BattleHawks Fall Short Against the Roughnecks in Week 2 Thriller

Houston QB PJ Walker evades the BattleHawks Jake Payne. (Credit: XFL.com)

HOUSTON – In the most exciting game of the weekend, the Houston Roughnecks and St. Louis BattleHawks traded jabs for four quarters of hardnose football. In the end, Houston (2-0) held on to top St. Louis (1-1) with a final score of 28-24. 

Two of the best quarterbacks in the league squared up and showed their stuff. Houston is led by the shifty PJ Walker. Walker was with the Colts alongside former NFL QB Andrew Luck. Andrew gave Walker high praise encouraging his dad, and XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck, to let Walker try out for the league. Andrew and Oliver both made good decisions as Walker has been one of the most fun players to watch over the first 2 weeks.  

And St. Louis’s own Jordan Ta’amu, the fleet-footed strong-armed 22-year old who is the youngest starting QB in the league.  

Week 2 saw St. Louis stick to their game 1 identity being a run-first team, carrying the ball 43 times for 126 yards. Rush attempts accounted for 54% of their plays this week, down from close to 60% week 1. The BattleHawks likely would’ve kept that 60% run/pass ratio had they not been down the entire second half. 

Matt Jones battled a knee injury during the week which impacted his carry total on the day. He also looked to have reaggravated his knee early in the second half. He ended the day with 16 carries for 44 yards. Christine Michael picked up carries this week with Jones nursing an injury and Keith Ford out for the game. Michael put up a similar line with 15 rushes for 38 yards. 

BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu impressed most of the day. He went 30/37 for 284 yards, 3 TDs, and 32 more yards on the ground. The blemish on his stat line is the two interceptions.

Houston’s Cody Brown and Jeremiah Johnson brought in the two picks for the Roughnecks. Interceptions are bad enough, but both guys added big returns after the inceptions to the St. Louis 1 and 6-yard lines, respectively. The Roughnecks didn’t miss a beat on offense following the interceptions adding two touchdowns with only a short field to work with. 

Trading First Half Punches

The opening drive for the Roughnecks started with a 37-yard kick return by Houston’s Ajene Harris. Houston moved the ball this series but the BattleHawk defense held them to a 44-yard field goal. 

The BattleHawks answered the Roughnecks opener with an opening drive touchdown for themselves. Both Matt Jones and Christine Michael started in the backfield with Jones getting the first carry of the day. 

The drive was highlighted by a 27-yard connection between Keith Mumphrey and Ta’amu and finished off with a short pass to Jones for a nice 25-yard catch and run touchdown to give St. Louis a 6-3 lead. 

Not stopping there, Houston responded with a 6 play 66-yard drive ending in the end zone on a PJ Walker pass to Cam Phillips putting the Roughnecks up 12-6; this duo went on to connect for 3 TDs together on the night.

St. Louis struggled to move the ball for the remainder of the first half. There next four drives went punt, punt, interception, turn over on downs. They went into halftime down 21-6.

Opening drives to start a game are usually scripted/ predetermined as part of a team’s gameplan. St. Louis opened their first drive by utilizing four straight plays with a man in motion, and 6 of 9 plays on the touchdown scoring drive. The remainder of the half saw very little motion. For something to be planned and executed well on the first drive and then thrown out for almost the remainder of the game wasn’t something you like to see. 

Second Half Sparks

Coming out to start the second half, the BattleHawks strung together a 13 play drive. Ta’amu and Pierson-El connected for a 23 yard gain, the pair finished off the drive connecting on a 1-yard reception to make the score 21-12. 

After the BattleHawks defense forced a 3 and out, the offense marched back down the field for another 13 play drive capped off by a 4 yard run by Ta’amu. This closed Houston’s lead to 3, 21-18. 

Not to be overlooked in the game is the BattleHawks defense. Week 1 they didn’t give up a touchdown against the Dallas Renegades. Many people brushed this off since the Renegades were without starting QB Landry Jones. 

Don’t let the 28 points-against be the nail in the coffin for this unit. 13 of those points only required the Roughnecks to move the ball a combined 7 yards. Houston was moving the ball well in the first half picking up big chunk plays of 33 and 20 yards. 

As good as the offense was in the second half, the defense was a half-step ahead of them to close out the night. The biggest play they gave up in the second half was a 15-yard scramble by Walker, the drive ended in Houston punting. 

Sacks were elusive on the night largely due to PJ Walker’s awareness in the pocket. Andrew Ankrah was the only one able to record a sack on the day, also bringing home a team-high two tackles for a loss. Cornerback Darius Hillary also played a great game on defense. Hillary was tracking the ball well barely missing two picks, he was jumping the routes like crazy. 

Controversial No-Call

The controversial point in the game came with less than 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter. A perfect punt by Houston’s Austin Rehkow and a pair of offsides by the offense had the BattleHawks back up to their own one-yard line. After clawing their way into Roughneck territory, Ta’amu and the offensive line saw Roughneck MLB Frank Ginda jump offsides. Assuming the refs saw the play and called it, Ta’amu had a free play and threw the ball up to the receiver with the deepest route. Not a single ref threw their flag and Ta’amu’s lob was picked off. 

Ta’amu throws the ball in this situation thinking the play has only upside and any negative play will be taken off the board due to the defensive penalty. The no-call reversed the course of the game with 7 point swing in favor of the Roughnecks.

This season, XFL refs have called games very well. The use of the replay official in the booth has added transparency and is appreciated league-wide. It will be interesting to see how the XFL responds to this potentially game-changing call, arguably the biggest on the year so far.

The BattleHawks would drive and score one more TD with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game to make it 28-24. But the damage was done and Houston hung on to win a thriller, 28-24. 

In the end, Houston won the turnover battle 2-0 and that was the difference-maker this week. The teams competed for all four quarters and we all got to see a great game a football. 

The BattleHawks come home next Sunday, February 23rd for their home opener against the New York Guardians. 

Expect The Dome to be full and the stadium to be popping because football will be back in St. Louis!

Fight and fly on, BattleHawk Nation.

