The future of the New York Guardians in XFL 3.0

LA Wildcats At NY Guardians 29 Feb 2020 – Credit Adam McCullough

“We love eight teams. We love eventually having more than eight teams. I think we’ll be reviewing some of the markets as we should. There was a lot of great work that was done and was succeeding. But I think whenever you have time to reset, I think it’s an important time to just reassess.”
– New XFL Part-Owner Dany Garcia- Per The Athletic

REVIEW, RESET & REASSESS

The XFL is coming back. The when, where, and how are yet to be determined. The answers to those questions could help shape the future of the XFL’s existing eight teams. 

One of the biggest questions moving forward is: Do big-market teams like New York and Los Angeles still have a place in the new XFL? Will they be a part of the review, reset and reassess process described by Dany Garcia?

The New York Guardians and Los Angeles Wildcats did a tremendous job building up their franchises on and off the field. The XFL’s two biggest markets were run by extremely talented executives like Janet Duch and Heather Karatz. On the field, both teams were in strong contention for the playoffs when the plug was pulled out due to the pandemic. New York and L.A. may not have produced the most massive crowds in the league, but the fanbases were excellent.

That being stated, except for perhaps Tampa, no two teams faced more of an uphill struggle to succeed than New York and L.A.

Under Vince McMahon’s vision and Oliver Luck’s leadership. The XFL took the approach of tackling the big markets. With McMahon’s background and history, in particular, there was never any doubt that New York would be in his league.

Some pundits and observers questioned the XFL’s strategy of placing teams in over-saturated sports towns with existing NFL teams.

Why do you rob a bank? Because that’s where all the money is was one of Oliver Luck’s go-to answers to why the XFL chose big cities like New York. The league’s business strategy boasted eight of the nation’s top 21 T.V. markets. Something that was a significant selling point when the league locked down T.V. deals with Disney and Fox to air its games. 

Despite the success of the undefeated Houston Roughnecks in a city with an existing NFL team. Many who were opposed to the XFL’s choice of cities will point to the league’s best success, which came in St. Louis with the BattleHawks. A market starving for pro football with an ax to grind for being overlooked. 

For some, a perfect alternate universe pro football league would consist of eight St. Louis like franchises. Cities like New York and L.A. wouldn’t fit in it into that model. 

THE BUBBLE

One of the saving graces for the continuation of New York and L.A. in the XFL is the likelihood that if a 2021 season happens, the traditional individual market model won’t be needed if the league operates in a bubble.

Unknowingly, this past January, during the league’s centralized training camp in Houston, the XFL provided the template for a COVID-19 sports bubble model. The league stationed eight franchises in one city and played their slate of games at one specific location (TDECU). The entire league operated as a single entity in a confined setting. 

Before the XFL shut down their season for good earlier this year, contingency plans for a 2021 season in a COVID world were forming. XFL Director of Football Operations Sam Schwartzstein submitted a proposal for the league to play as a single-site entity. The plan would save millions of dollars from the budget and plan for the likelihood that fans would not be allowed into games. Leagues like the NBA and NHL are operating under similar quarantined style operations right now.

If the XFL is to play in 2021, something similar to what Sam Schwartzstein set forth will need to be implemented. The XFL’s new ownership group has bought their way into a league at the worst possible time to do so. It’s part of the reason that despite having so many inquiries into buying the league, that only one substantial bidder emerged. Any owner of the XFL is inheriting a league in a pandemic sports landscape.

What the new ownership did inherit is eight ready-made teams with equity built up. If a bubble exists in 2021, the eight existing teams will be playing as their city representatives without actually having to conduct any business in their local cities, until the 2021 season has ended. Domestic ticket sales would be non-existent and thus not up for scrutiny until the league revs up for a 2022 season back in their markets. The setup may buy New York some time before the new owners decide on its future.

STADIUM

If the New York Guardians are to remain as a part of the XFL, then the apparent alteration with the franchise is moving the team away from MetLife Stadium. The Guardians averaged nearly 15,000 fans per home game in a stadium that seats 82,000. The prevailing thought is that New York would be better served playing at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., where the venue has a seating capacity of 25,000.

While many would love to see, a New York franchise play in its home state, like perhaps in Long Island or Queens, Red Bull Arena is a suitable happy medium. It’s accessible, being only 7 miles west of Lower Manhattan, and spectator friendly.

THE TEAM

The New York Guardians may be under new leadership moving forward. Does Kevin Gilbride still have one more run left in him? With the Guardians, Gilbride stepped out of self-imposed retirement to get back into coaching. The New York job for Gilbride was ideal; the ability to be close to home played a factor in his return.  Control also played a significant role. As G.M. and coach, Gilbride had to line up facilities and did all the hiring.

“My imprint was on everything. I liked that challenge. As a coach sometimes over a quarter-century of professional football, you get some frustrating experiences where personnel people are making decisions and as a coaching staff, you were not in agreement. I was in a position to bridge that.”
– Kevin Gilbride to the Middletown Press in late April.

Some of the XFL’s head coaches have publicly stated their desire to return, like Winston Moss and June Jones. By all accounts, the experience in the XFL was a positive one for Coach Gilbride, but the end of the season was abrupt, and a lot has changed since the spring.

The XFL is going to be a different league than the one Gilbride worked in earlier this year. Gone is the previous owner, Vince McMahon, who was in direct contact with Gilbride up until the very day, the league suspended play back in March.

CEO/Commissioner Oliver Luck was largely instrumental in Gilbride coming out of retirement. Luck is currently entangled in a lawsuit with Vince McMahon over his termination. It remains to be seen if he will return under the new ownership group.

When the XFL suspended play, Kevin Gilbride reached out to Luck out of concern for the members of his staff. When Gilbride asked Luck if his staff members should stay patient and wait things out, Luck’s advice to Gilbride was that they should start looking for new jobs.

Many of the great members of the Guardians front office and coaching staff are still available for hire. Whether or not they want to put their time, effort, and faith in the XFL again remains to be seen. A big part of the future will be the new ownership’s view of Kevin Gilbride, and whether he is willing to take another leap of faith. The Guardians being back in the tri-state area could be the deciding factor, although they may not be, at least until 2022.

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)

XFL Week 5 Guardians-Renegades Recap: New York delivers their best overall team performance of the season

“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.

Arlington Texas– The New York Guardians have turned their entire season around. Off the heels of their second home victory last week against L.A., the Guardians (3-2) led by recently appointed starting quarterback Luis Perez, played the most complete game of their entire season, besting the Dallas Renegades (2-3) 30-12 at Globe Life Park.

Entering week five, the Guardians were last in the league in every offensive category. From points they have scored, down to yards gained per play. For one half, despite another stellar performance by New York’s defense, and solid special teams play, it appeared as if New York’s offense would continue their early-season struggles. Through no fault of Luis Perez, the receivers had several drops, including one in the end zone, and squandered field position; this led New York to a 6-6 tie with Dallas at the half.

At halftime, Kevin Gilbride addressed his entire team and set them on the right course for the rest of the game.

“You wanted to turn this into a battle of wills. You wanted to turn it into mental toughness. You wanted to see who wanted it more. My money is on us, it’s on you. Defensively, you’re playing your ass off. Offensively, they can’t even stop you. All you have to do is make the plays that are there to be made. They’re there!  The kicking game, you’ve won games for us before, let’s go win it now as a team”.

