XFL Wildcats QB Josh Johnson status “UNCERTAIN” for Week 1

Los Angeles Wildcats starting quarterback Josh Johnson is reportedly battling an injury according to Ryan Dyrud of LAFB Network. His availability for this weekend’s game against the Houston ROughnecks is said to be a “game time” decision, but as of this moment it is uncertain if he is leaning one way or another.

If Johnson is unable to go, Coach Winston Moss will have a decision to make as to who will get the start for their Week 1 opener. It would either have to be Chad Kanoff or Jalan McClendon. Either one would be a significant downgrade, from who many think can be a top 3 quarterback in the league in Josh Johnson. Luckily, for the Wildcats, if he is a “game time” decision for Week 1, he will most certainly be back for Week 2 and onward. But that also depends on what exactly the injury is, which is still unknown at this time.

But unfortunately, this is really going to highlight the trade that LA made with New York, when they traded former Tier 1 allocated quarterback Luis Perez for quarterback Chad Kanoff, in a surprise move that no one saw coming. When Josh Johnson signed with the LA Wildcats, many expected him to be announced the starter, but many also thought that Luis Perez would learn from under Johnson and eventually take that starting spot, if not this season, then perhaps next year or in a couple of years. But Coach Moss decided to trade away Perez for Kanoff, and perhaps that trade may now come back to haunt them.

For all we know, this may be nothing come Saturday evening if Josh Johnson is able to go, but we shall see as the Wildcats are going to have to keep up with a high powered Houston offense that isn’t going to let up.

We will keep you posted as we get more information on this situation.

Editorial: Houston, this one’s for YOU

Man, what a past couple of months for Houston sports. To say that it has been rough would be an understatement. I don’t think I can remember a darker time collectively in Houston sports, and we have had some dark times. But nothing compares to the absolute magnitude of these trialing times. Let’s reflect for a little bit shall we?

First, you have the Texans, who just completely blew a commanding 24 point lead to the eventual Super Bowl winning Kansas City Chiefs, because your head coach doesn’t have a play on 4th and 1. To make matters worse, to “reward” him, the front office makes him the GM to go along with him already being the Head Coach. So he will be calling the plays, managing the team, drafting players, negotiating contracts, and trying to bring in new guys all at the same time. He couldn’t come up with a single play on 4th and 1, and he expects us to believe he can manage all of this? This franchise has hamstrung itself by giving “King” O’Brien more power than the actual President of the United States. I am fully convinced, that Bill O’Brien feels like he can walk into Cal McNair’s office and fire him right now. Look, I’m sure that Bill O’Brien is a super nice guy, “as long as you don’t say he sucks lol”, a great husband, and a loving father. I respect all of that, I do, trust me, that’s more important anyway. But, if you just can’t cut it, you just can’t cut it. Bill O’Brien had ONE Head Coaching job before coming to Houston, and he did great up at Penn State. But one has to wonder, if maybe he just needed a little more time to develop as a Head Coach, or perhaps he is just best suited to be an Offensive Coordinator. And to be fair, it’s not all his fault. The defense is so bad, we might as well not even have them out there. Deshaun still holds on to the ball too long, but that’s mainly because our receivers can’t seem to get open. The offensive line, well you know how that is. But in the end, it comes back to the Head Coach. When they showed Bill O’Brien’s face on that 4th and 1, he looked scared. Terrified. Nervous. Not prepared. That’s unacceptable! He didn’t have a play on that 4th and 1, because he didn’t believe that his team was good enough to be in the position that they were in at the point in the game. Look, it’s one thing for the media not to believe in your team, but as the Head Coach, you should be the main one that believes in your team. If you don’t believe in them, how do you expect the players to believe in themselves. As a former Head Coach myself, that really got to me. Look, I get it, the Chiefs are clearly the better team. But that expression on his face, on the sideline, up 24-0, was telling his team, “I’m shocked you guys are winning”, when it should have been, “I’m proud of you guys, I knew you could do it.” I guess time will tell, but I don’t blame any Houston Texans fans if they don’t feel hopeful about the future of the franchise, because they have not given us a reason to.

