How XFL 2020 players fared in the NFL in 2022 (part two)

This is part two of my two-part look at how XFL 2020 players performed in the NFL in 2022, and where they stand heading into 2023. Part one can be found here. This part will focus on players from teams that made the playoffs, as well as those players who were on active rosters/practice squads in 2022 but did not end the season on a roster.

RB Godwin Igwebuike, Seattle Seahawks
RB Godwin Igwebuike, Seattle Seahawks (Seahawks.com)

RB Godwin Igwebuike, Seattle Seahawks (Seattle Dragons)

In 2022: Unlike most other practice squadders on this list, Igwebuike didn’t sign immediately after final cuts. It took until the end of September for the Seahawks to bring him back after he spent training camp with them. He was released a month later and re-signed to the practice squad in early November. In Week 14, Igwebuike made his season debut with running backs Ken Walker II and DeeJay Dallas out injured. He was a standard practice squad elevation for three games before being signed to the active roster for Weeks 17 and 18. In five games, Igwebuike rushed three times for four yards, caught one pass for three yards, and returned 11 kicks for a 28.0 average. That average would’ve been good for third in the NFL if he had enough returns to qualify. Igwebuike also made four tackles on special teams.

What PFF tells us: Most of Igwebuike’s playing time came on special teams, and he proved to be one of Seattle’s core-four special teamers over the final five weeks. He had 25 snaps on kick returns, 22 on kick coverage, 23 on punt return and 20 on punt coverage. His special teams grade was a healthy 77.6. Igwebuike played just five snaps offensively, garnering a 66.4 grade.

2023 outlook: Travis Homer and Rashaad Penny, both of whom ended the season on injured reserve, are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Walker and Dallas seem entrenched as the 1-2 combo at running back for Seattle moving forward. Igwebuike is an exclusive rights free agent in the offseason. I’d expect Seattle to tender him and for him to compete for a job with Tony Jones (who was also on and off Seattle’s roster this year) and perhaps a free agent signee or rookie. Igwebuike’s special teams ability could help him stay on the fringes of the NFL.

Donald Parham, San Diego Chargers
Donald Parham, San Diego Chargers

TE Donald Parham, Los Angeles Chargers (Dallas Renegades)

In 2022: Injuries once again proved a bugaboo for Parham in 2022. Recovered from a serious head injury suffered on the field late in the 2021 season, Parham was felled in early August by a hamstring during training camp. That kept him out of the first four regular season games. He returned to play in Weeks 5 and 6 but suffered another injury, again to his hamstring, landing him on injured reserve. He was activated and played the last four weeks of the regular season. In LA’s playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Parhams saw a season-high number of targets (five) and receptions (four). He finished the year with 10 receptions on 12 targets for 130 yards and a touchdown.

What PFF tells us: Parham played 144 snaps on the season, increasing his workload game-by-game and maxing out with 35 snaps in Week 18. Two-thirds of his snaps came in the traditional in-line TE position, while 20% of his snaps had him lined up in the slot to take advantage of the mismatches his height/athleticism combo would provide in coverage. Parham’s overall season grade was 79.1. In the pass game, he had a strong 85.7 grade; his weakest area was in pass blocking, registering a 44.9. Only 13 of his 144 snaps asked him to pass block, however.

2023 outlook: Starting TE Gerald Everett is under contract for 2023 and Parham hasn’t shown enough yet to make Everett a potential cap casualty (his cap number doubles next season). Richard Rodgers, who ended the season on I.R., is a free agent, giving Parham a path to a backup job – if LA tenders him as a restricted free agent. Tre McKitty, a third-round pick of the Chargers in 2021, is looming. He played all 17 games in 2022 and if LA feels he has developed enough and is more reliable than the oft-injured Parham, they may decide to go with him as the backup.

Storm Norton- Los Angeles Chargers
Storm Norton, Los Angeles Chargers.