Following Gilbride’s halftime speech, the Guardians ended up playing what may have been the best half of football by any team in the XFL this season. Save for one long 92-yard kick return for a touchdown by Dallas’s Austin Walter. New York got the job done on all three phases.

The Guardians marched down the field 76 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive of the second half. The Guardians pass game finally started clicking, as Luis Perez connected twice down the field to Mekale McKay for 45 yards. New York’s three-headed ground attack of Darius Victor, Tim Cook, and Justin Stockton  (32-144), drove the Guardians down to the one before Quarterback Marquise Williams capped off the drive with a one-yard td run.  The Guardians would take a 12-6 lead and never relinquish it.

After forcing the Renegades offense to punt late in the third quarter. Despiting missing both starting offensive tackles, John Kling to injury and Jarron Jones, suspension. The Guardians would immediately go on the attack, connecting on their longest play of the season, when Luis Perez (16/30 229 yards, one td) would connect down the field with Colby Pearson on a stop and go 80-yard catch and run for a touchdown. The longest play of the New York season. Perez would then connect with Justin Stockton for the 2-point conversion, extending the NY lead over Dallas to 20-6.  Almost immediately, New York would add to their expanding lead, when Defensive End Ryan Mueller would bat up and intercept Phillip Nelson’s attempted pass in the flat, and return it 33 yards for the score. A successful one-point conversion by Perez to McKay extended the Guardians lead to 27-6.

The New York Guardians’ defense continued to make life very difficult for Phillip Nelson and the Dallas offense. The Guardians were aided by great coverage from secondary standouts Dravon Askew-Henry and Jamar Summers. New York’s defense harrassed Phillip Nelson (28/49 210 yards, two interceptions) all afternoon long. Led by the XFL leader in sacks, Cavon Walker, who added another two sacks to his league-leading total of 4.5. The Maryland standout has played both DT and DE for New York, and he was in the Dallas backfield all day, finishing with seven total tackles. The Renegades failed to establish any semblance of a rushing attack, and save for Walter’s long kick return to cut the NY lead to 27-12. The Guardians were two steps ahead of the Renegades all afternoon long, leading towards their first road win of the season, decisively over Dallas 30-12.

The victory by New York over Dallas thrusts them right directly into the playoff race in the East. The Guardians now at 3-2, will wait to see who wins tomorrow in DC, between the 3-1 St. Louis BattleHawks and the 2-2 Defenders. Should the Defenders win, it will create a three-way tie for first, with just five games remaining in the regular season. New York has two home dates remaining with both St. Louis (Week 8) and D.C. (Week 9), should the BattleHawks win, New York takes over sole possession of second place and will control their destiny in the playoff race.

For the Dallas Renegades (2-3), by default, they remain in second place in the West with head to head victories over Seattle, and L.A. Dallas heads to D.C. in Week 6, still looking for answers, while their starting Quarterback Landry Jones remains out of the picture.

For the New York Guardians (3-2), they head back to MetLife Stadium, next Saturday at 2 pm ET on ABC, to defend their undefeated home record against the undefeated (5-0) Houston Roughnecks.

XFL Week 5 Preview: New York Guardians at Dallas Renegades

New York Guardians (2-2) at Dallas Renegades (2-2)

  • Saturday, March 7th, 4 PM CT/5 PM ET (FOX) Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas
  •  Renegades -8 Over/Under 37.5
  •  Game Time Temperature: 65, Winds 7-11mph

Game Overview

The New York Guardians and Dallas Renegades have had a unique path to this upcoming game.

Both teams share 2-2 records, but the road in which they got there is entirely different. The Guardians have two home victories in as many games and were blown out on the road by D.C. and St. Louis, by a total of 56-9.

The Renegades have yet to win at home, despite two tightly contested games with the undefeated 4-0 Houston Roughnecks and the 3-1 St.Louis BattleHawks. Both of the Renegades victories have come on the road against divisional opponents, L.A. and Seattle.

0-2 on the road (NY) verses 0-2 at home (Dallas). Something has to give. Besides their records, Dallas and New York also share in the fact that they have turned to a backup quarterback to keep themselves in playoff contention.

For New York, Luis Perez, came out of the bullpen to get the Guardians a much-needed victory against his former team, the L.A. Wildcats last weekend. Original starter, Matt McGloin, is set to return from injury and is looking to reclaim his spot. New York may want to keep their opponent guessing, but the logical play is to keep Perez at the controls until he gives you a reason to not be in that position.

For the Renegades, Phillip Nelson is being called upon again to keep Bob Stoops’ team in contention until Landry Jones can return. Nelson started in Jones’s place in week one and spelled Landry in relief last week when Jones reaggravated a previous knee injury.

Injuries

(New York) : S Andrew Soroh (Questionable-Head/Knee), QB Matt McGloin-(Probable-Thorax), TE EJ Bibbs (Probable-Knee), OT John Kling (Probable-Shoulder), C Ian Silberman (Probable-Neck), WR Austin Duke (Probable-Ankle), OL Avery Young (Probable-Shoulder)

* The Guardians activated WR Tanner Gentry off of their short term injured reserve but he wasn’t active last week. WR DeAngelo Yancey is working his way back from injury and could follow Gentry’s lead.

(Dallas): QB Landry Jones (Out-Knee), G Salesi Uhatafe (Out-Undisclosed), WR Armanti Edwards (Questionable-Hip), DL Frank Alexander (Probable-Ankle), TE Donald Parham (Probable-Hand), DT Winston Craig (Probable-Knee), DT Tony Guerad (Probable-Shoulder)

Matchup: The Guardians offense versus the Renegades defense

New York is last in the XFL in scoring per game. (12.2) Last in yards per game (230). Last in pass yards per game (142.8) and finally, last in yards gained per play (3.2). Yet despite all of this, there is a sense of optimism that the Guardians’ offense is starting to trend in the right direction.

Since being thrown in the fire, Quarterback Luis Perez has completed 70 percent of his passes. The Guardians are getting healthier at receiver with the return of Tanner Gentry, and the eventual return of DeAngelo Yancey, two of New York’s top drafted receivers. The offense is close to finally being whole.

However, the area that has seen the most improvement in recent weeks is the Guardians’ ground attack. Two weeks ago, New York rushed for over a hundred yards with the duo of Darius Victor and Tim Cook. Last week against L.A., they combined for 114 yards at over 4 yards per carry with Victor having his best game of the season (18-82). The Guardians are not quite there yet offensively, but the emergence of their rushing attack is a proper setting off point. New York would love to try and control the line of scrimmage against a banged-up Dallas front seven.

The Dallas defense led by Chris Woods has been a huge reason why Dallas is 2-2 and has been in every game this season. They rank at or near the top in almost every defensive category. The one area where Dallas has struggled is in generating a consistent pass rush. (6 sacks in 4 games).

The extra time in the pocket for opposing passers has given them time to go through progressions and find the third and even fourth read—an overlooked aspect when outlets attempt to grade the Renegades secondary. Two standouts for Dallas have been Cornerback Josh Hawkins and Safety Derron Smith. Hawkins was tasked last week with covering Roughnecks star receiver Cam Phillips and held him to 1 catch for nine yards. Safety Derron Smith was the #1 graded player in the entire AAF last season. Smith has lived up to his billing thus far with Dallas. In coverage and with his tackling.

