Additions/Changes the XFL Should Consider for 2021 Season

Year one of the XFL is considered by many to be a success. The level of transparency, rule changes, and the play on the field made fans feel optimistic about season two going well for the league. Even with all the good things fans were able to see, nothing ever goes perfect the first time around. The league will be examining everything that went well and didn’t go well in its first season. Here are some things the league might want to consider when they start to plan out the 2021 season.

Review the Point After Touchdown Rule

This was one of the rules that stood out to experts and fans before the season as an intriguing rule. It was fascinating to some to see how coaches would strategize how aggressive or conservative they would be. In the beginning of the season, coaches were on the more conservative side of going for just one or two point conversions. By week five, teams were more willing to go for the three point conversion, but it wasn’t happening as much as fans were hoping it would happen.

The simple solution to this is reviewing the rule to see if they just want to make it only a one point play or a two point play. Teams seemed to be unwilling to go for the exciting three point play as it was too much of a risk. Going for it at the two or five yard line makes it a higher percentage of a chance to get points after their touchdowns. It might be easier if they make teams just convert from one place only. The league might decide to keep the rule the same and hope coaches will be more aggressive or change it to force only one decision for coaches to make.

Expanding the League to Ten Teams

It may not be the smartest decision since the league took a hit financially from COVID-19, but it’s at least a fun topic to have for fans. Many people have been speculating that the XFL has considered adding at least two more teams to the league for the 2021 season. There are cities that fans have said to be good choices including San Diego, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia among others.

Birmingham has already been working on plans to try to make a run at the XFL to put a team in their city after seeing success with the Birmingham Iron in the AAF. San Diego and San Antonio were two cities that saw success in the AAF in terms of attendance before the league folded. Many have speculated that if it wasn’t for the AAF, the XFL would have a team playing in San Diego. As for Philadelphia, there were rumored to be one of the 21 finalists to land an XFL team so they might be considered in the future.

Change Start Date to Later

Once again, COVID-19 may have something to say about moving their start time back if the NFL is forced to start later. If COVID-19 doesn’t push the NFL start date back, it should be something the XFL still considers. While the TV ratings performed well with the games average over one million viewers per game, the league would have seen a hit in the ratings because of the NCAA March Madness and the NBA/NHL playoffs coming around as well as the start of the MLB season.

If the league wants to see success, it could consider starting play in April or May to move pass March Madness. The NBA and NHL playoffs would be tough to compete with, but the ratings for those games wouldn’t really change from the regular season until the finals came around. The league could have their championship game in late June with only the MLB to compete with on a national television scale. Most likely, this change wouldn’t happen, but it is something to consider if they want the most success in the TV ratings.

Add More Mobile Quarterbacks

Defenses proved to have too much speed for some of the offenses to handle. It showed on the field that any quarterbacks who were able to escape from the pocket and make plays with his feet were more successful than just pure pocket passes. The top four passers in the XFL (PJ Walker, Josh Johnson, Jordan Ta’amu, and Taylor Cornelius) are all considered mobile quarterbacks. They all proved to be viable starters in the XFL and made major impacts on their teams. Pocket passers like Landry Jones, Cardale Jones, and Brandon Silvers all took hits with either turnover issues or low completion percentages.

The game is evolving and it was shown in the XFL. Quarterbacks with fast legs were more successful in invading fast, athletic pass rushers than ones that stay in the pocket. That’s why the XFL has to consider building the league around mobile quarterbacks who are playmakers. PJ Walker and Jordan Ta’amu are off the board as they signed with NFL teams, but we saw the emergence of mobile quarterbacks like BJ Daniels, Quinton Flowers, and Tyree Jackson so flashes of big play potential. Those are the young quarterbacks the league needs to build around for 2021.

Create More XFL-Themed Shows

The XFL Pre-Game show that Jonathan Coachman and Alyse Ashton hosted before games on Saturdays and Sundays were fun for fans to watch. They gave good insight on upcoming games, breaking down previous games, and gave good player profiles when shown. The level of good production shown by the league should give fans more of a craving to see more great content like that shown on TV or the internet. The documentary the league was shooting giving fans behind the scene looks at moments like St. Louis’ first home game or the Seattle-DC season opener was fun to watch as well. A great way to do that is for the league to consider creating more shows that has the experts breaking down games and teams like NFL Live or Sunday NFL Countdown.

