The future of the New York Guardians in XFL 3.0

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

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

REVIEW, RESET & REASSESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BUBBLE

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

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

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

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

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

STADIUM

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

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

THE TEAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XFL Players signed to NFL Squads

With COVID-19 paralyzing the majority of the sports world, NFL Free Agency has been the main focus of sports fanatics across the country for the last week. Included in that are twelve XFL players who have agreed to NFL contracts at the time of this article.

After the NFL and XFL finally allowed XFL players to make the jump officially on Monday, the best of the XFL have been leaping at the chance to make their mark on the National Football League.

Here are the players from each team that have signed to NFL contracts:

  1. Houston: QB PJ Walker to the Carolina Panthers
  2. Houston:LB DeMarquis Gates to the Minnesota
  3. Houston: CB Deatrick Nichols to the New Orleans Saints
  4. St. Louis: QB Jordan Ta’amu to the Kansas City Chiefs
  5. NY: S Dravon Askew-Henry to the New York Giants
  6. NY: DE Cavon Walker to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  7. NY: OT Jarron Jones to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  8. Dallas: TE Donald Parham to the LA Chargers
  9. Dallas: LS Christian Kuntz to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  10. DC: TE Khari Lee to the Atlanta Falcons
  11. DC: S Tyree Kinnel to the Pittsburgh Steelers
  12. TB: LS Nick Moore to the Baltimare Ravens

PJ Walker signed the most lucrative contract we know of so far, agreeing to a two year $1,565,000 contract with a $150,000 signing bonus.

Jordan Ta’amu will back up NFL superstar and Super Bowl Champion Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, giving the Chiefs a viable backup option who can slide right into the offense if Mahomes is out. This was an emphasis for the Chiefs in the offseason after Mahomes missed two games during the 2019 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed the most XFL players to NFL contracts, bringing 4 XFL athletes to the Steel City. These players are Cavon Walker, Jarron Jones, Christian Kuntz and Tyree Kinnel. Pittsburgh brings the XFL sack leader, a versatile DB in Kinnel and two players in Kuntz and Jones who have played on both sides of the ball in their pro football careers.

While twelve players have made the jump, stars such as Cam Phillips, Josh Johnson, Cardale Jones, and many more XFL standouts have yet to agree to XFL contracts. Look for these players and others to sign NFL deals after the draft, which was recently confirmed by Roger Goodell to be held April 23-25.

In the meantime, with a move that impressed the sports world, the XFL will pay all players their full contracts, even though the 2020 season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 viral pandemic. Even those twelve players who have agreed to NFL contracts will likely not sign officially until after the NFL draft in order to receive their full financial compensation from the XFL.

So, while you are in quarantine or self-isolation, check out some NFL free agency news or maybe re-watch an old XFL game. In a time where the news is not always good, take solace in the people who after months and years of hard work, will now get a shot at their dream: playing in the National Football League.

New York Guardians XFL 2020 Season Recap: A look back at the Guardians season and what might have been

New York Guardians cornerback Jamar Summers. (Credit: XFL.com)

Every XFL team has faced this dilemma in the last few days since their regular seasons were suspended due to the worldwide pandemic known as (COVID-19).  The fans and teams are left to wonder what might have been and what was still to come. The only thing that remains, for now, is what was.

The New York Guardians finished the regular season in a three-way tie for first place in the East, along with the DC Defenders and St. Louis BattleHawks. All three teams were standing at 3-2, with half a season left to go.

New York was set to face off with the undefeated 5-0 Houston Roughnecks this past weekend on their home field, a place where the Guardians had yet to lose. There were three remaining divisional games left for New York to play. The Guardians had destiny in their own hands after appearing to be completely lost just a few short weeks ago.

How the Guardians got to 3-2, and this position is where the story lies.

After three weeks, the Guardians looked like the most fractured franchise in the entire league. Two consecutive blowout losses to division foes, DC and STL, plus a lack of discipline and division within the team, led to Kevin Gilbride confessing on the sidelines to his star receiver Mekale McKay, that he had misread the team, and had chosen the wrong leaders. Gilbride was looking for others to step up.

