Excitement Is In The Air!!!

I had a chance to attend the Houston Roughnecks Kick-Off event last night at Pitch25, and man was I shocked for numerous reasons. Look, I report on the XFL, I’m a member of the XFL community, I myself am a fan of the XFL. But it’s one thing being on twitter and seeing all the excitement from fans all over social media. It’s a totally different experience being with XFL fans live. Pitch25 was legitimately rocking last night, and I was shocked to see it.

We have known the XFL was coming for 2 years already, and excitement had been hitting an all-time high as the season neared. But last night, being among the Houston Roughnecks fans, I got a feeling that I have never felt since the Houston Astros won the World Series. You know, before we knew about the trash cans. It was electric! These weren’t just people that were there hanging out. No. These were FANS! I saw jerseys, t-shirts, hats, bottles, cups, signs, all the stuff in between, and they were hungry! Not hungry for food. No. They were hungry for some Roughnecks football! Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s Texas, or maybe it’s because Houston is a great sports town. But the excitement level I saw last night, it was different than all the other sports teams in town. I mean these fans, to which there were MANY, were there to cheer on their new team.

Joel Klatt and Curt Menefee, FOX’s XFL announce team, were in attendance, as well as the Houston Roughnecks players and coaches. Team President Brian Cooper, and 97.5 ESPN’s John Granato and Nate Griffin, who will be on the radio call for every Roughnecks game, were also there. You could tell they were feeding off of the energy from the crowd that was there, because all of their faces were lit up. They had a great time talking about the upcoming season and how the teams progressed all throughout training camp. Curt Menefee asked June Jones, “Why in the world you would you leave Hawaii to come coach in Houston?”. Coach Jones simply responded, “They would pay me a lot more, to coach a lot less games. That was easy.”. Another great thing that was said by Jones was that “apparently” they do indeed have a Tight End on the team, they just don’t like to make it known. I’ll be interested to see who that Tight End is come Saturday. But all in all, it was a great time, for both the fans and the team.

Now after all the festivities were done, I got a chance to catch up with PJ Walker a little bit, the Roughnecks starting quarterback. I told him congratulations on winning the starting job, and he told me that he is excited to see how this offense gels on the field. He believes that they will be competitive and will never be out of a game.

I then caught up with star receiver Sammy Coates, who many will remember for his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I asked him, “With all the stuff that the Houston sports world has gone through the past few months, (Astros cheating scandal, Texans blowing 24-0 lead in the playoffs), how does it feel to bring back hope to Houston?”. He replied with a simple answer. “We got great players, great coaches, and most of all, great fans. We’re bringing a Championship back to Houston!”. Simple and straight to the point. If Sammy Coates says they are bringing a title to Houston, I believe him.

The fans are ready! We are just a few hours away from kick-off. So, until then, see you guys Saturday. And remember, THIS IS THE X F L!!!

PJ Walker OFFICIALLY named the starting QB for the Houston Roughnecks

Houston Roughnecks QB P.J. Walker (11) takes a snap during XFL Minicamp.
Houston Roughnecks QB P.J. Walker (11) takes a snap during XFL Minicamp. (Source: XFL.com)

As XFL Insider Rachael Van Oranje and I reported last week, PJ (Phillip) Walker, out of Temple, is going to be your week 1 starter for the Houston Roughnecks. As I stated in that earlier article from last week, this does not come as a surprise. PJ Walker and Connor Cook share similar arm strength, and while Cook’s accuracy may be a little better, it was Walker’s not only athleticism, but his willingness to run that got him the starting job in Houston.

Now, how do I feel about this fit? To be honest… I’m elated! Thank you June Jones for making this decision. Look, Connor Cook is a very accurate quarterback, and fully capable of leading an offense to great success. But, I got to be real with you. He would have been the more “boring” option out of the two. Now look, if PJ stinks it up, which I don’t expect him to, but if that were to happen, I feel very confident in Connor Cook leading this team. But man, I’m excited! PJ Walker is such a fun player to watch. He can sling it downfield, he can create plays with his legs, and he is not afraid to take chances. Now, that last part can sometimes be to his detriment, but he succeeds more often than he fails, and I am willing to live with that.

During his time at Temple, he broke multiple school records, including TD passes (74), passing yards (10,668), passing completions (830), total TDs (83), and total yards (11,478), under Matt Rhule, who is currently the Head Coach of the Carolina Panthers. He also lead them to their first conference title in 49 years, and their first ever back to back bowl appearances in school history. He was signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 as an undrafted free agent, and while it didn’t work out, his talent is still a hidden gem in my opinion.