Creating more shows could lure more outside fans into watching the XFL as they can learn a little more about the players and coaches that make up the league. Hiring exclusive XFL insiders to have a show that is completely dedicated to inside knowledge of the XFL and breaking down film tape would be great for fans. Individual teams could locally host coaches shows to engage the community more to get to know their local team. Post game shows would also be beneficial as fans would love to see more of those type of contents to fuel their love for the XFL.

Season in Review: 2020 Dallas Renegades

The Dallas Renegades huddle in preparation for their final game against the New York Guardians (Credit XFL.com)

A season filled with high expectations, the Dallas Renegades were hoping for big things from their team. They were the first team to hire their head coach and general manager in former University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. During his time in the first offseason, Stoops was able to bring top assistant coaches like offensive coordinator Hal Humme. He was able to convince quarterback Landry Jones to join the XFL and the two were paired together in Dallas.

The team was able to draft some key players including Derron Smith, Jeff Badet, Donald Parham, and Frank Alexander. All the talent was displayed during training camp and made fans and experts believe they were the team to beat. While things didn’t go as according to plan, the team did have themselves within contention for the playoffs before the season ended after five games. Here are the top storylines for the team.

Bob Stoops Returns to the Sidelines

It was a great moment for the XFL as they hired their first head coach in the new league as they hired former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. He was the biggest name to be brought in the league and added a lot of attention to the XFL. Stoops was able to build a formable team starting with Landry Jones at quarterback. Adding in the talent on offense with Cameron Artis-Payne, Lance Dunbar, Jeff Badet, and Donald Parham. His coaching staff was built well with legendary offensive coordinator Hal Mumme and defensive coordinator Chris Woods leading the team.

The 2020 season didn’t start out as well as the team was 2-3 before the season ended. The offense didn’t perform as well as expected with all the speed at receiver. Mumme’s offensive play calling was also put into question as the running game wasn’t used as well as fans would have liked. The Renegades’ defense turned out to be the strength for the team as they were able to keep the team in most of their games. Stoops had a good start to the coaching staff and the players on the team, but key pieces to receiver and play calling could put the team over the top next season.

Quarterback Play Was Inconsistent

Landry Jones and Philip Nelson both started at least two games this season for the team. Both quarterback played the position differently throughout the season. Nelson was safer with the ball and wasn’t as likely to throw it down the field. Jones was more aggressive with his passing which resulted in multiple turnovers. He was also better at moving the ball down the field and scoring touchdowns. Nelson struggled to get the offense in the end zone. It might have been a result in play calling, but the quarterbacks played inconsistently. They were accurate with the ball, but mistakes were made by both players.

Donald Parham Led Receiving Attack

The receivers on the Renegades did not leave an imprint on the offense as much as experts expected. It was their star tight end who stole the show in the passing game. Donald Parham impressed at training camp with his size and reliable hands. He showed those off this season as he caught 24 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns. He led the team in yards and touchdowns and made it clear he was the top target on the team. As he heads to Los Angeles to play for the Chargers in the NFL, Parham proved to be a reliable target and will have a chance to make it in the final roster.

Defense Kept Renegades in Games

Statistically, the defense of the Renegades wouldn’t blow you away with the numbers. They ranked no higher than fourth in a specific defensive team stat. Fans can make the argument that the defense was able to keep them in most of their games. The problems came with the offense turning the ball over too much and putting the defense in bad spots. In three of the five games, the defense allowed six or less points in the first half. Every game this season the team was within six points of their opponents heading into the second half.

Derron Smith and Josh Hawkins provided strong play in the secondary with shutdown coverage and big turnovers. Their linebacking core was one of the best in the league with speed and sure tackling helped the defense perform well. Asantay Brown and Greer Martini led the team in tackles and were both exceptional in coverage. The pass rush of the defensive line was inconsistent at times as the team was second to last in sacks with six.

