Week One: New York Guardians-Tampa Bay Vipers Preview

Vipers at the Guardians
Credit: XFL.com

Tampa Bay Vipers at New York Guardians

  • Sunday 2 pm ET (Fox) MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
  • Point Spread: Vipers -2 (Fan Duel)
  • Forecast: Mostly Cloudy, High 43, Wind Five MPH
  • Injuries:
    • (Guardians): WR Joe Horn (Ankle), TE Keenan Brown (Illness), CB DeJuan Neal (Thigh)
    • (Vipers): TE DeAndre Goolsby (Neck), DL Jason Neill (Groin)

The Guardians and Vipers will be taking the field Sunday without some of their best-projected targets in the passing game. New York Wide Receivers DeAngelo Yancey and Tanner Gentry are on short term IR and have yet to practice, although they have done some light work on the side. Barring any change in their status, it appears at press time, that New York will be without two of their projected starters on offense. For Tampa, Antonio Callaway, unfortunately, suffered an injury in practice leading into this game and was placed on injured reserve.

New York and Tampa released their depth charts for week one on Thursday: (starters in bold print)

GUARDIANS OFFENSE

QB-14 Matt McGloin
12 Marquise Williams
7 Luis Perez

RB-20 Tim Cook
27 Darius Victor
23 Justin Stockton
34 Matt Colburn

XWR-1 Mekale McKay
9 Teo Redding

ZWR-10 Austin Duke
2 Joe Horn

LT-74 Jarron Jones
71 Brant Weiss

LG-78 Anthony Coyle

C-69 Ian Silberman
77 Damien Mama

RG-68 Garrett Brumfield
73 Avery Young

RT-70 John Kling

TE-87 Jake Powell
83 Jake Sutherland
88 EJ Bibbs
85 Keenen Brown

WWR-3 Colby Pearson
17 Justice Liggins

GUARDIANS DEFENSE

RE-58 Bunmi Rotimi
55 Charles Wright
44 Ryan Mueller

3T-93 TJ Barnes

NT-94 Joey Mbu
95 Toby Johnson

LE-99 Cavon Walker
91 Jarrell Owens

WLB-45 D’Juan Hines
48 Jawuan Johnson

MLB-56 Ben Heeney
47 Frank Ginda

SLB-59 Garret Dooley
49 Nick DeLuca

RCB-29 Bryce Jones
31 Terrence Alexander

NCB-22 Dravon Askew-Henry
24 Ranthony Texada

LCB-21 Jamar Summers
26 DeJuan Neal

FS-30 Andrew Soroh
28 Wes Sutton

SS=33 AJ Hendy
36 Demetrious Cox

SPECIALISTS

LS-42 Scott Daly

PK-16 Matt McCrane

PT-8 Justin Vogel

H-8 Justin Vogel

VIPERS OFFENSE

QB-11 Aaron Murray
4 Taylor Cornelius
9 Quinton Flowers
8 Chase Litton

RB-24 De’ Veon Smith
29 Jacques Patrick
34 Mack Brown

WR-17 Jalen Tolliver
19 Tanner McEvoy
13 Donteea Dye

WR-81 Dan Williams
15 Seantavius Jones

WR-18 Reece Horn
12 Ryan Davis
14 Stacy Coley

TE-85 Nick Truesdell
80 DeAndre Goolsby
86 Colin Thompson

LT-73 Martez Ivey
78 Marquis Lucas

LG-67 Jerald Foster

C-63 Jordan McCray
50 John Yarbrough

RG-76 Daronte Bouldin

RT-71 Isaiah Williams
69 Na’Ty Rodgers

VIPERS DEFENSE

DE-96 Jason Neill
95 CeCe Jefferson

DT-92 Josh Banks
97 Ricky Walker

DT-49 Nikita Whitlock

DE-53 Deiontrez Mount
91 Bobby Richardson

MLB-45 Lucas Wacha
43 Emmanuel Beal
54 Anthony Stubbs

WLB-41 Terrance Plummer
52 Reggie Northrup

CB-33 Shelton Lewis
32 Jalen Collins
22 Rannell Hall

CB-23 Anthoula Kelly
20 Tarvarus McFadden

NCB-27 Micah Hannemann
31 Corey Moore

SS-21 Robert Priester
30 Demontre Hurst

FS-35 Marcelis Branch
28 Bryce Canady

SPECIALISTS

P-10 Jake Schum

PK-3 Andrew Franks

KO-3 Andrew Franks
10 Jake Schum

H-10 Jake Schum
18 Reece Horn

LS-42 Nick Moore
86 Colin Thompson

PR-22 Rannell Hall
18 Reece Horn
12 Ryan Davis

KR-22 Rannell Hall
12 Ryan Davis

Matchup: Guardians offense versus Vipers defense

Tampa will be employing a 4-2-5 defense under Defensive Coordinator Jerry Glanville. The legendary Glanville has a long history of using an aggressive man coverage style of defense. Look for Kevin Gilbride to take some shots down the field against Tampa’s secondary. The Guardians have receivers who can beat man coverage and make contested catches down the field in the likes of Mekale McKay and Teo Redding.

In the Guardians’ live scrimmage against the Vipers.  New York showed hints of their attack against Tampa by repeatedly challenging the Vipers corners deep and connecting on big plays. One player who could be targeted by New York on the Tampa defense is recently converted corner Rannell Hall. The former wide receiver has blazing speed and great athleticism, but he’s still a novice at the position. Also, look for New York to run against Tampa’s nickel set.

Matchup: Guardians defense versus Vipers offense

If there is one coach who is adept at having successful offenses operate with a shorter play clock (25 seconds). It’s Marc Trestman, and he did it with success winning multiple championships in Canada. The Guardians are huge upfront on the defensive line, but a sped up offense can wear down those types of players quickly. Being able to rotate in and out the likes of TJ Barnes, Joey Mbu, and Toby Johnson will be a key for New York Defensive Coordinator Jim Herrmann. Trestman will look to wear down New York’s defensive line by the fourth quarter. The Vipers have arguably the best offensive line in the league. Center Jordan McCray was the highest-rated offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus in the AAF last year for the Orlando Apollos.

New York’s defense has the advantage over Tampa’s offense from a speed standpoint. The Guardians secondary is very fast but not long in stature at the corner spot. Tampa may counter that with their big-bodied targets and its star tight end in Nick Truesdell. New York will need to get pressure on Aaron Murray and not allow him time in the pocket. New York has to force Murray into mistakes and not let him get in a rhythm.

Final Summary

These two teams played a full live scrimmage against each other at the end of training camp. New York “won” that game. The Guardians and Vipers meet again on Sunday, only this time the stake of the outcome is significant. There are only six divisional games throughout the season, and whether or not New York holds serve at home could end up setting the tone for the rest of their entire season. The Vipers and Guardians will meet again in the final week of the regular season in Tampa.

New York Guardians 2020 Season Preview

New York Guardians helmet and ball
Photo credit: XFL

The 2020 XFL Season has arrived. The New York Guardians kickoff their season at MetLife Stadium this Sunday, 2 pm ET on Fox. The Guardians will start and end their regular season with the Tampa Bay Vipers.

Guardians home games 2020

Here’s everything you need to know about the New York Guardians heading into the 2020 XFL season:

CHAMPIONSHIP ADVANTAGE

Guardians Head Coach/General Manager Kevin Gilbride, Running Backs Coach Jerald Ingram, and Defensive Coordinator Jim Herrmann all won a SuperBowl championship on the same staff. Gilbride and Ingram won two side by side with the New York Giants.  In an entirely brand new league in the XFL, with eight brand new teams, having prominent members of the staff, who have already won together at the highest level, is an added advantage.

The XFL is essentially a league of eight pro football expansion teams. Kevin Gilbride and Jerald Ingram have a strong history in that area as well. They were both key members of the 1995 Expansion Jacksonville Jaguars staff. The Jaguars were one of two expansion teams at the time. Jacksonville’s roster featured mostly fringe NFL players and castoffs. Players like Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith became stars, once they finally got an opportunity to showcase their talents. Within two years, with Ingram coaching the running backs, and Gilbride calling the offense, Jacksonville made it to the AFC Championship.

Despite this being over two decades ago, it still holds relevance to the present day XFL. The league’s rosters are very similar to the expansion teams of the NFL back then. A collection of players that just missed out in the NFL, or players that have been overlooked. The Guardians have two prominent coaches that have experience in finding and developing those types of players on a brand new team in Kevin Gilbride and Jerald Ingram.

ANDY REID RECOMMENDATION

Back in mid-December, the New York Guardians held a fan event at MetLife Stadium. Guardians Team President Janet Duch, ESPN’s Diana Russini, and members of the Guardians’ front office played host and held an open forum. It was during this event that it was revealed that current Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid played a big part in bringing Quarterback Matt McGloin to New York.

Guardians’ Director of Player Personnel Alan ‘Trip’ MacCracken, spent time with Andy Reid in Kansas City from 2013-2017. MacCracken was the Chiefs Director of Football Administration during that period. Andy Reid contacted the Guardians front office and highly recommended Matt McGloin after spending time coaching him in 2018. Matt McGloin was already on the Guardians radar as a potential target, but getting a stamp of approval from one of the game’s very best quarterback gurus in Andy Reid helped cement that decision.

THE WAY UNDER 30 CLUB

Of the 52 players currently on the Guardians roster. Only one player is thirty years old, and it’s starting Quarterback Matt McGloin. The second-oldest player on the Guardians is NFL veteran defensive tackle TJ Barnes, at 29 years old. Forty-five players on the New York roster are 26 years old or younger. The majority of the young players on the Guardians’ roster all have NFL experience, in one form or another.

Matt McGloin’s experience in the NFL is of most importance, especially when it comes to leading the charge on offense and in the locker room. Despite being the senior member of the roster, at what is not an old age for quarterbacks, McGloin has a lot of similarities with his teammates, and he embodies the type of player that is in the XFL.

McGloin has had to earn his keep the hard way. He was a walk-on at Penn State, who, through hard work and determination, eventually became a star for the Nittany Lions. McGloin then went undrafted and had to work his way onto a roster in the NFL with the Raiders. McGloin made it as a third-stringer, a role he would hold for the majority of his career. When called into action as a rookie, McGloin held his own and earned the respect of his teammates and fans. He did that throughout his NFL career as a third-stringer, a role that most teams in the NFL do not have anymore. Matt McGloin was never called on or expected to be the leading man, that is until now. His performance in the classroom, locker room and on the field will ultimately determine how far the Guardians go this season.

