Seattle Dragon’s Offensive Training Camp Battles to Monitor
Jackson Conner breaks down Seattle Dragon’s offensive training camp battles to monitor.
The Seattle Dragons and the rest of the XFL have started mini-camps this month and will start training camps the month after. The Dragons had 73 players drafted through both the normal and supplemental drafts. Throughout these preseason practices, the roster will be cut down and there will be positional battles for almost every spot. Right now, I am assuming the players with the highest draft capital have the inside track at the starting job. However, once you get on the field, all that stuff goes away. It’s about who performs, not where you were drafted.
Brandon Silvers should be the early favorite for the starting job but I would imagine the Dragons will spend a lot of time evaluating all their QBs. Joe Callahan has signed with the Lions, but the Dragons signed Chase Litton and he will join BJ Daniels in the QB room. If the Dragons retain only two QBs, I would think Silvers has a guaranteed spot and the real battle will be for the backup job. The battle between the 30-year-old Daniels and 24-year-old Litton should be an interesting one.
As most of you know, Dragons OC Mike Riley was the head coach for the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders. The Dragons went ahead and drafted multiple RBs and TEs that were on the Commanders. RBs Trey Williams and Kenneth Farrow were the two lead backs on the Commanders and the Dragons selected them with their first two picks. On the Commanders, Farrow out-touched Williams 101-52 in games they were both active, but I would expect that to even out in the XFL given Williams was picked first. I would guess Farrow gets the slight edge in early-down and goalline work but Williams takes over in passing situations.
Don’t forget about the Dragon’s duo of phase 5 RBs though. Lavon Coleman and Ja’Quan Gardner both have great shots to contribute this year as well. Coleman rushed for 2000 yards at the University of Washington and proved he could catch passes as well (31 in his college career). Ja’Quan Gardner was an ultra-efficient home run hitter in the AAF and is also proficient in the pass-catching department. While his production tailed off a bit towards the end, Gardner came out of the gates hot posting 8-55, 15-104-2, 12-122-1 lines to start the year.
Farrow and Williams have the inside tracks at the starting spots but the drama from this position will come from how well Gardner and Coleman perform.
It is with deep regret that I inform you that Malachi Jones will not be playing for the Dragons in 2020 as he has signed with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. Jones was a baller in the AAF and I was looking forward to watching him do more of the same in the XFL. Nevertheless, the Dragons are deep at receiver. They drafted four others in Phase 1, picked up six more in Phase 5 and drafted one in the supplementary round. The phase 1 WRs were Fred Ross (pk3), Keenan Reynolds (pk5), Kasen Williams (pk7) and John Santiago (pk8). Ross and Williams are both typical outside WRs above 6’0 while Reynolds and Santiago fit more into the slot receiver mold. Being picked in the 3rd round, Ross is the favorite to be the alpha receiver early.
Kasen Williams has gotten a lot of publicity and looks to be the favorite to start opposite of Ross on the outside. In the open phase and supplementary rounds, the Dragons added bigger receivers in Jalen Rowell, Korey Robertson, and Tyre Brady. The unfortunate nature is that they probably can’t keep all of these guys so their might be some cuts out of this group. The winner of this battle, though, can easily push to be a starting outside receiver.
In the slot, Keenan Reynolds was the most highly drafted followed by John Santiago. Both of these guys ae converted, Reynolds from QB and Santiago from RB. They are dangerous with the ball in their hand and if neither wins the slot job they can still have an impact on the offense. Gadget plays can be huge parts of XFL offenses and Reynolds and Santiago are guys you want to get in space. Utilizing them on endarounds, screens, and even in the return game would be huge in opening up this offense. The other possible slot receivers are Mikah Holder, Rueben Mwehla, and Austin Proehl. All of those guys can compete for playing time at wide receiver but the Dragons would be hard-pressed to keep all of them.
The Dragons went pretty overweight at TE, drafting 6 of them. Former 2nd round pick Jace Amaro was the first one drafted. He was a big-time receiver in college but failed to bring that to the NFL. Hopefully, he can be a reliable target over the field for Silvers or any other Dragons’ QB. Cam Clear and Evan Rodriguez were teammates in the AAF on the – guess who – San Antonio Commanders. Clear is more of a blocking TE but he still posted 10 catches in the AAF. Rodriguez was a guy that got a little hot streak going to close out the AAF season, catching 8 balls for 139 yards over the last 3 weeks. Rodriguez should compete with Amaro for the receiving TE job.
In the open phase, the Dragons picked Connor Hamlett, Colin Jeter, and Ben Johnson. Ben Johnson caught 61 balls in his time at Kansas, Colin Jeter caught 21, and Connor Hamlett caught 104. I expect the Dragons to utilize the TEs pretty heavily but keeping 6 is a stretch. I bet they keep four with one of them used for almost exclusively blocking.
Overall, I expect the Dragons to be in 12 personnel a lot, to run the football and utilize the TEs and RBs in the passing game. The drafting of two RBs early and 6 TEs signifies that they want to run the ball and run the offense through those guys. Another personnel they could use a ton is 21 personnel; they drafted their RBs early and getting them on the field together could be beneficial to this offense. There is no way to say this for certain but I am just following the draft capital. Zorn did say that he wants to get a little tricky with the offense too at times and having a former QB in Keenan Reynolds could allow for some pretty nifty trick plays.
My projected starting lineup is only based on draft capital right now:
- QB: Brandon Silvers
- RB: Trey Williams/Kenneth Farrow
- WR: Fred Ross, Kasen Williams
- SL: Keenan Reynolds
- TE: Jace Amaro, Cam Clear, Evan Rodrigues
- Returner: John Santiago
My favorite phase 5 picks:
- RB: JaQuan Gardner
- TE: Connor Hamlett
- WR: Austin Proehl
- WR: Jalen Rowell
I will keep you guys updated as practices rage on and roles start to become more defined. Go Dragons!