What about the Rockets? They are doing great right? Well, out of the three major teams, they are certainly doing the best, but I would not say great. James Harden is still phenomenal, and Russell Westbrook has been sensational up to this point. But as a team, they still have these defensive lapses, and the thing that is so frustrating, is that defense is pure heart and will. That’s completely on the players. But Mike D’antoni, who is a good coach, still needs to learn how to adjust in game when the other team takes stuff away. Look, I’m all for 3s, layups, and free throws, but if the defense takes that away, you have to be able to adjust on the fly. That’s what separates a good coach from a great coach. Too many turnovers, too many plays off, missing that killer instinct when it’s needed. These are all issues the Rockets have to fix if they want to be successful. Because they certainly have the talent, but it takes much more than talent to win a championship.

And speaking of championships, finally, we get to the Astros. Oh the Astros! First off, do I think other teams are doing what the Astros were caught doing? Absolutely! 1000%! We’ve had multiple coaches and players, past and present, even admit it publicly. But, that still doesn’t make it right. And the fact is, the Astros were caught CHEATING. Point blank. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Look, that feeling that I had, back in November of 2017, when Yuli Gurriel caught that ball from Jose Altuve to win their first World Series championship in franchise history, no one will ever take that away from me. I still remember where I was, I still remember how I felt, and I will always remember that moment. I hold that dear to my heart, especially since it came at a time when Houston needed it the most, after going through the travesties of Hurricane Harvey. But, here, now, in 2020, it definitely feels a little different. It feels weird calling them champions, because it doesn’t really feel like they earned it. As a former player, and then later coach, I do admire and respect the rules and integrity that go into the beautiful game of baseball. Yes, I understand, gambling like Pete Rose and the Black Sox, the whole steroid era with Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, etc., and electronic sign stealing, and many more, the game of baseball has been tainted with cheating for years. I hate it. But, the game itself, I still love and will always love no matter what. But man, the Astros are at rock bottom right now, as is the entire Houston sports world. If only there was something to lift us up.

Well, it just so happens that this league called the XFL is starting up here in a couple of days, and your beautiful city of Houston, Texas, has a team to represent. The Houston Roughnecks couldn’t have asked for a better time to launch than right now. June Jones, PJ Walker, Connor Cook, Sammy Coates, D’Angelo Henderson, Andre Williams, Charles James, and many, many more are ready to give Houston hope again. The Roughnecks have an opportunity to bring H-Town back to life. You want exciting? Watch play after play when this Roughnecks offense is lighting up the scoreboard and stat sheet with bombs galore. You want tough? Watch as this scrappy Roughnecks defense goes out and will scratch and claw it’s way to victories. You want smart? Watch as June Jones and this coaching staff draw up schemes that you haven’t even dreamed of, especially with these new rules. But my favorite part, my absolute favorite part, is US, the FANS. I love sports, because it is one of the few things that can bind us all together.

On February 8, 2020, at 4:00pm central, at TDECU Stadium, there is going to be a stadium full of people, who I guarantee you, don’t agree on almost anything. They disagree on politics, religion, parenting, taxes, finances, relationships, marriage, divorce… you name it. And when they see each other on the street, or at the mall, or on Facebook or Twitter, they will debate, argue, go at each other like it’s nobody’s business. But when that whistle blows, when those lights come on, when that clock begins, this sport, football, this team, the Roughnecks, this city, Houston, comes together, as one. United, as fans. Sports brings us together. It binds us, connects us. And this spring, this city, will bind together, to cheer on our team.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Houston Roughnecks are officially here.

