, Ross possesses sneaky big-play potential and has an inside track to be the Dragon’s #1 WR based on draft capital.

RD 4: TE Jace Amaro

Amaro probably has the highest NFL draft capital spent on him as he was picked in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL draft. Amaro went on to have 41 catches for 404 yards and 2 TDs in 17 games for the Jets. It was obviously not what the Jets were hoping for but maybe Amaro can find some success in the XFL. He should get the first crack at being the TE1/chainmover for the Dragons but will have to perform in training camp as they drafted 6 TEs.

RD 5: WR Keenan Reynolds

Reynolds was another player that was drafted previously in the NFL draft, albeit this time in the 6th round. Reynolds played briefly for 3 NFL teams with the hometown Seahawks being the most recent. Reynolds, who is a converted QB, projects to be the starting slot receiver for the Dragons at 5’9 190 and could be another target for Silvers over the middle of the field. Reynolds is a very slippery runner, he could get an opportunity to be a return man and if he’s not a starting receiver he will be a guy that they manufacture screens or end-arounds for.

RD 6: TE Evan Rodriguez

The Dragons took their second TE of the phase here in the sixth round and it was their third San Antonio Commander. Rodriguez was a guy who really came around in the last 3 weeks of the AAF catching all 8 of his targets for 139 yards and a TD. OC Mike Riley is obviously selecting players he is familiar with and that does not bother me. Rodriguez turned into a pretty solid option once he settled in and he already knows Riley’s offense so he has the potential to be a big contributor from the start. He should see plenty of action in 21/31 personnel and will battle with Amaro in training camp for the #1 job.

RD 7: WR Kasen Williams

When they weren’t picking Commanders, they were picking former Seahawk guys. Williams has bounced around to a few NFL training camps but he had his most success in Seattle where he flashed during the preseason. Williams has really good hands and showed his ability to make spectacular catches with the Hawks but was surprisingly cut and could not stick anywhere. Kasen will compete with Fred Ross and Malachi Jones to play on the outside and it will be interesting to see what kind of circus catches he can make in the XFL.

RD 8: WR John Santiago

In round 8, the Dragons picked the electric North Dakota RB (designated as WR in the XFL). Santiago was a 3-time All-American and had 6592 all-purpose yards in college and was just a straight baller. NFL Draft Scout Ric Serritella said his best value was as a return specialist but he could also play slot receiver at the next level due to his open-field elusiveness and catching ability. Like Reynolds, Santiago could play slot for the Dragons but if not he will definitely be a manufactured touch player and return man. Santiago is a player I am really interested in seeing this winter.

RD 9: TE Cam Clear

Mike Riley goes back to the Commander connection has he picks another Commander TE. Clear had 10 catches for 72 yards over the course of the AAF season and was mainly used as a blocker. Clear is a big physical blocker that will probably be used in jumbo sets as a run blocker. Riley did like him enough to take him again though so maybe they have a bigger plan for him here in Seattle.

RD 10: WR Malachi Jones

Talk about a steal. Malachi has shined in both the arena football league and AAF and should contribute for the Dragons in the XFL. Jones has 22 catches for 312 yards and 2 TDs in the AAF and was the top option for the Atlanta offense. Jones should challenge for the “X” receiver role in camp but will most likely get a role either way. He provides a medium between the towering Kasen Williams and Fred Ross and the diminutive Keenan Reynolds and John Santiago.

Overall: 

Overall, this team will have an advantage in the fact that 4 of these players are already familiar with Mike Riley’s offense. The 3 TE approach was a little surprising to me but Riley got guys he was familiar with and this shows to me that they want to run the football. Farrow and Williams should be major contributors to this offense but don’t be surprised if a player from the open phase works in here. The WR rotation is wide open. Ross and Williams are big-bodied outside receivers and Santiago and Reynolds will be gadget type/slot players while Jones is in the middle. The offense should be pretty balanced but it will all come down to Brandon Silvers.