The lack of a Renegades pass rush should, in theory, give Luis Perez time to go through his reads. The Guardians have struggled to make great use of their star receiver Mekale McKay. Josh Hawkins will undoubtedly be tasked with covering McKay one on one. Mekale presents a different challenge for Hawkins than Phillips did. Hawkins (5’10) used press coverage heavily against Phillips (6’0), but against the 6’5 McKay, the same type of strategy may not pay off. New York started incorporating their tight ends in the offense last week with EJ Bibbs and Jake Powell (5-58). Until Gentry and Yancey get back to full speed, New York will have to continue to lean on their complimentary pass targets. Wide Receivers Colby Pearson and Austin Duke need to win their one on one matchups for New York to have a chance on offense.

Matchup: The Guardians defense versus the Renegades offense

Hal Mumme’s Air-Raid offenses have had a history of breaking records. Nowhere in the legends playbook does it consist of coordinating an entire attack with a broken leg. That’s what Hal Mumme did last week, after star running back Cameron Artis-Payne barrelled into him on the sidelines.  Not only did Mumme continue to call offensive plays on the sideline after breaking his leg, but he also had to deal with losing his starting Quarterback to injury in Landry Jones. Despite all this adversity, Hal Mumme will never throw in his trusty towel.

The Renegades rank third in the XFL in yards per game offensively (344), but there is a sense that Dallas has underachieved on that side of the ball. Dallas appeared to be heading in the right direction with Landry Jones returning and winning his first two games, but turnovers and a lack of explosive plays have held the Renegades back from achieving their expectations.

With Landry Jones out, Phillip Nelson is back in the saddle. In week one, Nelson was highly efficient on paper (33/42), but he only produced 199 yards and no touchdown drives. Avoiding turnovers will be important but making big plays down the field will be as well for Nelson.

The Renegades offense is designed for short and quick throws underneath. Mumme has a history of exploiting defenses and creating mismatches in space. The shallow crossing routes have been a staple of his system for decades, but despite the talent that Dallas has at receiver in 4.2 speedster Jeff Badet, Jazz Ferguson, Flynn Nagel, and Freddie Martino. The WR’s in Dallas has yet to be the focal point of the Renegades attack. The Wildcats last week, attacked the Guardians down the field with success. This might be the time for Dallas to attempt the same strategy.

The Guardians’ defense has been at its best when it can create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Bunmi Rotini, Cavon Walker, and Jarrell Owens have played well in recent weeks. If they can pressure Nelson and take away his first read, New York might make be able to slow down Dallas and keep them out of the end zone.

One player who is a matchup problem for every XFL defense is Tight End, Donald Parham. The 6’8 monster has incredible speed for his size and an ungodly wingspan (87 inches). The Guardians have maybe the league’s fastest linebacking corps but are lacking in size. New York does not match up favorably against Parham.

The Renegades boast one of the XFL’s best one-two tandems at Running Back in Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar. Both have been terrific in the run and pass game. Dallas has been at their best this season when they have leaned on both players. Look for Dallas to try and run on New York’s 6th ranked rush defense (113.5 per game). It might be the Renegade’s best road to victory.

Final Summary/Prediction

The winner of this game will position themselves nicely for the second half of the season.

For New York, a 3-2 record could put them realistically in the playoff hunt, regardless of what happens in the DC-St. Louis game. A loss by DC and a NY win puts them ahead of the Defenders for the final playoff spot in the east. A win by the Defenders, coupled with a NY victory, puts the Guardians in a three-way tie for first, with five games to go, and with two of those games being at home against D.C and St. Louis.

Dallas has yet to hit its peak as a team, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. They appeared to be headed towards it before another roadblock came with yet another injury to their starting quarterback.

This is a real crossroads game for New York and Dallas. The road will be a lot easier to navigate for the team who wins. The Renegades have been the better overall team in the first four weeks of the season, they haven’t upheld their home field yet, but I think they finally will.

Renegades 20 Guardians 12

XFL Week 4 Guardians – Wildcats Game Recap: Luis Perez injects life into New York’s season and assigns his former team a loss

New York Guardians QB Luis Perez (Credit: XFL.com)

East Rutherford, N.J– What a difference a week makes. The New York Guardians (2-2) turned their season around today with a 17-14 victory of the Los Angeles Wildcats (1-3). Both teams came into the day with entirely different outlooks. LA, coming off a dominant home performance against the then-unbeaten DC Defenders, and New York coming off of two straight demoralizing losses on the road, which saw the Guardians outscored 59-9.

With Luis Perez starting at Quarterback, and strong running by Darius Victor (18-82). The New York Guardians offense did just enough offensively to ward off the Wildcats led by Josh Johnson.

The schedule makers can get an assist in this outcome as well. LA had to travel to the east coast and play an early game on short rest. Adding to LA’s disadvantage was the fact that their top receiver Nelson Spruce (knee) and emerging runner Martez Carter (hip), were both unable to suit up and play.

With no ground attack, the LA Wildcats leaned heavily on Josh Johnson (25/40 330 yards 2 touchdowns) to win this game for them. That and Winston Moss employing a refuse to lose mentality and going for it successfully on 4th down on two separate occasions.  Most notably, on a 4th and 2 on their own 28-yard line in the second half. LA nearly stole this game on the road. Two missed field goals by veteran kicker Nick Novak ended up being the difference in the contest. LA outgained NY 350-250.

The difference in this game was the New York Guardians’ defense. Despite giving up big numbers to Johnson and Tre McBride (8-127-1td). The New York defense made big plays all day long in crucial moments. Oklahoma State Star Jarrell Owens had his breakout moment of the early season, with 2 sacks and a blocked field goal. Late in the game tied at 14-14,  LA was driving into NY territory to take the lead.  Superstar cornerback Jamar Summers made one of, if not the best individual defensive play of the early season, with a huge interception and return, that helped slow down the Wildcats second-half momentum.

The Guardians’ special teams also played a hand in today’s triumph. Kicker Matt McCrane made three big kicks (51,23 and 47) in windy conditions at MetLife. Punter Justin Vogel pinned LA deep inside the ten-yard line for what ended up being the Wildcats’ final desperation drive to potentially tie or win the game late.

The story of the day, however, was Quarterback Luis Perez. The player who was once assigned to the Wildcats and positioned as their franchise player was deemed expendable when LA acquired Josh Johnson. Late in training camp, Luis Perez was unceremoniously traded away for backup QB Chad Kanoff. On this day, Luis Perez took command of New York’s beleaguered attack and showed composure and poise in the pocket. Perez finished the day 18/26 for a modest 150 yards and a touchdown, but his numbers on the day could have been better if not for an uncharacteristic deep ball drop by Mekale McKay late, that would have sealed the game. Perez was the reason that LA walked away from MetLife today with a 1-3 record.

New York at 2-2, now heads back on the road to face Bob Stoops and the Dallas Renegades at Globe Life Park, Saturday 5 pm ET on Fox. With six weeks to go, the Guardians’ are now back in the playoff hunt in the East. For the now 1-3 LA Wildcats, they head back home and host the Tampa Bay Vipers in a 9 pm ET/6 pm PT primetime game on ESPN next Sunday.

Post-game Quotes

Los Angeles Wildcats Head Coach, Winston Moss

On being 1-3 and what you tell your team on the way back to LA:

“I thought we had a breakthrough, to be honest with you. After meeting with the guys and there were some emotions and there were some things going on. We’re at a crossroads and I think that with the heart and character, the Wildcat way will show itself strong moving forward. I think this loss is actually going to help us move forward through the rest of this season.”