OT Storm Norton, Los Angeles Chargers (Los Angeles Wildcats)

In 2022: It was a precipitous fall for Norton in 2022. He went from competing with Trey Pipkins for the starting right tackle job in training camp to being a weekly healthy inactive by the end of the year. Initially the team’s swing tackle, Norton eventually fell behind 2021 undrafted free agent Foster Sarrell and sixth-round rookie Jamaree Salyer for playing time. The Chargers even elevated a practice squad offensive tackle to play over Norton late in the season. Norton played 12 games in 2022 but was a healthy scratch in the final four weeks, leading some to believe the Chargers had finally given up on Norton.

What PFF tells us: Norton played 85 offensive snaps, 13 of them coming as an extra offensive lineman. He filled in at both left and right tackle on the season for a paltry 43.0 grade, broken down as 34.5 run blocking and 51.3 pass blocking. He allowed 10 pressures on just 52 pass block snaps. Norton also played 54 snaps on the field goal unit.

2023 outlook: Generally, there is little risk to tendering a restricted free agent. However, Norton doesn’t appear to be in LA’s future plans, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chargers didn’t tender him, which would make him a free agent. Norton may be able to get a training camp spot elsewhere in 2022 if not with the Chargers, but his days battling for a starting spot are likely over.

S Elijah Campbell, Miami Dolphins (DC Defenders)

In 2022: Converted corner Campbell found a home with the Dolphins in 2022, playing in 16 games and starting one as the backup to Jevon Holland. He ended up making 12 tackles (seven solo and five assisted) during the regular season, with two more tackles and a half-sack in the team’s playoff game against Buffalo. Campbell played extensively on special teams throughout the season, making another five tackles in that phase.

What PFF tells us: Of Campbell’s 82 defensive snaps in 2022, 44 came in coverage. He finished with a total defensive grade of 68.0, with 63.6 in run defense and 67.6 in coverage. His season-high in snaps was 25 against the Chargers in Week 14; he had only three games in which his defensive snaps reached double-digits. On special teams, Campbell notched 287 snaps, most of which came on kick coverage (83). He also had 47 snaps on kick return, 62 on punt return, 37 on punt coverage, and 58 on the field goal block team. Overall, his special teams grade was 60.1. He commmitted three pentalies on those 287 snaps.

2023 outlook: Campbell is an ERFA come March. It’s unclear whether Miami views him as an integral part of their team, or as a replacement-level backup. Given his status as a core special teamer, one would expect Miami to tender him and at least bring him to camp.

LS Nick Moore, Baltimore Ravens (Tampa Bay Vipers)

In 2022: Entering his second season as long snapper for the Ravens, Moore was uncontested for the job in training camp. He snapped in all 17 games for Baltimore, finishing second amongst all players at the position with four special teams tackles.

What PFF tells us: Moore earned the highest grade of his career at 77.6, ranking fourth at the position.

2023 outlook: A restricted free agent, Moore will likely be back in Baltimore next year as the long snapper.

G Kahlil McKenzie, Baltimore Ravens (LA Wildcats)

In 2022: McKenzie has played offense and defense during his time in the NFL, but focused this year on the interior offensive line after playing defensive tackle for the Ravens last season. He spent all of 2022 on the practice squad and was not elevated for any game action.

2023 outlook: If McKenzie is brought back on a futures contract (he has not been signed as of press time), it may be his last chance to show he can play at the NFL level. While being able to play multiple positions is nice, at some point you need to stake claim to one position and focus on that if you want to be a regular contributor in the league. That time has come for McKenzie.

QB Josh Johnson, San Francisco 49ers (LA Wildcats)

In 2022: The nomadic Johnson began the year on the Denver Broncos’ practice squad as their third-string quarterback. In December, he ended up getting signed by the 49ers (his fourth time with them in his career) when injuries hit Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, thrusting 7th round rookie Brock Purdy under center. Johnson was Purdy’s direct backup for the final month of the year. He got into two games, completing one-of-two passes for 10 yards. He also rushed twice for three yards. Garoppolo is on the active roster, working his way back from injury, potentially giving Kyle Shanahan a big decision to make should San Francisco continue to advance in the playoffs.