THE ODD GROUP OF ODDS

Vegas and many different odds-makers online have set the projected win totals and championship probability numbers for all eight XFL teams. When it comes to the Guardians futures, the odds-makers are all over the map. It’s not surprising considering that this is a new league.

BetMGM has the New York Guardians odds set at (+350). New York has the second-best odds to win the XFL Championship. The Guardians are only behind Dallas (+250)

Caesars Casino and Sportsbook have the Guardians in the middle of the pack. New York is at +900. The Vipers, Renegades, and Defenders are ahead of them, respectively, as projected XFL Champs.

BetOnline has the New York Guardians at a projected win total of four games, and second to last to win an XFL Championship at +750. Ahead of only the Seattle Dragons at +900

CBS SPORTSLINE has the New York Guardians as the favorite with Dallas to win it all in late April, giving them 4-1 odds to do so.

The Action Network via Draft Kings Sportsbook has the Guardians in their top three teams at +450

Bovada has the Guardians as their second-best bet behind only Dallas at +320

THE GUARDIANS OFFENSE

Kevin Gilbride will be calling the plays but with assistance from his staff in Quarterback Coach G.A. Mangus and Wide Receivers Coach Mike Miller. Mangus is a former Quarterback and coaching disciple of Steve Spurrier. He brings many of the same principles from Spurrier’s “Fun ‘n’ Gun” attack. Miller is a longtime assistant and former offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals. In 2008, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston each gained over 1000 receiving yards; a feat only accomplished five times in NFL history.

The passing game will be led by Matt McGloin, but Luis Perez and Marquise Williams are two capable young quarterbacks with upside.

Although Kevin Gildbride is mostly known for his work in the early days of the ‘Run N Shoot,’ over his four decades as a coach Gilbride’s offenses have been more multiple. An often overlooked aspect in his tenure as a play-caller is the success of his rushing attacks over the years. A significant credit to that goes to RB coach Jerald Ingram.

Back in 2008, The New York Giants became only the fifth team in NFL history with two players to rush for more than 1,000 yards: Brandon Jacobs (1,089) and Derrick Ward (1,025). Throughout the years, Gilbride’s offenses have favored using multiple runners in multiple formations.

The Guardians’ have a very versatile and talented young backfield in Tim Cook, Justin Stockton, Darius Victor, and Matthew Colburn. Cook and Victor are two power runners who break tackles and run through you. Stockton has blazing speed and can run away from the defense. Colburn is a jack of all trades type back who can run around you and make defenders miss in space. Expect all four to factor in New York’s ground game.

The breakout fantasy star for New York is Mekale ‘Big Play’ McKay. Throughout his coaching career, Kevin Gilbride has had big receivers who can make plays down the field and in the red zone. Players like Plaxico Burress and Hakeem Nicks. The 6’4 McKay is cut from the same cloth. The Guardians’ are not lacking for skill or size at the position. DeAngelo Yancey (6’2), Teo Redding (6’1), and Tanner Gentry (6’2), all can win when the ball is in the air. Getting Yancey and Gentry healthy in the early season will be crucial. BYU’s WR Colby Pearson has spent time in the NFL with the Packers and Falcons. He has good speed and quickness to play in the slot. Wide Receivers, Joe Horn Jr., and Austin Duke were late arrivals to the Guardians but made enough of an impact to stick. Speedy Justice Liggins rounds out the receiving unit.

Former All-Big 12 and John Mackey Award Finalist veteran tight end EJ Biggs should also help provide a reliable target for Matt McGloin, in what looks like will be a very balanced offensive attack. Backing up Biggs are do-it-all type tight ends, Jake Sutherland and Jake Powell. Two small school tight ends from Morehead State and Monmouth,  can both be effective in-line blockers and in space. Texas State’s Keenen Brown has significant upside as a pass-catcher.  The Graduate transfer from Oklahoma State was named a First-Team All-American tight end by Pro Football Focus after having the top overall grade among tight ends with 86.6 and catching 76.1 percent of targeted passes.

The key to the Guardians attack will be their offensive line, coached by veteran Ronnie Vinklarek. The team’s top draft pick upfront is Notre Dame’s, Jarron Jones. A former DT now Left Tackle, who has excellent athleticism and a defensive player mentality when it comes to battling in the trenches. New York has recently acquired Auburn Tackle Avery Young and former USC Guard Damien Mama, both of whom have had experience in the NFL with several teams. Center Ian Silberman, a former sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, will play a pivotal role upfront. Local product Guard Anthony Coyle from Fordham was a two-time First Team All-Patriot League player. 6’7 349 pound John Kling, known as ‘Kling Klong,’ the former UB product is a mauler upfront. LSU’s Garrett Brumfield was a two-year starter in the bayou. He can play center and guard. Toledo’s OT Brant Weiss is an excellent pass blocker who can play LT and RT.  Finding the right combination up front and creating continuity will be no simple task, but there’s certainly a lot of talent and versatility in this unit.

THE GUARDIANS DEFENSE

Size upfront won’t be an issue in Jim Herrmann’s 4-3 defense. The team boasts three former NFL veteran space-eating tackles in TJ Barnes (362), Toby Johnson Jr. (350), and Joey Mbu (336). Maryland’s Cavon Walker is the polar opposite of these three at 288 pounds. Walker can play inside and outside and can provide some interior pass rush. The teams pass rush at defensive end will come from former All-SEC pass rusher Charles Wright out of Vanderbilt, Bunmi Rotini (Old Dominion), and former Second Team All-Big 12’s Jarrell Owens(Oklahoma State). Former NFL Defensive Lineman C.J. Ah You is this unit’s position coach.

New York has a versatile group of sideline to sideline linebackers coached by longtime college coach Kevin Kelly. The captain of the defense is former Kansas standout, Ben Heeney. He’s expected to be the teams’ primary signal-caller. Heeney is a former 2015 fifth-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders. The issue with Heeney during his pro career has been durability. He just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. On the field, he’s flashed smarts, sound tackling, and excellent cover skills. Heeney is joined in this group by a very similar group of players in D’Juan Hines, Nick DeLuca, Jawuan Johnson, and Frank Ginda. The Guardians’ boast perhaps the league’s most athletic linebacking corps. Johnson and Hines are former college safeties. DeLuca is a four-time FCS national champion from North Dakota State. He can play inside or outside. Frank Ginda is a player to watch from San Jose State. Only 22 years old, As a junior in 2017, Ginda was the NCAA leading tackler with 173 total tackles, with 94 being solo. Ginda’s 173 total tackles were the most in Mountain West Conference history. After the season, he declared for the 2018 NFL Draft, preceding his senior season. In hindsight, it was a mistake. He landed on the Cardinals and Dolphins but was unable to stick. Ginda got a real opportunity with the San Diego Fleet last year and showed flashes of brilliance. He is a potential break out star. Garrett Dooley (Wisconsin) and Ryan Mueller (Kansas State), are very similar players with tweener ability as pass rushers.

Former NFL All-Pro Chris Dishman is coaching a very talented young group of defensive backs. The Guardians’ boast arguably the league’s best corner tandem in TCU’s Ranthony Texada and AAF Standout Jamar Summers. Texada is a top man corner coming from playing on an island in Gary Patterson’s defense. Stanford Defensive Back Terrence Alexander transferred to LSU because he wanted to get a football education at playing in the SEC. National Champion Coach Ed Orgeron called Alexander, one of the smartest players he has ever coached. Alexander turned down a six-figure paying salary in cybersecurity to continue playing football.  Alexander has experience playing in the slot, and his superb tackling has seen him play safety as well. Former Michigan State safety Demetrious Cox is a jack of all trades himself. He has NFL experience and can play in the slot. Cornerback Bryce Jones also has NFL experience, the former Akron/Boston College track star, has excellent speed and length. Shepherd University’s CB Dejuan Neal is a raw but physically gifted player who has received a lot of accolades from his coaching staff. Northern Arizona standout safety Wes Sutton was a superstar All-Big Sky player. Maryland’s AJ Hendy has been a practice squad player in the NFL. He is a physical in the box safety who can also cover. The Guardians’ secondary is rounded out by hard-hitting safety Andrew Soroh, and West Virginia’s ball-hawking safety Dravon Askew-Henry.

THE GUARDIANS SPECIAL TEAMS

New York has a steady group of specialists with NFL experience in Kicker Matthew McCrane, Long Snapper Scott Daly, and Punter Justin Vogel. The XFL’s new kickoff and punt rules, however, could require an adjustment period for all three of them. Particularly Vogel, who won’t be able to coffin corner kick. The one area that is up in the air is who will be returning kicks. Running backs Justin Stockton and Matthew Colburn are both capable of doing so.

INSIDE THE GUARDIANS SCHEDULE

Most important game: Week 1 at home Sunday against the Tampa Bay Vipers on Fox. The Guardians start the season with three straight divisional games. The Guardians don’t play at home again until week four against Los Angeles on Saturday, February 29th. The first half of the teams’ schedule ends with a road trip to face the Dallas Renegades. In a ten-game season, it can become late real early. The oddsmakers have the Vipers as a three to four-point favorite coming into MetLife. New York can ill afford to lose their opener before heading to DC and then playing St.Louis in their home opener. Beating the Vipers in week one would send a statement and get the team off on the right foot.

 

 

 

New York Guardians Official 52 Player Roster Breakdown

New York Guardians Banner

Just 12 days before the XFL kicks off their regular-season on ABC, and 13 days before the New York Guardians host the Tampa Bay Vipers at MetLife Stadium, Sunday, February 9th, 2 pm ET on Fox.

The XFL released the official 52 player rosters for all eight of their teams.

Let’s take a deep dive into the 52 players that have made the New York Guardians roster.

NEW YORK GUARDIANS ROSTER

Offense: (25)

Quarterbacks: Matt McGloin (#14), Marquise Williams (#12), and Luis Perez (#7)
(3)

Released: Garrett Fugate

– A week before the Guardians completed training camp. The team traded for Luis Perez from the Los Angeles Wildcats. New York has three capable starters in their quarterback room. McGloin will be leading the charge when the season starts. Garrett Fugate made a good impression with his physical tools during camp. He could cycle back to the roster at a later date.