Los Angeles Wildcats Quarterback, Josh Johnson

On playing consistent football and getting back on track:

“I mean just really focusing on the fundamentals of football- the details- and just trying to go out there and play the quarterback position the way I’ve been taught, and the way that our coaches want me to play it, just trying to take one play at a time, and just execute as best as possible- but obviously it’s not good enough right now. So, just got to find a way to get better.”

New York Guardians Head Coach, Kevin Gilbride:

On the win:

“We’re obviously excited about the win. We’re very pleased with the effort that our players put forth. I thought they continued to fight and play hard, which we needed to do if we’re gonna get a W against a very good football team. Josh Johnson’s a heck of a quarterback and made some spectacular plays, so we were very fortunate to hang in there and win, but that was the thing that I thought we could do if we just don’t self-destruct. We had that one moment where there was a frustrated young man with a holding call, and we just can’t have that. But other than that, I thought the guys showed the kind of discipline that you need to show, and good football teams have. It was a small step but it was at least a step in the right direction, so we’re pleased with that.”

On Quarterback Luis Perez:

“I thought Luis showed the kind of poise and composure and understanding of what we’re trying to do that you like to see from that position. I was very pleased with his effort. He’d be the first one to tell you that there were some chances that he didn’t quite see and he didn’t quite get the ball where he needed to get it to, but the bottom line is you keep playing, and when you miss a throw or you miss an opening that was available to you, it doesn’t destroy you and prevent you from coming back the next play. You continue to play, play in and play out, and he does that very well. Of course, that’s just his makeup. It was good – I think he was a significant catalyst to us playing as well as we did…He’s like most quarterbacks that are the right makeup – the competitive kind of guys that like to be pushed, they like to be coached, they like to be taught as to what you’re trying to achieve. He certainly is a guy that enjoys being a student of the game, a guy that likes to come in and watch the film. He lives with his family still out in California, his wife just had a baby. So he’s got a lot of time on his hands. So when we finished the day at about 5:00, it’s a long day. A lot of guys aren’t looking to come back in, you know. They’ve been here since 8:00 this morning, but he’s there every night. He’s got that kind of drive to absorb as much information and as much knowledge as he can, and he’s done a terrific job in a short period of time. He’s the makeup you’re looking for, no question about it.”

QB Luis Perez calls the play. (Credit: XFL.com)

New York Guardians Quarterback, Luis Perez:

On the transition from being an elite bowler to community college to DII Player of the year, now starting for the Guardians:

“I think faith is number one – after so many times – you get stomped on and there are so many different circumstances that happen, you just got to keep faith and keep working, and believe in your work ethic and hope that everything will work out.”

His personal assessment of his first start:

“There are a lot of plays that I wish I had back – As a quarterback you want to be perfect all the time, but obviously that’s not going to be the case, but ultimately it’s about improving, so I’m going to go back and watch the tape and improve for next week.”

On what the message was to the team before the go-ahead FG drive in the fourth quarter:

“It all started by saying we have a bunch of leaders on this team. Coach then says ‘we are going to hit adversity at some point in the game and it’s about how we respond to it that matters. Let’s get a drive going and let’s go get some points.’

On the way the entire team came together to win the game:

“This was the definition of a team win. Matt [McCrane] making all of those kicks, and they were some long kicks. Justin [Vogel], at the end, pinning them inside the 10 yard line. Offense doing our part. We talk about no turnovers all the time in all aspects, and the defense got one, and we didn’t turn it over.”

On the incompletion to McKay:

“Not every play is going to be made. He knows he makes that play 99 out of 100 times. I told him, as soon as that happened, I’m coming back to you, I still have faith in you, and I know you’re going to make a play for me.”

On the crowd support:

“On third down you can hear them chanting and that definitely helps, especially because, as quarterbacks we have the earpiece and when it starts getting really loud, it’s hard to hear the communication. The false starts, all the penalties, it shows up. The crowd played a huge part in that.”

On facing his former team:

“It definitely felt good going against them. Ultimately, I wish them nothing but the best. They’ve been great to me. I talked to a lot of the guys after the game everything was fun and love, I wish them nothing but the best going forward.”

On keeping the momentum going into next week:

“This is definitely a momentum game. Now we got one down, we just need to keep stringing them along, and we know that. We know we didn’t play our best in all facets of the game. We’ve got to be obsessed with detail- not being okay with being average. I think with this win it’s going to help motivate everyone to stack these wins together.”

XFL Week 4 Preview: Los Angeles Wildcats at New York Guardians

Los Angeles Wildcats (1-2) at New York Guardians (1-2)

  • Saturday, February 29th, 2 pm ET/11 am PT (ABC) MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
  • LA-7.5  Over/Under 39.5
  • Game Time Temperature: 37, Winds 10-20 mph

Game Overview

The Los Angeles Wildcats (1-2) travel to the east coast to face the (1-2) New York Guardians. Both teams share the same record after three weeks of play, but appear to be headed in opposite directions. Los Angeles is coming off a dominant 39-9 home victory over the DC Defenders. Quarterback Josh Johnson has stabilized the LA season after missing week one due to injury.

New York is coming off two straight demoralizing road losses within their division. The Guardians were outscored 56-9 in those two defeats. The most recent, a 29-9 loss to the BattleHawks in front of nearly 30,000 rabid St. Louis football fans.

The Guardians’ offense has been one of the league’s worst after three games. Unlike LA, New York has uncertainty headed into this game at the Quarterback position. Opening day starter Matt McGloin (thorax) is listed as out. New York will turn to backup Quarterbacks Marquise Williams and Luis Perez. Both have split reps all week in the lead up to this game. Williams and Perez could both see action on Saturday.

Injuries

New York and LA are coming into this game off a short week of preparation. The Wildcats will be missing some vital pieces of their offense on Saturday. A good portion of LA’s main contributors from last Sunday’s win showed up on this week’s injury report. A few of them won’t be playing.

(New York) QB Matt McGloin (Out-Thorax), OL Avery Young (Probable-Shoulder), LB Garrett Dooley (Probable-Ankle), LB Jawaun Johnson (Probable-Head), John Kling (Probable-Shoulder), RB Darius Victor (Probable-Ankle).

Guardians Wide Receiver Tanner Gentry has been activated off of short term injured reserve. It remains to be seen if he will be active for Saturday’s game.

(Los Angeles) WR Nelson Spruce (Out-Knee), RB Martez Carter (Doubtful-Hip), DB Mike Stevens (Questionable-Thigh), DL Latarius Brady (Questionable-Knee), DB Harlan Miller (Questionable-Thigh), QB Josh Johnson (Questionable- Thigh), QB Chad Kanoff (Questionable-Shoulder), CB Jaylen Dunlap (Probable-Ankle), RB Larry Rose (Probable-Foot), WR Tre McBride (Probable-Thigh), TE Brandon Barnes (Probable-Knee).

Wildcats Fullback Winston Dimel has been activated off of short term injured reserve. LA’s ground game could get a boost with his presence.