Now Walker does have his detractors, and many among the XFL community believed that Connor Cook was going to be named the starter. But I am a believer in PJ Walker, and I think he has the potential to not only be the best quarterback in the league, but perhaps be the league MVP. Yes, I’m all in on PJ Walker. Sammy Coates, Jalen Saunders, D’Angelo Henderson, Andre Williams, ect., you add PJ Walker to that, along with June Jones “Run and Shoot” offense, and good luck stopping the Roughnecks potent offense this season. The Houston Roughnecks are LEGIT contenders this year, and don’t be surprised if they are playing in the inaugural XFL Championship.

P.S. Yes, I know, the LA Xtreme won the 2001 Championship.

XFL Wildcats QB Josh Johnson status “UNCERTAIN” for Week 1

Los Angeles Wildcats starting quarterback Josh Johnson is reportedly battling an injury according to Ryan Dyrud of LAFB Network. His availability for this weekend’s game against the Houston ROughnecks is said to be a “game time” decision, but as of this moment it is uncertain if he is leaning one way or another.

If Johnson is unable to go, Coach Winston Moss will have a decision to make as to who will get the start for their Week 1 opener. It would either have to be Chad Kanoff or Jalan McClendon. Either one would be a significant downgrade, from who many think can be a top 3 quarterback in the league in Josh Johnson. Luckily, for the Wildcats, if he is a “game time” decision for Week 1, he will most certainly be back for Week 2 and onward. But that also depends on what exactly the injury is, which is still unknown at this time.

But unfortunately, this is really going to highlight the trade that LA made with New York, when they traded former Tier 1 allocated quarterback Luis Perez for quarterback Chad Kanoff, in a surprise move that no one saw coming. When Josh Johnson signed with the LA Wildcats, many expected him to be announced the starter, but many also thought that Luis Perez would learn from under Johnson and eventually take that starting spot, if not this season, then perhaps next year or in a couple of years. But Coach Moss decided to trade away Perez for Kanoff, and perhaps that trade may now come back to haunt them.

For all we know, this may be nothing come Saturday evening if Josh Johnson is able to go, but we shall see as the Wildcats are going to have to keep up with a high powered Houston offense that isn’t going to let up.

We will keep you posted as we get more information on this situation.

Editorial: Houston, this one’s for YOU

Man, what a past couple of months for Houston sports. To say that it has been rough would be an understatement. I don’t think I can remember a darker time collectively in Houston sports, and we have had some dark times. But nothing compares to the absolute magnitude of these trialing times. Let’s reflect for a little bit shall we?

First, you have the Texans, who just completely blew a commanding 24 point lead to the eventual Super Bowl winning Kansas City Chiefs, because your head coach doesn’t have a play on 4th and 1. To make matters worse, to “reward” him, the front office makes him the GM to go along with him already being the Head Coach. So he will be calling the plays, managing the team, drafting players, negotiating contracts, and trying to bring in new guys all at the same time. He couldn’t come up with a single play on 4th and 1, and he expects us to believe he can manage all of this? This franchise has hamstrung itself by giving “King” O’Brien more power than the actual President of the United States. I am fully convinced, that Bill O’Brien feels like he can walk into Cal McNair’s office and fire him right now. Look, I’m sure that Bill O’Brien is a super nice guy, “as long as you don’t say he sucks lol”, a great husband, and a loving father. I respect all of that, I do, trust me, that’s more important anyway. But, if you just can’t cut it, you just can’t cut it. Bill O’Brien had ONE Head Coaching job before coming to Houston, and he did great up at Penn State. But one has to wonder, if maybe he just needed a little more time to develop as a Head Coach, or perhaps he is just best suited to be an Offensive Coordinator. And to be fair, it’s not all his fault. The defense is so bad, we might as well not even have them out there. Deshaun still holds on to the ball too long, but that’s mainly because our receivers can’t seem to get open. The offensive line, well you know how that is. But in the end, it comes back to the Head Coach. When they showed Bill O’Brien’s face on that 4th and 1, he looked scared. Terrified. Nervous. Not prepared. That’s unacceptable! He didn’t have a play on that 4th and 1, because he didn’t believe that his team was good enough to be in the position that they were in at the point in the game. Look, it’s one thing for the media not to believe in your team, but as the Head Coach, you should be the main one that believes in your team. If you don’t believe in them, how do you expect the players to believe in themselves. As a former Head Coach myself, that really got to me. Look, I get it, the Chiefs are clearly the better team. But that expression on his face, on the sideline, up 24-0, was telling his team, “I’m shocked you guys are winning”, when it should have been, “I’m proud of you guys, I knew you could do it.” I guess time will tell, but I don’t blame any Houston Texans fans if they don’t feel hopeful about the future of the franchise, because they have not given us a reason to.