Running Backs: Tim Cook III (#20), Darius Victor (#27), Justin Stockton (#23), and Matthew Colburn (#34)
(4)

– The Guardians’ retained all four of their running backs.  Kevin Gilbride and RB’s coach Jerald Ingram has a long history of utilizing committee backfields. Back in 2008, The New York Giants were only the fifth team in NFL history to have two 1,000 yard rushers on their roster in Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. Cook and Victor are power runners who can break open-field tackles. Matthew Colburn is a jack of all trades. Justin Stockton is a speedy big-play third-down type back. The latter two could also factor into the return game.

Wide Receivers: Mekale McKay (#1), Teo Redding (#9), Colby Pearson (#3), Joe Horn Jr. (#2), Austin Duke (#10), and Justice Liggins (#17)
(6)

Injured Reserve: DeAngelo Yancey (#11) & Tanner Gentry (#19)

Released: Dalton Ponchilla, Bernard Reedy, Darius Prince, Andrew Verboys

  • Both DeAngelo Yancey and Tanner Gentry are on short term IR. The teams’ opener is in less than two weeks. So they could both be available for the early part of the season. If Yancey and Gentry were to return, that would mean that two spots on the active roster would need to open up. Teo Redding emerged late in camp. He’s a jump ball type receiver who can make a difference in the red zone. Mekale McKay is a dynamic receiver; he is more than capable of shouldering the load in the passing game.

Tight Ends: EJ Bibbs (#88), Jake Powell (#87), Keenen Brown (#85), and Jake Sutherland (#83)
(4)

Injured Reserve: Garrett Hudson (#81)

– New York is playing without a traditional fullback. Jake Sutherland and Jake Powell are two impressive young players who can fill that role. Keenen Brown has upside as a pass-catcher. EJ Bibbs is the veteran of the bunch, and also has the versatility to play multiple positions. Bibbs has spent time in his NFL career playing H-Back.

Offensive Line: OT Jarron Jones (#74), C Ian Silberman (#69), OT John Kling IV (#70), T/G Avery Young (#73), OG Damien Mama (#79), OG Anthony Coyle (#78), OT Brant Weiss (#71), and C Garrett Brumfield (#68)
(8)

Released: Dejon Allen, Brian Fineanganofo, Bunchy Stallings, Maea Teuhema, Jordan Agavisa

– The Guardians made several changes to this unit since October. The Kouandjio brothers didn’t make it out of minicamp. Six of the linemen that New York drafted are no longer with the team. Avery Young and Damien Mama are two late additions who could both be starting on opening day. The key to this group will be forming continuity in such a short period. O-Line coach Ronnie Vinklarek will be tasked with getting this unit off on the right foot. Two key players will be Offensive Tackle Jarron Jones, the teams’ first pick, and Center Ian Silberman.

Defense: (24)

Defensive Line: DT TJ Barnes (#93), DT Joey Mbu (#94), DE Bunmi Rotini Jr. (#58), DE Jarrell Owens (#91), DE Charles Wright (#55) DT Toby Johnson Jr. (#96), and DT Cavon Walker (#99)
7)

Released: Victor Ochi, Andrew Stelter, Rykeem Yates

– The Guardians may play multiple defensive fronts. A couple of these players can stand up as edge rushers in a 3-4, in Bunmi Rotini, and Charles Wright. Both are promising young pass rushers. The Guardians’ strength upfront is in their three space-eating run stoppers in NFL veterans TJ Barnes (362), Joey Mbu (336), and Toby Johnson Jr (350).

Linebackers: Ben Heeney (#56), D’Juan Hines (#45), Nick DeLuca (#49), Frank Ginda (#47), Ryan Mueller (#44), Garrett Dooley (#59), and Jawaun Johnson (#48)
(7)

Released: Darnell Leslie

– One of the most underrated groups on the roster. Heeney, Ginda, De Luca, and Hines can all be three-down linebackers. A trait that will be very important in a fast up-tempo league that utilizes the 25-second play-clock. Players like Ben Heeney, have the earmarks of being the top signal-caller and will have to get the defense lined up correctly in a swift fashion. Ginda is a difference-maker and can make plays all over the field.

Defensive Backs: CB Jamar Summers (#21), CB Terrence Alexander (#31) S Dravon Askew-Henry (#22), S Demetrious Cox (#36), CB DeJuan Neal (#26), CB Bryce Jones (#29), S Andrew Soroh (#30), S Wes Sutton (#28), S AJ Hendy (#33), and CB Ranthony Texada II (#24),
(10)

Released: Tre Mathis, Aaron Taylor

– The teams’ most reliable unit. Jamar Summers might be the league’s best cover corner. TCU’s Ranthony Texada is someone to watch closely. He has excellent man skills, from his experience playing in Gary Patterson’s defense. Versatility is the name of the game in this secondary. Former Stanford/LSU defensive back Terrence Alexander can play multiple positions. As can, Demetrious Cox. Wes Sutton has a lot of range at safety. Dravon Askew-Henry is also a very similar talent.  Soroh and Hendy are physical players. Neal and Jones will factor into the defense at the corner position as well.

Special Teams: (3)
Kicker: Matthew McCrane (#16)
Punter: Justin Vogel (#8)
Long Snapper: Scott Daly (#42)

– An aspect that is unknown at the moment is the players who will be assuming kick/punt return duties. Daly, McCrane, and Vogel all have NFL experience. Kicking and punting in the northeast is no simple task. The XFL rules on special teams are vastly different than the NFL game. Especially when it comes to punting, Vogel’s ability to pin the opposition deep without kicking it of bounds will be significant because of the 35-yard line touchback rule.

 

FINAL SUMMARY

As is usually the case in football, everything is subject to change when it comes to injury and performance. The XFL rosters will change and be altered every week during the season.

Congratulations to the 52 players that have made the New York Guardians roster. For those who didn’t, hopefully, another opportunity presents itself before the season is out.

One of the reasons that I have always been a proponent of a second pro league is the numbers game in the NFL, that cuts off hundreds of promising pro careers every year before they can continue or even get started. Ironically, the numbers game played a factor in today’s roster reveals.

I am very happy for the 416 players that have made active XFL rosters. The league is loaded with strong coaching staffs and excellent young talent. Many of whom will have an opportunity to be household names by seasons-end. For those of us who have followed the NFL draft process and college football closely over the years, we are very familiar with a significant number of the players that are in the league. There’s excitement for the players and also for the fans who support them. Football season returns on ABC, Fox, and ESPN, during the weekend of February 8th and 9th. Welcome to a new league.

Guardians Schedule

New York Guardians Training Camp Recap: Standing on guard for the upcoming season

The New York Guardians have completed training camp in Houston. The team will be heading back home today.

Training camp officially ended on Tuesday for the Guardians’, with a live scrimmage against their week one opponent, the Tampa Bay Vipers. New York will host this rematch at MetLife Stadium in each team’s 2020 season opener on Sunday, Feb. 9 (2 p.m. ET, FOX).

Guardians Vipers Test Game
Credit: XFL.com

GUARDIANS-VIPERS SCRIMMAGE

New York and Tampa ended training camp together. They will also be starting and ending the regular season against each other, in weeks one and ten. To quote T.S. Eliot, “In my end is my beginning.”

It’s not standard practice in football for week one opponents to practice against each other before their first game. Both team staffs were put in a unique position, having to get their teams ready for the opener without putting all their cards on the table. Tuesday’s scrimmage was a dry run for both sides, and a dress rehearsal for Fox and the referees.

The final score of the Guardians’ scrimmage was New York 27 Tampa 15. The outcome itself wasn’t that important. For New York, training camp has been a mixed bag. The Guardians’ defense has been ahead of the game thus far. New York’s offense has had its struggles, and there have been quite a few changes to the roster since mini-camp ended back in late December. (More on that later).

The performance of New York’s QB1 in the scrimmage, Matt McGloin, was reflective of training-camp for the Guardians offense. McGloin threw for three touchdowns but also turned the ball over twice with two interceptions. After the game, McGloin admitted that the Guardians are still working through issues of consistency on offense. The clock is ticking with the season fast approaching.

There are three New York receivers, that figure to be key cogs in the passing game. DeAngelo Yancey, Mekale McKay, and Tanner Gentry. The competition behind those three has been wide-open.

Two wideouts who have emerged in recent weeks, shined in Tuesday’s scrimmage. Teo Redding and Colby Pearson. Both players made a strong case for significant roles come Sunday, Feb. 9. Redding, the former Bowling Green standout, had several big catches against Tampa. A 36-yard touchdown and a one-point conversion in the first half. BYU’s Colby Pearson had an unconventional 76-yard touchdown grab. Pearson made a big catch down the field, landed inside the 30, then realizing that he wasn’t touched, rose to his feet and raced to the end-zone. Another receiver that is making his case for a spot is Justice Liggins. He made a great 30-yard contested-catch during the scrimmage. Another late transplant on the Guardians roster, Austin Duke scored on a Marquise Williams touchdown pass. The New York staff has some tough roster decisions to make at receiver.

The Guardians’ defense stood out again in Houston. LSU’s Terrence Alexander has been one of the stars of New York’s camp. The player that LSU’s Ed Orgeron called one of the smartest players, he has ever been around, completed camp in Houston, with another stellar performance during this scrimmage. Alexander has been all over the field making plays all January, from the safety, nickel and outside corner position.

Guardians Dragons Test Game
Credit: Justin Kelm

TRANSACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
(VOLUME THREE)

Two weeks ago, New York jettisoned three receivers off their roster and brought three new ones in to replace them. Last week, New York traded for two offensive linemen from St. Louis in Avery Young and Dejon Allen.

On Sunday, the Guardians traded Charles ‘Chad’ Kanoff to Los Angeles for Luis Perez. The trade raised a lot of eyebrows in XFL circles. Kanoff was running fourth at Quarterback for New York in camp. Luis Perez was LA’s assigned QB back in October. The situation for Perez in LA changed a month later when Josh Johnson made his way from the NFL to the Wildcats.

The trade has people questioning the motivations of both parties involved. On the New York side of things, Is the team hedging their bets on their projected starter McGloin, or their projected backup Marquise Williams?  Perez is coming on board with New York, late in the process of season preparation. Head Coach Kevin Gilbride has a history of crowded quarterback rooms. How he and the New York staff handle the position in the coming weeks should be fascinating to watch.

The New York Guardians pulled off another trade on Monday night. This time, they were partaking in a unique three-team trade. The DC Defenders added Guard Kahlil McKenzie to their active list and then shipped him to Los Angeles. The Wildcats sent Guard Damien Mama to New York. To complete the trade, Safety Shamarko Thomas, who the Guardians had the rights to, was sent to DC.