Week Two Preview: Roughnecks vs. BattleHawks

The Roughnecks are coming off a great home opener win with PJ Walker earning the very first Star of the Week honors for the XFL. (Credit XFL.com)

The first week of the XFL season is now in the record books and Week 2 is well underway and football fans have quickly and pleasantly discovered that the XFL is “for real.”  National television broadcast coverage,  combined with a compelling new league and a new brand of football have fans buzzing about the XFL.  From faster games to new rules (the kickoff and multiple conversion try rules stick out), many fans are starting to see the XFL as a league in their own right and not just another spring “minor” league for the NFL.

One of the interesting story lines this week is the matchup between the Run and Shoot offense of the Houston Roughnecks against the visiting St. Louis BattleHawks.  The back story behind the BattleHawks lies in their victory over the heavily favored Dallas Renegades last Sunday.  The BattleHawks were the only road team to earn a win last week, albeit they beat a Landry Jones-less Renegades team.  This does not negate their 15-9 victory over Dallas as they held the Renegades to only 1 of 10 on third down conversions and largely stymied the Dallas offense.

The Roughnecks are coming off a great home opener win with PJ Walker earning the very first Star of the Week honors for the XFL.  Walker clearly showed off the Run and Shoot mentality of head coach June Jones by going 23 for 29 on pass completions for 298 yards and 4 passing touchdowns.  The Roughnecks also showed off defensive prowess by leading the league Week 1 with a stingy rush defense.  This will be a critical part of the Roughnecks defensive plan this week as the BattleHawks heavily relied on a ground attack in the 15-9 win by carrying the ball 42 times for 191 yards including Matt Jones who carried 21 times for 85 yards and QB Jordan Ta’amu also carrying the ball 9 times for 77 yards as well.  However, Matt Jones is listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game and fellow BattleHawks RB Keith Ford has been listed as being out as well.  Houston is listed as a 7.5 point favorite and this week’s matchup should be another entertaining game as one undefeated team will suffer their first loss in this young XFL season.

XFL Week 2 Injury Report

Saturday, February 15:

New York Guardians (1-0) at DC Defenders (1-0), 2 pm ET (ABC).

New York Guardians: There is some reason for concern here for the Guardians, as two of their three starting interior offensive linemen C Ian Silberman and G Garrett Brumfield have already been ruled OUT for Saturday’s game. Fortunately, their replacements are center Damien Mama and guard Avery Young who both have NFL experience and are more than capable of stepping in for them. The only active player that was unable to play last week due to an illness was TE Keenan Brown, who will make his debut on Saturday. Brown is talented and will join former Monmouth University TE Jake Powell on the depth chart, who played very well as the starter last game, catching 4 passes on 6 targets for 28 yards. 

DC Defenders: WR DeAndre Thompkins and LB Scooby Wright were unable to play in last week’s opener but they will make their debut this week against the Guardians. Thompkins, a former Penn State receiver, is listed as a starter over Week 1 stars; Eli Rogers and Rashad Ross, so it will be interesting to see if his return affects their target share. The only player who is listed questionable is backup DT Kalani Vakameilalo.

Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1) at Seattle Dragons (0-1), 5 pm ET (FOX).

Tampa Bay Vipers: Vipers starting QB Aaron Murray has been officially ruled OUT for this week’s game due to a foot injury. The former Georgia Bulldog all-time passer struggled in last week’s loss against the Guardians, throwing 2 interceptions, 0 touchdowns, with a QB rating of 45.1. The replacement quarterback options are former Cincinnati Bengals RB and University of South Florida start QB Quinton Flowers, as well as Taylor Cornelius and Chase Litton, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that. Bobby Richardson and TE DeAndre Goolsby are listed as questionable.

Seattle Dragons: The injury bug has hit the Seattle Dragon real hard; as eight players have missed practice so far this week. The most notable name is starting QB Brandon Silvers, who suffered an ankle injury last week against DC. Former University of South Florida star B.J. Daniels would be called upon in relief of Silvers if he’s unable to go, but he is probable so Silvers should be good to start. Starting WR Kasen Williams, OT Isaiah Battle and TE Cam Clear each missed last week’s game and have once again been ruled OUT. Also, starting center Dillon Day is listed as doubtful, left guard Cyril Richardson, DT Anthony Moten, TE Ben Johnson, and CB Mohammed Seisay are questionable.

Sunday, February 16:

Dallas Renegades (0-1) at LA Wildcats (0-1), 3 pm ET (ABC).

Dallas Renegades: The Landry Jones-Bob Stoops era in Dallas will officially begin on Sunday afternoon, as Landry Jones has recovered from the knee injury he suffered last month and will start against the Wildcats. Phillip Nelson replaced Jones as the starter for the Renegades last week and will head back to the bench. Third string Eric Dungey is taking a brief leave of absence for personal reasons, so they’ve signed former HBO Hard Knocks fan favorite Brogan Roback for depth. Starting DE Winston Craig and LB Jon Calvin haven’t participated in practice so far this week and Hau’oli Kikaha is questionable with limited participation.

LA Wildcats: Last week, starting QB Chad Kanoff looked pretty impressive; despite the 20-point loss they suffered against Houston. Kanoff finished with a stat-line of 21-39, 214 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT, but unfortunately left the game after suffering a head/shoulder injury. Kanoff replaced Josh Johnson due to a thigh injury he suffered, but now Johnson has recovered and is expected to start. There are three contributing players that haven’t participated in practice so far this week to keep an eye on; WR Saeed Blacknall, RB/WR DuJuan Harris, CB Jaylen Dunlap. 

St. Louis BattleHawks (1-0) at Houston Roughnecks, 6 pm ET (FS1).

St. Louis BattleHawks: Much like the Seattle Dragons; the BattleHawks have been hit hard with injuries, as five players are questionable and have not practiced so far this week. DE Will Clarke, WR Brandon Reilly, CB David Rivers, RB Matt Jones and Keith Ford. For fantasy purposes, definitely look out for the status of Jones and Ford, because if they’re both unable to go; Christine Michael is for a ton of action. It’s definitely a bit concerning that Michael had 0 yards on 7 carries, but the majority of their run game when through Jones on 21 carries for 85 yards, so if he and Ford are out Michael will get another chance as the starter.

Houston Roughnecks: Former Denver Broncos RB De’Angelo Henderson suffered a shoulder injury early last game against the Wildcats forcing him to leave the game. Henderson’s status is in doubt for this week, as he’s yet to practice this week, which would potentially but James Butler in line for a quality workload. Their other notable injury to watch is DE Cashaud Lyons who hasn’t practiced this week.