Matchup: The Guardians offense versus the Wildcats defense

LA plays a 3-4 defense but has been disguising their alignments and coverages well in the last couple of weeks. Winston Moss, with help from his defensive staff, has taken over the play-calling duties since letting go of former Defensive Coordinator Pepper Johnson. The Wildcats frustrated Defenders QB Cardale Jones last week by mixing coverages and disrupting the timing of DC’s pass routes. The change in play-calling was swift, and seemed like an abrupt move by Winston Moss to outsiders, but it has paid off thus far. Winston took ownership immediately of a failing unit.

As a complete contrast, despite the Guardians’ immense struggles offensively, Offensive Coordinator G.A. Mangus remains in control of  New York’s attack. Kevin Gilbride has opted not to take the reins of the offense. Gilbride is an accomplished long-time offensive coordinator with years of success and experience, but he has decided to retain a CEO role as Head Coach/GM, rather than go back to what he does best.

Last week, the Guardians eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the first time all season with Tim Cook and Darius Victor both rushing for over a hundred yards combined. Both running backs averaged at least five yards a carry, and the team will lean on this committee to move the ball down the field with a banged-up Matt McGloin and an inexperienced duo at QB in Perez and Williams.

Despite playing in mostly a spread attack with ‘Fun N Gun’ elements from his days as a Steve Spurrier disciple, G.A. Mangus used some more base sets last week with multiple tight ends, and it worked to some degree. Look for New York to try and establish the run more. The Wildcats rank seventh in the league in rush defense. They have talent in their front seven, but players who have very little experience playing in an odd defensive front. One player who could factor into this week’s gameplan for New York is Justin Stockton. The former Texas Tech back, had some good contributions in the passing game last week and provides big-play potential.

New York has had instability upfront, and discipline issues. Center Ian Silberman is coming off of a horrible performance last week, which saw him lose his cool on multiple occasions before ultimately getting benched. Starting Guard Garrett Brumfield was placed on injured reserve. Veterans Damien Mama and Avery Young, who have seen extensive time in the first few weeks, could be utilized more in the interior. The Guardians added reinforcements upfront this week, with the additions of former CFL All-Star Derek Dennis, and former New England Patriots, and 4-year NC State starter Tony Adams. Keeping the pocket clean against LA’s active front will be crucial towards New York’s success. The Guardians have struggled in this respect mightily.

Quarterback Marquise Williams has a big arm and is very mobile. His skill-set could aid a struggling Guardians offense in moving the chains and extending drives.

New York’s passing attack has been erratic. Big play receiver Mekale McKay continues to be underutilized. Austin Duke had arguably the best showing for a Guardians wide receiver last Sunday with 43 yards on four catches and a touchdown. The former all-time leading receiver at Charlotte has earned himself more playing time. The return of Tanner Gentry can help the Guardians passing attack, but it remains to be seen how ready he is to contribute on a short work week and a long layoff.

One of the hidden storylines in this game is Luis Perez, potentially facing off against the team that traded him in LA. Perez was initially assigned to the Wildcats back in October and was positioned as the leader of the team early on. Perez, along with Norm Chow, worked extensively together with the Wildcat receivers before minicamps and training camp had commenced.

The addition of Josh Johnson changed Perez’s role with Los Angeles. Luis was traded to New York late in camp for backup quarterback Chad Kanoff. Perez was a prolific college player who showed flashes of his ability with Birmingham last year in the AAF. If Perez is up to speed on New York’s offense, only a month after being traded for, he could provide the spark the Guardians need, and he already has added motivation going into this contest.

Matchup: The Guardians defense versus the Wildcats offense

The Wildcats offense under Norm Chow has started to hit its stride in recent weeks. A big part of the early season turnaround has been the leadership of Quarterback Josh Johnson. One of the league’s most experienced signal-callers, Johnson has taken control of the offense rather quickly and has brought stability to the entire franchise.  Johnson has always had the ability to make big plays on the fly with his arm and legs, but it’s his vast experience as a pro that has helped his Wildcats teammates on offense get on the same page.

The Guardians have struggled mightily to stop the run. They rank last in the XFL in rush yards allowed per game (138). New York has really struggled to find the right mix in their front seven. The Guardians boast a large defensive line, with experienced pro defensive tackles, TJ Barnes and Joey Mbu manning the middle, but the Guardians undersized linebacking corps has not held up well taking-on and shedding blocks.

LA comes into this game potentially without emerging runner Martez Carter. The original starter at tailback Elijah Hood was benched last week for fumbling issues. The talented runner may be leaned upon again, in combination with Larry Rose. LA is big upfront on their offensive line, but has struggled early on to establish a consistent ground attack (last in the league in rushing). Look for the Wildcats to try and emulate what opposing teams have done to the Guardians defense in the first three weeks.

Tre McBride officially arrived on the scene last week for LA with five receptions for 109 yards and two scores. He should be LA’s main target with star receiver, Nelson Spruce, out with a knee injury. New York has had problems containing mobile quarterbacks and getting them down on the ground. Josh Johnson presents a similar issue for New York that they had with Cardale Jones and Jordan Ta’amu.

Defensive End Bunmi Rotini has emerged as one of the Guardians better defensive players, but the Guardians pass rush has been largely inconsistent since week one. Taking McBride out of the game, and pressuring Johnson will be key for New York, especially with safety valve Nelson Spruce not playing.

Final Summary/Prediction

New York is heavy underdogs at home against LA, and with good reason. The Guardians have yet to establish their team identity on either side of the ball. New York has looked like a team that is still playing preseason games, while Los Angeles is finally starting to establish its identity offensively and defensively.

This is a crucial part of the XFL season, where teams start to get into midseason form before they make a push towards playoff contention. LA looks like they are ready for that challenge. New York does not.  A bye week would have benefited the Guardians in potentially resetting the franchise, but the short week keeps NY in status quo mode.

Normally, having a team from the west coast fly out to play on the east coast on a short week, would play into the home teams favor. The Wildcats are banged up and playing what is a morning game for them. (11 am PT). This should favor the Guardians but with their uncertainty at Quarterback. It’s hard to bet against Josh Johnson and what LA has shown so far with Norm Chow and Winston Moss.

This game takes place on leap day. Based on the Guardians’ performance in recent weeks, I am not ready to take a leap of faith yet in them turning things around.

Wildcats 23 Guardians 15

XFL Week 3 New York Guardians – St.Louis BattleHawks Recap: BattleHawks soar to victory over undisciplined Guardians

“I may need you to be a leader here because the guys that I thought were going to be better than we are at doing that are just not.” – New York Guardians Head Coach/GM Kevin Gilbride to his star receiver Mekale McKay on the sidelines in the 4th quarter of a 29-9 road loss to the St. Louis BattleHawks.

In front of 29,554 fans at the ‘Battledome,’ Pro Football returned to St.Louis in glorious fashion, as the BattleHawks dominated the New York Guardians in a 29-9 victory. St. Louis beat New York in all three phases. Riding the energy and emotion of their crowd, the BattleHawks controlled the contest from the outset with their ground game, rushing for 156 yards on the ground. St. Louis also made big plays on defense and special teams. The BattleHawks Joe Powell returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score on the XFL’s first-ever kick return for a touchdown. St. Louis also blocked a punt on special teams as well.

“You can’t beat the opponent and yourself at the same time.”
    – Guardians Head Coach/GM  Kevin Gilbride on his teams’ performance in the post-game press conference.

For New York, the story of last week’s loss in D.C. was the dysfunction of the Guardians offense and the frustration of veteran Quarterback Matt McGloin. This week, the entire team played undisciplined football. Missed tackles, blown assignments,  personal fouls, ill-advised turnovers, and miscommunication ruled the day for New York. Matt McGloin started off the game connecting on his first three passes, but a Casey Sayles sack on third down knocked him temporarily out of the game with a rib injury. Backup quarterback Marquise Williams replaced him for a couple of series before McGloin returned later in the first half.

The Guardians managed to muster a 53-yard field goal by Matthew McCrane to get on the scoreboard and cut the STL lead to 6-3. The BattleHawks would then go on to score 17 unanswered points to take a 23-3 lead late into the first half.

With a returning Matt McGloin and the Guardians driving late in the first half deep into BattleHawks territory. McGloin threw an errant pass into the leaping hands of rookie Kenny Robinson. The 21-year old All-Big 12 safety out of West Virginia is the first player with college eligibility to decide to play in the XFL, before being drafted in the NFL draft this coming April. McGloin’s momentum-killing interception led to an enraged G.A. Mangus slamming his call sheet down. The embattled offensive coordinator has seen his offense falter all season long.

One of the main culprits of the Guardians woes on Sunday in St. Louis was Guardians’ starting center Ian Silberman, who returned from missing last week’s game due to injury. Silberman, a former 6th round pick of the 49ers, was expected to be one of New York’s leaders upfront. In this game, Silberman played with no composure whatsoever, drawing multiple personal fouls, which helped kill his teams’ drives and momentum. Before the referees could eject Silberman, the Guardians staff decided to bench him.

New York’s offense and special teams weren’t the only culprits in this loss to St. Louis. The Guardians defense missed multiple tackles in this contest and had no answers schematically for the spread run attack of St. Louis. On a lone positive note, New York managed to salvage their day with a late TD drive by third-string Quarterback Luis Perez (4/5 39 yards, 1td). The position of Perez on the depth chart may be changing moving forward. There may be more changes on the horizon for the Guardians. Kevin Gilbride has a lot of difficult decisions to make moving forward, and not a lot of time, only six days before his team’s next game to work with. One of the changes that could come may very well be in who is calling the plays moving forward, and who is on the field when those plays are called.

New York (1-2) will travel back home to host the now (1-2) LA Wildcats, Saturday, 2 pm ET at Metlife Stadium (ABC). The St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1) will look for an encore victory at home as they host the (1-2) Seattle Dragons, Saturday 5 pm ET/4 pm CT  on Fox.

XFL Week Three: New York Guardians – St. Louis BattleHawks Preview

NEW YORK GUARDIANS (1-1) AT ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS (1-1)

  • Sunday, February 23, 3 pm ET/2 pm CT (ESPN) The Dome, St. Louis, MO

INJURIES

(New York) G Garrett Brumfield (Head), C Ian Silberman (Groin), WR Joe Horn (Shoulder), S Andrew Soroh (Thigh), DE Ryan Mueller (Wrist), LB Garrett Dooley (Ankle), RB Darius Victor (Head)

(St. Louis) WR L’Damian Washington (Ankle), DL Will Clarke (Calf), RB Matt Jones (Knee), CB David Rivers (Head), RB Keith Ford (Knee), WR Brandon Reilly (Knee)

Injury notes: The Guardians played without two of their starting offensive linemen last week in Center Ian Silberman and Guard Garrett Brumfield. Silberman has been limited in practice all week, and maybe close to returning to this Sunday. Brumfield has yet to practice. Both Avery Young and Damien Mama will be in line to start if either or both miss the game. Running back Darius Victor was cleared for practice and appears to be on track to play. Head injuries can be tricky, however.

The BattleHawks leading rusher Matt Jones has been battling a knee injury. He played through it last week. WR L’Damian Washington, who has shown good chemistry with rookie Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, is questionable heading into this game. A critical injury not noted here is the loss of St. Louis starting offensive linemen Jake Campos. He was lost for the season and placed on injured reserve. Campos had been starting at left tackle. Andrew McDonald and Brian Wallace would be in line to replace him.

GAME OVERVIEW

Both New York and St. Louis come into this game sporting 1-1 records, but the overall outlook for each franchise couldn’t be any more different. St. Louis is coming off an impressive two-game road stretch at Dallas and Houston. The BattleHawks, led by rookie sensation quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has been one of the league’s most impressive teams thus far. The BattleHawks will be on an emotional high in front of a sold-out home crowd in the Dome. Pro football has returned to St.Louis, and the city has embraced the team with open arms, hearts, and wings.

The Guardians, despite sharing the same record as the BattleHawks, are coming into this electric atmosphere, with a different vibe and feel. New York suffered a demoralizing loss in DC last weekend. The Guardians have struggled out the gate offensively, under signal-caller Matt McGloin and Offensive Coordinator G.A. Mangus. New York’s offense has only converted two first downs in their first two games. Last week’s drama attached to the offense, and Matt McGloin, has dimmed the outlook for the team moving forward. This has been a crucial week of preparation for the Guardians, in getting on the same page.

MATCHUP: The Guardians offense versus the BattleHawks defense

Under G.A. Magnus, New York has employed a ‘Fun N Gun’ style offense. Magnus, a former quarterback and coaching disciple of Steve Spurrier, hasn’t had much fun thus far. New York has taken multiple shots down the field in the passing game in the first two weeks but with little to no success.

The BattleHawks employ a 4-2-5 defense, similar to the Guardians week one opponent, the Tampa Bay Vipers. Under Co-Defensive Coordinators Jay Hayes and Tim Lewis. St. Louis has an athletic front seven that can play sideline to sideline. Andrew Ankrah is a defensive end/linebacker tweener type, who can line up on the line of scrimmage, to stand up and rush. Linebacker Terrance Garvin is an excellent football player, terrific in space. Linebacker/safety Dexter McCoil displays the hybrid nature of the BattleHawks defense. He’s held up well at linebacker and gives their defensive unit scheme versatility. The Guardians will look to run the football against the speed lineup that St.Louis utilizes on defense. New York has two power runners in Tim Cook and Darius Victor, who are fully capable of breaking tackles and winning battles with smaller defensive backs/linebackers. New York has been running the football a lot from the shotgun formation. It may serve them better to utilize the talented group of blocking tight ends; they have on their roster.

The Guardians passing game is still missing two of its top players in DeAngelo Yancey and Tanner Gentry. The uncertainty at the WR spot, outside of Mekale McKay, has held up the teams’ passing attack early in the season. The BattleHawks secondary has a very talented safety duo in future NFL draft pick Kenny Robinson and quality pro-veteran Will Hill. New York will look to attack St. Louis at cornerback. The BattleHawks have held up well there thus far, but may be missing former Guardian David Rivers. St. Louis struggled last week in coverage with XFL star of the week Cam Phillips. Look for Mekale McKay to be targeted often this Sunday, as well as Colby Pearson, who has been underutilized thus far.

Matchup: The Guardians defense versus the BattleHawks offense

The story of the St.Louis offense thus far has been the symmetry developed between BattleHawks Offensive Coordinator/QB’s coach Chuck Long and Jordan Ta’amu. Long, who took over the reins of the offense for Doug Meacham, who departed for TCU, has done a masterful job designing a game plan that plays to Ta’amu’s talents. Despite having an Air-Raid background, Long has developed a ball-control offense that focuses heavily on running the football out of spread sets, and the offense has gotten good mileage out of Ta’amu’s running ability. New York’s strength on their defensive front is their size. Cavon Walker (288), TJ Barnes (360), and Joey Mbu (330) will need to stand up to the challenge and help shut down the BattleHawks ground attack led by Matt Jones and Christine Michael.