In a ten-game season with very little time to reflect and reset, Kevin Gilbride did just that. He took command of the team and turned to new leadership in his locker room. By seasons-end, New York was a completely different team off the field and on. A big credit goes to Kevin Gilbride and his coaching staff, in recognizing the issue and correcting the teams’ course in mid-stream.

The first leader emerging from the ashes was Quarterback Luis Perez. The Guardians had traded for Perez from the LA Wildcats at the tail-end of training camp in January. Perez went from being the Wildcats assigned starting quarterback to a third-stringer with New York.

Luis Perez picked up G.A. Mangus and his offensive scheme quickly and got to work. No player stabilized the New York Guardians season more than Perez. He brought balance and calm to the franchise. Perez, in his first start at Quarterback, exacted revenge on the team that initially anointed him as their starter. The Guardians back home defeated the explosive Josh Johnson led LA Wildcats 17-14.

New York Guardians quarterback Luis Perez rallies the squad. (Credit: XFL.com)

The following week in Dallas, with Luis Perez back at the controls, he gave his team this speech before the game.

“Our season can go two ways right now, Up or Down. Today’s the day we turn it around. Obsession to detail,  play in, and play out. Do your job, trust the guy next to you, and I promise you, we will come out victorious.”

    • New York Guardians Quarterback Luis Perez addressing his teammates before the start of their game against the Dallas Renegades.

The Guardians took their next step forward, delivering their best overall team performance of the entire season in a 30-12 victory over the Dallas Renegades. The offense produced nearly 400 yards. The Guardian’s defense and special teams continued their run of making game-changing big-plays.

New York had turned their entire season around. After the back to back victories. At the midway point of their campaign, Gilbride had found his new leaders and the Guardians announced their 2020 Team Captains publicly.

At seasons-end, The New York Guardians looked like a legit contender to be playing for a championship in Houston on April 26th.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the team:

NEW YORK GUARDIANS OFFENSE

New York boasted a strong multi-headed backfield with tackle-breaking runners in Darius Victor/Tim Cook, and had begun incorporating the 4.3 speedster Justin Stockton into the mix with success. Highly respected Running Backs Coach Jerald Ingram was at the controls of yet another talented group.

The Guardian’s offensive line under Ronnie Vinklarek had stabilized after some early issues. New York had retooled their depth up front with the acquisition of players like Derek Dennis. Guard Anthony Coyle was named to the Official All-XFL team. The offensive line was playing better as a whole after the continuity of playing half a season together. Tackles John Kling and Jaron Jones were very consistent. Center Ian Silberman brought a lot of tenacity and toughness to the team. Sometimes too much, but he was a force on the inside.

The Guardian’s passing attack was the team’s biggest weakness early on. G.A. Mangus and WR Coach Mike Miller had some early issues to deal with. Thanks to Luis Perez and New York getting healthier at the receiver position. The sky was the limit with the potential of Mekale McKay, Colby Pearson, Tanner Gentry, and the returning DeAngelo Yancey being at full force.

At Tight End. EJ Bibbs was mister everything. He contributed as a lead blocker in the run game, playing multiple positions. Jake Powell was starting to emerge as a receiver and developed good chemistry with Luis Perez. The Guardians got selfless play from this group with talented young players like Jake Sutherland.

NEW YORK GUARDIANS SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Matthew McCrane and Punter Justin Vogel were clutch all season long. They were difference-makers, especially in New York’s second win of the season versus LA. The Guardians wouldn’t have won that game without them performing at a high level. The Guardians had also uncovered an explosive returner in Justin Stockton, to strengthen the overall unit further. Linebacker and Special Teams Captain Frank Ginda led the charge for New York. Jeff McInerney and Ray Rychleski were a great tandem in coaching up special teams and assisting the team in other areas as well.

(Credit: XFL.com)

NEW YORK GUARDIANS DEFENSE

The New York Guardians’ defense was a bright spot all season long. Experienced long time defensive assistant Jim Herrmann did a great job coordinating the entire group.