Welcome to “The Firework Show” – Houston Roughnecks

Credit XFL.com

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, I present to you, the high flying, quick running, guns blazing, no way to control, best offense in the league, the Houston Roughnecks. Welcome to “The Firework Show”! Led by the ring leader, June Jones, and the kid PJ Walker. Cam Phillips, Sam Mobley, Sammie Coates, Nick Holley, James Butler, De’Angelo Henderson, Andre Williams, and the Houston Roughnecks are here to excite you, entertain you, and bring you the best the XFL has to offer. Sure, there are other teams out there, but none will bring you the excitement that the Roughnecks will.

When you watched that game on Saturday night, you were probably expecting Houston to put up points, and they were probably going to be throwing the ball all over the field. But what you weren’t expecting, was just how electric this offense was going to be. And it’s beyond just putting points on the board. It was exciting football! PJ Walker was out there evading defenders, escaping the pocket, but the key was, he didn’t just run down the field. No. He kept his eyes down field and placed some deep dimes into his receivers hands for 6. He looked like a magician, avoiding sack after sack, and making some beautiful throws downfield. None prettier than that perfect strike to Nick Holley in the middle of the field, near the endzone. He looked GOOD. But it wasn’t just him. His receivers were speeding past the defense, getting open, and making catches left and right. His running backs even got in on the passing game, and from that point, there was no stopping them.

June Jones’ “Run and Shoot” offense was always going to produce yards and points, but it’s the players that make it so much more exciting. PJ Walker is the most electric player on the field in the XFL, and his weapons at back and receiver are just as fun to watch. The thing is, this is just Week 1. PJ Walker was just announced the starter a couple of weeks ago. These players are going to gel more and more as the season progresses, and the sky is the limit. This team will be the one everyone has their eyes glued to, and it is going to be some beautiful football. “The Firework Show” has arrived.

XFL Week 2 Power Rankings

Now that we got our first look at all 8 teams in action, I feel a little more confident in my Power Rankings this week. Unfortunately, there are still a few teams I’m unsure about, especially because teams like LA and Dallas didn’t have their starting quarterbacks. But I can at least say, with a hundred percent certainty, that I feel a lot more confident in my picks this week than I did last week. A few I nailed, a few I whiffed, but these things change week to week, so let’s talk about it.

8. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1)
Oh boy. If you read my Power Rankings last week, you’ll know that I had really high hopes for this team. A talented roster, a proven Head Coach, and a good vibe coming out of Training Camp, I thought had this team poised to make a run. Well, either they thought this was still the pre-season, or they really are this bad. I know New York’s secondary is the real deal, but Tampa could not do ANYTHING offensively. Aaron Murray was off, sometimes way off, on too many throws. When his throws were on target, they either dropped the ball or fumbled it. What could go wrong for the Vipers, did go wrong, and it was a complete nightmare. They are glad that there is a running play clock in the XFL, because this thing could have been much worse. Not prepared, not focused, not in sync. A lot of issues for the Vipers in Week 1, and I am really hoping that they can get it together for Week 2. For right now, I am willing to still hold out, because it was Week 1. But with a performance like that, you deserve the no. 8 spot.

7. Seattle Dragons (0-1)
I will start with this. Better than I thought…..just not by much. Brandon Silvers was decent enough. They ran the ball alright with Farrow and Gardner. But they were just simply outmatched. They hung in there with DC, but once DC started getting in a groove, it was evident who the better team was. I think Seattle got lucky with it being Week 1, and the Defenders were still working out some kinks. I think Seattle’s offense will be ok, but their defense just won’t have a chance against teams like DC and Houston. Unless Silvers and company, on the offensive side of the ball, start really getting creative, I think this team can be competitive, but ultimately come out on the losing end of a lot of games. I think Seattle fits perfectly in the no. 7 spot.

6. Los Angeles Wildcats (0-1)
Hmm…this is the most puzzling team to me. On the one hand, we still haven’t seen them at full strength with Josh Johnson under center. But now, reports are coming out that he may not be ready for Game 2, so who knows how long this injury is going to last. And in a 10 Week season, you can be out of the Playoff race fast. But even when Johnson gets back, i’m not sure about what kind of team we are going to get on the field. Nelson Spruce looked amazing, which did not come as a surprise, but I also think part of that was just the fact that Houston’s defense is suspect in between the numbers. As far as the rest of the team, they kind of disappointed me. Now, perhaps it was just the fact that they were playing the best offense in the league, so maybe their defense will bounce back, but their offense definitely left a lot to be desired. Yes, they were in it in the first half, but I think that had more to do with the fact that Houston didn’t really have a good feel on Chad Kanoff yet. Because in that second half, they completely shut him down. When Josh Johnson gets back, they will definitely be better. The question is, just how much better. For right now, I think the no. 6 spot is the perfect spot for them.

5. Dallas Renegades (0-1)
Now, this might be the biggest surprise of these rankings, but I saw something in their game against St. Louis that concerned me. Even with Landry Jones, who should be back next week, I think this might be the most overrated team in the league. Yes, Landry Jones is good, but i’m starting to think he might be the 4th best quarterback in the league. Now, come next week, I could be proven wrong, but we shall see. However, the reason I bring that up, is because based off of what we saw this weekend from Dallas, he is going to have to be a top 2 quarterback in this league if they want to get where many project them to be. Dallas, you should feel lucky that St. Louis didn’t figure it out until the 2nd half, because you got owned in this game. St. Louis controlled this game on the ground, and their defense completely shut down anything you wanted to do offensively. But we will get to St. Louis’ defense later, first we need to talk about Dallas’ game plan. Bob Stoops and Hal Mumme have the name recognition, and perhaps in their heyday they were ahead of the curb. But perhaps, they might be behind the curb here, because this “Air Raid” offense, at least the one we saw Saturday with Phil Nelson, ain’t gonna cut it against teams like DC and Houston. The “Air Raid” is an offense that builds over time in the game, but DC and Houston can have you down by 20 before you know it. Look, i’m still willing to give Dallas a chance, because we still have to see how Landry Jones will do in this offense. But, even the running game and receiving core underwhelmed in this game. Hopefully, it’s just those Week 1 tweaks that need to be worked out, but this game did not show me enough to think Landry Jones is the only solution to fix this. For now, they sit at no. 5.