Damien Mama is the third offensive lineman that New York has added in less than a week. Seven offensive linemen that the Guardians drafted in October are no longer on the teams’ active roster. Three of the team’s top five selections in Phase 2 of the O-Line draft are out. (Cyrus Koandjio, Parker Collins and Zac Kerin). Offensive Tackle Jarron Jones seems locked into a starting job. He was New York’s top pick. Center Ian Silberman has returned from injury to solidify the pivot. The other three starting spots are all up for grabs.

ROSTER CUTS/PROJECTIONS

The Guardians will be paring down their roster from 70 to 52 over the course of the next few days. The official 52 player list will not be made public until Monday.

There will be so many moving parts, between now and the start of the season. At this point, you can’t rule out more trades or even new acquisitions. All eight XFL teams are fine-tuning their teams even with the regular-season looming on the horizon.

At the risk of looking foolish, I am going to project the Guardians 52 player roster. Similar to NFL cutdown day, there will be surprise cuts. The waiver process could produce new players that are not currently on the New York roster.

Offense: (25)

Quarterbacks: Matt McGloin, Marquise Williams, and Luis Perez (3)

  • I wouldn’t rule out a trade. The Guardians have three capable starters in house. Garrett Fugate has had some excellent moments during camp and has a live arm. He’s a candidate for Team-Nine if he doesn’t sneak on the roster.

Running Backs: Tim Cook, Darius Victor, Justin Stockton, and Matthew Colburn (4)

  • Cook and Victor are two bowling ball type bruisers. Colburn can do a little bit of everything. Stockton is fast and provides an excellent contrast to the power runners on the team.

Wide Receivers: DeAngelo Yancey, Mekale McKay, Tanner Gentry,
Teo Redding, Colby Pearson, Bernard Reedy, and Justice Liggins (7)

  • The Guardians could keep eight receivers. They recently added Austin Duke and Darius Prince. New York also traded for Joe Horn Jr. Reedy is the most accomplished returner at the receiver position, but if New York’s staff feels that one of their younger receivers can handle the role. Reedy could be out.

Tight Ends: EJ Bibbs, Jake Powell, and Jake Sutherland. (3)

  • The lack of a traditional fullback could see New York retain four at this position. It would come at the expense of another area.

Offensive Line: Jarron Jones, Ian Silberman, John Kling, Avery Young, Damien Mama, Dejon Allen, Anthony Coyle, and Garrett Brumfield (8)

  • The ability to play multiple positions could aid a few players in sticking to the roster and help the coaching staff in activating players on game day.

Defense: (24)

Defensive Line: TJ Barnes, Joey Mbu, Bunmi Rotini, Jarrell Owens, Victor Ochi, Rykeem Yates, and Cavon Walker (7)

  • There will be some good players left off this roster. Rotini and Owens have star potential as edge rushers. Yates and Walker are tweener DE/DT’s. Barnes and Mbu are big-time space eaters inside.

Linebackers: Ben Heeney, D’Juan Hines, Nick DeLuca, Frank Ginda, Ryan Mueller, Darnell Leslie, and Jawaun Johnson (7)

  • The XFL rules may dictate that defenses play more nickel and dime sets in the XFL. As a result, the Guardians may decide to keep fewer linebackers on their roster.

Defensive Backs: Jamar Summers, Terrence Alexander, Dravon Askew-Henry, Demetrious Cox, DeJuan Neal, Bryce Jones, Andrew Soroh,
AJ Hendy, Ranthony Texada, and Tre Mathis (10)

  • You could make the argument for all twelve Guardians defensive backs making the roster. The numbers game is a factor. Traditionally, a team will keep six corners and four safeties. New York’s front office knocked this position out of the park. Many of these players may not be household names, but they will be by seasons end.

Special Teams: (3)

Kicker: Matthew McCrane
Punter: Justin Vogel
Long Snapper: Scott Daly

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s been a long road to get to this point. The regular season is almost upon us. Sometimes, the most exciting things in life are the unknown. In a first-year league, you don’t have the luxury of years past, to define what a team is like. All eight XFL franchises are trying to forge brand new identities. The games themselves will determine each team’s personality. Two weeks from this Sunday, the New York Guardians’ football team is called on duty.

Guardians Training Camp
Credit: XFL.com

News and Notes from Week 2 of New York Guardians Training Camp

New York Guardians joint scrimmage with the St. Louis BattleHawks.
New York Guardians joint scrimmage with the St. Louis BattleHawks. Credit: XFL.com

JOINT SCRIMMAGES

The Guardians are completing their second week of training camp in Houston. Last Saturday, saw New York practice with the St. Louis BattleHawks in their first-ever scrimmage against another team. The two sides had a spirited workout. The scrimmage had its fair share of trash talking and fighting. — a common occurrence for stir-crazy teams when they finally get the chance to practice against someone else.

The joint practices continued with the DC Defenders on Wednesday. The Guardians completed the week on Saturday by having a joint practice with the Tampa Bay Vipers. A team that NY will be facing in the season opener on Sunday, February 9th, at MetLife Stadium. Still, before that, the Guardians have a full game scheduled with Tampa on the 21st. It will be the Guardians’ final test before training camp ends.

There were some positives and negatives that came from New York’s workweek against three of their divisional foes. The secondary shined, notably lockdown corner Jamar Summers, who picked off Cardale Jones on the first play from scrimmage and took it to the house. The defensive secondary for the Guardians has received rave reviews all January in camp.

New York Guardians joint scrimmage with the DC Defenders. Credit: XFL.com

GILBRIDE’S GRUMBLINGS

The one constant thus far for the Guardians in Houston has been the steady and sometimes harsh critique of the team delivered by its head coach Kevin Gilbride. Camp started with Gilbride talking about how he wasn’t pleased with where the team was, and how he is worried about week one. You could chalk this up as normal coachspeak, but the theme continued on this week with Gilbride voicing his displeasure.

With quotes like these:

” It was great that we did the scrimmage. We needed to see it and see the consequences when you don’t do things exactly right.”
    – Guardians’ Head Coach Kevin Gilbride after the Guardians scrimmage with the St. Louis BattleHawks.

“There is a need to tighten things down a bit. We are not as disciplined as we need to be. We are not far from where we have to be, but unless we make the progress that needs to be made in terms of errors, it will be difficult to maintain the type of cohesion that you need to move the ball consistently.”|
    – Guardians head coach Kevin Gilbride after New York’s joint scrimmage with the DC Defenders.

Kevin Gilbride has been a part of winning programs in the past. Gilbride knows how a team and offense should be operating at this stage of the process. He has gone through decades of training camps. It’s part of a coach’s DNA never to be satisfied or content. That’s why he is voicing concerns with certain aspects of his team. The next few weeks will be crucial for Gilbride and the Guardians staff in getting the team in the best possible position when the regular season arrives.

TRANSACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS (VOLUME TWO)

Last week, the Guardians jettisoned three wide receivers from their roster and replaced them with three new ones. Out were Demarcus Ayers, Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, and Octayvious Miles. In came Bernard Reedy, Darius Prince, and Austin Duke.

This week, the Guardians made two trades on consecutive days. In the first trade ever for the franchise, the New York Guardians shipped wide receiver, Taivon Jacobs, to the Houston Roughnecks for wide receiver Joe Horn Jr.

The Guardians have been playing some musical chairs at the receiver position since camp started. Jacobs signed on before camp started. The 4.3 speedy wideout from Maryland spent a New York minute with the Guardians.

Joe Horn Jr played college football at Division II Missouri Western State. He is the son of Joe Horn, a former 4-time Pro Bowl NFL wide receiver with the New Orleans Saints. Horn Sr. is famous for pulling out a cell phone during a touchdown celebration against the New York Giants in 2003.

Back in August, Joe Horn Jr was a member of the Baltimore Ravens and was trying to make it onto the 53 man roster. Joe Horn Sr. had this to say about his son to USA Today:

“I do know that he can play in that league.” “I taught him. I know he can run routes better than most of the receivers that start in the NFL. You can quote me on that. That’s a fact.”

The team announced the Guardians’ second significant trade on Friday. New York sent CB David Rivers and OT Brian Wallace to St. Louis for Offensive Linemen, Avery Young, and DeJon Allen.

The fact that St. Louis and New York practiced against one another probably helped facilitate this trade. NY has a deep secondary and is dealing from a position of strength.

The one area that has seen the most change with New York since October has been the offensive line. Six Guardians offensive linemen selected in October’s XFL draft are no longer active with the team. (Cyrus Kouandjio, Parker Collins, Zac Kerin, Nate Theaker, Thomas Doles, and Arie Kouandjio).

Avery Young is a well-traveled NFL veteran, who can play tackle or guard. He was a 3-year starter at right tackle for Auburn. Dejon Allen was an All-Mount West player and team MVP at Hawaii as a left tackle. His lack of height at 6’3 has seen him play guard on the pro level. The Guardians are looking to upgrade their offensive line, and these two have a real shot, despite coming on board late in camp.

CUT DOWN DAY

The XFL season is fast approaching, but before teams can get there. They will have to pare down their rosters from 70 to 52 at the end of training camp on Wednesday, January 22nd.

The New York Guardians’ front office and coaching staff will have some difficult decisions to make before they head back home to prepare for the regular season. The Guardians will be returning to the Superdome Sports Complex in Waldwick, N.J., as the Superdome will be their practice facility during the regular season.

The rosters are fluid, and a lot can change between the end of camp and February 9th. One thing to keep in mind is waivers and potential late roster additions through trade or free agency.

Here are the numbers by position currently on the Guardians roster:

Quarterback (4)- Matt McGloin, Marquise Williams, Garret Fugate, Charles Kanoff

– It’s hard to envision New York carrying more than three quarterbacks. There may be a scenario where the Guardians decide to keep only two.

Running Back– (4)- Tim Cook, Justin Stockton, Darius Victor, Matthew Colburn

– The fact that the Guardians didn’t add to this position at any point in the last two months is a testament towards the teams’ faith in the players they already have.

Wide Receiver– (12)- DeAngelo Yancey, Mekale McKay, Colby Pearson, Tanner Gentry, Bernard Reedy, Teo Redding, Joe Horn Jr, Darius Prince, Andrew Verboys, Austin Duke, Justice Liggins, Dalton Ponchilla

– To stick on this roster, Special teams value on game day will be significant. The team could keep as many as 7 or 8 receivers.

