What We Learned After Dallas’ Third Loss

Dallas Renegades quarterback Philip Nelson (Credit: XFL.com)

Saturday was suppose to be a pivotal moment in Dallas’ season as quarterback Philip Nelson was suppose to jump into the starting lineup and lead them to a win in front of 15,950 fans at Globe Life Park. The defense was suppose to shut down the running game and pressure Luis Perez. Coach Bob Stoops was suppose to get his first home win of the season with the Renegades. None of that happened.

Dallas lost a third straight home game to the New York Guardians 30-12 to drop their season record to 2-3 on the year. The team will be spending the next two weeks on the road going to DC and Tampa Bay. Landry Jones is expected to miss at least one more game before possibly returning in week seven against the Vipers. Even though the final score looked to be a complete blowout for Dallas, they surprisingly were in the game for the most part. Fans did get to learn a little bit more about this team that will need to be addressed as they head into the back half of their schedule.

Should the Quarterback Situation be Evaluated?

It’s natural and normal after a loss like Dallas suffered that fans would want to see a change at the quarterback position. Arguably, Philip Nelson did not fair well in his second start of the year. He finished the game 28 of 49 for 210 yards and two interceptions. The offense with Nelson was not able to produce much in the second half. Dallas looked good in the first half as they were able to move the ball down the field, but ultimately could not get in the end zone similar to week one against St. Louis. That is a combination of play calling being conservative and the offense just not being able to establish the passing or running game.

From the fans’ perspective, changing a quarterback would not make a difference in how the team looks. Eric Dungey can jump in the game and make some plays with his arm strength and feet. Dungey brings a different dynamic into the offense that could give them the spark they need. Plus, it would only be for one week before Jones returns in week seven. What’s the harm in giving Dungey a shot at quarterback? The team could also trade for someone like Connor Cook or Quinton Flowers, but it might be too late to bring someone in from the outside to learn the offense in one week.

Looking at the other side of things, Nelson is more comfortable in the offense than Dungey or Brogan Roback. Both guys have been in and out of the team. Dungey has been dealing with personal issues off the field during the season that has kept him from being with the team. Roback has bounced back and forth from Team Nine and the Renegades so he hasn’t been with the team for half of the season. Nelson is the only healthy quarterback who has been with them since the beginning so go with the one that has the most experience and give him an opportunity to redeem himself.

Hal Mumme Abandoned the Running Game

The Air Raid offense is designed to throw the ball often and use their running backs in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Hal Mumme has perfect it for decades as a coach, but something is missing in this offense. The lack of a running game is evident and it’s frustrating for the fans. Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar had establish themselves as one of the best duos in the league. They combined for eight carries for 31 yards. It seemed like once they had a bad run, the Renegades would throw it multiple times in a row. The two never had a chance to get it going.

Moving forward, play calling needs to adjust to the weapons that the backfield offers. Artis-Payne is a solid runner who has proven to be one of the best in the XFL when he is fed the ball. Dunbar is a great runner on the outside as he can use his speed off the edge to get past the front seven. Mumme has to know what he has and use them more often. Especially since the passing game is struggling to pick up so they need the running game to help open up the offense.

Receivers Need to be More Involved

It’s been the Donald Parham and Lance Dunbar show for the most part in the passing game. The only consistent receiver for the Renegades through five games is Flynn Nagel. All the other ones have been under used and somewhat not involved in the offense. Most of the plays being called are screen passes and short passes in the flat. Explosive plays was suppose to be the identity of this team since they have so much speed at receiver. That clearly hasn’t happened so far. Freddie Martino did have a big 32 yard catch in the first half that gave fans some hope for the best. That was it for the team though.

With play calling once again being questioned by fans, they can hope that bigger plays can be developed during the game and take more shots down the field. Jeff Badet was brought in to Dallas to create those long pass plays down the field and he has yet to explode onto the scene. Nelson and Jones aren’t afraid to bomb the ball so let them do it and create a play that can get Badet down the field.

Rush Defense Needs to Bounce Back

Dallas’ linebackers are athletic as they can cover with the best of them along with the secondary. The problem with them along with the defensive line is not being able to stop the running game. New York Guardians’ running backs Darius Victor and Justin Stockton was able to break out nice runs as Dallas didn’t have an answer for them in the second half. This is becoming a common problem for the team as they struggled to stop St. Louis, but since then was good until Saturday. While they may not allow as many yards on the ground as other teams, it’s a small thing that could become a big problem if it isn’t addressed right away.