What about the Rockets? They are doing great right? Well, out of the three major teams, they are certainly doing the best, but I would not say great. James Harden is still phenomenal, and Russell Westbrook has been sensational up to this point. But as a team, they still have these defensive lapses, and the thing that is so frustrating, is that defense is pure heart and will. That’s completely on the players. But Mike D’antoni, who is a good coach, still needs to learn how to adjust in game when the other team takes stuff away. Look, I’m all for 3s, layups, and free throws, but if the defense takes that away, you have to be able to adjust on the fly. That’s what separates a good coach from a great coach. Too many turnovers, too many plays off, missing that killer instinct when it’s needed. These are all issues the Rockets have to fix if they want to be successful. Because they certainly have the talent, but it takes much more than talent to win a championship.

And speaking of championships, finally, we get to the Astros. Oh the Astros! First off, do I think other teams are doing what the Astros were caught doing? Absolutely! 1000%! We’ve had multiple coaches and players, past and present, even admit it publicly. But, that still doesn’t make it right. And the fact is, the Astros were caught CHEATING. Point blank. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Look, that feeling that I had, back in November of 2017, when Yuli Gurriel caught that ball from Jose Altuve to win their first World Series championship in franchise history, no one will ever take that away from me. I still remember where I was, I still remember how I felt, and I will always remember that moment. I hold that dear to my heart, especially since it came at a time when Houston needed it the most, after going through the travesties of Hurricane Harvey. But, here, now, in 2020, it definitely feels a little different. It feels weird calling them champions, because it doesn’t really feel like they earned it. As a former player, and then later coach, I do admire and respect the rules and integrity that go into the beautiful game of baseball. Yes, I understand, gambling like Pete Rose and the Black Sox, the whole steroid era with Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, etc., and electronic sign stealing, and many more, the game of baseball has been tainted with cheating for years. I hate it. But, the game itself, I still love and will always love no matter what. But man, the Astros are at rock bottom right now, as is the entire Houston sports world. If only there was something to lift us up.

Well, it just so happens that this league called the XFL is starting up here in a couple of days, and your beautiful city of Houston, Texas, has a team to represent. The Houston Roughnecks couldn’t have asked for a better time to launch than right now. June Jones, PJ Walker, Connor Cook, Sammy Coates, D’Angelo Henderson, Andre Williams, Charles James, and many, many more are ready to give Houston hope again. The Roughnecks have an opportunity to bring H-Town back to life. You want exciting? Watch play after play when this Roughnecks offense is lighting up the scoreboard and stat sheet with bombs galore. You want tough? Watch as this scrappy Roughnecks defense goes out and will scratch and claw it’s way to victories. You want smart? Watch as June Jones and this coaching staff draw up schemes that you haven’t even dreamed of, especially with these new rules. But my favorite part, my absolute favorite part, is US, the FANS. I love sports, because it is one of the few things that can bind us all together.

On February 8, 2020, at 4:00pm central, at TDECU Stadium, there is going to be a stadium full of people, who I guarantee you, don’t agree on almost anything. They disagree on politics, religion, parenting, taxes, finances, relationships, marriage, divorce… you name it. And when they see each other on the street, or at the mall, or on Facebook or Twitter, they will debate, argue, go at each other like it’s nobody’s business. But when that whistle blows, when those lights come on, when that clock begins, this sport, football, this team, the Roughnecks, this city, Houston, comes together, as one. United, as fans. Sports brings us together. It binds us, connects us. And this spring, this city, will bind together, to cheer on our team.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Houston Roughnecks are officially here.

PJ Walker “EXPECTED” to be the Man in Houston

There is no official word yet, but XFL ESPN Insider Rachael Van Oranje is reporting, “A source tells me that PJ Walker is currently the starting Quarterback for the Houston Roughnecks… but that “Connor Cook is right there.” No official word yet, however.”

Well, it certainly is starting to feel like June Jones has his guy. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise. PJ Walker was the assigned Tier 1 Quarterback to Houston, and from what I have heard, unless Connor Cook far exceeded him during practices and training camp, Walker was always going to be the guy. In my opinion, what really set Walker apart from Cook was his mobility and willingness to run. Don’t get me wrong, PJ can sling it with the best of them, but in a brand new league, with guys that have never played together before, the Offensive Line is going to be a question mark. Because of this, I believe that Coach Jones wants to go with Walker, because he has a better chance at extending plays, especially if he is chased outside of the pocket.

