Two of the four games in week three saw teams combine for season-high point totals. It seemed like this was the week that offenses really dialed in after a truncated training camp and no preseason games. Even the two lower-scoring games on Sunday felt more like strong defensive efforts by the opposition as opposed to offenses tripping over themselves. Putting aside the numbers, the offenses passed the eye test as looking more coherent as well. This certainly bodes well as the season moves forward and allows teams to add more wrinkles to their playbook now that coaches and players seem comfortable with what’s been installed to this point.
Down: Coaches going for it on 4th down
With the way the league rules are set up to favor the offense, and with a number of younger, first-time head coaches roaming the sidelines, it had the feel of a year where coaches would challenge conventional wisdom on some fourth downs, just as you’re seeing more and more coaches do in the NFL. Instead, conservatism has won the day in the first three weeks. Only when backed into a corner and forced to go for it late in the game have coaches bucked up in these situations.
Starting quarterbacks are always going to be mic’d because they have the most to say on the field. Unfortunately, most of what Brett Hundley said on Saturday night was not fit for broadcast (the censors were a little slow on the button several times). If you’ve ever watched one of their scripted dramas, you know that swearing isn’t just accepted on FX, it often seems encouraged. With the XFL, though, the intent is likely to make it family-friendly viewing. Players like Hundley (and he isn’t the only one) have made it difficult to enjoy the All-Access portion of the XFL because there’s so much dead air with attempts to mute the cursing. It has not made for the enjoyable listening experience it could otherwise be.
Down: Kickoff coverage units
A kick returner has yet to break a return for a touchdown, but just like all other aspects of the game, you give coaches and players enough time and they’re able to scheme up any situation. In this case, kick returners found a little more room to run in week three. Both Kelvin McKnight for Seattle and Cinque Sweeting for Vegas had returns in excess of 30 yards. Darrius Shepherd had the longest to date this season for St. Louis at 72 yards. In Houston, San Antonio’s Travis Jonsen took one back 59 yards. In the first two weeks, just five kick returns total went back 30 yards or more.
Up: Running QBs
Teams have found success putting their quarterbacks on the move. Seattle’s Ben DiNucci scrambled for 32 yards, while his Vegas counterpart, Brett Hundley, led the Vipers in rushing and scored a touchdown on the ground. DC was able to stay undefeated by relying on Jordan Ta’amu’s legs: He ran ten times and while he had just a 2.2 yard per carry average, he did score a touchdown rushing. Orlando was able to keep things close against Arlington thanks in great part to putting Paxton Lynch in space. He ran for the Guardians’ only TD against the Renegades. While defenses have dominated for the most part this season, offenses have had to get creative to keep the defenders on their heels. One way to do that is by making the quarterback a runner.
Things got chippy in a couple of the games, most notably at the end of the DC Defenders vs. St. Louis Battlehawks tilt when a few players were ejected for participating in an all-out brawl on the field. The finish marred an otherwise memorable game between two undefeated teams. It’s understandable that players have a little fire in the belly given what is at stake in these games both personally, professionally, and financially, but incidents like what happened in DC reflect poorly on a league that is trying to establish itself as a serious football product.