Episode 22 – “We are Ready” – Kirk Barron, Garrett Hartley, Mike Gambill

First, we go to Seattle and speak to Kirk Barron, a Center with the Seattle Dragons. Kirk tells us about his journey to the Dragons and how he is looking forward to getting on the field with the DC Defenders in the XFL opening matchup next weekend. Then we go to New Orleans, where we catch up with Kicker Garrett Hartley. We talk about how Garret was signed by the Seattle Dragons, but released a few days later because the league would not clear him medically. Finally, we head of to Tulsa Oklahoma, and speak to XFLBoard.com Houston Roughnecks team reporter Mike Gambill. Mike is a school teacher, a football coach, and a huge fan of football. We hear Mike’s take on Team 9, the Roughnecks, and on the impending success of the league.

Music: Are You Ready – Free music archive.

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Is there a real QB controversy brewing in H-Town?

Houston Roughnecks Quarterbacks Phillip-Walker and Connor Cook
Houston Roughnecks Quarterbacks Phillip-Walker and Connor Cook

With the XFL season opening next week, most teams have settled on their final rosters and announced their starting quarterbacks for the opening week games.  This isn’t the case in Houston, where head coach June Jones hasn’t announced who the starting quarterback will be next week in the inaugural opener against the Los Angeles Wildcats.  This strategy may be nothing more than a tactic to force the Wildcats defensive staff to prepare for either P.J. Walker or Connor Cook and not know who will step up to lead the Roughnecks offense until the very last moment.  Another version could be the fact that Coach Jones likes both QB’s and hasn’t made a final decision, but this theory is not very likely; any football coach quickly knows who the proper “fit” is player-wise and move forward with developing a game scheme around personnel decisions.

The Houston Roughnecks are lucky to have two outstanding players at the QB position, both of whom are proven leaders and have plenty of talent to bring to the Roughnecks offense.  P.J. Walker came out of the Matt Rhule-led Temple program in college and was probably the greatest QB that school has ever seen, including American Athletic Conference championships and bowl game appearances.  Walker was a prolific passer and has the reputation of being a highly mobile style of quarterback — a key ingredient in the “Run N Shoot” offense favored by June Jones.  Connor Cook, on the other hand, was equally successful in college at Michigan State and led the Spartans to Big Ten championships and bowl game appearances in the Rose Bowl and a CFP semi final in the Cotton Bowl against Alabama.  Cook is a strong QB who has the ability to be a big-time playmaker and is best remembered for making his NFL starting debut in the playoffs with the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders.

June Jones obviously has to make a decision on which QB best fits into his offensive scheme.  Furthermore, every head coach has to pick a QB based on their leadership ability and their game management style.  Both Walker and Cook have proven that they are tested leaders in the college ranks and both have strong passing arms.

Who gets the final nod? When all else is equal it will probably be P.J. Walker who gets the starting nod next Saturday.

Does this mean that Connor Cook is a lesser choice?  Cook is a proven QB who stepped up like a true leader to intense pressure with his first NFL start in the postseason.  The reality is both players are talented QB’s and either of them will be successful in the XFL.  It’s now up to the head coach to decide who will start and who will be the backup QB in Houston.  Time and time again the NFL regular season has shown that every team must stock themselves with multiple, high quality QB’s who can step in and lead a team in an instant and the Houston Roughnecks have two great players to lead the offense next week

PJ Walker “EXPECTED” to be the Man in Houston

There is no official word yet, but XFL ESPN Insider Rachael Van Oranje is reporting, “A source tells me that PJ Walker is currently the starting Quarterback for the Houston Roughnecks… but that “Connor Cook is right there.” No official word yet, however.”

Well, it certainly is starting to feel like June Jones has his guy. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise. PJ Walker was the assigned Tier 1 Quarterback to Houston, and from what I have heard, unless Connor Cook far exceeded him during practices and training camp, Walker was always going to be the guy. In my opinion, what really set Walker apart from Cook was his mobility and willingness to run. Don’t get me wrong, PJ can sling it with the best of them, but in a brand new league, with guys that have never played together before, the Offensive Line is going to be a question mark. Because of this, I believe that Coach Jones wants to go with Walker, because he has a better chance at extending plays, especially if he is chased outside of the pocket.