A big key to the Guardians’ defensive success was their fantastic young secondary. They were coached by former NFL All-Pro Chris Dishman.

Cornerback Jamar Summers played as advertised. The second-highest graded corner in the AAF by Pro Football Focus was stellar from week one. No penalties, no touchdowns allowed in five games, and made game-changing plays in New York’s two victories at home against the Vipers and Wildcats.

The Guardians secondary also got terrific play from Dravon-Askew Henry. A corner/safety hybrid from West Virginia, who was stellar in coverage and in tackling. Week after week, Askew-Henry forced incompletions by opposing passers. He led the XFL against Dallas with five pass-breakups.

Not to be outdone was CB Ranthony Texada. The TCU standout, shut down opposing receivers all season. In week 4, Texada played 35 coverage snaps against LA, without allowing a single yard.

Safeties A.J. Hendy and Andrew Soroh provided excellent smarts, toughness, and leadership. Hendy was the team’s sheriff in their secondary.

The New York Guardians’ front seven also raised its level of play to match their stellar secondary. Two young players who emerged were defensive linemen Bunmi Rotimi and Cavon Walker.

New York boasted three mountain men defensive tackles with NFL experience in TJ Barnes, Toby Johnson, and Joey Mbu, but it was Walker and Rotimi that were consistent disrupters for opposing teams offenses.

Former NFL defensive linemen C.J. Ah-You deserves a lot of credit for coaching up a very young and unproven group of players. An assist in uncovering these gems also goes to the Guardian’s front office of Alan “Trip” MacCracken, John Peterson, Chris Thompson, and Evan Ostrow.

Bunmi Rotimi was one of the league’s very best-run defenders. He took up real estate in opposing teams backfields all season long. Rotimi also led all edge rushers in hurries (18).  Cavon Walker led the league with 4.5 sacks in five games. Defensive End Jarrell Owens also started to emerge, his two sacks in week 4 helped lead NY to victory.

Defensive Captain Linebacker Ben Heeney led the team in tackles, and the Guardians linebacking corps with D’Juan Hines, Frank Ginda and tweener Ryan Mueller, were an extremely active group. The ability of these players to play every down against the run and the pass was one of the keys to New York’s success on defense. Assistant Kevin Kelly coached up this unit very well.

SEASON ENDING AWARDS

  • OFFENSIVE TEAM MVP: QUARTERBACK LUIS PEREZ
  • DEFENSIVE TEAM MVP: CORNERBACK JAMAR SUMMERS
  • SPECIAL TEAMS MVP: KICKER MATTHEW MCCRANE

FINAL SUMMARY

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be writing this in mid-March. Part of me is still in denial. A promising and exciting climax of the XFL season denied to these players, coaches, and fans.

The New York Guardians were going to have an uphill battle to make the playoffs, based on the numbers. Despite having two home games against division foes, STL and DC, in weeks 8 and 9. Based on net touchdowns from all games and total points in head to head matchups. (The #2 and #3 tie-breakers after head to head) The Guardians would have had a hard time breaking ties if they had finished the season with the same record as the Defenders or BattleHawks.

A 4-1 finish to get to 7-3, might have been what was required. The entire XFL 2020 season is a “What might have been” scenario.

One things for sure. The New York Guardians were headed in the right direction as one of the league’s better teams. One may never know what could have become of the season, and we may not know what’s to come, but the New York Guardians plan to be back on duty in 2021.

Until 2021! (Credit: XFL.com)

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

“Our season can go two ways right now, Up or Down. Today’s the day we turn it around. Obsession to detail,  play in and play out. Do your job, trust the guy next to you and I promise you, we will come out victorious”

    • New York Guardians Quarterback Luis Perez addressing his teammates before the start of their game against the Dallas Renegades.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XFL Week 5 Preview: New York Guardians at Dallas Renegades

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

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

Game Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

Injuries

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

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

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

Matchup: The Guardians offense versus the Renegades defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matchup: The Guardians defense versus the Renegades offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Summary/Prediction

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

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

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

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

Renegades 20 Guardians 12

XFL Week 5 Power Rankings

Four weeks are in the books, and just when you thought you had it all figured out, we have another week where the league shakes up again. The XFL has parity and that is a wonderful thing. At this point, I can honestly say, no team is truly out of it, and while we may have a pretty good idea at who the #1 seed for each conference will be, that race for the #2 seed is going to be interesting and exciting as the season progresses. But for now, let’s look at where we stand heading into Week 5.