Tight End– (5)- EJ Bibbs, Jake Sutherland, Garret Hudson, Jake Powell, Keenen Brown

– Playing into this group’s favor is the teams’ lack of a traditional fullback. The Guardians are receiver heavy. So the more they keep at that position could be a factor in whether or not. New York retains four TEs on their roster.

Offensive Line– (12)- Jarron Jones, John Kling, Avery Young, Dejon Allen, Bunchy Stallings, Garrett Brumfield, Ian Silberman, Brant Weiss, Maea Teuhema, Brian Fineanganofo, Anthony Coyle, Jordan Agavisa

– Most pro teams keep no more than nine offensive linemen on their roster. If a swing reserve lineman can play multiple positions, it eliminates the need for having that many players as backups.

Defensive Linemen– (11)- Ryan Mueller, Charles Wright, Bunmi Rotimi, Jarrell Owens, Rykeem Yates, TJ Barnes, Joey Mbu, Cavon Walker, Toby Johnson, Andrew Stelter, Victor Ochi

– If the Guardians plan on starting four down lineman. Then the likelihood is that the team carries no more than eight players in this group.

Linebackers– (7)- D’Juan Hines, Frank Ginda, Jawuan Johnson, Nick DeLuca, Darnell Leslie, Ben Heeney, Garret Dooley

– Barring some late acquisitions. The Guardians linebacking unit seems set for Sunday, February 9th.

Defensive Backs– (12)- Jamar Summers, Terrence Alexander, Dravon Askew-Henry, DeJuan Neal, Wes Sutton, Bryce Jones, Andrew Soroh, AJ Hendy, Tre Mathis, Demetrious Cox, Aaron Taylor, Ranthony Texada

– The Guardians are so loaded at this position that you can make the argument to keep all 12 defensive backs. DB Coach Chris Dishman has been cross-training players at corner and safety in camp. Most pro teams carry at least 10 DB’s on their active rosters.

Kicker– (1)- Matthew McCrane
Punter– (1)- Justin Vogel
Long Snapper– (1) Scott Daly

Pairing this group down from 70 to 52 will not be easy. It’s the dreaded numbers game. The coaching staff will have to decide which positions they need to stock up.

There’s excitement for fans in the season approaching, and rightfully so. There is also excitement for the teams and players themselves. The unfortunate part is that there will be players that do not make the league despite all their hard work and commitment.

There is a positive side to all of this. There will be players who cycle back into the league. Some players will end up on Team Nine. The XFL’s 40 to 45 player reserve roster. Some players may end up back on their original teams or on other franchises as the season progresses.

The Guardians and other XFL teams have shown in recent weeks, that the teams are continually looking to retool and upgrade their rosters. The process of doing that doesn’t stop at the end of training camp, cut down day, or even after week one has completed.

News and Notes from New York Guardians Training Camp

Credit: XFL.com

XFL Training camp is in full swing, and the New York Guardians are completing their first week of practice at Houston Baptist University. The Guardians are five Sundays away from the start of their season on February 9th at MetLife Stadium.

LOOMING WEEK ONE

The first week of Guardians’ practices in Houston saw the team’s offense struggle to get its footing early on. Coach Kevin Gilbride called his offensive practices sloppy and mistake-filled. One of the reasons for the rust may have been the teams’ break between minicamp and the start of training camp. The coaching staff made some changes to the offense before camp started, and it may have contributed to the slow start.

“Offensively, I think the players recognize that we need to get better.”
– New York Guardians Head Coach Kevin Gilbride

The Guardians’ offense has improved since its rocky start. Quarterback Matt McGloin and some of his star receivers like DeAngelo Yancey have stood out. Still, the early returns have Guardians Head Coach Kevin Gilbride expressing concerns to XFL.com about week one against the Tampa Bay Vipers.

“We’re doing some good things. As a coach, you’re never satisfied that it’s happening fast enough. That’s the problem. I just keep seeing this game looming in the fairly near future, and I know we gotta get a lot better than where we’re at.”
   – Guardians head coach Kevin Gilbride on Week 1 preparation.

FOUR QUARTERBACKS

“Right now, we’re thinking three because of the need for bodies at other spots. Trying to get four guys in the rotation, nobody gets enough work”.
– Guardians Head Coach Kevin Gilbride, back in December on the possibility of New York adding a fourth Quarterback.

Back in December at Minicamp, in Waldwick, I asked Coach Gilbride if the team would look to add a new QB to the roster for training camp. The Guardians were open to the idea, but it wasn’t a preference. That was until former Princeton, and NFL Quarterback Charles Kanoff became available. The former Ivy League Offensive Player of the year has had three different stops on NFL team rosters. He was most recently on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad at the end of the NFL season.

“Chad” Kanoff has the prototypical size at 6’4 – 220 and was highly efficient in college. His 73.2 percent completion percentage was an Ivy League season record. Kanoff joins a crowded quarterback room with projected starter Matt McGloin, Marquise Williams, and Garrett Fugate. With the regular season drawing closer, the Guardians might have to make some tough roster decisions at this position. The team could elect to carry only two quarterbacks come roster cutdown day in late January.

TRANSACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS

There’s a familiar saying that goes, “actions speak louder than words.”

In football, transactions speak louder than words.

The New York Guardians released Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston, Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, WR, Phoenix CC, and Octayvius Miles, WR, Alabama A&M. In one fell swoop, they were replaced by Bernard Reedy, WR, Toledo, Austin Duke, WR, Charlotte, and Darius Prince, WR, Penn State (Beaver).

The Guardians’ early offensive struggles played a part in these moves. Demarcus Ayers and Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi figured to play prominent roles in the teams’ return game. Early on, it appeared that Ayers would be the Guardians slot receiver. The emergence of BYU’s Colby Pearson during training camp made Ayers expendable. Bernard Reedy was an All Mac player at WR, Kick and Punt Returner at Toledo. Austin Duke is Charlotte’s all-time leading receiver, and could end up competing for a slot receiver role on the team. Darius Prince is a superstar arena league receiver and a former Arena Bowl MVP.

The Guardians have made several other roster moves since training camp started.

Additions:
Garrett Dooley, LB, Wisconsin (Waivers-BattleHawks), WR, Taivon Jacobs, Maryland, WR, Teo Redding, Bowling Green, Maea Teuhema, G, SE Louisiana (Waivers-Renegades), Jordan Agavisa, G, Utah, Charles Wright, DE, Vanderbilt,

Waived:
Nydair Rouse, CB, West Chester, Curtis Akins, LB, Memphis

XFL RULES/SEASON PREPARATION

During the tail end of minicamp, the Guardians practiced some of the league’s new rules. The team got a jump on them early by running point after touchdown drills and other league concepts.

New York will have the expanded opportunity of testing the league rules against other teams. The Guardians’ first joint practice will be with the St. Louis BattleHawks.

On the 21st, the Guardians will have a full game scrimmage with the Tampa Bay Vipers at the end of training camp. As Kevin Gilbride revealed in December, the game will act as a dress rehearsal for the season opener.

“Unfortunately, I don’t like it, but we are going against the team we’re going to open with against Tampa. Our broadcast partners want to see so that they can do their best job on opening day. So they want to see the two teams playing against each other and get a feel for the flow of the game and the players. I would rather play anybody but the team we are going to open with.”
– Kevin Gilbride on the Guardians-Vipers scrimmage on 1/21

New York Guardians Safety Demetrious Cox was a guest on ‘Schwartz on Sports‘.  Peter Schwartz asked Cox his feelings on the XFL rules. Cox told Schwartz that he liked the OT concept but joked that the defenses were getting the short end of the stick.

“They’re trying to have us play with one hand behind our back and one leg tied” “Fans don’t care about the defense” “They are making it harder on us than it already is.”
– Guardians Safety Demetrious Cox on how the XFL’s rules favor the offense.

On New York Sports Day, Cox also commented on the league’s 25-second play clock, and how getting the defensive plays right and in time will be a problem. One area that has not been a problem for the Guardians in training camp thus far has been it’s secondary. Cox boasted about how New York’s secondary recorded eight interceptions at it’s last practice. Two standouts in training camp thus far have been Lockdown Corner Jamar Summers, and versatile DB Terrence Alexander. LSU’s Ed Orgeron called Alexander, “one of the smartest players he has ever coached.” The Guardians’ defensive backs like Alexander are being cross-trained in camp by former NFL All-Pro Chris Dishman to play multiple positions. The XFL rules may favor offenses, but New York’s secondary looks like its ready for the challenge.

The mainstream sports media coverage of the XFL

Everything about the XFL thus far has been about the slow build. The league has been methodical in every respect since January of 2018. Now, we are fastly approaching the start of the 2020 season, and the hype for the league from the mainstream media has been slowly building momentum. It helps that Fox, ABC, and ESPN are the league’s partners, but in recent days, you get the sense that more media outlets are finally starting to catch on to what the XFL has built so far. There hasn’t been a huge promotional push yet by the league, and that’s certainly on the horizon. Having social media as a tool to build has been useful for the XFL, but you get the sense that some media and local outlets may be coming along for the ride.

It wasn’t like this back in 2001. There I was, in my early 20’s up in a press box at what was then known as Giants Stadium, and the New York/New Jersey Hitmen were playing the Memphis Maniax. It was like being invited to some exclusive club. I had followed and written about sports since high school, and now I was getting a chance to cover a football game with members of the New York press.

Mark Nelson at XFLBoard.com had gotten me this opportunity. I didn’t even care that the league didn’t have my name when I showed up at the stadium. I was just a young guy with “XFL Board” on my media pass. I knew that the XFL was on shaky ground as a league, but my enthusiasm had not died down as a result. I wasn’t sure how my experience at the game would go. I felt like there was a chance that I wouldn’t fit in with all the seasoned media professionals in that press box. At this point, the XFL was dead and buried by the mainstream media. The league was on ignore mode. Even still, I figured that the media members who showed up for the game would match my enthusiasm. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

None of the major news outlets in the tri-state area bothered to cover or show up for the game. The Post, Daily News, Newsday, The Ledger, and others failed to show. No one from CBS, Fox, ABC, or any of the local affiliates showed. There were just a handful of media members on hand, and I was one of them. The other members of the media were there on assignment, and it showed. The only thing they were interested in was the catering. It didn’t stop me from doing what I was on a mission to do, which was to cover the game and the teams. Only one media member joined me in the locker room to interview the players and coaches. The XFL had invited me to a party that no one else was interested in attending.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the lack of media interest. After all, the XFL never had newspaper articles written about their games or players. Very few, if any, sports shows aired league highlights. The only place where the games were written about or highlighted was fan sites. That’s where the best followers of the league resided.