Now, is this the right decision? Well, from a talent standpoint, both Walker and Cook have the capability of captaining this offense to a lot of points on the field. But I do believe that going with PJ Walker is the right decision, because I feel he gives you more of a dynamic from the quarterback position than Cook would. My only concern, is sometimes Walker can be a little careless with the football. His best year at Temple, where he finished with 3295 yards and 22 touchdowns, he also threw 13 interceptions. He finished with a 140.1 rating that year, which is excellent, but those 13 interceptions do stick out.

However, I still believe that PJ Walker can be a dynamic playmaker from the QB spot, especially in this offense, with these weapons. And if he can limit the turnovers, the sky is the limit for what should be one of the top 3, at least, offenses in the XFL.

Ten days out, and the XFL Houston Roughnecks starting QB is still a mystery

Quarterbacks P.J. Walker and Conner Cook
Quarterbacks P.J. Walker and Conner Cook

What’s up Roughnecks fans! Can you believe it? We are just 10 days away from kick-off at TDECU Stadium near Downtown Houston. Two years we have waited for this day to come, and now it is finally upon us. The Texans miserable loss is long forgotten, because a new face has come to town, and they are ready to hit the ground running. The XFL’s Houston Roughnecks are here, and they are ready to make a stand.

When you listen to podcasts, read predictions, or just simply look at the roster, you will realize that a lot of people are considering the Roughnecks among the top four teams in the league. Some consider them the best, others are very high on them, but almost no one thinks they will be the bottom of the barrel. And for good reason! Just look at their roster.

Let’s start with who I believe will be the BEST receiver in the league in Sammy Coates. The former Pittsburgh Steeler, and yes Houston Texan for a brief moment, is one of the most talented players in the league. His second year with the Steelers, he caught 21 passes for 435 yards and 2 TDs. You have to remember, he was playing with Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith Schuster, and a very talented receiving core. If you could stand out in that field, that’s saying something.

Andre Williams, running back out of Boston College and 2013 Heisman Finalist, finished his college career ranked 5th All-Time in NCAA history for rushing yards in a single season with 2,177 yards, can move the sticks and even be versatile in the passing game. Speaking of…

Let’s stick on the passing game. Head Coach June Jones, who if you remember, is a old Houston face, most notably for his time with the Houston Gamblers as their Wide Receivers coach in 1984, is one of the most pass happy coaches out there. His brand of offense revolves around passing the football all over the field. But in order to do that, you need a competent quarterback. It just so happens the Roughnecks have two. Now don’t get me wrong, that is a good problem to have. I’m a Houston Texans fan. For the longest time, I hoped we would at least get one. Before Deshaun Watson, we had guys like Tom Savage, Brock Osweiler, the list goes on. It wasn’t pretty to say the least. But now with the Roughnecks, Coach Jones has a dilemma. Before the Official Draft began, the XFL assigned a Tier 1 quarterback to each of the 8 teams. Houston was gifted PJ Walker, former Temple standout, who set all kinds of records during his time there. I was excited! I love Walker’s game. He is a good thrower of the football, he can scramble when need be, and he is just very athletic in every way. So I was totally on board with PJ as our starting QB.

Well, now the Draft has begun, and it’s the Roughnecks with the #2 overall pick. Who do they get? Connor Cook, who you will remember played at Michigan State, set records, won big games, and led the Spartans to a Big 10 Championship and the victory at the 2014 Rose Bowl. However, if you live in Houston, you most notably remember Connor Cook, as the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders against the Texans in the 2017 NFL Wild Card Playoff game. BUT, I want to caution people who think back to that game, and I want you to look at it from this perspective. Cook had NEVER started an NFL game up to that point. He wasn’t even expecting to start. But when Matt McGloin, now of the New York Guardians, got injured, he had to step in and take his place. So his very first NFL start came against, a Houston Texans defense, who that year ranked #2 overall in the league, led by Jadeveon Clowney, who was having a monster year. Not to mention, your first start coming the Playoffs, that can certainly be nerve wrecking. So I have always felt that Connor Cook never really got a fair shot at really being able to prove himself in the NFL.