Road Warriors, Home Sick

It was an odd sight to see as the Dallas Renegades went 2-0 on the road and 0-3 at home. The Renegades thrived on the road as they came from behind in both games at one point to beat LA and Seattle. Dallas’ offense struggled in two of their three home games not being able to produce more that 12 points in those games. Landry Jones threw three interceptions in the first quarter of the other home game against Houston that resulted in a 27-20 loss. It’s a rare sight in sports to see a team struggle at home, but performing well on the road might have helped the team out late in the season if the league was still going.

Dallas Renegades 2020 Schedule

Week One: St. Louis BattleHawks 15, Dallas Renegades 9, Record: 0-1

Week Two: Dallas Renegades 25, LA Wildcats 18, Record: 1-1

Week Three: Dallas Renegades 24, Seattle Dragons 12, Record: 2-1

Week Four: Houston Roughnecks 27, Dallas Renegades 20, Record: 2-2

Week Five: New York Guardians 30, Dallas Renegades 12, Record: 2-3

Dallas Renegades Stats

Passing: Landry Jones: 83-119, 70% completion percentage, 784 yards, five touchdowns, seven interceptions, 77.2 QB rating

Philip Nelson: 62-94, 66% completion percentage, 439 yards, three interceptions, 63.2 QB rating

Rushing: Cameron Artis-Payne: 47 carries, 241 yards, 5.1 avg, two touchdowns

Lance Dunbar: 30 carries, 146 yards, 4.9 avg, one touchdown

Philip Nelson: six carries, 25 yards, 4.2 avg

Austin Walter: four carries, 19 yards, 4.8 avg

Landry Jones: five carries, 15 yards, 3.0 avg

Marquis Young: three carries, 12 yards, 4.0 avg

Receiving: Donald Parham: 24 catches, 307 yards, four touchdowns

Flynn Nagel: 26 catches, 217 yards, one touchdown

Lance Dunbar: 26 catches, 154 yards

Jeff Badet: 16 catches, 108 yards

Cameron Artis-Payne: 23 catches, 101 yards

Josh Crockett: five catches, 86 yards

Sean Price: six catches, 78 yards

Freddie Martino: four catches, 58 yards

Jazz Ferguson: nine catches, 54 yards

Austin Walter: two catches, 31 yards

Marquis Young: four catches, 20 yards

Jerrod Heard: one catch, ten yards

Top Five Tacklers: Asantay Brown 28, Greer Martini 28, Tegray Scales 24, Tenny Adewusi 22, Ray Ray Davison 17

Top Sacks: Tegray Scales 1, Ray Ray Davison 1, Micah Abernathy 1, Frank Alexander 1, Hau’oli Kikaha 1, Gerald Rivers 1

Top Interceptions: Josh Hawkins 2, Derron Smith 1

Kicking: Austin MacGinnis: 10-10, 46 long

Punting: Drew Galitz: 18 punts, 775 yards, 43.1 avg, nine In20

Kick Return Leader: Austin Walter: 17 returns, 431 yards, 25.4 avg, one touchdown

Punt Return Leader: Flynn Nagel: six returns, 97 yards, 16.2 avg

TE Donald Parham, head coach Bob Stoops, and OT Pace Murphy pay respect to the national anthem prior to the Renegades final game against the New York Guardians. (Credit XFL.com)

Jeff Jagodzinski Promoted to OC for Dallas Renegades

Due to a leg injury incurred during a game, Dallas Renegades offensive coordinator Hal Mumme had to step down. (Credit: XFL.com)

After suffering a broken leg in the week four loss to the Houston Roughnecks, Dallas Renegades offensive coordinator Hal Mumme is unable to continue his role. The Renegades have promoted Jeff Jagodzinski to offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season.

“We appreciate Hal’s hard work and efforts with our squad, particularly after his injury last weekend,” noted head coach Bob Stoops. “Unfortunately, it prevented him from performing in the way we needed for the Renegades.”

Mumme was in the coaching booth Saturday in the loss to the New York Guardians as he was calling the plays there. He made headlines when he decided to stay on the sidelines the whole game after a Renegades player collided with Mumme during the Houston game that broke his leg.