Oliver Luck on Fox Sports FS1 “First Things First” show.

Flash forward, and the same is true to the present day. The most faithful followers of the current XFL reside on social media. The league has a loyal and dedicated group of followers that have been strong advocates for the league. It showed on the day of the XFL’s rules release. XFL CEO/Commissioner Oliver Luck and the Head of Officiating Dean Blandino made the media rounds on several TV and radio outlets. During Luck and Blandino’s rules related conference call it was no surprise that the majority of questions came from league dedicated sites like XFL Board, XFL Plus, XFL News Hub, XFL Chalk Talk, XFL Newsroom, and several others. The XFL has taken notice of these loyal fan dedicated members. So much so that ‘This is the XFL Show’ has now become an official podcast for the XFL.

There’s no denying that having all of these loyal and diehard supporters as your base is a great thing. However, the hard truth is that the XFL’s best chance for success hinges on the mainstream media. Alternative pro leagues have had a myriad of issues in the past. Funding and profitability have been the two most significant forms of kryptonite against them.

There are specific metrics that everyone tracks, and they are ticket sales and ratings. However, the root of all evil that ails upstart leagues is the lack of attention. The mainstream media can make or break entities by dismissing or ignoring them. The XFL has the funding and great business partners in Disney and Fox. Those outlets can help the league get the exposure it needs at the start but for the XFL to experience growth. The mainstream media is going to have to get on board eventually and follow the league’s games and players. It’s not an easy task for the XFL to accomplish. They’ll have to earn it by presenting a quality product.

Part of the lure of the original XFL was that it was anti-mainstream. It’s also what helped seal its fate. It was a radical sports league that became enemy of the state by puffing its chest out and spitting on tradition. The 2020 version of the XFL is nothing like its original counterpart. The league won’t make it long term if the mainstream sports media doesn’t get on board. Football leagues are too expensive to be niche products. It’s why the majority of them fail on a grand scale. The USFL, AAF, and even NFL Europe are clear examples of this. Media attention and interest is what drives ticket sales and ratings. It’s why the original XFL was such a smash hit for only one week. The current XFL is throwing a big fancy party on Saturday, February 8th. Will the sports media accept the invite?

Projected New York Guardians Defensive/Special Teams Depth Chart

The XFL’s league-wide training camp begins in Houston on January 4th. The New York Guardians will be setting up shop at Houston Baptist University from January 4th through the 22nd. The Guardians will be practicing at Husky Stadium. At the very end of training camp, the Guardians will be having a scrimmage game against their week one regular-season opponent, the Tampa Bay Vipers on January 21st in Houston, something that Head Coach/GM Kevin Gilbride has voiced his displeasure with, but the idea is a request from the XFL’s broadcast partners. Think of it as a full dress rehearsal for FOX Sports, the announcers, the players, coaches and referees. This scrimmage will act as an unofficial non-televised preseason game.

The Guardians will practice with other XFL teams during their time in Houston as well. January 22nd will be cut down day for all XFL rosters, and all XFL teams will pare down their rosters to 52 players. There is a lot that can change between now and training camp, and there has already been some post minicamp roster movement on XFL teams. There figures to be more moves before and even during training camp. Before we get to that point, let’s take a preliminary look at the Guardians defensive and special teams depth chart, and where they stand as the team heads towards training camp in the new year.

GUARDIANS DEFENSE

Like many of the XFL’s defenses, the Guardians defense is going to have to be multiple in their defensive looks. The 4-3, the 3-4 and the 4-2-5 are all in play here. Within their division alone, the Guardians will be facing multiple styles of offense. XFL rules will also force defenses hands, with teams playing up-tempo with a 25-second play clock and an advanced audio communication system. The Guardians’ defense will be forced to adapt. Two main positions will be vital on the Guardians: The teams’ middle linebacker and safety. Both players will have headsets and access to their coaching staff. Adjustments will need to be made on the fly and in quick fashion. Defensive Coordinator Jim Herrmann has experience coaching in the 3-4 and 4-3, but with so many spread out Air Raid inspired offenses in the league, this defense may have to line up in many nickel and dime sets as their base.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Defensive End- (#99)- Victor Ochi, (#91)- Jarrell Owens,
Defensive Tackle- (#93)- T.J. Barnes, (#94)- Joey Mbu Jr.
Potential Starters/Top Reserves- DE’S-  (#92)- Rykeem Yates
DL- (#95)- Cavon Walker, (#96)- Toby Johnson Jr., (#58)- Bunmi Rotini

The Guardians’ strength upfront is in their two experienced space eaters in Defensive Tackles TJ Barnes and Joey Mbu. It will be difficult to run up the middle against those two. How Coach C.J. Ah You and the defensive staff utilize and rotate lineman up front will be key. The up-tempo pace of the XFL is not exactly favorable to 330-pound plus defensive tackles.

There is some good talent and experience at Defensive End for New York with NFL veteran Victor Ochi. Ochi has experience lining up with his hand on the ground and standing up as an edge rusher. Ochi is a well-traveled young edge rusher who hasn’t had the opportunity to do what he does best and that’s rush the passer. In the NFL, in order to make the team as a backup, you need to be a standout performer on all special teams units. Ochi’s bread and butter since breaking sack records at Stony Brook has been disrupting passing games. He’s going to get a chance to do just that on a more frequent basis with New York. Will Ochi be an every-down contributor or just be utilized as a pass-rushing specialist? Another Guardians draft pick that New York has high hopes for is former Second Team All-Big 12 Defensive End Jarrell Owens. A breakout performer at Oklahoma State in his senior season, Owens was an effective performer on the edge as a pass rusher and run defender. Jarrell could be an every-down starter for the Guardians come February.

One of the players at Defensive End that the Guardians were banking on was Purdue and current Falcons edge rusher Austin Larkin. Austin was selected by the Guardians in the third round of their defensive front seven draft back in October. Larkin had a great preseason with the Falcons and was brought back to Atlanta’s roster. He was most recently elevated to the Falcons main roster to replace an injured Takk McKinley.

The Guardians have some intriguing under the radar talents who can play defensive end and defensive tackle if called upon in Cavon Walker, Bunmi Rotini, and Toby Johnson Jr. All three of these players can play in a 3 or 4 man front at DE or DT. Cavon Walker is a unique player. He started out at Maryland as a 220-pound linebacker and then transitioned to being a 6’2 278-pound defensive tackle. Somewhat undersized as a prototypical defensive tackle, and as an end in a 3-4 front, but with the XFL’s pace of play being different than the NFL, Walker’s skill set might be ideal for combating the non-stop up-tempo offenses that the league will present. Walker has a great motor and very good strength (31 reps) at his pro day coming out of college.

LINEBACKERS

Outside Linebackers- (#45)- D’Juan Hines & (#49)- Nick DeLuca
Middle Linebacker- (#56)- Ben Heeney
Top Reserves- (#47)- Frank Ginda, (#44)- Ryan Mueller, (#48)- Jawuan Johnson, (#51)- Darnell Leslie

This linebacking corps has been put together and built to play every down football. It all starts with the man in the middle. Ben Heeney was selected first by the Guardians in their front seven draft. The former 5th round pick of the Raiders and First Team All Big 12 Linebacker at Kansas, has had a rocky pro career since being drafted. Heeney has had some tough luck and has not been able to stay healthy after having a very promising rookie season with Oakland in 2015. Heeney is tough and smart. He can stop the run, cover, tackle and even rush the passer if needed. With New York, he’s going to be tasked with leading the front seven.

D’Juan Hines is your classic three-down outside linebacker. The 6’1 235 pound started his college career as a receiver before transitioning to safety and then eventually linebacker. Hines was named All-AAC First Team in his senior season with the Houston Cougars. Hines was also a four-time Academic All-American during his time in college. D’Juan Hines ability to cover ground and space in the run and pass game should be a valuable asset to the New York defense.

Nick DeLuca and Frank Ginda are going to be important contributors to this linebacking unit. DeLuca can play inside and outside linebacker. At North Dakota State, he was a 4-time FCS National Champion and a first-team FCS All-American. San Jose State’s Frank Ginda was a tackling machine in college. Ginda led the nation in tackles in 2017. He was first-team All-Mountain West and a three-time All-Academic athlete. Ginda decided to forego his senior season and declare for the NFL draft. He went undrafted and has since spent time with the Cards, Dolphins and San Diego Fleet, where he led the team in tackles earlier this year. It would not shock me in the slightest if Ginda breaks the starting lineup and stays there.

Ryan Mueller is a tweener type player who can line up on the edge and rush the passer. He’s always been a high motor player that gets the most out of his ability. At Kansas State, Mueller was voted the Big 12’s defensive lineman of the year. Another tweener here is Monmouth’s, Darnell Leslie. The All-Big South edge rusher could have a designated pass-rushing role in this defense.

Jawauan Johnson is an undersized coverage linebacker from TCU. Johnson was a late transfer from Northern Illinois in 2018. Johnson really surged at the end of his college run and earned the AP’s All Bowl Team designation. Many NFL scouts like Tony Pauline rated Johnson as a late-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Jawuan fits the modern-day mold of a run and chase linebacker.

SECONDARY

Cornerback- (#21)- Jamar Summers, (#24)- David Rivers, (#31)- Terrence Alexander
Safeties- (#33)- A.J. Hendy, (#22)- Dravon Askew-Henry
Top reserves- CB- (#29)- Bryce Jones, (#36) S-Demetrious Cox, CB – (#39)- Ranthony Texada II, & DB- (#30)- Andrew Soroh

A strong young secondary would have been made that much stronger if the Guardians 2nd round pick in their DB draft, Lorenzo Doss had committed to the team. Regardless, as it stands right now, and based on the early returns from mini-camp, this is a really talented unit with a major upside. It doesn’t hurt that the New York DB’s are getting coached up by former All-Pro corner Chris Dishman.

Jamar Summers is an excellent cover corner. He graded out as one of the best defensive backs in the AAF by Pro Football Focus. All the rules will favor the offense in the XFL, so having a true top-flight corner is extremely important, and that’s what New York has in Summers.

It’s a good thing that David Rivers was selected third by the Guardians in their DB draft. He’s going to be a very good compliment to Summers on the outside. At 6 feet, Rivers has the size to match up and the athleticism to keep up with opposing receivers.