4. New York Guardians (1-0)
I told you guys. I told you. New York’s secondary is the real deal. Jammar Summers, Bryce Jones, and company will make life hard for any quarterback. And that’s exactly what they did to Aaron Murray Sunday afternoon. 5 sacks, 3 takeaways is what lead the Guardians to victory. Their offense was run really well too on the backs of Victor and Cook, and McGloin threw the ball well to put them in scoring position often. But, as strong as their defense is, and it is definitely top 2, if not the best defense in the league, I think their offense is going to have to get a bit more creative with their passing game to move on up in these rankings. Matt McGloin is very capable, but due to his lack of mobility, he will need to get the ball out quick to his playmakers, which he has with his receiving core. McKay, Pearson, and company can add yards after the catch, which will only help this New York offense as they progress throughout the season. For now, I have them at no. 4.

3. St. Louis Battlehawks (1-0)
Now, I said Dallas being ranked no. 5 might be the biggest surprise on this list. But, perhaps an even bigger surprise is the fact that the team I had as no. 7 last week, is now my no. 3 team. The St. Louis Battlehawks are better, in fact, a lot better, than I thought, and I couldn’t be happier. First off, yes, I understand, they only beat a Dallas team, which was missing Landry Jones, by six points (15-9). I get it. Sal, you’re over reacting! Well, allow me to explain. In the 2nd half of that game, towards the end of the 3rd and in the 4th, Jonathan Hayes and Chuck Long figured out what kind of team they are. And let me tell you rest of XFL, you better be ready. Yes, they are going to lose to Houston next week, but that’s nothing to hang your head about. Chuck Long is going to put Jordan Ta’amu on the verge of success, and possibly in contender-ship for the MVP award at the end of the season. XFL fans, I give you the Baltimore Ravens of the XFL. Yes, if you watched that second half, Ta’amu, Jones, Michael, and Ford ran all over Dallas’ defense, and they are fixing to run all over the league. Now that they are letting Jordan Ta’amu be who he is, which is not a passer, but another threat in the running game, not only will that open up the passing game, but defenders are going to have to decide whether to bite on the run or not. Matt Jones and Keith Ford, plus you can’t forget about Christine Michael, are going to be effective in the running game. But now with Jordan Ta’amu playing to his strengths, that running game might be near unstoppable. And if Ta’amu can make just enough throws, this team might win the East. But that’s not all. Their defense might be the best in the league. It is going to be hard to find openings anywhere against this defense, who are big in size and stature, but can also ball hawk like New York. Now, I don’t think they will have as many takeaways as New York, but they might prevent less points on the board. This St. Louis team is for real, and while I do expect them to lose next week, they might not lose very often after that. They are my no. 3 team.

2. DC Defenders (1-0)
Cardale Jones was awesome Saturday afternoon. He would never go down. Even when you thought they had him, he refused to give in. He showed off his spectacular arm strength and mobility, but really he showed the absolute force that he is at the quarterback position. Good luck sacking Cardale, because it ain’t gonna be easy to get him down on the ground. He spread the ball across numerous receivers, and made the correct reads when he had to. Rashad Ross was who we thought he was going to be, and Eli Rogers made you sure you took notice. But who really opened the field up for DC was their Tight End, Khari Lee, who was terrific Saturday. Don’t forget, DeAndre Thompkins will be joining them soon, who was sidelined with an injury, and at that point, you can’t double team anyone. Their running game didn’t show much Saturday, but I still believe they will be fine. Their defense is what surprised me the most. They aren’t great, but I do believe that they are good enough to win the Championship. This isn’t Old School Football. Defense doesn’t win championships, offense wins championships. If you have an elite offense, you will be there. But, you still need a good defense to get the job done. This team is excellent in all phases, and I wouldn’t argue if you had them no. 1. But there is another team that I believe is currently better than them, so for now they are my no. 2 team.

1. Houston Roughnecks (1-0)
Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to “The Firework Show!”. The highest scoring offense in the league, and the best team in the XFL! The Houston Roughnecks are the real deal, and it took me by surprise just how good this offense is. They scored 37 points, scoring 5 offensive touchdowns, 4 of which came from the electric arm of PJ Walker. Walker was absolutely sensational in his debut, and while it was only one game, if he continues at this rate, he will be a runaway MVP. But as great as PJ Walker was, it wasn’t just him out there making plays. Cam Phillips, Khalil Lewis, James Butler, Nick Holley, and Sammie Coates all made impactful plays on the field. De’Angelo Henderson went out of the game with a injury early in the 1st quarter, but when he comes back, it will be near impossible to stop the plethora of weapons this Houston offense has. But what surprised me the most was the defense. Now, I do want to proceed with caution, because they were playing against a Wildcats team lead by Chad Kanoff instead of Josh Johnson, but we can only go by the one game we have. And the one game we have, this defense was quick and decisive for the most part. They were getting to Chad Kanoff frequently and in the second half, they completely shut him down. Their weakness though, is in between the numbers. Nelson Spruce was having a field day in the middle of the defense, so that is something that we will have to monitor as the season progresses. But for now, I don’t see any team, besides maybe DC, that can stop the Houston Roughnecks, the best team in the XFL.

Houston, We Have Lift Off!

The Houston Roughnecks beat the Tamp[a Bay Vipers 37-17
The Houston Roughnecks beat the Tampa Bay Vipers 37-17 (Photo: XFL.com)
Game 1 is officially in the books. The Houston Roughnecks defeated the Los Angeles Wildcats Saturday night 37-17 in a game that was really a game of two halves. The first half was a back and forth affair that was a game of momentum. The second half was a total domination by the Roughnecks, that really showed the separation between these two teams. Now, do keep in mind that LA was missing their starting quarterback, Josh Johnson, due to a lingering injury he has been facing since Training Camp. So we will have to wait until Week 8, March 29, at Los Angeles, to see these two teams square off at full strength. But I’m not sure how much of a difference it’s going to make, because by then, Houston’s offense will really be clicking, and we could see that game get out of hand quickly. But until then, we only have this game to go on. So let’s get into it.