Secondary Continues to be a Strength

Josh Hawkins and Derron Smith have been so important to the defense all season and have been playmakers for the secondary. They have made PJ Walker look human and have been able to shut down many passing games. Even though New York won, outside of the 80 yard touchdown pass play from Luis Perez to Colby Pearson, Perez was not able to get much going. Good pressure by the defense and shutdown coverage made Perez’s life miserable. Defense has been the strength of this team and has kept them in every game this season. If the offense can reduce the turnovers and hold on to the ball longer, the defense could be even better.

Special Teams Has Been Strong All Season

Austin MacGinnis has been the most consistent scorer for the team as he remained perfect on the season in field goals as he is now 10-10. He has been called upon early in games to get the offense some points on the board. Austin Walter broke out a huge 97 yard kickoff return for a touchdown against New York to get them back in the game. It was all for nothing, but big plays is what this team has been missing and he provided that.

Bob Stoops is Handling This Team the Right Way

This season has the potential to get out of hand for Dallas, but Bob Stoops has provided the leadership this team has needed to avoid that. Stoops has said all the right things in taking responsibility for this season and showing frustrating for not being able to bring home a win at Globe Life Park. If there was any coach in the XFL that can get their team back on track, it’s going to be Stoops. He knows how to win and what it takes to do it. They have an opportunity to get it done against DC in the nation’s capitol in week six.

What Philip Nelson Needs to Do to Win

Philip Nelson (9) will start at quarterback for Dallas against New York. (Credit: XFL.com)

The Dallas Renegades have a great opportunity to win one of the most important games of the season Saturday against the New York Guardians and put their record over .500. One challenge they face is they don’t have their starting quarterback Landry Jones for at least the next two games. Opening game starter Philip Nelson takes over for his second start of the XFL season.

In his first start, he showed the ability to protect the football. Something that fans are still waiting for with Jones. Nelson finished the game going 33-42, 218 yards and one interception on the final drive of the game. Deep ball accuracy was left to be desired for Nelson as he had trouble completing passes past ten yards. The exception was the last offensive drive of the first half when they went no huddle and Nelson was able to easily hit receivers on multiple mid range completions.

Nelson showed fans some good things and some bad things. There were time that he looked confident in the pocket, but with him being more of a pocket quarterback, he took a lot of hits by the defense. So what does Nelson have to do to win his first start in the XFL?

Continue to Protect the Ball

Nelson was safe with the ball, sometimes to a fault. Despite that, it was nice to see for fans to have a quarterback who wasn’t forcing passes into tight coverage. He only turned the ball over once in the loss to St. Louis and that was on the final drive of the game when they needed a score to win. Nelson will make sure to hit the open receiver which is what the offense needs for Dallas. Offensive coordinator Hal Mumme will most likely be conservative with his play calling and rely more on the running game. The running backs are in a better place now than they were in week one which is a benefit for Nelson.

Take Some Shots Down the Field

Seems odd since Nelson’s deep ball accuracy was in question in week one, but more shots could mean more confidence. Dallas’ receivers have not been as involved in the offense as tight end Donald Parham and running back Lance Dunbar have been getting all the targets. Look for Flynn Nagel to get more targets on third down which is where he succeeds the most at. Jeff Badet gained some momentum with a couple of big catches in the second half of the Houston loss last week. Getting him more involved with other receivers like Jazz Ferguson and Freddie Martino could open up the offense.

Push for More Power in Play Calling

Dallas has found their identity in running the ball effectively. Nelson will be in a more established offense that should help the team get into the end zone. He should ask for more input in the offense with Mumme and have control of the play calling. Trust is something the quarterback and coach should have together. A potential issues is Mumme broke his leg in last week’s game so he will be calling the plays from the booth for the reminder of the season. If Nelson gets off to a fast start to the offense in the game, Mumme might let him control the calls in the second half.

Landry Jones Injury Update – Two Week Recovery

It appears that Dallas Renegades quarterback Landry Jones could be out for a short period of time once again. The Dallas Renegades announced Monday night that Jones did get an MRI and the results showed a reaggravation of the knee he hurt early in training camp. He is expected to recover from the injury in two weeks.