Now, is this the right decision? Well, from a talent standpoint, both Walker and Cook have the capability of captaining this offense to a lot of points on the field. But I do believe that going with PJ Walker is the right decision, because I feel he gives you more of a dynamic from the quarterback position than Cook would. My only concern, is sometimes Walker can be a little careless with the football. His best year at Temple, where he finished with 3295 yards and 22 touchdowns, he also threw 13 interceptions. He finished with a 140.1 rating that year, which is excellent, but those 13 interceptions do stick out.

However, I still believe that PJ Walker can be a dynamic playmaker from the QB spot, especially in this offense, with these weapons. And if he can limit the turnovers, the sky is the limit for what should be one of the top 3, at least, offenses in the XFL.

Ten days out, and the XFL Houston Roughnecks starting QB is still a mystery

Quarterbacks P.J. Walker and Conner Cook
Quarterbacks P.J. Walker and Conner Cook

What’s up Roughnecks fans! Can you believe it? We are just 10 days away from kick-off at TDECU Stadium near Downtown Houston. Two years we have waited for this day to come, and now it is finally upon us. The Texans miserable loss is long forgotten, because a new face has come to town, and they are ready to hit the ground running. The XFL’s Houston Roughnecks are here, and they are ready to make a stand.

When you listen to podcasts, read predictions, or just simply look at the roster, you will realize that a lot of people are considering the Roughnecks among the top four teams in the league. Some consider them the best, others are very high on them, but almost no one thinks they will be the bottom of the barrel. And for good reason! Just look at their roster.

Let’s start with who I believe will be the BEST receiver in the league in Sammy Coates. The former Pittsburgh Steeler, and yes Houston Texan for a brief moment, is one of the most talented players in the league. His second year with the Steelers, he caught 21 passes for 435 yards and 2 TDs. You have to remember, he was playing with Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith Schuster, and a very talented receiving core. If you could stand out in that field, that’s saying something.

Andre Williams, running back out of Boston College and 2013 Heisman Finalist, finished his college career ranked 5th All-Time in NCAA history for rushing yards in a single season with 2,177 yards, can move the sticks and even be versatile in the passing game. Speaking of…

Let’s stick on the passing game. Head Coach June Jones, who if you remember, is a old Houston face, most notably for his time with the Houston Gamblers as their Wide Receivers coach in 1984, is one of the most pass happy coaches out there. His brand of offense revolves around passing the football all over the field. But in order to do that, you need a competent quarterback. It just so happens the Roughnecks have two. Now don’t get me wrong, that is a good problem to have. I’m a Houston Texans fan. For the longest time, I hoped we would at least get one. Before Deshaun Watson, we had guys like Tom Savage, Brock Osweiler, the list goes on. It wasn’t pretty to say the least. But now with the Roughnecks, Coach Jones has a dilemma. Before the Official Draft began, the XFL assigned a Tier 1 quarterback to each of the 8 teams. Houston was gifted PJ Walker, former Temple standout, who set all kinds of records during his time there. I was excited! I love Walker’s game. He is a good thrower of the football, he can scramble when need be, and he is just very athletic in every way. So I was totally on board with PJ as our starting QB.

Well, now the Draft has begun, and it’s the Roughnecks with the #2 overall pick. Who do they get? Connor Cook, who you will remember played at Michigan State, set records, won big games, and led the Spartans to a Big 10 Championship and the victory at the 2014 Rose Bowl. However, if you live in Houston, you most notably remember Connor Cook, as the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders against the Texans in the 2017 NFL Wild Card Playoff game. BUT, I want to caution people who think back to that game, and I want you to look at it from this perspective. Cook had NEVER started an NFL game up to that point. He wasn’t even expecting to start. But when Matt McGloin, now of the New York Guardians, got injured, he had to step in and take his place. So his very first NFL start came against, a Houston Texans defense, who that year ranked #2 overall in the league, led by Jadeveon Clowney, who was having a monster year. Not to mention, your first start coming the Playoffs, that can certainly be nerve wrecking. So I have always felt that Connor Cook never really got a fair shot at really being able to prove himself in the NFL.

But now that brings us to the Roughnecks. PJ Walker. Connor Cook. Not only both capable quarterbacks, but two guys, that if you ask me, have a shot to be the best quarterback in the XFL. Especially when you consider the system that they will be running with June Jones at the helm. And let’s not forget the weapons that will be at their disposal. However, the question remains, who do you go with? Well, as of right now, there is still no official word on who that week one starter will be. But I will tell you this. Whoever, Coach Jones decides to go with, we know they will thrive in this offense. I am excited to see what the Roughnecks bring to the field on February 8, because I can assure you, it will be a firework show.

Now, the question everyone wants answered. Who would I choose. Well… I would go with…