Roughnecks got the ball to start off, and it didn’t take long for them to put their stamp on this league. Within just three plays, PJ Walker hit Cam Phillips with a 50 yard bomb for a touchdown, and the crowd erupted. That’s how you get a crowd fired up! It’s funny, because on the broadcast, Joel Klatt talked about taking a shot, and take their shot they did. They would go on to miss the conversion, but they were on the board early 6-0. But the Wildcats were not intimidated. They marched right down the field and added a touchdown of their own, after Chad Kanoff ran it in to make it 6-6. But unlike the Roughnecks, they converted on their 2 point conversion, so they took the lead 8-6. Later on in the 1st quarter, the Wildcats muffed the punt, which gave the Roughnecks the ball on LA’s side of the field. But it was a wasted possession, as Sergio Castillo missed the field goal try wide left. That would bring an end to what was a back and forth opening quarter between two of the league’s best teams.

The 2nd quarter got under way, and the Wildcats continued moving the ball successfully against this shaky Houston secondary. Nelson Spruce was all over the field in this game. No matter what Houston did, they didn’t have an answer for him. He was killing them in between the numbers, and it ultimately lead to a touchdown pass from Kanoff to Jordan Smallwood on the left side of the endzone. They failed to convert after the touchdown, but extended their lead to 14-6. But you knew the Roughnecks were going to come back fighting hard, and they did just that. PJ Walker led them right down the field, and they ended the drive with a touchdown on a screen pass to James Butler, who ran down the right sideline into the endzone. The Roughnecks would fail to convert for the second time, but they would close the gap 14-12. Los Angeles kicker Nick Novak would add a 35 yard field goal, to make it 17-12, but that’s where anything positive for the Wildcats on offense would come to an end. PJ Walker and the Roughnecks took over this game. On Houston’s final possession of the half, Walker hurled an absolute bomb to Sam Mobley, that was knocked away by Harlan Miller, which would have been a touchdown. But I guess PJ Walker and June Jones thought, why not try it again. Walker dropped a 39-yard bomb to Sam Mobley for a touchdown, and after yet another failed conversion, (0-3 up to this point, we’ll get to this in our analysis), they would go up 18-17 with a 1:03 left in the half. Now, the Wildcats could have possibly taken the lead heading into the locker room, but due to mismanagement with the clock and timeouts by Winston Moss they were not able to get a field goal off in time as the 1st half came to a close.

Now we get to the 3rd quarter. Remember when the Wildcats led the Roughnecks 17-12 in the 2nd quarter? That would be the last time the Wildcats have not only have the lead, but would even score a single point. The Roughnecks would end up scoring 25 unanswered points on their way to a 37-17 victory over the Wildcats. PJ Walker threw his 4th touchdown pass of the night to Kahlil Lewis, and Walker decided to run it in himself for the 2 point conversion, their first successful attempt of the night, to make it 26-17. Sergio Castillo then added a 44 yard field goal to make it 29-17, and that would be the end of the 3rd quarter.

The 4th quarter would see the Wildcats Jalan McClendon get some time at quarterback, and it would not go well for him. Deatrick Nichols would intercept his pass, and just six plays later, the Roughnecks would pound it into the endzone again, this time with Butler running it in on the ground. They would then convert on their 2nd consecutive 2 point conversion, to make it 37-17, as they opened a 20 point lead, and would hold that until the end of the game.

Houston absolutely dominated the second half of this game, and Walker was sensational. He finished with 23 of 39 passing for 272 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. His pick came late in the game during garbage time, and it was in the redzone, but all in all, PJ Walker made a case for himself, that he should be considered as an early MVP favorite. The Roughnecks proved their passing offense is exactly as advertised. In my opinion, it’s the best in the league, and with PJ Walker playing at an elite level, probably better than people even imagined. Now, one concern I have, are the point after touchdown conversions. They did convert on their last two, which gives me hope that they can get better, but they will need to. Especially when they get in these games that are going to be close. Now De’Angelo Henderson did go out early in the first quarter with a shoulder injury, so I do believe he will make life easier in that department when he gets back. But if they can improve in that area, their offense will be near impossible to stop. Now as far as their defense is concerned, I think we still have to wait and see when they play a top tier quarterback. They played fine in the second half, but they showed vulnerability in that first half. Especially with slot receivers. As I stated earlier, Nelson Spruce killed them in between the numbers, and that might be an issue as the season progresses. But all in all, last night Houston proved what most people already believe, that they are one of the XFL’s elite teams, and they are a force to be reckon with.

Excitement Is In The Air!!!

I had a chance to attend the Houston Roughnecks Kick-Off event last night at Pitch25, and man was I shocked for numerous reasons. Look, I report on the XFL, I’m a member of the XFL community, I myself am a fan of the XFL. But it’s one thing being on twitter and seeing all the excitement from fans all over social media. It’s a totally different experience being with XFL fans live. Pitch25 was legitimately rocking last night, and I was shocked to see it.

We have known the XFL was coming for 2 years already, and excitement had been hitting an all-time high as the season neared. But last night, being among the Houston Roughnecks fans, I got a feeling that I have never felt since the Houston Astros won the World Series. You know, before we knew about the trash cans. It was electric! These weren’t just people that were there hanging out. No. These were FANS! I saw jerseys, t-shirts, hats, bottles, cups, signs, all the stuff in between, and they were hungry! Not hungry for food. No. They were hungry for some Roughnecks football! Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s Texas, or maybe it’s because Houston is a great sports town. But the excitement level I saw last night, it was different than all the other sports teams in town. I mean these fans, to which there were MANY, were there to cheer on their new team.

Joel Klatt and Curt Menefee, FOX’s XFL announce team, were in attendance, as well as the Houston Roughnecks players and coaches. Team President Brian Cooper, and 97.5 ESPN’s John Granato and Nate Griffin, who will be on the radio call for every Roughnecks game, were also there. You could tell they were feeding off of the energy from the crowd that was there, because all of their faces were lit up. They had a great time talking about the upcoming season and how the teams progressed all throughout training camp. Curt Menefee asked June Jones, “Why in the world you would you leave Hawaii to come coach in Houston?”. Coach Jones simply responded, “They would pay me a lot more, to coach a lot less games. That was easy.”. Another great thing that was said by Jones was that “apparently” they do indeed have a Tight End on the team, they just don’t like to make it known. I’ll be interested to see who that Tight End is come Saturday. But all in all, it was a great time, for both the fans and the team.