But now that brings us to the Roughnecks. PJ Walker. Connor Cook. Not only both capable quarterbacks, but two guys, that if you ask me, have a shot to be the best quarterback in the XFL. Especially when you consider the system that they will be running with June Jones at the helm. And let’s not forget the weapons that will be at their disposal. However, the question remains, who do you go with? Well, as of right now, there is still no official word on who that week one starter will be. But I will tell you this. Whoever, Coach Jones decides to go with, we know they will thrive in this offense. I am excited to see what the Roughnecks bring to the field on February 8, because I can assure you, it will be a firework show.

Now, the question everyone wants answered. Who would I choose. Well… I would go with…

Taylor’s Snaps

Colton Taylor Virginia Tech
Colton Taylor Virginia Tech Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

From Virginia Tech to the Houston Roughnecks. The journey of Long Snapper Colton Taylor starts in Virginia.

During his tenure at Salem High School he lettered three times. Taylor was an invited walk-on for the Hokies. During his redshirt senior season in 2016, he appeared in all games for the Hokies. During his time at Virginia Tech, Taylor made numerous plays on Special Teams. While playing against West Virginia on a spectacular punt that took a friendly roll Taylor darted after the ball and recovered it inside the five of the West Virginia. This was one of many plays that Taylor made during his time at Virginia Tech.

His same athleticism has transitioned over now to his time with the Roughnecks. After being drafted by the Houston Roughnecks in the inaugural XFL Draft, he has spent time with his fellow specialists. They have formed a unique bond. Kicker Sergio Castillo and Taylor have continued to work on their timing. Taylor continues to show why he played and started at Virginia Tech. Each snap that I’ve seen has been on target.

During the Roughnecks scrimmage against the LA Wildcats, Taylor was part of the reason why the Roughnecks got points on certain drives. As Taylor hiked the ball, punter Austin Rehkow held the ball and Castillo was successful on his field goals.

Taylor is constantly trying to improve his game and is very humble. Taylor appreciates all the support.

Be sure to catch him and the Roughnecks in action on Saturday, February 8, 2020. Kick-off is set for 4 p.m. CT from TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas. If you can’t make the game, watch the game live on FOX.

LA Wildcats claw the Roughnecks in XFL test game

Photo: Justin Kelm

The Houston Roughnecks battled the LA Wildcats on Tuesday, January 21 at TDECU Stadium in Houston.

The Roughnecks came out with the typical June Jones explosive offense. Kicker #7 Sergio Castillo blasted two successful field goals. Perfect snaps from Long Snapper #58 Colten Taylor made it easy for Castillo to connect on a 47 yard field goal. This is nothing new as Castillo was an CFL All-Star last season in BC.

The scoring went in favor of the Roughnecks during the first half. Connor Cook found Kahlil Lewis for the 82 yard score. The Roughnecks bench exploded with cheers. At the half, the score was 18 to 8.

The third quarter begun with the Wildcats coming out seeking a comeback. The comeback came with numerous plays made by Quarterback Chad Kanoff. He found Wide Receivers Kermit Whitfield and Saeed Blacknall for the scores. The Wildcats attempted for a two point conversion attempt and it was successful. The score was 20 to 18 and the Wildcats took the lead.

The Roughnecks continued to fight back but the lead continued to grow. The Wildcats went up 23 to 18 as the final portion of regulation was complete. Penalties caused issues for both teams all game.

Going into the Overtime portion of the game, the Roughnecks needed five points to clearly win the game if this was a regular game. Neither team scored until the fourth attempt when the Roughnecks scored. Each team was given five attempts each to score one point for a successful conversion. The Wildcats did not convert on any of them. The Roughnecks won the Overtime portion 1 to 0.

The Roughnecks will host the Wildcats for the Regular Season Opener of the XFL on Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 4 p.m. on FOX.