Jagodzinski is no stranger to running offenses as he was previously an offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Georgia State. He’s well known for his stint as head coach for Boston College where he want 20-8 as the head coach in two seasons.

Renegades running back coach Bobby Blizzard added the position of assistant offensive coordinator and will be the main play caller for the team. Blizzard has experience as well at offensive coordinator as he led the Memphis Express of the AAF as their offensive coordinator for most of the season before the league folded.

A lot of the focus on this season has been the inconsistency of the offense and how they have gotten off to slow starts throughout the season. Jagodzinski and Blizzard will have their work cut out for them as they travel on the road this weekend to take on the 3-2 DC Defenders. A game that could be seen as a season-defining moment for a team that has lost three straight at home, but undefeated on the road this season.

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.

XFL Roughnecks Cool Down Dragons

Quarterback PJ Walker led the Houston Roughnecks to their fifth win. (Credit: XFL.com

The Houston Roughnecks took down the Seattle Dragons 32-23 Saturday afternoon in what was a closer game than anyone expected. Houston went in as an 11.5 favorite, but they actually trailed for most of this game. This was BJ Daniels’ first start, PJ Walker’s first game with multiple turnovers, and this was the first game that the Roughnecks would be down by multiple touchdowns. The 14 point deficit the Roughnecks faced Saturday was the largest deficit they have faced all season. They were either going to crumble, or they were going to dig deep and fight. Luckily for all Roughnecks fans, it ended up being the latter. The Roughnecks came back to win the game, and with that they will remain perfect on the season at 5-0. Let’s see how they did it.

First off, let’s talk about PJ Walker, because this was probably his worst game of the season by far. Don’t get me wrong, he still threw for three more touchdowns, he still had some big time plays that were able to bring the Roughnecks back to victory. But he is also the reason that the Roughnecks were in a tough spot to begin with. The Dragons offense looked better with Daniels at the helm, but let’s not act like they were dominating or anything. Two of their touchdowns came from extremely short fields due to Walker turnovers. The first came on a Walker fumble, where he didn’t notice the defender behind him, and he got strip sacked. That lead to Seattle’s first touchdown. Then, later on, he threw probably the worst pass he has thrown all season, where it looked like he was throwing it right to the Dragon defender, who nearly took it back for a pick 6, if it weren’t for PJ tackling him down at the goal line. That lead to another Seattle touchdown. He then threw another interception later on in the game, to bring his turnover total to three. But even after all that, he still made the big time plays to rally his team back to victory. So we got to see how PJ Walker would deal with adversity, and he seemed to deal with it really well. He threw 2 interceptions, and still wasn’t afraid to sling it downfield. Very Brett Farve-ish. He finished with 351 yards, which is a career high, and he did that while completing 71% of his passes, and tossing 3 more touchdowns. So if this is the worst PJ Walker we are going to get, there are a lot of teams that would take that in a heartbeat.

But like always, he wasn’t the only one making plays out there. Welcome back Cam Phillips! Phillips, after being pretty much shut down against Dallas, bounced back with a huge game. He finished with 10 receptions for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was sensational, and he came through big time in the clutch moments, catching what would end up being the game winning touchdown. Sam Mobley, Nick Holley, and Kahlil Lewis were all big in the passing game as well.

But where I was really impressed, was how well the Roughnecks ran the ball. James Butler had himself a game. He ran for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also was very involved in the passing game. Andre Williams also had an excellent game, running for 54 yards. and he was moving the chains all game long. If the Roughnecks can continue to build on their ground game, to go along with what is already an elite passing game, I just don’t see how you can stop this offense. The Dragons defense was very good Saturday, and the Roughnecks still managed to score 32 points. Good luck to anyone trying to stop the “Firework Show”.

The Houston Roughnecks will travel to New York to take on a revitalized Guardians team next Saturday, so we shall see if they can maintain their perfect season going for 6-0. For right now, they are STILL the best team in the XFL, ’til somebody can prove them otherwise.

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.

XFL Week 5 Power Rankings

Four weeks are in the books, and just when you thought you had it all figured out, we have another week where the league shakes up again. The XFL has parity and that is a wonderful thing. At this point, I can honestly say, no team is truly out of it, and while we may have a pretty good idea at who the #1 seed for each conference will be, that race for the #2 seed is going to be interesting and exciting as the season progresses. But for now, let’s look at where we stand heading into Week 5.