Now after all the festivities were done, I got a chance to catch up with PJ Walker a little bit, the Roughnecks starting quarterback. I told him congratulations on winning the starting job, and he told me that he is excited to see how this offense gels on the field. He believes that they will be competitive and will never be out of a game.

I then caught up with star receiver Sammy Coates, who many will remember for his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I asked him, “With all the stuff that the Houston sports world has gone through the past few months, (Astros cheating scandal, Texans blowing 24-0 lead in the playoffs), how does it feel to bring back hope to Houston?”. He replied with a simple answer. “We got great players, great coaches, and most of all, great fans. We’re bringing a Championship back to Houston!”. Simple and straight to the point. If Sammy Coates says they are bringing a title to Houston, I believe him.

The fans are ready! We are just a few hours away from kick-off. So, until then, see you guys Saturday. And remember, THIS IS THE X F L!!!

Potential QB2’s who could be targeted via Trade

Teams are wrapping up their preparation for the opening weekend of the XFL. With the league just being two days away from launch, teams are naming their starters and releasing their depth charts for Week 1.

We all know speculation can help fuel the excitement especially when it is something new. So I am here to stir the pot. (None of the information read below is sourced, just fun speculation.)

Quarterback is easily the most important position on the field, and as the old adage goes “if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback.” Not the case in the XFL.

Traditionally, teams would carry two quarterbacks on their depth chart like the DC Defenders, Houston Roughnecks, and Seattle Dragons. Going against the traditional grain by carrying 3-4 quarterbacks on their depth chart are the Vipers (4), Battlehawks (3), Guardians (3), Wildcats (3), and the Renegades (3). What does this provide the league? Depth at the quarterback position.

Quarterback play is what carries the NFL or any professional/amateur league. It can not be explained, it just does.

Seeing a perfectly thrown pass hit a wide receiver right in the hands for a touchdown is what gets fans out of their seats, and it can be mesmerizing at times. Those are the moments fan bases live for. It has become the highlight of football.

Since each team provides so much depth at quarterback, I believe in the XFL’s inaugural season we will see several of these quarterbacks on the move. Let’s do a short list of QB’s who could potentially be traded to another team within the opening months of the season.

(Again, this all just speculation)

Connor Cook - Houston Roughnecks
Connor Cook – Houston Roughnecks

CONNOR COOK

QB PJ Walker was assigned to the Houston Roughnecks during the draft. Walker and Cook battled it out during  mini camp and training camp as head coach June Jones wanted to see who would be the catalyst behind his high powered offense. Rumors out of camp stated that the Roughnecks were going to name PJ Walker the starting quarterback come Week 1. Well that news broke last week. With Walker officially being named the starter, Cook in my opinion would be one of my top trade targets if I was a team looking to for competition at the QB1 spot, or an reliable option as a QB2. Cook was a proven winner at Michigan State, but his NFL career did not pan out the way many draft experts and analyst expected. The quarterback was drafted by the Oakland Raiders back in 2016 and spent two seasons with the team but was later released after the Oakland Raiders traded for AJ McCarron. Cook also had stints with the Cincinnatti, Carolina, and his last NFL stop was in Detroit in 2019. Not only would he provide experience but also a veteran presence in the locker room. Of course if traded the Roughnecks would have to fill the QB2 spot, but trading multiple quarterbacks for one, isn’t necessarily unmarked territory. The Wildcats traded Luis Perez to the Guardians for two quarterbacks earlier this offseason. I’m sure it can happen again.

POTENTIAL TRADE DESTINATIONS

Dallas Renegades, Seattle Dragons

 

Taylor Heinicke - St. Louis BattleHawks
Taylor Heinicke – St. Louis BattleHawks

TAYLOR HEINICKE 

With Heinicke having NFL in game experience and the BattleHawks naming him QB2 behind starting quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, any team in the market for a quarterback with experience should definitely consider Heinicke as a trade target. Heinicke has spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, and the Carolina Panthers. During his time with the Panthers he recorded his lone NFL start throwing for 274 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions against the Atlanta Falcons. He was injured in the game and could not finish the season due to the extent of his elbow injury. He was waived by the Panthers in August 2019. Shortly after, he was drafted by the Battlehawks in the XFL Supplemental draft. I believe Heinicke would be a solid pick up for any team just because of his experience in the NFL. As a rookie Heinicke was apart of a position battle for the backup job in Minnesota which he was competing against veteran Shaun Hill and Mike Kafka. He eventually won the QB3 spot and stayed on the active roster during his entire tenure with the Vikings. That alone should shed some light on Heinicke’s talent level.

POTENTIAL TRADE DESTINATIONS

LA Wildcats, Houston Roughnecks

 

Tyree Jackson - DC Defenders
Tyree Jackson – DC Defenders

TYREE JACKSON

During the NFL Draft evaluation, Jackson was seen as a quarterback who could improve on throwing the football but checked all the boxes athletically. Jackson is 6’7 249 lb quarterback who boast 4.5 speed and has the ability to make defenders miss but can dish out contact. It is a reason why the DC Defenders drafted Jackson due to the many similarities style wise with starter Cardale Jones. The Defenders will likely be a team that will utilize their quarterbacks legs. If you look around the league there are many teams I feel that will possibly do the same. Jackson would be on my short list just because of his ability to create plays with his legs. If any offense begins to struggle in the running game once the season gets going I believe they will reach out to DC to see if they would be willing to trade Jackson.

POTENTIAL TRADE DESTINATIONS

Houston Roughnecks, St. Louis BattleHawks

 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the teams in the XFL will have to allow the season to play out in order for either of these scenarios to come to fruition, but I honestly believe that these three quarterbacks listed above could potentially make their first XFL start sooner rather than later. At the end of the day, fan bases demand exceptional quarterback play. Not only do the teams in this league have capable starters at quarterback, but they also have the depth at the position to keep fans excited about their respective teams. The XFL not only is re-imagining the way football is played but also remembering that quarterback play is king when it is all said and done.

(See just a little speculation to get you excited for the season)

XFL Week 1 Power Rankings

XFL Power Rankings

Well, here it is. Week 1 of the inaugural XFL season is here. Starting on February 8, at Audi Field, the brand new league kicks off to a lot of anticipation and fanfare. Brand new players, brand new coaches, brand new teams, and brand new fans are ready to take off and experience an exciting time in American Professional Football! Let’s be honest, we haven’t seen a single snap from any of these teams, so we don’t really know what we are in for when it comes to any eight of these teams. So I’m going into these power rankings with as much knowledge about these teams as you. After week 1 is officially in the books, we will have a little better feel about where we are, but until then, let’s just have fun with these week 1 power rankings.