LSU’s Terrence Alexander is a keeper. LSU’s Ed Orgeron called Alexander one of the smartest players he has ever been around. The former Stanford graduate, Alexander transferred to LSU in 2018. Alexander did so well in Stanford’s classrooms that he was offered a job in cybersecurity for more than 100,000 dollars per year. He is holding off on his post-playing career to play more football. He transferred to LSU to get into their graduate business school but ultimately, he chose LSU for the football education of playing man coverage in the SEC. Alexander is an ideal slot corner. He doesn’t have great size at 5’10 and 182 pounds but he is very physical and smart. He may end up being one of the league’s best slot corners.

At safety, the player that has really emerged is A.J. Hendy. He made quite an impression in camp with his heady play and cover skills. Hendy has natural ball tracking skills as a former Wide Receiver. He’s been a career practice squader in the NFL but it looks like he is ready to take the next step as a pro. Joining Hendy at safety is Dravon Askew-Henry. A tough and durable player that can play multiple positions, Dravon spent time at West Virginia playing a hybrid linebacker role in the Mountaineers 3-3-5 defense. Askew-Henry’s ability to play in the box will be an asset to the Guardians’ defense.

Defensive Backs Demetrious Cox and Andrew Soroh are going to find their way onto the field in all packages. Both were selected in the 4th and 5th round of the DB draft back to back by New York. Cox is a natural free safety with good cover skills. The 6’2 210 pound Andrew Soroh is a punishing and physical defensive back with leadership traits. Soroh wore several hats at Florida Atlantic, playing safety, linebacker, nickel corner and even lined up as a pass rusher. It’s going to be hard to keep him off the field.

The Guardians currently have 15 defensive backs on their roster after recently adding DB Tre Mathis. One of their most recent pickups, Cornerback Bryce Jones could end up playing a pivotal role in nickel and dime defensive packages. The competition is pretty stiff at the corner spot. The Guardians brass is very high on Cornerbacks Nydair Rouse and Ranthony Texada. All in all, this looks like a formidable secondary. In order to contend in the XFL, it will have to be.

GUARDIANS SPECIAL TEAMS

I can’t possibly leave this area out of the equation. Especially since it’s going to be emphasized heavily in the XFL’s rules. There will be more kick and punt returns than probably any league that has ever existed. A byproduct of having no fair catch and having penalties in place for kicking out of bounds. Many of the defensive players listed will make this roster based on the value they bring to this facet of the team, specifically the coverage units.

In the kicking game, there will be less punting and no extra points, but that doesn’t decrease the value of having a quality kicker that can help you win close games. The punters might be kept on the sidelines more than football fans are accustomed to, but again there’s value in a punter’s hang time and their ability to prevent big returns from happening. Here is the current depth chart for this unit.

Kicker/Kickoff Specialist- (#16)- Matthew McCrane
Punter-(#8)- Justin Vogel
Long Snapper-(#42)- Scott Daly
Kick/Punt Returners- (#15)- Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi & ( #1)- DeMarcus Ayers

The Guardians are pretty solid all around in this area and they can be very explosive returning kicks with Sheehy and Ayers. Several other players could factor in here as well but for the time being, its hard not to envision Damon and DeMarcus leading the charge. Playing in the northeast requires the type of kicking specialists and returners that can help flip field position and specialists that can help best deal with the elements expected come February 9th when the Guardians host the Vipers at MetLife Stadium.

Projected New York Guardians Offensive Depth Chart

Guardians Helmet (Mike Mitchell)

Mini-camps have ended for all eight XFL teams. The XFL’s league-wide training camp begins in Houston on January 4th. The New York Guardians will be setting up shop at Houston Baptist University from January 4th to the 22nd. The Guardians will be practicing at Husky Stadium. At the very end of training camp, the Guardians will be having a scrimmage game against their week one regular-season opponent,  the Tampa Bay Vipers on January 21st in Houston, something  Head Coach/GM Kevin Gilbride has voiced his displeasure with, but the idea is a request from the XFL’s broadcast partners. Think of it as a full dress rehearsal for FOX Sports, the announcers, the players, coaches, and referees. This scrimmage will act as an unofficial non-televised preseason game.

The Guardians will practice with other XFL teams during their time in Houston as well. January 22nd will be cut down day for all XFL rosters. All XFL teams will pare down their rosters to 52 players. There is a lot that can change between now and training camp, and there has already been some post minicamp roster movement on XFL teams. There figure to be more moves before and even during training camp. Before we get to that point. Let’s take a preliminary look at the Guardians’ offensive depth chart and where it stands as the team heads towards training camp in the new year.

GUARDIANS OFFENSE

*QUARTERBACK*

1- (#14)- MATT MCGLOIN
2- (#12)- MARQUISE WILLIAMS
3- (#4)- GARRETT FUGATE

This figures to be the pecking order. McGloin is the experienced veteran that has taken the reigns on the field and off. Marquise Williams may still factor into this team’s offense. Working with an experienced vet like McGloin, and the Guardians coaching staff should really aid his development. Despite not being initially pegged as the starter, Williams could carve out a role in this offense based on his skillset. The Guardians figure to be running a multiple offense with some RPO elements. With the league’s new rules, Marquise could be a useful tool in short-yardage, the red zone, and in the league’s three-tiered conversions. The Guardians’ front office and the coaching staff have spoke highly of Central Missouri’s Garrett Fugate and his arm talent, but will New York be adding to their quarterback room come January. At Guardians mini-camp in Waldwick, New Jersey, Kevin Gilbride expressed that he didn’t want to overcrowd his quarterback room, the feeling by Coach was that it would result in decreasing too many potential reps at the position. Any new addition at Quarterback for New York could put Fugate’s roster spot in jeopardy. If the Guardians staff prefers to not carry four quarterbacks.

*RUNNING BACK*

1- (#20)- TIM COOK
2- (#23)- JUSTIN STOCKTON
3- (#27)- DARIUS VICTOR
4- (#34)- MATTHEW COLBURN

This is going to be a versatile multi-player backfield coached up by long-time respected position coach Jerald Ingram. Tim Cook was selected by the Guardians in the 4th round of their skill position draft back in October. The 6’0 245 pound runner from Oregon State figures to be the teams bruising bell-cow back. Cook is a powerful runner who has gone through a lot of adversity since starting out at Butler Community College. Cook has persevered to this point and is finally getting a legit chance to show his skills as the lead back. Speedster Justin Stockton is the perfect compliment to Tim Cook. The former Texas Tech big play back in Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense. Stockton is the ideal third-down back in the Guardians offense. He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball with his 4.38 speed and has excellent hands. Both Darius Victor and Matthew Colburn could also factor in the Guardians’ rushing attack. Victor was a standout all-state runner in Maryland and at Towson University. It’s hard not to compare Victor’s running style to that of Maurice Jones-Drew. Victor is a short compact runner who can break tackles in the open field. Colburn has a similar skill set. He’s a low center of gravity runner and his compact frame also makes him difficult to tackle. Colburn has had a chip on his shoulder since college and he used it to his advantage at Wake Forest. When Louisville’s Bobby Petrino pulled a scholarship offer from Colburn a day before signing day, Matthew Colburn exacted revenge on Petrino when he steamrolled the Cardinals for 243 yards and 3 touchdowns. The one area that the Guardians may need to address moving forward is at fullback. Tommy Bohanon was drafted back in October to serve that role and would be a great asset to the teams rushing attack but he decided to pursue other career opportunities off the field. The Guardians could use their tight ends to fill hybrid roles as lead blockers but this is an area to watch as we get closer to training camp.

*WIDE RECEIVER*

1- (#82)- MEKALE MCKAY
2- (#11)- DEANGELO YANCEY
3- (#19)- TANNER GENTRY
4- (#1)- DEMARCUS AYERS

It can be argued that the Guardians have the best WR group in the entire league. The team just recently added 3 new members to this group in 4.3 speedster Taivion Jacobs, Teo Redding, and Dalton Ponchilla. They will be joining a group that also includes Colby Pearson, Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, Justice Liggins, J-Shun Harris, and Octayvius Miles. This is going to be a tough roster to make come final cutdown day on January 22nd.

Leading the charge in the passing game should be AAF standout Mekale McKay. ‘Big Play’ McKay is a huge target in the red zone at 6’4 and he should be a factor making plays all over the field. McKay’s best trait is winning when the ball is in the air and making contested catches. DeAngelo Yancey is a polished route runner with excellent hands. The former 5th round pick by the Packers has been waiting for his opportunity to break out and he’s going to get it with the Guardians. Former Bears and Wyoming star receiver Tanner Gentry figures to also play a prominent role in this offense. Josh Allen’s favorite target in college, Gentry broke out as a senior with 72 catches, 1,326 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Like McKay and Yancey, Tanner has good size at 6’2/210 and can be a factor running routes on the inside and outside. Another player who could be playing more of a traditional slot role in this offense is DeMarcus Ayers. The undersized but prolific playmaker in college does not have great speed but what he does possess are terrific agility and open field skills. Ayers will be a factor in the teams return game as well but he showed up nicely early this year at receiver for San Antonio in the AAF. With the Guardians trotting out some giants at the receiver position, DeMarcus at 5’9 can be a nice playmaking contrast in this group.

*TIGHT END*

1- (#88)- EJ BIBBS
2-(#87)- JAKE POWELL
3-(#83)- JAKE SUTHERLAND
4- (#81)- GARRETT HUDSON
5- (#85)- KEENEN BROWN

E.J. Bibbs is the most experienced tight end of this bunch, having spent time with four different NFL teams after being a John Mackey Award finalist in the Big 12 at Iowa State. Bibbs also has the versatility to play in the backfield at the H-back position. Behind Bibbs is a talented group of unproven players on the pro level. Guardians draft pick Keith Towbridge figured to be a key part of the teams’ two tight-end attack but he signed on with the Washington Redskins and is currently a member of their practice squad. That leaves an opening for someone to emerge behind Bibbs.  This competition is going to be wide-open.

Jake Powell had a great summer with the New York Giants. The local Monmouth All-Big South tight end is known more for his stellar in-line blocking prowess, but it’s a trait that could land him a spot on the Guardians roster. Morehead State’s Jake Sutherland is very similar to Powell. Sutherland has good size and is a very physical player who can be an asset to the ground game and helping in pass protection. Both Powell and Sutherland have added value on special teams as blockers in the return game.