What PFF tells usJohnson played 22 snaps (11 each game) for a 53.6 grade. Both games in which he saw action were blowouts where he was brought in to close things out.

2023 outlook: San Francisco’s muddied QB picture didn’t get any clearer in 2022: Trey Lance didn’t get enough time to show the 49ers what they really have in him before his injury; despite seemingly wanting to move on from Garoppolo, the Niners kept him and he played well in Lance’s stead; and now Purdy has shown he’s capable of winning at the NFL level. There are a lot of decisions this team has to make in the offseason related to the QB room. What to do with Johnson won’t be one of those tough decisions: He’s an unrestricted free agent and it seems unlikely the 49ers will bring him back.

TE Tyree Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles (DC Defenders)

In 2022: Jackson tore his ACL in the last regular season game of the 2021 season. Therefore, his 2022 season got a late start after he began the year on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Jackson was activated in November. He managed to get into five games before ending up on the injured reserve list a month later with another knee injury. He didn’t record any offensive stastics in those five games.

What PFF tells us: Jackson played 34 offensive snaps all year, registering a 41.5 overall grade. He was used equally in the pass game (18 snaps) and run game (16 snaps). Jackson committed two penalties in those few snaps, and his pass game grade (51.9) was slightly higher than his run game grade (47.2). He also saw 22 snaps on special teams, half of them coming on the FG/XP team.

2023 outlook: An ERFA this offseason, the Eagles will need to decide if Jackson is still worth investing in despite his injury history. He has shown glimpses in the switch from QB to TE that he can be a valuable piece in Nick Sirianni’s offense, but Jackson needs to stay healthy to continue to get reps at the position. 2023 will be an important year for Jackson’s development and for his future in the league.

WR Tanner Gentry, Free Agent (New York Guardians)

In 2022: Incredibly, five seasons have elapsed since Gentry played his last NFL regular season game back in 2017 with the Chicago Bears. Against all odds, Gentry got into three games this season as a standard elevation from the practice squad of the Buffalo Bills. He had been on the practice squad all year until the Bills reached the playoffs; following their Wild Card Round win over the Miami Dolphins, Gentry was released.

What PFF tells us: Gentry played just 20 offensive snaps over the course of three games, with 11 being his single-game high. He graded out at 46.9 offensively. He saw one target in the pass game, but had no receptions on the year. Gentry offered little special teams value, seeing just one snap in the third phase, on a kick return.

2023 outlook: The BIlls appear to be the only team interested in Gentry’s services since his XFL stint in 2020. It seems like it’ll be Bills-or-bust again. Just 28 years old, Gentry could garner more interest from the XFL or USFL if he were to choose that route in 2023.

LB Tegray Scales, Free Agent (Dallas Renegades)

In 2022: Another player from the USFL to find a home in the NFL, Scales went from the Houston Gamblers to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2022. While he was cut at the conclusion of training camp, he was signed to Cincinnati’s practice squad the following day. Scales lasted on the practice squad until November 21, when he was released without playing a game.

2023 outlook: Scales was an XFL Supplemental Draft selection of the Orlando Guardians. He used the XFL to springboard himself back into the NFL in 2020, and may be looking to do the same in 2023.

C Jon Toth, Free Agent (DC Defenders)

In 2022: Toth made the practice squad of the Washington Commanders at the end of August but was released on October 4. He tried out for other teams during the season, but was never signed.

2023 outlook: Toth entered his name into the XFL draft pool for 2023 and was selected by the St. Louis Battlehawks. His name does not appear on the team’s XFL.com roster, so it doesn’t seem as if he reported to training camp.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.