WEEK 1 POWER RANKINGS

(NON-CONTENDERS)

8. Seattle Dragons

Okay Seattle fans. Before you get your pitch forks and start yelling from the rooftops, let me just say this. I am totally ready to accept and admit the fact that I’m wrong about the Seattle Dragons. I hope I am. I like Jim Zorn as a coach. Brandon Silvers is a good quarterback. Kenneth Farrow is a good running back. They have some decent pieces. But quite honestly, there is just not enough for me at this time. I think Brandon Silvers will have some decent stats, but I believe that’s because they will be playing from behind… A LOT. Their receiving core leaves a lot to be desired with Kasen Williams and Austin Proehl. Evan Rodriguez, their starting TE, is decent, but their offense is going to struggle, and their defense is nothing to write home about. It doesn’t help that they play in the Western Conference, which I believe is the best conference, and they will have to deal with Dallas, Houston, and LA all season long. Look, it’s a new league, there are only eight teams, so somebody had to be no. eight, and I think the Seattle Dragons are that eighth team at this time.

7. St. Louis Battlehawks

Pro football is back in St. Louis baybay! I’m so excited to see that first home game in the Dome. The crowd will be electric. The stadium will be rocking. And the players will be motivated. Mainly because they are going to be playing a must win game in that 3rd week against the New York Guardians after going 0-2 against Dallas and Houston. Talk about a brutal start to the season. Well, I guess when there’s only eight teams, you kind of have no choice. But man, this St. Louis Battlehawks team is a team that I can honestly see in the Eastern Conference Championship, or I can see being right here, exactly where I have them, as the 7th best team in the league. Jordan Ta’amu is going to be fascinating to watch. Mainly because how good is he going to be? He has the athleticism, but I’m not quite sold on the rest of him yet. He did win the starting job, so there is that, but I think that was more due to the lack of depth in the St. Louis QB room. Now I do respect Christine Michael, and Matt Jones is no slouch, but I believe they will have to be relied on so much that the D-lines will hone in on them, forcing Ta’amu to beat them with his arm. Their defense is big. Big bodies, good size, strong, athletic. And I do think that their defense might actually be able to carry them to a few surprise wins. But all in all, I think they will go as far as Jordan Ta’amu takes them. Just like with Seattle, I am totally prepared to be proven wrong, and I hope that I am., because St. Louis deserves a good football team. But for right now, I have them as no. 7.

(DARK HORSES)

6. New York Guardians

This team. I can’t quite get my finger on them. Are they pretenders? Are they contenders? I guess time will tell. But for right now, I have them as a dark horse to win the East. Matt McGloin, we all know what he brings, but it’s the other pieces that intrigue me the most. First off, Mekale McKay. If you’re a fantasy player, snatch him up, because he is going to be raking in the numbers. Matt McGloin is going to find life a lot easier being able to pass to McKay, who can really do it all at receiver. Then you got Tim Cook, who will be looking out for him, especially on those after TD conversions. Strong back, who will keep the chains moving and especially at home in that cold weather. But let’s be real. What really makes New York dark horse contenders? The secondary. Jamar Summers, Wes Sutton, Demetrious Cox, and company are going to lead the league in takeaways, I’m calling it now. These guys are going to be a “no fly zone”, and if the offense can run out the clock and put points on the board, this is a scary team. It’s why the New York Guardians are my no. 6 team.

5. Tampa Bay Vipers

Out of all the teams on this list, this is the team that terrifies me the most. Look, whenever I play Dallas, or Houston, or DC, or LA, I know what I’m getting. I’m playing one of the XFL’s elite teams, so I’m going into that game expecting a hard fought match. But when I play the Tampa Bay Vipers, I may be getting a mediocre team, or I may be playing the favorite to win it all. I’m serious. This team scares me…A LOT. Marc Trestman is a winner. Just look at what he has done in the CFL. He brings a lot to this team, but that’s just the Head Coach. Nick Truesdell might be the best TE in the league. Quinton Flowers might be the most lethal weapon on any team this season. But where it becomes a question mark for me is the QB Aaron Murray. If he can be the precise passer that he is capable of being, there might be no stopping this team. He is talented, and he brings a lot to the table. But he is inconsistent. That’s where it’s troublesome for me. But here’s the thing. If they can just get into the Eastern Conference Championship, and Aaron Murray can be “good” Aaron Murray for 2 straight games, I would not be surprised in the slightest if they go on and win the XFL Championship. It’s disappointing that Antonio Callaway had an injury, because I might have them higher on this list. But look out for the Tampa Bay Vipers, because they might be your worst nightmare. I have them no. 5.

(CONTENDERS)

4. Los Angeles Wildcats

Now we get into who I believe are the real contenders for the XFL Championship this year. First, we start off with the Los Angeles Wildcats. I think a lot of people would start with starting QB Josh Johnson, but I want to start with who might be my favorite Head Coach of the entire league, Winston Moss. This guy brings the energy, and in my opinion, that fits this team perfectly. Coach Moss has a winning attitude, and he is all over the Xs and Os and player personnel. I think the LA Wildcats set a record with how many moves they made this off-season. Trade after trade after trade, and some left you scratching your head. Rashad Ross??? But man, Moss’s attitude makes you truly believe that they have got this exactly how they want it. Now, who knows, maybe after a couple of games, some of those trades are going to look foolish. But as of right now, they have made a believer out of me. There defense has size and agility. Norm Chow, their OC, is a proven commodity. Elijah Hood is nothing to sneeze at. But their fire power lies in two areas. The passing game and the line backing core. Will Smith, Shawn Oakman, Taiwan Jones, Tre Williams, the list goes on. These guys are massive, and they aren’t going to be pushed around. Good luck running on these guys. And of course, Josh Johnson. What more can I say? The most proven quarterback in the league, and the fact that he is going to be throwing to guys like Tre McBride and Nelson Spruce, good luck. The Wildcats are legit, and that is why they are my no. 4 team.