St. Louis has the league’s biggest receivers and uses them to block on the edges. Hybrid TE/WR Marcus Lucas fills this role as well. The Guardians have a speedy and athletic back seven of the defense. Players like D’Juan Hines and Ben Heeney, who are linebackers in safeties bodies, may be expected to spy on Ta’amu on passing downs. The Guardians strength in their secondary is their coverage skills, but the size is an issue for New York. Talented cover players like Jamar Summers, Ranthony Texada, and Bryce Jones need to improve their tackling to matchup against the size STL has on the outside.

De’Mornay Pierson El is Jordan Ta’amu’s favorite target underneath. Taking away that easy option from the rookie QB will be vital to the Guardians’ success on third down. New York has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush in the first couple of weeks of the season.  St. Louis has employed a quick and simplified passing attack, with easy reads for its signal-caller. The Guardians will be looking for a way to disguise coverages and get Ta’amu out of his comfort zone.

FINAL SUMMARY

This is a turning point game for the New York Guardians. A win on the road against St.Louis would erase the debacle in DC last weekend. It would also put the Guardians in strong standing for a potential playoff spot in the eastern division. New York would be 2-1 in their division, with victories over both Tampa and St. Louis. The Guardians do not play another divisional opponent until week 8. So completing the first half of their divisional schedule with a 2-1 record would set them up nicely and change the makeup of their entire season.

Winning at St.Louis in their home-opener is a tall task for any XFL team, let alone a struggling Guardians team. The BattleHawks will be flying high on the emotional boost from their home crowd. This is one of those games where New York can afford to lose, but can’t afford to put forth their effort they did last week. A loss wouldn’t kill New York but a loss that resembles last weekend might. If New York continues to struggle offensively, Kevin Gilbride may need to reaccess his decision to relinquish play-calling duties. Gilbride has taken on a CEO role for the team, but he may have to take full ownership of the offense moving forward. How the entire New York Guardians team responds to last week is almost as important as the result of this game.

PREDICTION

BattleHawks 26 Guardians 10

I don’t see this as a good matchup overall for New York. The Guardians have to survive the early tidal wave of emotion that will guide the BattleHawks at the outset of this game. If New York can do that, their confidence can grow as the game moves forward. St. Louis is built to play ball control, and they will most likely do that well during this contest. The Guardians have an uphill battle ahead of them. This game will reveal the character of New York, and how they respond to adversity moving forward.

XFL Defenders dominate as New York’s offense and McGloin suffer meltdown

New York Guardians QB Matt MCGloin

“At no point in time, did I feel like we were going to be successful today.” Worst game, I have ever been a part of.”
-New York Guardians Quarterback Matt McGloin after being benched in New York’s 27-0 loss to the DC Defenders on Saturday Afternoon.

” One of two things happen when you get your butt beat like we did. You either come together or you splinter.”
-New York Guardians Head Coach Kevin Gilbride addressing his team in the locker room after the Defenders loss.

Washington D.C–  The New York Guardians faced their first big test of the early season in DC on Saturday and failed to build off of last week’s 23-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Vipers. In front of over 15,000 fans at Audi Field, the D.C. Defenders (2-0) controlled the entire game from the outset, while the Guardians (1-1) fell apart at the seams, in a 27-0 loss. To state that it was a terrible day at the office for Guardians Quarterback Matt McGloin would be an understatement.

It was a tale of two entirely different offenses. Defenders Head Coach/play-caller Pep Hamilton and early MVP candidate Cardale Jones (23/37 276 yards 2 td’s 1 int) are in mid-season form, clicking on all cylinders. The Guardians defense was competitive and held DC out of their end zone for the majority of the game until faltering late.

The drama surrounding New York’s offense overshadowed DC’s crisp overall team win, with its dysfunction and ineptitude. A game that saw Quarterback Matt McGloin (8/19 44 yards 2ints) miss multiple open receivers. The 30-year old former NFL quarterback, McGloin looked frustrated from the outset.  At halftime with the Guardians trailing 12-0, ESPN’s Diana Russini interviewed Matt McGloin on the sidelines to get his take on the teams’ first-half struggles.  McGloin told Russini, “We need to change the whole entire gameplan.”  A shot inadvertently or not, taken towards New York’s offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus. Matt McGloin’s struggles would get worse in the second half, missing two receivers downfield for would be-scores, and then throwing an ill-advised pass in the flat, that was intercepted by the Defenders Jameer Thurman and returned for a score from 46-yards out, to give DC an 18-0 lead. At one point, Kevin Gilbride had to calmly get into McGloin’s ear to try and settle the veteran down on the sidelines. McGloin’s woes on the field and sidelines led to him being benched for Quarterback Marquise Williams late in the game.

The excitement behind the quality of the new league that is the XFL hasn’t worn off, but the business of football has begun. The league may be in good standing with its audience, but players or coaches who perform poorly will not be well received. The Quarterback position lends itself to scrutiny, sometimes unfairly, but it’s part of the job. McGloin has always been a stand-up veteran. It’s part of the reason why he was recommended by Andy Reid, and why the Guardians specifically targeted him to lead their offense back in the fall. McGloin certainly had the type of game as a pro, that he would like to forget as soon as possible. The feeling is that Matt McGloin will remain the starter moving forward for the time being.

One of the underlying elements of New York’s early-season offensive struggles is the change in offensive play-caller from Kevin Gilbride to GA Mangus.  Kevin Gilbride has decided to take on a CEO role with the entire team. He’s entrusted Mangus and his offensive staff with the play-calling/design. A significant concession for someone like Gilbride, who has been a play-caller his entire career. One of the aspects lost in last week’s opening win was New York’s struggles on offense (1-10 on 3rd down) the inefficiency was camouflaged by a strong performance from the Guardians defense and special teams. Part of McGloin’s frustration was the play-calling. If New York produces only 137 yards as they did against DC moving forward. Kevin Gilbride may have to retake ownership of the offense. To Kevin Gilbride’s credit, he told the media and his players after the game that the loss was on him. “This is nobody’s fault except mine.” Gilbride is trying to not lose the team, and keep everyone on the same page.

In a shorter ten-game season in the XFL, how the Guardians respond to today’s disappointing loss will tell the tale of their upcoming season.

After the game, Gilbride spoke to the media and expressed his displeasure, “I’m disappointed with how we played, and that’s on me… When you play as poorly as we did today, one of two things is going to happen. You will either recognize that this wasn’t good enough, and you’re going to dig down deeper, and you’re going to rally each other and inspire each other… Or you splinter apart.” Gilbride continued, “I thought they (Guardians defense) played inspired football, it’s not wasted. The effort that was put forth… it was quite an example of how to go about your business… Knowing the character that was demonstrated today, I would be very, very surprised if we don’t rally around each other and come back ready to play next week.”

The Guardians will visit St. Louis next week to take on the BattleHawks in the team’s home opener (Sunday, 3 pm ET on ESPN)  while D.C. will fly cross-country to take on the Los Angeles Wildcats on Sunday, February 23. (6 pm ET/3 pm Pac, FS1).