8. DC Defenders (2-2) Last Week (4)

Yes, they are 2-2. Yes, I still believe in this team. Yes, I would still pick them over New York and Tampa Bay to grab that #2 seed. But, nobody has looked worse these past two weeks than the DC Defenders. I mean they have looked BAD. At least when Tampa Bay was looking rough those first two weeks, they were at least moving the ball downfield. Their issue was they just couldn’t get into the endzone. DC however, they can’t even move the ball downfield. Every time their offense took the field Sunday night, I had absolutely no confidence in them whatsoever. The real problem though is, neither did they. Their body language was one of defeat, and Pep Hamilton has got a huge test in front of him. We shall see if he can rally his troops, because if he can’t, DC has a shot to end up last in the East. They head back home this weekend, so that should help things, but they face a major test in the St. Louis Battlehawks. And if they play like they have the past two weeks, it is going to get ugly fast. They sit at no. 8.

7. Seattle Dragons (1-3) Last Week (6)

Welcome to the league BJ Daniels. Unfortunately, it took Jim Zorn all the way up until halftime of Week 4 to realize that BJ Daniels was his best option at quarterback. I was tempted to put Seattle a little higher, because they almost upset a really good team in the Battlehawks, but ultimately, I have to see more. And they face a big test this weekend in the undefeated Roughnecks, so we will see what this Dragons team with Daniels at the helm really looks like. From what I saw from the 2nd half on Saturday night though, I am really intrigued to see what this team can do. Now that Daniels will be getting starting reps, and they can form a game plan around his strengths, we will see how serious this team can be in making a run. Their defense is still as solid as ever, and they kept Seattle in that game against St. Louis. But it’s going to come down to the Dragons offense scoring points and not turning the football over. If they can start to do that, they will have a shot. For now, they sit at no. 7.

6. Los Angeles Wildcats (1-3) Last Week (5)

Consistency. Consistency! C’mon guys! This team has the talent. This team has the star power. This team has the weapons. But they can’t seem to string together consecutive strong performances. Even within the same game. They look good one drive. They look lost the next. Their defense makes a huge stop. Their defense allows a big play. What is this team? I know what they can be. They can be the team that absolutely destroyed the Defenders last week. But for some reason, some weeks, they would rather be the team that played Saturday afternoon. I get that it was cold. I also understand that Nelson Spruce, their leading receiver, was out. But they had their chances, and they just couldn’t capitalize. They play a much improved Vipers team at home this weekend, so we will see if they can get back on track. For now, they sit at no. 6.

5. New York Guardians (2-2) Last Week (8)

Turns out, they didn’t need to “change the entire game plan”, they just needed to change the quarterback. Now, Matt McGloin was out with a injury, but they would be crazy not to go back to Luis Perez. Perez had that offense moving the best it had all season, and the most important thing is, they didn’t turn the football over. Perez isn’t going to light it up on the stat sheet, but honestly, with this team, their offense just needs to be serviceable and turnover free. Their defense is good enough to get the job done, and if their offense can now play clean football and score enough, this team could make a serious run at that #2 seed. Their defense can create takeaways, as they did Saturday, and they will give this offense chances to capitalize. They play Dallas this weekend, who won’t have Landry Jones, so we shall see what they can do. They sit at no. 5.

4. Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3) Last Week (7)

Here come the Vipers! This is the Vipers team we thought we were going to get at the beginning of the season. Well, better late than never I guess. This team has found its identity on offense, and that is pounding the rock. They not only provided the XFL with their first 100 yard rusher, they also provided them with their second. Both Smith and Patrick were phenomenal Sunday night against the Defenders, and the Vipers brought the fight to DC on all levels. Defense, offense, and special teams were all clicking, and the East should be terrified, because this team has all the potential. Cornelius looked good, and as long as he isn’t turning the football over, he should improve week by week. I do wish that they would use Quinton Flowers, but with Flowers requesting for a trade, it seems that that ship has sailed. But nevertheless, this team can hang with the best of them as we have seen the past two weeks. Hopefully they can continue this momentum, because if they can, that #2 seed is ripe for the taking. For now, they sit at no. 4.

