Parham’s touchdown catch, Kuntz’s special teams play highlight XFL players’ week one NFL performances

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

The following are how XFL 2020 and 2023 players performed in the NFL in week one of the regular season:

*Opening night was Thursday evening, where the Detroit Lions upset the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. LS Scott Daly (Guardians) snapped on all punts and kicks. He didn’t register any stats.

*The Pittsburgh Steelers were trounced by the San Francisco 49ers in their 2023 debut, though there were bright spots. One of them came from an unexpected place: LS Christian Kuntz (Renegades) had two special teams tackles on punt coverage, leading the Steelers in that category on the afternoon. That’s as many tackles as some long snappers have in an entire season.

*S Elijah Campbell (Defenders) was inactive for Miami’s late afternoon tilt with the Los Angeles Chargers. Campbell is still nursing a knee injury he sustained in the final preseason game. He did not practice all week, signaling that he may be several weeks away from returning.

*In that same game, the Chargers’ offense began their first series in a two-tight end set, meaning TE Donald Parham (Renegades) was credited with the start. Parham caught all three targets for 21 yards and a touchdown, it being a highlight-reel grab in the end zone. He is listed behind Gerald Everett on the depth chart, though Parham matched Everett in targets and caught one more pass than did the starter. Everett played 55 offensive snaps to Parham’s 40.

*The Baltimore Ravens beat the Houston Texans, 25-9, led by their franchise QB Lamar Jackson. QB Josh Johnson (Wildcats) was active as his backup, but did not see the field.

*Another backup, QB Taylor Heinicke (Battlehawks), found himself in a similar situation to Johnson: Active for the game, but nailed to the bench. Starter Desmond Ridder took every snap for the Atlanta Falcons.

*Just signed to the active roster from the practice squad this week, RB Godwin Igwebuike (Dragons) saw one offensive snap, and played eight others on special teams for the Falcons.

*Of all the XFL players currently on practice squads, LB DeMarquis Gates (Roughnecks) was the only one among them to be elevated for games this week. Gates was made active by the Chicago Bears, and he played on special teams (68% of the ST snaps, or 19 total) though he did not record any stats.

*It was an up-and-down first game for P Daniel Whelan (Defenders), the lone 2023 XFL player in action in week one. Whelan punted five times for a 49.8 gross average, but just 38.6 net thanks to two touchbacks. One other punt landed inside the 20. The two punts that went for touchbacks both landed first in the field of play before bouncing into the end zone. Whelan either didn’t get enough hang time for the gunners to get in position to down the ball, or the coverage team didn’t do their job and get to the spot quickly enough. One of his touchbacks was on a booming punt of 68 yards, still giving him a respectable 48-yard net.

He also held for all field goals and extra points, something that was of concern to a number of writers covering the Packers. They felt the player Whelan beat out for the punting job, Pat O’Donnell, was better at holding than Whelan. Whelan corralled at least one high snap and got it down for rookie kicker Anders Carlson, who was 5-5 on extra points and made his only field goal attempt, from 52 yards out.

Transactions this week: In the lead-up to week one, Igwebuike was signed to Atlanta’s active roster from their practice squad. In another XFL-related practice squad move by the Falcons, OT Barry Wesley (Sea Dragons) was placed on the practice squad injured list. S Lukas Denis (Battlehawks) was signed to take his place. He was in training camp with Atlanta this summer. WR Lucky Jackson (Defenders) was released from the practice squad of the Minnesota Vikings when they signed RB Myles Gaskin.

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