The team also announced that they will be adding another quarterback to the roster in the next few days. League rules state that if a short-term injury occurs for a quarterback, then a roster exemption can be granted to the team so another quarterback can be added to the active list. There has been no word as to who the team will be adding to the team.

Jones’ injury occurred during the first week of training camp as his knee injury kept him out for about five weeks that resulted in him being listed as the third string quarterback in week one’s loss to the St. Louis BattleHawks. This second occurrence of the injury came during the fourth quarter against the Houston Roughnecks. On a fourth and one during the last offensive drive of the game, Jones performed a quarterback sneak and was holding his knee after the play. He was shown with a wrap around his knee and was on crutches leaving the field after the game.

Philip Nelson is expected to be the next man in line once against as he was the starter in week one against St. Louis. Nelson went 33-42 for 218 yards and an interception. Fans were critical of his play due to the offense keeping their play calling to short passes. It could be a different look as the running game has picked up for the team and will look at Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar to step up. Donald Parham has been looked at as their top pass catcher since that first game and could be Nelson’s security blanket.

Brogan Roback is the team’s current third string quarterback after Eric Dungey left the team due to his father’s passing. Dallas has an advantage of having Team Nine being located in Dallas with them and will pick a quarterback from there to join the team. One option for the team could be former NFL quarterback Joe Callahan who was on the Seattle Dragons’ roster before being cut prior to week one. The team should make a decision soon as to who they will add to be the new third string for the time being.

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.

Five Observations from the Dallas Renegades Loss

The Dallas Renegades went down in their opener to the St. Louis BattleHawks 15-9.
The Dallas Renegades went down in their opener to the St. Louis BattleHawks 15-9. (Credit XFL.com)

Sunday did not go the way the Dallas Renegades were hoping it would go. They debuted their team on the new look Globe Life Park field to over 17,000 fans in the stands. The result of the game was a tough loss for fans and the team to go home to. The Dallas Renegades went down in their opener to the St. Louis BattleHawks 15-9. There were some positives to the game and some negatives that fans were able to observe on the field during the game that will set the tone for the rest of the season.

The Running Backs Will Catch the Ball Often

It was apparently from the beginning of the game that the running backs were going to be involved in the offense. On the first drive alone, fans saw Lance Dunbar catch two passes out of the backfield. He ended the game with six catches. The assumption was that the running backs were going to be apart of the identity of the team, but without Landry Jones, they were a good portion of the passing games. Many times, Philip Nelson would dump it off to the running back as a safety net. It will be interesting to see how much Jones will use his running backs.

Landry Jones is Needed

Hal Mumme’s play calling could be seen as conservative as he didn’t call many deep ball passes until the second half. Most of the game consisted of Nelson hitting Lance Dunbar or Flynn Nagel on short five to seven yard passes. While the offense was efficient in moving the ball down the field, the Renegades was very conservative with their pass calls. This has a lot to do with the fact that Nelson had calls that were all short passes. With Landry Jones most likely coming back into the lineup in week two, that should change how they play.

Rushing Attack is a Concern

All four running backs struggled as they combined for 12 carries for 58 yards. The Renegades was never able to establish a running game throughout the contest. The offensive line could be part of the responsibility as they weren’t able to open up many holes. Lance Dunbar was the most established back. Cameron Artis-Payne came in as the starter, but only got two carries in the game. The passing game was part of most of the game plan, but the team will need to work on opening up the running game more often.

Defense Had Trouble Against the Run

The front seven was considered to be one of the best and played well compared to other teams over the weekend. The weakness came in a couple of deep balls that were caught by the BattleHawks. Stopping the running game was shown to be the tough for the defense. Matt Jones and Jordan Ta’amu had big games on the ground as they are now the league’s top two rushers. Not a good sign for the team. Despite the fact that they allowed 191 yards rushing, the defense did only allow 15 points and have something to look forward to in the upcoming weeks.

Bob Stoops is the Right Man

Nothing bad can be said about how good it felt to have Bob Stoops back on the sidelines for the first time in three years. Stoops looked confident and handled the Jones injury as well as he could. He handled the media well after the game as he seemed excited to be back in coaching. This was a good test for the team and for Stoops to see how they would respond. The offense wasn’t able to finish drives and the defense struggled against the run, but the team was in the game the whole time. Stoops had his players ready for the game even though the result was not what they wanted it to be. Jones looks good to return next week against LA and with all the changes happening to the Wildcats, it looks to be a good matchup for the Renegades to bounce back with.