3. Houston Roughnecks

Do you like offense? Do you like big plays? Do you like scoring? If you answered yes to all of these questions, let me introduce you to the Houston Roughnecks. The team, who I believe, will be the highest scoring offense in the league. Be prepared to AT LEAST score 30 points in order to be competitive in a game with the Roughnecks. June Jones, master of the “Run and Shoot” offense has weapons galore at his disposal. Let’s start with their quarterback, PJ Walker. Walker can sling it west coast, he can sling it downfield, he can run all over the field, and even if the pocket collapses, he can extend plays like it’s nobody’s business. His accuracy can sometimes be a problem, but so far in Training Camp and in the Scrimmages, he has looked as precise as ever. That should scare people, because if he can protect the football, his playmakers will do the rest. Sammy Coates, Kahlil Lewis, Sam Mobley and company will be running all over the place, and it is going to be difficult to cover them. Coach Jones’ offense is hard to prepare for, because it is predicated on makeshift plays and routes. And if you think the receivers are all you have to worry about, think again. De’Angelo Henderson and Andre Williams will be coming out of the backfield to balance out this offense, but not just to run the ball, to run and catch as well. These guys are scary. SCARY! If you aren’t catching up quick, you might be down 3 TDs before you know it. But the defense is where I’m still not so sure. Now, what I am sure about, is they will be getting to the quarterback. I know that. Kony Ealy is the truth. He will lead the league in sacks this year, mark it down. Especially, since I think a lot of teams will be having to play from behind against Houston, he is just going to be able to pin his ears back and get after it. But I’m just not sure yet on the rest of the defense. Time will tell, because if they have a good defense, just cancel the season, the Houston Roughnecks are XFL Champions. But until I see that defense, I will have them at no. 3.

2. Dallas Renegades

Bob Stoops. Hal Mumme. The best coaching staff in the league in my opinion. Coaching goes a long way, and that is why I have the Dallas Renegades winning the West this season. It sucks, because as a Roughnecks fan, I hope, I pray that I’m proven wrong. But I gotta be unbiased on these Power Rankings, and they have the goods. Landry Jones is a accurate quarterback with a strong arm, and he’s a proven winner at the highest level. Put along with that Jazz Ferguson and Jeff Badet, and you have one of the league’s most potent passing games. But it ain’t just passing. Their running back core is solid. Cameron Artis-Payne is the real deal, and every Cowboys fan remembers Lance Dunbar, he is legit. Dunbar can also be lethal in the passing game, which just gives Landry Jones another weapon to use. But what separates them from the Roughnecks for me right now, is I have a little more faith in their defense. So much so, I think they might be the most balanced team in the league. They don’t have names that are going to pop out at you, but they are solid and sound football players who will make the plays that are needed to be made in that moment. The moment isn’t too big for this team. That’s what Bob Stoops and Landry Jones brings to you. You will be seeing them in the XFL Championship later this spring. But against who?…

1. DC Defenders

Now we get to my favorite to not only win the East, but win the whole thing. The DC Defenders. Cardale Jones! Cardale Jones! A lot of people’s pick to win MVP this season. And rightfully so. He’s got a CANNON! He’s got the size to bulldoze you over. And he’s got the athleticism to extend plays. But if you think that’s it, think again. He’s got freakin’ Rashad Ross! Rashad Ross! LA gifted Cardale Jones and Pep Hamilton Rashad Ross! Why!? Who knows? Eli Rogers! Simmie Cobbs! I was talking about the Roughnecks scoring. Holy cow! How do you stop this offense!? And it doesn’t stop there. They might have the best running back group in the entire league. Jhurell Pressley, Donnel Pumphrey, Khalid Abdullah, are you kidding me? Now, just like with Houston, their defense does worry me a little bit. But that’s how much I trust Head Coach Pep Hamilton. I know he is going to make the proper adjustments necessary to win football games. He has proven time and time again, that he can succeed at a high level, and I think this time is no different. My pick to win the XFL Championship this season, my no. 1 team, the DC Defenders. Audi Field is going to be buzzing come late April.

PJ Walker OFFICIALLY named the starting QB for the Houston Roughnecks

Houston Roughnecks QB P.J. Walker (11) takes a snap during XFL Minicamp.
Houston Roughnecks QB P.J. Walker (11) takes a snap during XFL Minicamp. (Source: XFL.com)

As XFL Insider Rachael Van Oranje and I reported last week, PJ (Phillip) Walker, out of Temple, is going to be your week 1 starter for the Houston Roughnecks. As I stated in that earlier article from last week, this does not come as a surprise. PJ Walker and Connor Cook share similar arm strength, and while Cook’s accuracy may be a little better, it was Walker’s not only athleticism, but his willingness to run that got him the starting job in Houston.

Now, how do I feel about this fit? To be honest… I’m elated! Thank you June Jones for making this decision. Look, Connor Cook is a very accurate quarterback, and fully capable of leading an offense to great success. But, I got to be real with you. He would have been the more “boring” option out of the two. Now look, if PJ stinks it up, which I don’t expect him to, but if that were to happen, I feel very confident in Connor Cook leading this team. But man, I’m excited! PJ Walker is such a fun player to watch. He can sling it downfield, he can create plays with his legs, and he is not afraid to take chances. Now, that last part can sometimes be to his detriment, but he succeeds more often than he fails, and I am willing to live with that.

During his time at Temple, he broke multiple school records, including TD passes (74), passing yards (10,668), passing completions (830), total TDs (83), and total yards (11,478), under Matt Rhule, who is currently the Head Coach of the Carolina Panthers. He also lead them to their first conference title in 49 years, and their first ever back to back bowl appearances in school history. He was signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 as an undrafted free agent, and while it didn’t work out, his talent is still a hidden gem in my opinion.

Now Walker does have his detractors, and many among the XFL community believed that Connor Cook was going to be named the starter. But I am a believer in PJ Walker, and I think he has the potential to not only be the best quarterback in the league, but perhaps be the league MVP. Yes, I’m all in on PJ Walker. Sammy Coates, Jalen Saunders, D’Angelo Henderson, Andre Williams, ect., you add PJ Walker to that, along with June Jones “Run and Shoot” offense, and good luck stopping the Roughnecks potent offense this season. The Houston Roughnecks are LEGIT contenders this year, and don’t be surprised if they are playing in the inaugural XFL Championship.

P.S. Yes, I know, the LA Xtreme won the 2001 Championship.