Shawn Oakman: Questions and Answers

In this Oct. 10, 2015, file photo, then-Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman warms up before an NCAA college football game against Kansas. (AP Photo)

Recently, in an XFLBoard.com article, Mike Mitchell wrote that Former Baylor DL Shawn Oakman was a player we would like to see in the XFL. Afterward, XFL fans heard that Oakman had, in fact, accepted an XFL draft invite. This immediately made him one of the biggest names to be been invited to play in the league.

Since XFLBoard.com and its followers are excited about the possibility of Shawn Oakman joining the XFL, Jackson Conner recently had a conversation with Oakman, to get to know him a little better, and ask about his past, present and future football career.

Shawn Oakman Q&A

Q. Who contacted you first for your XFL draft invite and when did they contact you?

A. Oliver Luck sent the invitation and it was around mid-to-late August.

Q. Had you been considering the XFL before anyone contacted you?

A. I was considering it for sure, it was definitely an option that was on the table. Any way I could get my foot back in the game I was going to take it. As you know me playing Arena, I have just been trying to keep my name relevant.

Q. What factors played into your decision to accept the XFL draft invite?

A. There were no factors really, football is football. You know, if you love the game you are going to play no matter when or where. It was not something I had to think about. If you give me an opportunity to play football especially a paying opportunity to play I am going to take it. It’s a career path, it’s a career decision.

Q. What does a normal day look like for you as you train for the XFL?

A. 6 am on the field drills, running cardio, weights at 10, lunch and dinner every day. Same thing every day, kind of like that Kaepernick commercial. Really just repetition, being the same person every day, doing the same thing every day. Just staying ready for my opportunity, whatever opportunity that may be XFL, NFL, CFL, etc.

Q. How have your experiences with other pro leagues (Arena) been and what did you learn from those?

A. Its been a good experience just to get back in the feel of things, being out there with the guys and feeling that locker room comradery. It also gave me a refresher that this is a business, in all aspects of the game, from the smaller leagues to the bigger leagues it is a business and you have to approach it as such.

Q. How has your game improved since college?

A. Honestly, I don’t really know too much, because I haven’t been able to showcase my talents in a 11-on-11 setting. I’d say I’m definitely still healthy, I have not been injured. Once I am able to get on that field I can really judge how much better I got. The last 11-on-11 game I played was that Spring League game and I was the MVP of that. It’s definitely a steady preparation every day to keep my body ready. Once you got some pads on the game is going to come natural, it’s like riding a bike. The same thing I have been playing my whole life and I have been pretty good at it.

Q. What is your favorite Shawn Oakman coin flip meme and how did that one viral meme affect your life.

A. For me, the “tuition” one or the “daddy” one was my favorite. It definitely had a huge effect on my life, I was nationally known for that picture so it gave me a platform to really express myself (shoutout to the Cowboys stadium and their huge jumbotron television). I would say it was also both good and bad, just for the simple fact of going through the trial and people perceiving you a certain type of way.

Q. Who is one person that has motivated you throughout your football career and just life in general?

A. I would definitely say my immediate family. Football has the ability to change generations of lives and coaches always ask what is your “why”, why do you play. My ‘why’ has always been my family, to give them a better life than the ones they have ever had or been able to experience.

Q. As a projected 1st round pick, why did you stay another year in college and how do you think your life would’ve changed if you came out a year earlier?

A. Well you know they say God never makes mistakes so I stayed for a bigger purpose. I did not stay for myself, I did not stay for anyone else but the people that needed me to stay and that was teammates and my family. I’m the first boy out of my immediate family to earn a college degree and so for me having my college degree that changes my perspective of the next generation that is coming under me and my siblings. It is no longer an impossible task, now it is a requirement and a goal that we need to focus on. It’s not something we just want to do or can’t do, it is a must. In terms of how my life would have changed, I’m not really sure. I think I would have been in the NFL right now but that is the only thing I think would be different.

Q. Is the NFL the final goal?

A. Yes, the NFL is the primary goal. Just to have that stamp to say that I did make it after all my trials and tribulations would be great.

 

XFLBoard.com would like to wish Shawn Oakman a good future in the XFL and thank him for joining Jackson Conner and answering these questions.