Garret Hudson and Keenen Brown provide good pass-catching skill sets. Hudson was a First Team All-CAA player at Richmond. Hudson is a high character player with great football smarts. He’s already winning over his Guardian coaches with his work ethic and can even contribute on special teams units.  Texas State’s Keenen Brown has good athletic ability and is excellent after the catch. Brown is a late bloomer who started out at Oklahoma State. Keenen is a former All-District Wide Receiver who played a myriad of different positions in his formative years in college. Transferring late in his college run, Brown ended up leading the Bobcats in receptions and touchdowns in his senior season. Many NFL scouts projected him to be a late-round pick. The upside is there for him to emerge from this pack.

*OFFENSIVE LINE*

OFFENSIVE TACKLES- (#74) JARRON JONES & (#77) BRIAN FINEANGANOFO

OFFENSIVE GUARDS- (#78) ANTHONY COYLE & (#69) IAN SILBERMAN

CENTER- (#75) PARKER COLLINS

SWING LINEMAN/POTENTIAL STARTERS-
C/G- (#68)- GARRETT BRUMFIELD  G/T- (#70) JOHN KLING,  OT- (#60) BRIAN WALLACE

This will be the most competitive position in camp and there is some uncertainty in this group. The Guardians just added two impressive young players in All First Team MAC Tackle Brant Weiss from Toledo and All-First Team Pac 12 Guard Jordan Agasiva from Utah. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that both could be opening day starters come February. New York also recently added former All-SEC Kentucky Guard Jervontius ‘Bunchy’ Stallings. He could also factor in as competition for a starting spot up front.

New York has had a bit of a shakeup on their offensive line since mini-camp started. The Guardians second-round pick in their offensive line draft, Cyrus Kouandjio failed his physical and was released. His brother Arie, who was also selected in the o-line phase was recently released as well. The Guardians currently have 13 offensive linemen on their roster. That will most certainly be pared down by the time January 22nd rolls around.

There is not a lot of pro starting experience in this group. Some have experience starting in the AAF earlier this year, like John Kling, but New York is rolling the dice on a talented but inexperienced group. On paper, the interior of this line looks solid and has depth, but it’s outside at tackle where the major questions exist. Notre Dame’s Jarron Jones is supremely gifted as a former defensive lineman who has transitioned to offensive tackle in the pros. He has left tackle traits with agility and a great wingspan but is largely unproven. The Guardians’ front office thinks highly of Jones and they showed it by selecting him first in the XFL’s offensive line draft in October. The player manning the left tackle spot for New York could be the most important ingredient on offense and towards this team contending for the playoffs and potentially a championship.

News and Notes from New York Guardians Minicamp

Photo by Mike Mitchell.

New York Guardians minicamp is in full swing at the Superdome Sports complex in Waldwick, N.J.  The team is barely a week old.  Despite the unveiling of the team identity, it’s brilliant uniforms, or the two drafts that formed the Guardians 70 player roster, the majority of the players and coaches are all new to each other. So much so, that some of the players on the practice field on Tuesday were referring to one another by their numbers rather than their names. The team is going through the bonding process on the fly. Up until this point, the December Minicamp has been broken down into phases consisting of meetings, walkthroughs, workouts, and organized team activities. Things will really start to ramp up later this week when the offense and defense finally start to practice against each other in 7 on 7’s and one on one drills.

Vince McMahon Meeting

Three weeks ago. Kevin Gilbride and the Guardians staff met up with the league’s owner. Gilbride walked away very impressed with Vince McMahon’s passion for the league. Calling Vince McMahon’s energy contagious. McMahon rallied the troops and stressed how the XFL is going to be all about presenting quality football. Gilbride noted how McMahon’s words were music to the coach’s ears. McMahon was very supportive and told the coaches that he is available to them 24/7 for whatever they need. After McMahon gave Coach Gilbride his direct number, a day later, Kevin Gilbride decided to text message Vince McMahon to thank him. McMahon responded immediately. He thanked Gilbride for his words and then told him that “We are going to make sports history and we are going to have a ball doing it.”

Training Camp Scrimmages

When the Guardians are done with minicamp, they will take a holiday break before joining in on the league-wide training camp scheduled to start up on January 4th in Houston. All eight teams will have individual and joint practices over the course of three weeks. At the tail end of training camp, teams are scheduled to take part in what will essentially be test games before the league kicks off in February. On the 21st of January, much to the chagrin of Coach Gilbride, the Guardians will be playing a full game against their week one opponent in the Tampa Bay Vipers. The XFL’s broadcast partners will be on hand for these glorified joint practices and games. The purpose of this will serve as almost a dress rehearsal for the regular season for the players, coaches, referees and broadcast networks.

No Changing of The Guard

Superdome Sports will be the Guardians regular-season practice facility as well. New York will also be setting up shop and the entire team headquarters at the Sheraton Hotel nearby. The entire 11th floor will be rented out for meeting rooms, team offices, and film rooms during the season. The players will be housed at the same location, as well during the season. It’s a unique set up that’s being done to increase efficiency.

League Rules

While Head Coach/GM Kevin Gilbride wasn’t at liberty to get into the specifics of the XFL’s game rules, he was asked about the process that the coaches went through and how heated the debates were. Gilbride admitted there were some competing views by all the XFL coaches involved, but that a consensus was reached among them. Gilbride astutely noted how he’s never been in any room in his career where coaches didn’t differ on opinions or football philosophies. Gilbride noted how open-minded Bob Stoops was during the process. That despite being a defensive coach at heart, Stoops is in favor of the XFL’s rules that enhance offensive play.

Player Standouts/News

Still early in the process, but it’s hard not to be impressed by Matt McGloin. Even at the early stages of minicamp, McGloin is leading the charge like the experienced veteran QB he is. He’s got a good grasp of the playbook already, and is developing a rapport with a talented group of receivers in DeAngelo Yancey, Mekale McKay, Tanner Gentry, and Demarcus Ayers. One of the lesser-known receivers who really stood out today was Alabama A & M’s, Octayvius Miles. Quarterback Marquise Williams stood out as well at practice. He’s known for his mobility and ability to improvise but he has some serious arm talent. The Guardians are in good shape at the Quarterback position. When asked about potentially adding another quarterback to the New York roster, Gilbride said that his preference is to not carry four quarterbacks in camp. He feels that dividing the reps four ways could potentially hinder the team. The Guardians projected third string Quarterback at the moment is Garrett Fugate.

Superdome Sports was sectioned off for the majority of the day with the offense split to one side of the field while the defense went through drills on the other. It’s fair to say that the Guardians defensive coaches, like Defensive Coordinator Jim Herrmann were the most vocal on this day, coaching up their players. One player that doesn’t need much coaching up, but he was getting it anyway from the great Chris Dishman, was Jamar Summers. The former AAF standout was one of the very best rated cover corners in that league by Pro Football Focus. Summers looked great in practice. I had a chance to talk to him briefly afterward. Summers feels blessed to have already been with three different teams all in the same year: the Iron, Dolphins and now Guardians. In a wide-open passing league like the XFL, if Summers plays as well as he did in the Alliance. It will be hard for NFL teams to overlook him again.

The current and updated Guardians roster is now at 66 players. One of the more notable players that is not with the Guardians right now is Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio. He failed his physical and is not currently a part of the team. His brother Arie is still on the team. The Kouandjio brothers being on the same offensive line would have made for quite a story but for the moment, it is not to be.


Photos by Mike Mitchell.

Fan Experience/Community Outreach

The Guardians have already rolled out their founding season ticket member benefits package. Which includes Discounts, Game Day Access, VIP team experiences, a VIP Field Pass, season ticket price locks among other benefits. One of the intriguing fan experience benefits for groups of fans who buy tickets is a pre-game flag football game, sideline access for warm-ups and more. xflguardians.com has all this info lined up.

Lastly, New York is off from practice on Wednesday. The Guardians players will participate in various events where players and staff will visit local hospitals, food banks, families in need, and first-responders to spread holiday cheer. Below is a list of the players involved and where they will be assisting others.

2:45 PM – 3:45 PM: CUMAC Food Bank visit
CUMAC is an organization that works to alleviate hunger and its root causes for those in need in Paterson, Passaic County, and northern New Jersey.
Players/staff will sort donated food, stock pantries, and prepare food packages at CUMAC
Location: CUMAC (www.cumac.org)
Address: 223 Elliston St, Paterson, NJ 07505
Players Attending: Terrence Alexander, Jake Powell, EJ Bibbs, Darius Victor, Keenen Brown, A.J. Hendy, Cavon Walker

3:00 PM: Holy Name Medical Center visit
Players will visit the Holy Name Medical Center to bring holiday cheer with gifts for both adults and children. Players will visit the Medical Center day care, followed by the labor and delivery unit before visiting the pediatric unit.
Location: Holy Name Medical Center
Address: 718 Teaneck Rd, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Players Attending: Arie Kouandjio, Andrew Soroh, DeAngelo Yancey, Wesley Sutton, Aaron Taylor, DeJuan Neal, Bryce Jones, Garrett Fugate

3:00 PM: The Valley Hospital visit
Players will visit The Valley Hospital to bring holiday cheer with toys and Guardians gear for acute care youth patients
Location: The Valley Hospital
Address: 223 N Van Dien Ave, Ridgewood, NJ 07450
Players Attending: Anthony Coyle, Justin Vogel, Darnell Leslie, Nydair Rouse, J-Shun Harris II, Ben Heeney, Ryan Mueller

3:30 PM: Police Department & Fire Department visits
Players will surprise local first responders in Mahwah and East Rutherford with treats and Guardians gear.
Locations:
Meadowlands Fire Station – 50 NJ-120, East Rutherford, NJ 07073
Players Attending: Nick DeLuca, Tanner Gentry, Marquise Williams, Mekale McKay, Demetrious Cox
Waldwick Fire Department – 15 E. Prospect Street, Waldwick, NJ 07463
Players Attending: Frank Ginda, Matt McCrane, Scott Daly, Toby Johnson
Waldwick Police Department – 15 E. Prospect Street, Waldwick, NJ 07463
Players Attending: Jarron Jones, Matt McGloin, Jake Sutherland, David Rivers

4:00 PM: Shopping Spree
In collaboration with the Salvation Army, players will accompany and sponsor a local family in need to Target for a holiday shopping spree.
Location: Target – Edgewater
Address: 543 River Rd; Edgewater, NJ 07020
Players Attending: Rykeem Yates, Max Lyons, Joey Mbu, D’Juan Hines, Matthew Colburn, Octayvius Miles, Jamar Summers, Demarcus Ayers, TJ Barnes