3. Dallas Renegades (2-2) Last Week (3)

Thank God Landry Jones’ injury was not as serious as first thought to be. He should be back Week 7 it seems like, so if Phillip Nelson can just hold down the ship until then, the Renegades should be okay. This team is for real. Landry Jones turned the football over three, THREE times…..in the 1st quarter. Yet, they still only lost by one possession, with a real chance to tie or take the lead at the end. Yes, they need to limit the turnovers, but this team is good, and it all starts with their running game. Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar have done an excellent job moving the chains and making plays when nothing else seems to be open. Donald Parham continues to be a beast, and this defense doesn’t get enough credit for how good they are. They held that high powered Houston offense to just 21 points, which is excellent when you consider that they went into that game averaging 33 points a game. Hopefully Jones can make a quick recovery, because this team to me is the clear favorite right now to take that #2 seed in the West. They sit at no. 3.

2. St. Louis BattleHawks (3-1) Last Week (2)

Nothing has changed at the top of the East. That still belongs to the BattleHawks, whose only blemish this season comes against the undefeated Roughnecks, on the road, in a game they could have won. This team is so good, and it all starts with their fantastic head coach Jonathan Hayes. He has this team in a great position to succeed, and his belief and confidence in his players has really shown through. Jordan Ta’amu continues to be a star every single week, making plays with his arm and legs, and the most impressive thing about him is his quick decision making. He protects the football, and he trust his receivers to make plays in the open field. Pierson-El has done just that, and he is quickly becoming a breakout star as well. Of course, you still have Matt Jones, Keith Ford, and Christine Michael holding down that running game, and this defense is the best in the league. I don’t see anyone slowing down this team, and they might roll into DC and crush their season this Sunday. This team is awesome, but they are still no. 2.

1. Houston Roughnecks (4-0) Last Week (1)

Because the Houston Roughnecks have still not tasted defeat. This team is impressive on so many levels. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The Houston offense is unstoppable. You can maybe slow them down a bit, but as long as PJ Walker is under center, you are not shutting them down. Four weeks now, and it’s pretty clear, PJ Walker is the BEST quarterback in the XFL. He is phenomenal! Whether it’s throwing passes like the one he finessed to Nick Holley on the sideline, that was just BEAUTIFUL. Or if he’s running over defenders and knocking them down like he did Sunday afternoon. He has been magical, and there is no stopping him. Now, Dallas’ defense was able to shut down Cam Phillips, but other guys stepped up. Like I mentioned before, Nick Holley was one of those guys, but you also had Khalil Lewis, Sam Mobley, Sammie Coates, and James Butler and Andre Williams all made contributions Sunday afternoon. But again, we already know how good their offense is. But their defense has been suspect this season. They give up a lot of yards, they give up a lot of points, but give them credit, because they somehow ALWAYS come up with a big play. And Sunday afternoon, they came up with a bunch of them. Four interceptions total, five total takeaways, and none greater than the one that sealed the game by Gates at the goal line. Dallas was fixing to punch it in to possibly tie or take the lead, and De Marquise Gates made an excellent interception to seal the game, by never letting that ball off of Nagel’s hands touch the ground. It was spectacular. The defense has sealed the past three wins with game saving interceptions. At some point, that might not be the case, but the point has not come. So they are still the best team in the XFL.

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.

Roughnecks Take Firm Control of the XFL West

YouTube video

 

The Houston Roughnecks and Dallas Renegades met for the first time this season, and the much anticipated “Texas Throwdown” did not disappoint. The final result was a 27-20 Houston victory, and it was not easy. The Renegades gave the Roughnecks all they could handle, and to be quite honest, if certain things *cough cough* five takeaways, go a bit differently, the Renegades might be sitting at the top of the West right now. However, those five takeaways did happen, and because of that, the Houston Roughnecks stayed perfect on the season, and took a firm control of the West.