Houston Roughnecks 2020

On a cool morning in Houston, Texas the Houston Roughnecks welcomed fans and media to see what all the hype was about. The Roughnecks were set to battle the Tampa Bay Vipers. Being a University of Houston alumnus it was nice to see my University be the host of a Professional football team.

The Houston Roughnecks are led by legendary Head Coach June Jones. Jones has spent time at all levels of football, most recently in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Both rosters were full of former NFL players looking at getting another shot. Wide Receiver #10 Sammie Coates is a name many should know. Coates was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2015 Draft.

When asked about what it meant to be in the XFL, Coates stated “It’s a blessing and I am happy to be here.”

While in the NFL, Coates has 29 receptions for 528 yards and 2 Touchdowns.

Quarterback’s Connor Cook and PJ Walker also looked great. Walker is a name known by many in Houston. He played in college at Temple and battled the University of Houston numerous times throughout his collegiate career.

On defense, Defensive Back Robert Nelson looks to continue his professional career. He is also happy to be back in Houston.

The Special Teams unit also looks to be on point. The Roughnecks have 2019 CFL All-Star Kicker Sergio Castillo who adds depth and experience. Long Snapper Colton Taylor, a Virginia Tech alum continues to impress with his ability to do more than just snap the ball, and punter Austin Rehkow can boot the ball far and pin the opposing team deep.

This team is full of good players and I can’t wait to see them in action on Saturday, February 8 as they host the LA Wildcats.

Running Back James Butler is picked up by the XFL Houston Roughnecks

On January 8th, the Houston Roughnecks announced the addition of running back James Butler to their roster.

A native of Wheaton, Illinois, and a graduate of the St. Francis High School football program, Butler started his college career playing for the University of Nevada Wolfpack. In Nevada, he was named All-Mountain West honorable mention in 2015 and 2016 and earned his team’s Outstanding Offensive Player Award in 2016. In his time at Nevada, he had two 1,000-yard seasons and rushed for 3,316 yards and 27 touchdowns, in addition to hauling in 49 passes for 438 yards and three more TDs.

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After a stellar career at Nevada, Butler transferred to Iowa for his senior season and was a backup. He had 91 rushes for 396 yards and a touchdown.

After College, Butler landed in the Oakland Raiders organization, playing in the pre-season and then relegated to the practice roster, despite showing brilliance when he was put on the field.

In 2019, in a bid to get actual playing time, Butler went to the pre-season training camp of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. When he was waived by the Roughriders, he wound up returning to the Raider’s practice roster.

In a span of two seasons, Butler was cut four times by the Raiders. They must have liked something about him, because they kept bringing him back.  It seems there was wide interest in his football skills, but Butler was looking for on-field playing time.

This is when the XFL came into the picture.

Butler was recently in Green Bay airport, returning from a workout with the Packers, when he received the call from the XFL.

“I was in Green Bay when I got the call and I was like in the Green Bay airport and they, they were like, can we get you on a flight tomorrow? And I wasn’t even back in Chicago yet.”

On the 8th of January, the Houston Roughnecks reported that Butler had been added to their training camp roster.

Soon after joining the Roughnecks, Butler began to enjoy the type of offence they were building.

“It was a different offence. It reminded me a lot of the offense they ran in Nevada, like a true spread offence,” he explained. “I was talking to coach Estes and he was saying you’re not going to see a lot of eight, nine-man boxes in this kind of offence.”

“I would say this is a pass-first team,” Butler said. “But, incorporates a lot of that with run, so I like it. It’s different. It really utilizes a running back’s talents.”

Despite the intriguing nature of the offensive scheme, and since cut down day is fast approaching, Butler’s main incentive is to make the team.  His motivation even extends to making any XFL roster at this point in time.

“Any roster, honestly,” he clarified.

It’s not just Butler who is pulling for himself to be successful in this league. Back in Illinois, Pat Calcagno the coach of Butler’s former high school team is also pulling for him.

We hope Butler’s hard-working attitude carries him into the regular season of the XFL.

To hear the entire interview with Jame Butler, check out the XFL Xtra Podcast – Episode 20
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