Dallas Loses the Texas Throwdown: What’s Next?

Dallas Renegades QB Landry Jones left Week 4 with a knee injury. (Credit: XFL.com)

The scene at Globe Life Park was unlike anything XFL fans has seen this season. It was an electric feel where you can sense the rivalry between the Dallas Renegades and the Houston Roughnecks growing. Dallas became the first XFL team to have an increase in attendance from game one to game two. Fans were ready to see the new Texas rivalry born and it did not disappoint.

The contest saw Landry Jones throw three interceptions in each of the first three drives of the game. Somehow though, the Dallas defense held Houston to 6-0 after the first quarter. Jones would bounce back and keep Dallas in the game as they came from a 15-0 second deficit to only being down 15-11 at halftime.

The most impressive part of the game was how the Dallas defense was able to make Houston quarterback PJ Walker look human. They held him to a season low 61 percent completion percentage and picked him off once. Star receiver Cam Phillips also felt the wreath of the Dallas defense as he was held to a season low one catch and nine yards. Defense was never the issue for the team during the game. That defaults to the offense.

Turnovers continue to be the thorn on the Renegades’ back. Five turnovers throughout the game was a combination of bad throws by Landry Jones and drops by Jazz Ferguson and Flynn Nagel. The running game got off to a great start in the first half, but lacked in the second half due to the amount of passing they turned to. On the last drive for Dallas’ offense, the season-altering event occurred for the team.

Landry Jones took an awkward hit on a quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter as he injured his knee. Jones left the game and didn’t return as he was seen hugging coach Bob Stoops on the sidelines and at the end of the game was on crutches. Philip Nelson stepped in and got the team down to the Houston three where Nagel dropped a pass that was picked off by Houston to end the game with a 27-20 loss.

Where does the team go from there?

Dallas enters week five at 2-2, but still in second place in the West Division. That’s the good news for the team. The bad news is Dallas might be without their starting quarterback most of the season if not the rest of the season. The rumor is he injured his MCL which could mean he’s out for four to six weeks. That means the keys to the offense most likely goes to Philip Nelson for the rest of the season. He looked more efficient on the final drive of the game versus Houston than he did in the first game against St. Louis. Nelson has earned the right to lead the offense and could be the solution to their turnover problems.

Hal Humme also suffered a broken leg in the game and will be forced to call plays from the booth for the foreseeable future. His play calling might change where we see more running by Lance Dunbar and Cameron Artis-Payne. The offensive line has proven to be able to run block effective even with both left guards getting hurt. Pass blocking was great as well protecting the quarterbacks by only allowing one sack in the game.

The team will need more production from their receivers though. Outside of Flynn Negal and Jeff Badet, the receivers have been inconsistent. Tight end Donald Parham has been their best pass catcher all season long as he had made multiple great plays in the passing game. Players like Jazz Ferguson and Freddie Martino will need to step up to make plays for Nelson.

Defense has been the strength of the team as they have been stellar all season. A unit that can contain quarterbacks like Jordan Ta’amu and PJ Walker to their lowest stat lines of the season. Josh Hawkins and Derron Smith have made the secondary one of the best in the league. Linebackers like Greer Martini, Asantay Brown, and Tegray Scales have played a huge role in stopping the run and back in pass coverage. Gerald Rivers came in and made some nice plays as well. Not to mention veteran defensive lineman Frank Alexander was able to create some tipped passes to shutdown Walker on Sunday.

This is a Dallas team that still has plenty of talent on offense and defense. Their success and failure will depend on the performance of Philip Nelson and how well he can protect the ball. If the team continues to grow their running game and be effective with their short pass/screen plays, this is a team that could have no problem making a run for the playoffs.

Fast Start: How Dallas Beats Houston

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.

How the Dallas Renegades can beat the Seattle Dragons

The Dallas Renegades will need to find several ways to win their upcoming game on Saturday against the Seattle Dragons.
The Dallas Renegades will need to find several ways to win their upcoming game on Saturday against the Seattle Dragons. (Credit: XFL.com)

The Dallas Renegades are back on the road, and this time they head to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Dragons this Saturday. They went to Carson, California to take down the LA Wildcats in a close 25-18 win. Their latest road trip challenge could put the team to the test. Seattle’s defense is considered to be one of the best in the league and the rushing attack has a deep running back core to deal with. Many challenges face the Renegades heading into their matchup on Saturday. So, the question is how do you defeat the Dragons in the best home field advantage in the league?

Get Landry Jones’ Confidence Up Early

Renegade fans saw early that Landry Jones was a bit rusty in his first play on the football field in over two years. He threw two interceptions in the game, but completed almost 70 percent of his passes and threw for over 300 yards (the first XFL player to do so). There are signs that Jones has the ability to be one of the best passers in the XFL. Patience will be key for not only fans, but the Jones as well. During the broadcast, many noticed Jones was taking responsibility for his mistakes and looked confident as the leader of the team. That earned the respect of many in the media and fans alike.

The Dragons defense had a great showing last week as they forced three turnovers and sacked the Tampa Bay Vipers’ quarterbacks four times in the win. They will provide plenty of pressure on Jones. He had similar experience against LA as Jones faced a lot of pressure from the defensive line. Offensive coordinator Hal Mumme will have to call a lot of quick, short passes to add spacing to the passing game and avoid Jones getting hit. Jones knows the offense and knows he needs to protect the ball to win the turnover battle. Expect him to learn from his mistakes and go into week three with a lot more confidence.

Run the Ball

The coaching staff knew from the beginning of the season that the running back position would be tough to decide who to run the ball since the depth of the backs are so deep. Week one was a major disappointment as the team ran for 58 rushing yards against the St. Louis BattleHawks. Week two was a whole different story as they drastically improved with 154 yards rushing in the win against the LA Wildcats. It may be early, but having a successful running game might be the key to the offense being successful. Giving the ball to Cameron Artis-Payne would be a good start.

Artis-Payne only gained six yards on two carries in the season opener. In week two, he recorded 99 yards rushing on 14 carries. His play, as well as Lance Dunbar’s play, made the difference in the fourth quarter against LA. The running game was needed in the game since Landry Jones was easing back into the offense. Artis-Payne and Dunbar were the keys to the team winning their game against the Wildcats. They will be called upon to do it again.

Frank Alexander Needs a Big Game

Winston Craig was ruled out of the game Saturday against the Seattle Dragons which is a big loss for a defensive line that doesn’t have a lot of depth in the first place. Gelen Robinson stepped in nicely last week with two quarterback hurries and one tackle for loss. Being listed as the backup on the roster, Robinson should be taking over as the starter on the opposite end of the best defensive lineman on the team in Frank Alexander.

Alexander recorded the first sack in Dallas Renegades’ history in week one against the St. Louis BattleHawks. He has proven to be a dominant pass rusher with great ability off the edge. He will be called upon to step up and make plays in Craig’s absence. A key could be Alexander might demand double teams which could open up for the other lineman to get sacks and quarterback pressures. With Craig being injured and out, watch out for more blitzes being called from the linebacker position.

Shutdown the Seattle Running Game

The Dragons have three strong running backs who could start for any team in the XFL. With Kenneth Farrow, Ja’Quan Gardner, and Trey Williams splitting carries between the three, Dallas could have their hands full. Dallas fans saw it first hand at Globe Life Park when St. Louis ran for 191 yards with Matt Jones and Jordan Ta’amu gashed the defense. Last week was a better performance from the Dallas defense against the run, but they played a winless LA team who hasn’t had the strongest running game this season. If Dallas’ front seven can’t stop the running game, it could spell for a long day for the defense.