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Fast Start: How Dallas Beats Houston

In order for the Dallas Renegades to pull off the upset against the undefeated Houston Roughnecks on Sunday, the offense has to get off to a fast start.

Dallas Renegades Tight End Donald Parham (Credit: XFL.com)

The last time Dallas Renegade fans saw their team at Globe Life Park, the offense didn’t have Landry Jones at quarterback, the team struggled to put a touchdown drive, and the defense allowed almost 200 yards rushing. Things hopefully will go differently as they take on the only undefeated team in the XFL, the Houston Roughnecks.

Dallas’ defense will have the unfortunate task to containing Houston’s star quarterback PJ Walker. Walker’s playmaking ability is similar to the skill sets that St. Louis BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu displayed against Dallas’ defense in week one. Houston receiver Cam Phillips provides matchup nightmares for the Dallas secondary. The Dallas defense will have to focus on running back James Butler who can make an impact running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. With the high powered offense coming into Arlington on Sunday, how can Dallas defend their turf? Simple, get off to a fast start.

Dallas’ biggest flaw is their lack of fast starts to games. They have not scored more than six points in the first half in any of their first three games. Landry Jones has played a role in their slow starts as he has thrown two interceptions in his first two starts. Their running game led by Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar have not typically found their stride until about the fourth quarter. Defensively, the unit has always kept their offense in the game, but the offense hasn’t always been there to finish the job. Why is a slow start a problem? Because Houston is the complete opposite.

The Roughnecks are well known in the first three weeks to come out firing in the first half. A lot of that has to do with the big play ability that Walker and company can deliver. They’ve had all their three games produce multiple 20 plus yard touchdowns. Most of the damage has been done by Walker and Phillips. Walker’s ability to use his legs to get out of trouble and throw on the run makes him the best quarterbacks in the XFL.

Dallas will need to respond to that by getting off to a fast start and utilize their Air Raid offense to create explosive plays. The team has receivers that are fast enough to burn any corner in the league. Tight end Donald Parham has already proven to be a deep threat for Jones as he caught a pass last week against Seattle that went for over 60 yards for a touchdown. Those are the type of plays Dallas needs. The issue has come up with Jones not being as accurate with his deep ball passes through the last two weeks. Offensive coordinator Hal Mumme has to come out of the gates with his play calling. He must call deep passes early to get Jones going and even if it ends with no catch, at least try to force the pass interference penalty to gain a chunk of yards.

The Renegades shouldn’t forget their running backs though. Both Artis-Payne and Dunbar have been used a lot in the passing game on short passes and screen passes for the most part. Opening up the running game with them though could go a long way. Their running game usually doesn’t pick up steam until late in the third quarter or fourth quarter. They need it to open up early and often. It’s tough since the identity of this offense is usually passing the ball, but they have the running backs to have one of the best rushing attacks in the league. Mumme needs to take advantage of the talented running backs and run the ball.

Field goals are nice for the team to have, but if the Renegades are unable to score touchdowns in the first two quarters against Houston, it could end up being a long day for the team.

As a former morning sports anchor at KGNC 710 AM in Amarillo, TX and a former TV news reporter at KFDX in Wichita Falls, TX and KXII in Sherman, TX, I have a passion for all things sports (specifically football and basketball). The new look XFL got my attention as a spring football league that can work. I look forward to writing about all things XFL Dallas and covering it for the upcoming 2020 season.

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