The first half of the XFL’s Week One is over. The Seattle Dragons were soundly beaten by the D.C. Defenders, 31-19, then the Houston Roughnecks defeated the Los Angeles Wildcats 37-17. With slick presentation and some impressive performance on the field the XFL looks to complete its first week with two Sunday games, both of which will be shown live on BT Sport.
Who to Watch?
Tampa Bay Vipers
Aaron Murray was a Jekyl and Hyde player in his most recent stint as a starter. The fact this was in the AAF should be even more worrying for Vipers fans. However, he was extremely productive for Georgia in the SEC, accounting for 137 total touchdowns. With better protection the Vipers expect their version of Murray to be more like the one we saw in college.
Perhaps the most interesting player in the league is ‘tweener’ Quinton Flowers. He played quarterback while at South Florida but for the Vipers he’s listed as a quarterback/running back. This likely means he’ll see the field from Week One as a receiver, running back and wildcat quarterback. Could he find himself back at quarterback fulltime? Watch the clip below and judge for yourself.
Without weapons a quarterback rarely elevates his team to victory. Look for the quarterback to get the ball to AAF veteran Reece Horn. He was consistently one of the better players in the now defunct league and is likely to be the Vipers’ primary receiver. He’ll be doubly important with the injury to Antonio Callaway, the former Cleveland Brown. De’Veon Smith will begin as the primary running back in an offence that necessitates a good receiving back.
New York Guardians
The Guardians face an interesting choice at quarterback. Matt McGloin started six games for the then Oakland Raiders as a rookie, completing 118 passes for 1,547 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also threw 8 interceptions and consequently saw his playing time drop. Alternatively they have Luis Perez, acquired as part of a trade. Perez is an AAF product who started well before stagnating. For me, McGloin’s skillset is greater and he should start.
Continuing the theme of AAF stars who have moved to the XFL, cornerback Jamar Summers had three interceptions and looked impressive in coverage for the Birmingham Iron. Summers also has pro experience, having had short stints at multiple NFL teams.
Dallas will have one of the more seasoned quarterbacks in Landry Jones. Jones seen as the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger at one point. However, he will miss the season opener with an injury, leaving the Renegades to start Philip Nelson. Nelson flashed ability in the AAF was far too inconsistent and held the ball too long. They’ve got to hope Jones gets better quickly!
Running back Lance Dunbar played a significant amount for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL and was effective as a change of pace back, gaining 473 yards on 105 carries and adding 647 yards receiving on 67 catches. He’ll likely be the lead back for the Renegades.
Jazz Ferguson is a 6-foot-5, 218-pound wide receiver who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and was off to a fair start at LSU but was then suspended after a failed drug test. He switched college to finished Northwestern State and never flourished as expected. With extra time in a pro offense could he thrive? We all know coaches love those speed/height combination receivers.
St. Louis BattleHawks
The BattleHawks have one of the youngest quarterbacks in the league. Ole Miss, product Jordan Ta’amu will make his professional football debut on Sunday. He has an NFL arm but is rushed too often, has sloppy RPO tendencies and is slow to diagnose what’s happening on the field. He’ll get his time to shine but if he doesn’t read the defences quicker his time starting may be short lived.
The running backs will be key to the BattleHawks progress this season. Former Seattle Seahawk’s second round pick, Christine Michael, will likely carry the lion’s share, but Matt Jones will also get multiple touches. Michael was never much of a receiving threat but rushed for 1089 yards on 256 carries. Jones also has NFL experience, mostly with the Washington Redskins.
One of the most important players for the future success of the XFL is Kenny Robinson, formerly of West Virginia. Robinson is the first player with remaining college eligibility to join the league instead of completing his time in college and then try for the NFL. If he has any degree of success, he may inspire more college athletes to make the early jump.
The first day of the XFL’s first season under Oliver Luck, father of former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, was encouraging. Big plays, big hits and a brand of football that should build a following were on display. As team identities are revealed and star players emerge we’ll get a better feel for who’s who and what’s what but football in February is definitely fun!
Photo credit Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports