The Squared Root: XFL Week 2 in Review
Despite some rough performances in week two, the XFL still delivered on their promise of exciting game play and fast paced action. While some teams were a disappointment, other teams showed they’re here to play and win. Week two we started to see some separation among the quarterbacks in the league, while others are still trying to find their identity. The great thing about the XFL is that the game play and style will continue to improve and get better. It’s trending in the right direction, with expected bumps in the road, and that’s the most important thing you can ask for a brand new league. Here is my week two in review!
Note: During my following quick game recaps the number located in parenthesis next to each team name is in reference to Alternative Football News Network’s Mark Angst’s Power Rankings – his power rankings will be released on EVERY Wednesday during the season.
(3)New York Guardians – 0 v. (1)D.C. Defenders – 27
Cardale Jones and the Defenders picked up right where they left off from week one, as they controlled the entire game. The Defenders defense stood out and dominated the Guardians offense. Desmond Lawrence shut down every receiver he went one on one with and the front seven continually got pressure on Matt McGloin. Newly acquire Anthony Johnson, from the Wildcats, made his presence felt with QB pressures and he registered a sack in limited time. McGloin was frustrated and even called his coaching staff and other players. The wheels were falling off New York early and they never recovered as they became the first XFL team to register a zero on the score board when the clock read 00:00 in the fourth quarter.
Thoughts: The Defenders might be the best team in the league. They scored ANOTHER defensive touchdown in this game as this defense gets better and better each week. The addition of Anthony Johnson adds another element that makes them even more dangerous. Cardale Jones has been the most consistent quarterback in the league and despite the interception he threw, his play has been one of the best in the league. The Guardians were in disarray and they got exposed. The lack of a running game was glaring but the biggest issue was the quarterback. McGloin, who ranked 8th on my QB power rankings, showed the entire football universe why I had him ranked there. He let his emotions get the best of him and was even benched late in the second half. Head coach Kevin Gilbride is going to need to commit to a starter for week three if the Guardians want to correct the ship.
(7)Tampa Bay Vipers – 9 v. (6)Seattle Dragons – 17
The entire first half of this game was a struggle for both teams. The Dragons looked to be a mess on offense and the Tampa Bay defense looked like they were the best team in the league. The score was 3-0 at halftime and fans were probably left wondering if there was something else on television. Starting QB for the Vipers, Aaron Murray, was out for this game so they turned to little known Taylor Cornelius. The Vipers, once again, struggled with turnovers and mistakes that bogged down drives and killed momentum. Tampa Bay, for the second straight game, out gained their opponent’s on offense but shot themselves in the foot and came out on the losing end. Seattle saw poor play all around. Their receiving group continues to get exposed, making it hard for quarterback Brandon Silvers get into rhythm. The Vipers and Dragons’ defenses kept each team in this game and saw a big third quarter from Seattle that resulted in a win at home.
Thoughts: The biggest crowd so far for an XFL team, the Dragons really disappointed the crowd. While they came away with the W, it was ugly. The offense continues to get exposed in the passing game and they need to find a way to get in sync. Silvers may not play a worse game than this one and head coach Jim Zorn better hope he doesn’t. Despite the win, the Dragons shouldn’t be feeling that confident moving forward into the season. The whole time I was watching this game I couldn’t help but get that Seattle Seahawk type feeling of a game; they won in that same fashion. The Vipers, meanwhile, can’t get out of their own way. They were offensively better than the Dragons, which is the same story from week one when they out produced the Guardians, but still couldn’t finish drives. Penalties and turnovers killed drives and ended potential points. The defense could potentially be the best in the league but they get tired and worn down due to the lack of offensive drives late in games. Tampa also had the most brutal first two weeks of any of the eight teams as they traveled to New York, back to Tampa for a week of practice and then traveled to Seattle. They get a home game next week. Head coach Marc Trestman needs to find a way to get match the offensive intensity with that of the defense if they want to salvage the season.