8. DC Defenders (2-2) Last Week (4)

Yes, they are 2-2. Yes, I still believe in this team. Yes, I would still pick them over New York and Tampa Bay to grab that #2 seed. But, nobody has looked worse these past two weeks than the DC Defenders. I mean they have looked BAD. At least when Tampa Bay was looking rough those first two weeks, they were at least moving the ball downfield. Their issue was they just couldn’t get into the endzone. DC however, they can’t even move the ball downfield. Every time their offense took the field Sunday night, I had absolutely no confidence in them whatsoever. The real problem though is, neither did they. Their body language was one of defeat, and Pep Hamilton has got a huge test in front of him. We shall see if he can rally his troops, because if he can’t, DC has a shot to end up last in the East. They head back home this weekend, so that should help things, but they face a major test in the St. Louis Battlehawks. And if they play like they have the past two weeks, it is going to get ugly fast. They sit at no. 8.

7. Seattle Dragons (1-3) Last Week (6)

Welcome to the league BJ Daniels. Unfortunately, it took Jim Zorn all the way up until halftime of Week 4 to realize that BJ Daniels was his best option at quarterback. I was tempted to put Seattle a little higher, because they almost upset a really good team in the Battlehawks, but ultimately, I have to see more. And they face a big test this weekend in the undefeated Roughnecks, so we will see what this Dragons team with Daniels at the helm really looks like. From what I saw from the 2nd half on Saturday night though, I am really intrigued to see what this team can do. Now that Daniels will be getting starting reps, and they can form a game plan around his strengths, we will see how serious this team can be in making a run. Their defense is still as solid as ever, and they kept Seattle in that game against St. Louis. But it’s going to come down to the Dragons offense scoring points and not turning the football over. If they can start to do that, they will have a shot. For now, they sit at no. 7.

6. Los Angeles Wildcats (1-3) Last Week (5)

Consistency. Consistency! C’mon guys! This team has the talent. This team has the star power. This team has the weapons. But they can’t seem to string together consecutive strong performances. Even within the same game. They look good one drive. They look lost the next. Their defense makes a huge stop. Their defense allows a big play. What is this team? I know what they can be. They can be the team that absolutely destroyed the Defenders last week. But for some reason, some weeks, they would rather be the team that played Saturday afternoon. I get that it was cold. I also understand that Nelson Spruce, their leading receiver, was out. But they had their chances, and they just couldn’t capitalize. They play a much improved Vipers team at home this weekend, so we will see if they can get back on track. For now, they sit at no. 6.

5. New York Guardians (2-2) Last Week (8)

Turns out, they didn’t need to “change the entire game plan”, they just needed to change the quarterback. Now, Matt McGloin was out with a injury, but they would be crazy not to go back to Luis Perez. Perez had that offense moving the best it had all season, and the most important thing is, they didn’t turn the football over. Perez isn’t going to light it up on the stat sheet, but honestly, with this team, their offense just needs to be serviceable and turnover free. Their defense is good enough to get the job done, and if their offense can now play clean football and score enough, this team could make a serious run at that #2 seed. Their defense can create takeaways, as they did Saturday, and they will give this offense chances to capitalize. They play Dallas this weekend, who won’t have Landry Jones, so we shall see what they can do. They sit at no. 5.

4. Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3) Last Week (7)

Here come the Vipers! This is the Vipers team we thought we were going to get at the beginning of the season. Well, better late than never I guess. This team has found its identity on offense, and that is pounding the rock. They not only provided the XFL with their first 100 yard rusher, they also provided them with their second. Both Smith and Patrick were phenomenal Sunday night against the Defenders, and the Vipers brought the fight to DC on all levels. Defense, offense, and special teams were all clicking, and the East should be terrified, because this team has all the potential. Cornelius looked good, and as long as he isn’t turning the football over, he should improve week by week. I do wish that they would use Quinton Flowers, but with Flowers requesting for a trade, it seems that that ship has sailed. But nevertheless, this team can hang with the best of them as we have seen the past two weeks. Hopefully they can continue this momentum, because if they can, that #2 seed is ripe for the taking. For now, they sit at no. 4.

3. Dallas Renegades (2-2) Last Week (3)

Thank God Landry Jones’ injury was not as serious as first thought to be. He should be back Week 7 it seems like, so if Phillip Nelson can just hold down the ship until then, the Renegades should be okay. This team is for real. Landry Jones turned the football over three, THREE times…..in the 1st quarter. Yet, they still only lost by one possession, with a real chance to tie or take the lead at the end. Yes, they need to limit the turnovers, but this team is good, and it all starts with their running game. Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar have done an excellent job moving the chains and making plays when nothing else seems to be open. Donald Parham continues to be a beast, and this defense doesn’t get enough credit for how good they are. They held that high powered Houston offense to just 21 points, which is excellent when you consider that they went into that game averaging 33 points a game. Hopefully Jones can make a quick recovery, because this team to me is the clear favorite right now to take that #2 seed in the West. They sit at no. 3.

2. St. Louis BattleHawks (3-1) Last Week (2)

Nothing has changed at the top of the East. That still belongs to the BattleHawks, whose only blemish this season comes against the undefeated Roughnecks, on the road, in a game they could have won. This team is so good, and it all starts with their fantastic head coach Jonathan Hayes. He has this team in a great position to succeed, and his belief and confidence in his players has really shown through. Jordan Ta’amu continues to be a star every single week, making plays with his arm and legs, and the most impressive thing about him is his quick decision making. He protects the football, and he trust his receivers to make plays in the open field. Pierson-El has done just that, and he is quickly becoming a breakout star as well. Of course, you still have Matt Jones, Keith Ford, and Christine Michael holding down that running game, and this defense is the best in the league. I don’t see anyone slowing down this team, and they might roll into DC and crush their season this Sunday. This team is awesome, but they are still no. 2.

1. Houston Roughnecks (4-0) Last Week (1)

Because the Houston Roughnecks have still not tasted defeat. This team is impressive on so many levels. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The Houston offense is unstoppable. You can maybe slow them down a bit, but as long as PJ Walker is under center, you are not shutting them down. Four weeks now, and it’s pretty clear, PJ Walker is the BEST quarterback in the XFL. He is phenomenal! Whether it’s throwing passes like the one he finessed to Nick Holley on the sideline, that was just BEAUTIFUL. Or if he’s running over defenders and knocking them down like he did Sunday afternoon. He has been magical, and there is no stopping him. Now, Dallas’ defense was able to shut down Cam Phillips, but other guys stepped up. Like I mentioned before, Nick Holley was one of those guys, but you also had Khalil Lewis, Sam Mobley, Sammie Coates, and James Butler and Andre Williams all made contributions Sunday afternoon. But again, we already know how good their offense is. But their defense has been suspect this season. They give up a lot of yards, they give up a lot of points, but give them credit, because they somehow ALWAYS come up with a big play. And Sunday afternoon, they came up with a bunch of them. Four interceptions total, five total takeaways, and none greater than the one that sealed the game by Gates at the goal line. Dallas was fixing to punch it in to possibly tie or take the lead, and De Marquise Gates made an excellent interception to seal the game, by never letting that ball off of Nagel’s hands touch the ground. It was spectacular. The defense has sealed the past three wins with game saving interceptions. At some point, that might not be the case, but the point has not come. So they are still the best team in the XFL.