Before we begin getting into the details of the game, I first want to stay that my prayers go out to Landry Jones, who suffered a grueling injury to his previously injured knee late in the 4th quarter, and his status for the remainder of the season is unknown at this time. I hope he can make a speedy recovery, and possibly make a return this season. But more so, I just hope that his playing career is not over, because he worked extremely hard to make it back on the football field, and it would be a shame if that were to be taken away from him. So I pray he is able heal and heal quickly.

Now, as for the game goes, the Roughnecks looked good, but certainly not great. The defense came to play, and they were the ones that won this game for Houston. Literally. They scored the winning touchdown and made the game saving interception. They had three, count them, THREE 1st quarter interceptions, and they never allowed Dallas’ strong running game to get going. They really played a phenomenal game, and good thing they did, because this offense didn’t have its best day. First off, let’s give credit where it’s due. The Renegades defense is pretty good, and they played great this game. They completely eliminated Cam Phillips from the game plan, and they limited PJ Walker to just 25/41 for 239 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, with a 83.3 rating. This was PJ Walker’s worst game to date, and it’s the first game this season that Walker did not pose a quarterback rating above 100. But man did he come through when they needed him to. He ran the ball effectively, even running over some defenders, and he made some BEAUTIFUL throws in this game. His gem to Nick Holley on the sideline on 3rd down was picture perfect. That throw goes right up there with his sidearm touchdown throw to Phillips against St. Louis as his best throw of the season. Actually, you also can’t forget that beautiful throw down the middle of the field to Nick Holley against the Wildcats. Man, is PJ Walker good. But it was nice to see other players step up when Phillips was taken out of the equation. I’m glad Walker didn’t just try to force it to Phillips and got everyone involved. This wasn’t their best game by any means, but they got the job done.

But the heroes this week are clearly the defense. Man were they phenomenal. 5 takeaways, and the most impressive of them was Gates interception off the hands of Nagel. Wow! How did he make that catch!? I have said about this defense, they are not great, they will give up a lot of yards, maybe even a lot of points. But when they need to come up with a big play, they always certainly seem to do so. How many games has this defense sealed for this team? You could actually say, the past three games have all been sealed by the defense. They continue to lead the league in sacks, and if they can keep getting pressure and the offense continues to force teams to play from behind, there will be no stopping this team, which is why they are still undefeated.

The Houston Roughnecks are CLEARLY the best team in the league, and I think they are the HEAVY favorites to win the XFL Championship at this time. Place your bets now, ’cause the Roughnecks ain’t going anywhere.

XFL BattleHawks stay hot with win over Dragons

BattleHawks safety Will Hill makes an interception. (Credit: XFL.com)

ST. LOUIS — In front of a nearly sold out crowd of 27,527, the City of St. Louis showed up again to the cheer their hometown football team. Week 4 saw the St. Louis BattleHawks improve to 3-1 on the year after a 23-16 win over the Seattle Dragons, who fall to 1-3.

The BattleHawks controlled the game for much of the late afternoon showdown. This team has found a groove in every game so far this season. Their identity as a run-first team sets the tone for the offense with balanced and effective dose of Jordan Ta’amu and the passing game. On the other side of the ball, the defense continues to show up across the board and largely limit the opposing offense. This week was more of the same.

First Half Success

St. Louis set the tone in the first quarter largely behind the arm of Ta’amu. On their second drive of the game, Ta’amu connected with four different receivers as the BattleHawks marched down the field for a 96-yard drive. 75 of the yards were via the passing game while the other 21 came from the legs of Ta’amu. Back to back pass plays of 27 yards put the BattleHawks on the board. The first was to Carlton Agudosi on a deep ball and capped off with a catch-and-run by De’Mornay Pierson-El. St. Louis doubled their PAT completion after Ta’amu and Marcus Lucas connected on the 2-point conversion giving St. Louis a 8-0 lead.

On their next drive, the Dragons mostly halted the run game and brought Ta’amu down for the only sack on the day for either team. Like he’s done all year, BattleHawks kicker Taylor Russolino finished the drive with another impressive 48-yard field goal to put the team up 11-0. Russolino has perfectly executed his kicks all year sitting at 7/7.