(4)Dallas Renegades – 25 v. (8)Los Angeles Wildcats – 18
After a week of turmoil, the Wildcats came out for their home opener swinging. They punched Dallas in the mouth early and showed that this defense, was in fact, going to be different than the week one showing. They rattled the returning Landry Jones early causing Jones to make several mistakes. The Renegades’ defense returned the favor. Not to be outdone, Dallas made sure to disrupt the returning Josh Johnson. Johnson suffered from inaccurate throws and the inability to continue plays. Both teams looked lethargic for three quarters.The fourth quarter saw both teams wake up as Landry Jones became the first XFL quarterback to top the 300 yard mark and Dallas scored 19 points in the fourth. WR Nelson Spruce continued his run as one of the top receivers in the league hauling in two touchdown passes from the Wildcats. Los Angeles scored 15 points in the fourth and even held a lead but the defense let them down late, once again.
Thoughts: The turmoil, that is the Wildcats, continued heading into the week as DC Pepper Johnson was fired and they traded defensive captain Anthony Johnson to the Defenders. Head coach Winston Moss promised all week that the defense would look and play different and he delivered on that promise – for three quarters. The fourth quarter, we saw the same lack of effort and play we did from week one. Moss, who called the defensive plays this week, watched helplessly from the sideline as his team failed to stop the sudden offensive juggernaut that is the Renegades. Jones picked apart the secondary and the Wildcats failed to get pressure on Landry late as the defense failed to protect the lead. The positives for LA is that they did play better and look to be trending in the right direction, but they have a tough task next week as the top ranked Defenders come to town. The Renegades’ defense has been the biggest surprise here as they have got continued pressure and made big plays when it counts the most. Both teams were significantly better with their starting quarterbacks under center.
(2)St. Louis BattleHawks – 24 v. (5)Houston Roughnecks – 28
Game of the week! The Roughnecks came out firing on offense as PJ Walker keeps riding his wave of success. The Roughnecks went up early as WR Cam Phillips started the scoring for Houston – and actually, did most of the scoring for them. Walker didn’t have the same yardage numbers he did in week one, but he still threw for three touchdowns. The BattleHawks defense was able to get pressure on Walker and disrupt his comfort in the pocket. Not to be outdone, Jordan Ta’amu threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns himself, but he included two picks. Pierson-El, for St. Louis, emerged as Ta’amu’s safety net as he caught 9 passes and made huge plays on third down. The game was the tail of two halves, as Houston controlled the first half. They went into halftime up 21-6. The second half? The BattleHawks came alive as they controlled the rest of the game outscoring the Roughnecks 18-7. A fourth quarter touchdown to Cam Phillips, his third of the game, was enough to escape with a win for Houston.
Thoughts: The BattleHawks and Roughnecks put the rest of the league on notice with this game. They have made statements that they’re here to stay and contend for a championship. The two wild card quarterbacks are showing that they’re more talented than people realize and it’s a lot of fun to watch; Ta’amu and Walker are going to be the cornerstones of this league if they don’t land a job in the NFL. The BattleHawks still look like one of the best all around teams and the Roughnecks might have the best offense in the XFL. St. Louis needs a little more dynamic plays from their wide receiving group if they’re going to be able to hang with the more explosive offenses but their defense is a capable of taking over a game. Marquette King might be the best punter in ALL of football and you probably couldn’t convince me that he isn’t currently.
Players of the Week
Offensive Players of the Week: Cam Phillips, WR Houston Roughnecks(8 for 63 and 3 TDs)
Defensive Player of the Week: Jameer Thurman, LB D.C. Defenders(4 total tackles, 1 INT and a TD)
Special Teams Player of the Week: Martez Carter, LA Wildcats(4 returns for 135 yards)
Look for Mark Angst’s Power Rankings on Wednesday and look for the brand new audio column from AFNN’s Kevin Drake, where he’ll breakdown the upcoming weekend games in his preview and prediction piece. And of course, XFL Now every Thursday at 7PM EST where our panel breaks down the games and news from the league!
AFN Live Host and XFL Now Analyst