Week Two: New York Guardians-DC Defenders Preview

New York Guardians (1-0) at D.C. Defenders (1-0)

  • Saturday 2 pm ET (Fox) Audi Field, Washington, D.C
  • Point Spread: Defenders -6.5  Over/Under 47.5 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
  • Forecast: High 39, Winds 10mph
  • Injuries: (New York) G Garrett Brumfield (Head), C Ian Silberman (Thigh), DB Dravon Askew-Henry (Shoulder), DL Cavon Walker (Ankle) (DC) DT Kalani Vakameilalo (Ankle) WR Malachi Dupre (Thigh), CB Desmond Lawrence (Shoulder), TE Khari Lee (Foot), LB AJ Tarpley (Hand), S Shamarko Thomas (Thigh), WR DeAndre Thompkins (Foot), LB Scooby Wright (Knee)

Injury Notes:  While DC’s injury report is lengthier than that of New York, the Defenders are relatively healthy going into week two. The Guardians, on the other hand, have two key injuries worth monitoring. Staring interior linemen Ian Silberman(C) and Garrett Brumfield may miss this Saturday’s game. Damien Mama would be in line to replace Silberman at the pivot, while Avery Young could replace Brumfield at guard. The Guardians may also miss their starting nickel on defense in Dravon-Askew Henry. The team released DeJuan Neal this week and has brought back Jeremiah McKinnon.

New York and D.C. are coming off huge victories at home in the opening week. The Guardians were 23-3 winners over the Tampa Bay Vipers, while DC topped the Dragons 31-19. Both these teams are vying to stay unbeaten and atop the standings in the eastern division. New York has the opportunity to go 2-0 in their division, before traveling to St. Louis for the BattleHawks home opener in week three. The three-game divisional stretch for NY completes half of their eastern schedule, before ending the season with three straight divisional games in weeks eight through ten.

Matchup: Guardians offense versus Defenders defense 

Kevin Gilbride has taken on a CEO type role for the first time in his lengthy coaching career. Last week, Gilbride handed over his play-calling duties to former Steve Spurrier QB and disciple,  QB’s coach G.A. Mangus. The results were mixed. New York struggled to get a ground game going, and McGloin was steady, not spectacular at the controls.

The Defenders employ a 3-4 defense under newly appointed Defensive Coordinator Louie Cioffi. Pep Hamilton handed over the coordinator reins to Cioffi when Jeffrey Fitzgerald departed DC for family reasons. The early returns were pretty positive for DC, while they did give up some big plays to Seattle in the passing game, the defense held up pretty well overall. The defense gave up over 300 yards, but was able to force Brandon Silvers into mistakes. The emerging star of the DC defense is cornerback Elijah Campbell. He had a great showing in week one in coverage, tackling, and even on special teams.

Look for the Guardians to try and establish a more balanced attack on the ground this Saturday. Seattle’s three-headed dragon backfield averaged over 5 yards per carry against DC’s defensive front. The Defenders do not have a dynamic standout player in their front seven, particularly from the edge-rushing position. DC will be getting Scooby Wright back on the inside, and that will help. In the passing game, one of the areas that the Guardians may target, that proved to be vulnerable for DC’s pass defense in week one, is their inside/slot coverage. Seattle’s Austin Proehl had a field day against whomever DC lined up against him. The Dragons also tested the Defender corners deep, and were nearly successful on multiple occasions. Matt McGloin has to show the patience that Brandon Silvers did not, and can’t afford to miss wide-open receivers. Protecting the football on the road is always paramount. McGloin will be tasked with doing just that.

Matchup: Guardians defense versus Defenders offense

The DC Defenders have a valid MVP candidate in Cardale Jones, a proven play-caller in Pep Hamilton, and one of the deepest rosters on offense in the entire league.

Look for DC to try and run the football against NY, the same way Tampa did in week one, to the tune of 150 yards. Running Back Jhurell Pressley, despite having a modest week statistically in week one, forced the second-most missed tackles (5) in the league, a trait he displayed while leading the AAF in rushing. The Guardians are massive upfront on the defensive line. TJ Barnes (350), Joey Mbu (330), Toby Johnson (350), and Cavon Walker (290). The issue is lateral speed and wearing down late in games because of their size. The Guardian linebackers were fantastic last week, making plays from sideline to sideline, led by their captain Ben Heeney. The one area that is a weakness in New York’s linebacking corps is their lack of size. Look for DC to try and get their impressive young linemen like mauler Rishard Cook to the second level to force New York’s smaller backers to disengage and beat blocks.  The Guardians defense must also be prepared for dual-threat quarterback Tyree Jackson. The 6’7 monster from UB was used sparingly last week in the RPO game, but he could see his role increase, especially in red-zone packages. The Vipers had some success last week against NY  with a similar player in Quentin Flowers.

Last week. the Guardians defense bent but didn’t break, and Tampa’s offensive line provided Aaron Murray plenty of time. But, because of stellar coverage, Murray had to eat five sacks. The same recipe won’t work for New York against Cardale Jones and the DC passing game. Cardale can shed defenders and make plays with his arm by using his feet. He escaped out of trouble several times last week. Jim Herrman will have to decide when to blitz Cardale, but his defenders will have to get Jones down immediately. Rashad Ross and DeAndre Thompkins are genuine home run threats on the outside. Eli Rogers is a great security blanket underneath for Cardale.  New York has excellent speed and athleticism on the back end of their defense but one area that is lacking in size. The Vipers exploited this with Daniel Williams and Nick Truesdell last week. The Defenders present a different set of receivers than the Vipers have. Will Herrmann decide to shadow Jamar Summers on Eli Rogers or Rashad Ross?  New York corner Bryce Jones is a former track star and has the speed to keep up, but he will be tested.

Special Teams Matchup: Guardians versus Defenders

The New York staff gave a good glimpse as to how the XFL kickoff will be schemed by most coaching staffs. Coaches Jeff McInerney and Ray Rychleski designed their returns and blocking schemes like running plays. Using movement and double team blocks to create running lanes. It paid off on Austin Duke’s 59-yard return at the start of last week’s opener. DC’s special teams’ coordinator Steve Wilson has probably spent the week preparing for New York’s return alignments. Both sides have dependable kicking specialists on their rosters. Ty Rausa redeemed himself after missing a short kick in week one, by nailing a 55-yard field goal at the end of the half. The elements have thus far played into these two northeast teams favor, despite it being February.

Final Summary

Both the New York and D.C. coaching staffs have something that they didn’t have going into last week. Game film to study their opponent. Before week one, XFL teams had to get creative in their game planning for their opponents. Most staffs resorted to going back to old footage of a teams’ coordinators or players in different leagues. Now, the game film to prepare is week one in the XFL.

This is a massive game for both teams. The winner of Saturday’s game will get a considerable boost in their season outlook. Especially New York, they play the Defenders later in the season at home. Stealing a division game on the road will feel like two wins.  The Guardians are going into this game as heavy road underdogs. Lost in the hysteria of last week’s New York win, is that the Guardians were outgained by the Vipers, and didn’t play particularly well on both sides of the ball. When you win in pro football, your flaws are camouflaged. When you lose, they are magnified. If the Guardians are going to win this game, they will have to play better than they did last week. This is an excellent test for them to see how they handle not playing at home against a powerful and formidable opponent.