After Seattle started with great field position due to a kick out of bounds, the BattleHawk defense was able to stifle their drive and hold the Dragons to a field goal. Seattle had a hard time moving the ball for the entire first half. Brandon Silvers started the day as quarterback for the Dragons and under his reign, Seattle only mustered up 69 yards of combined offense and only 27 in the air.

The last scoring drive of the half was a signature St. Louis drive. 12 plays, 78 yards, and burning over 7 minutes of game clock. Aided by a Seattle roughing the kicker penalty that would have ended the drive on a three and out, St. Louis had a fresh set of downs and chipped away at the field. Ta’amu connected with Brandon Reilly and L’Damian Washington for 21 and 17 yards. Keith Ford capped off the drive with a 13-yard scoring run.

Seattle’s Second Half Shake Up

Seattle went into the break on the receiving end of a lopsided game down 17-3. Looking for some sort of disruption in the second half, head coach Jim Zorn made a quarterback swap sending Brandon Silvers to the Bench and letting BJ Daniels have a chance to lead the Seattle offense.

It was a tale of two halves in this game. The spark of BJ Daniels helped the Dragons try to claw their way back into the game. In the second half, Daniels sparked the offense for 184 yards himself including 84 on the ground. His dynamic ability as a passer and runner began to give the St. Louis defense fits. The Seattle offensive adjustment was a step ahead of the defense and Daniels was hard to contain.

On Seattle’s two second half scoring drives their run game started to churn. On the second of their drives, the heightened defensive attention to the run game opened a hole in the secondary. Daniels connected with Alonzo Moore on a deep ball for a gain of 57 yards, the longest play given up by the BattleHawks defense this year. Shortly into the fourth quarter Seattle had cut the lead down to four, 20-16.

St. Louis only managed two field goals in the second half. Defensively, Will Hill stepped up as the Dragons were driving later in the fourth trying to take the lead. On a Daniels pass deep over the middle, the experienced Safety read the route for his second interception on the year. Which like game one, would seal the deal for the BattleHawks.

Performance Breakdown

Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu set the tone for the offense all day. He recorded career high 16 carriers on the ground leading the team in both attempts and yards with 63. Ta’amu continues to dish the ball out efficiently as well, he was 20/27 for 264 yards. Ta’amu completed 74% of his passes on the day and on the year has a league best 75% completion rate. On the day, Ta’amu accounted for 327 of the offenses 392 yards.

St. Louis’s ball carrying duo of Matt Jones and Christine Michael struggled moving the ball all day on the ground. Jones had 15 carries for 20 yards while Michael had 12 carries for 27 yards. Keith Ford returned for the BattleHawks after missing the last two weeks due to injury. Ford had 3 carries for 23 yards and a touchdown.

I am torn on the offensive performance this week. The almost 400 yards is an impressive number. But their run game was less than stellar. Jones and Michael had 27 combined carries for 47 yards. That is a lot of touches for little gain. Ta’amu had his most carries on the year, his number was called often likely from OC Chuck Long seeing something in the Seattle defense they were able to exploit. From a running back standpoint, the run game has not been the most effective or efficient part of the offense even though it is the team’s identity.

Though not showing in the numbers, it seems like the offense is doing exactly what it is designed to do. Short runs and passes setting up a manageable 3rd and short. They’ve done this all year and have been able to execute as well. On the year, they are sitting at a 52% conversion rate on 3rd down. The Super Bowl winning Kansas City Chiefs converted on an NFL league best 48% of 3rd downs.

Game Balls:

Offense: QB Jordan Ta’amu (2)

Defense: S Will Hill (2)

St. Louis has established themselves as one of two teams at the top of the league. The team has shown improvement week in and week out on both the offensive and defensive fronts, the only team in the league to do so.

The City and fan base has a lot to get behind as we approach the halfway point of the season. With another packed Dome the atmosphere was vibrant and booming. BattleHawk football is fun and a great team to stand behind.

Next Sunday March 8 at 2pm CT, the BattleHawks travel to the nation’s capital to take on the faltering DC Defenders. DC has bottomed out after two straight weeks of losing football. DC will look to bounce back fighting to keep their morale up in this showdown in the East.

As always, Fight and Fly On, BattleHawk Nation.