XFL Week 4 – Players of the Week – “Fan’s Choice” by XFLBoard.com

Taylor Cornelius (Tampa Bay Vipers), Deatrick Nichols (Houston Roughnecks), Edmond Robinson (Houston Roughnecks), Matt McCrane (New York Guardians)

Welcome to our Week 4 XFL “Players of the Week” results. Voting began immediately at the completion of the final game on Sunday. We gathered over 2,900 votes before the closing of polls at Noon Eastern on Tuesday 3 March 2020. We thank all who voted!

Fans were asked to nominate any player they deemed worthy of the honor, in four categories: Offensive, defensive, lineman, and special teams.

Winners below are based on the number of votes received for each player.

 

YouTube video

Offensive Player of the Week: Taylor Cornelius, QB, Tampa Bay Vipers

Tampa Bay quarterback Taylor Cornelius went 23 for 31 passes, for 211 yards and only one interception to rally his Vipers to their first win of the season.

Fan comments:

  • Cornelius sacrificed his body to get the job done. Player of the week! (Anonymous)
  • Corndog did what nobody else could do. He’s a keeper. (XFL Fan)
  • Gave his team the boost needed to get a whole team effort and the win. (PeterH)

Honorable Mentions

  • Jordon Ta’amu, QB, St. Louis BattleHawks
  • De’Veon Smith, RB, Tampa Bay Vipers
  • Jacques Patrick, RB, Tampa Bay Vipers

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Deatrick Nichols, CB, Houston Roughnecks

Houston Roughnecks cornerback Deatrick Nichols made two interceptions, inspiring his squad to march past the Renegades in a 27-20 win.

Fan comments:

  • Two picks made the day for the Roughnecks (rSpinks)
  • He read Landry Jones mind, picked him off with ease. (XFL is the best)
  • Nichols made picking off Landry Jones look easy. (Anonymous)

Honorable Mention

  • Jamar Summers, CB, New York Guardians
  • Cody Brown, S, Houston Roughnecks

 

Lineman of the Week: Edmond Robinson, LB, Houston Roughnecks

The bane of Landry Jones, Robinson gained the sack and then scooped up the fumbled football and rumbled into the end zone.

Fan comments:

  • Dual threat. Sack, scoop and score. (Anonymous)
  • Made Landry Jones wish he had never set foot on the field. (XFL Linebacker)
  • Robinson did it all. He sacked and he scored. (Anonymous)

Honorable Mention

  • Steven Johnson, LB, Seattle Dragons
  • Beniquez Brown, LB, Houston Roughnecks
  • Greer Martini, LB, Dallas Renegades

 

Kicker Matt McCrane with his magic boot. LA Wildcats At NY Guardians
Kicker Matt McCrane with his magic boot. LA Wildcats At NY Guardians 29 Feb 2020 – Credit Adam McCullough

Special Teams Player of the Week: Matt McCrane, K, New York Guardians

Kicker Matt McCrane went 3-3 with field goals from the 51, 23, and 47 yds in a blustery MetLife Stadium to give New York enough points to ensure a much needed victory.

Fan comments:

  • 3-3, with longest over 50 yards. Good enough for a win. (Anonymous)
  • Never missed. Gave th (Stephen Q.)
  • First kickoff return for a TD in XFL history deserves this honor. (Anonymous)

Honorable mention:

  • Taylor Russolino, St. Louis BattleHawks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-game Quotes

Los Angeles Wildcats Head Coach, Winston Moss

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

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

Los Angeles Wildcats Quarterback, Josh Johnson

On playing consistent football and getting back on track:

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

New York Guardians Head Coach, Kevin Gilbride:

On the win:

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

On Quarterback Luis Perez:

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

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

New York Guardians Quarterback, Luis Perez:

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

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

His personal assessment of his first start:

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

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

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

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

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

On the incompletion to McKay:

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

On the crowd support:

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

On facing his former team:

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

On keeping the momentum going into next week:

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

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

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

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

Game Overview

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

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

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

Injuries

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

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

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

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

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

Matchup: The Guardians offense versus the Wildcats defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matchup: The Guardians defense versus the Wildcats offense

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

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

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

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

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

Final Summary/Prediction

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

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

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

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

Wildcats 23 Guardians 15