The Squared Root: XFL Week 4 in Review

The XFL continued to truck through the weekend as week four came to a conclusion on Sunday night. This week we saw two new quarterbacks, a devastating injury, another big blowout that led to the second shut out of the year, a lot of questions among six of the eight teams and a coach who continued to coach with a broken leg for 2 and half quarters. The XFL has got stronger and stronger each week and will look to continue that week four momentum into week five!

Note: As always the number in front of each team is the power ranking by AFNN’s Mark Angst – look for his power rankings column, Mark My Words, every Wednesday to see where the teams move leading into each week! 

(5)Los Angeles Wildcats – 14 v. (8)New York Guardians – 17

After crushing the Defenders in week three, the Wildcats made the cross country to the east to do battle with the reeling Guardians. New York turned to late addition Luis Perez to lead the offense due to an injury to Matt McGloin. The Josh Johnson-led offense picked up where the left off outgaining the New York offense by 95 yards. The defense held the Guardians under 300 yards of total offense. Josh Johnson threw for 325 yards and 2 touchdowns; he threw a pick, as well. Tre McBride continued his showing out party by catching 8 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown this week. The weather was dreadful and windy, it snowed mixed with rain and some kind of icy precipitation. The wind was whipping the ball all over the place and New York’s gameplan? Eliminate mistakes. Luis Perez answered that call. Averaging a dismal 5.8 yards per attempt, Perez ended with 150 yards passing, a touchdown but more importantly, no turnovers. The Guardians defense buckled down when it needed led by CB standout Jamar Summers(5 tackles and an INT) and Matthew McCrane hit three field goals to edge the Wildcats.

Thoughts: People need to pump the brakes a little on crowning Perez the savior of New York. A lot of his production came from less than 10 yards per completion and the receivers did most of the work. Colby Pearson has started to emerge as the most reliable target for New York quarterbacks and they’ll need his continued progress if they want to continue improving on offense. New York defense continues to be one of their strongest units as they made plays when it better the most. The Wildcats continue to get better but the team continually makes mistakes and it stalls drives. The defense is still improving but how long does it need to continue to improve until it’s too late? Tre McBride is making strides as one of the best receivers in the league and has become the most consistent receiver in this offense. The running game needs a boost in order for them to win. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow and head coach Winston Moss need to involve those running backs more. Martez Carter provided a much needed spark last week but was out this week. Elijah Hood and Larry Rose need to be featured more.

(1)Houston Roughnecks -27 v. (4)Dallas Renegades – 20

PJ Walker continued his impressive XFL season by throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns, he did throw a pick, but he was able to find all of his receivers and made plays by moving the pocket and creating offensive momentum. The defense continued create turnovers, causing 5 this week, including a huge and athletic interception by DeMarquis Gates at their own 2 to end the Dallas comeback bid and LB Beniquez Brown added 9 total tackles to shut out the Renegades in the fourth quarter to come away victorious. The Renegades defense might be the best defense in the league. They held MVP candidate Cam Phillips to one reception for 9 yards and the defense did their best to contain the Roughnecks offense despite the offense turning the ball over. They held Houston to two field goals on the first two turnovers, but the gave up a short field touchdown to Nick Holley on the third. QB Landry Jones left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, to the already injured knee, which puts the rest of his season in jeopardy. Phillip Nelson, once again, took over the quarterbacking duties and a Flynn Nagel drop turned interception could have led the Renegades to a comeback. Dallas Renegades offensive coordinator, Hal Mumme, got leveled on the sideline and coached for two and a half quarters with a broken leg.

Thoughts: Despite shutting down the Roughnecks primary weapon in the Cam Phillips, PJ Walker was able to connect with Nick Holley on 8 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. The weapons at PJ Walker’s disposal is impressive and head coach June Jones has done a fantastic job at creating a high octane offense. The defense continues to be impressive and opportunistic as they have 11 turnovers through the first four games. They need to find a way to shut down offenses without relying strictly on turnover as they can sustain that level of success. The Renegades first half struggles continued and it set them back big, too big, as they couldn’t overcome the deficit but they somehow still made it a game. The Landry Jones injury isn’t nearly as big for the Renegades as it appears as he’s played poorly to start all three games he’s played in. Phillip Nelson can’t duplicate that play if the Renegades want to continue to push for a playoff spot in the west. Cameron Artis-Payne was shut down for this game, but they need him to continue his success in order for Dallas to be successful.

(6)Seattle Dragons – 16 v. (3)St. Louis BattleHawks – 23

The St. Louis BattleHawks continued to show they’re the most balanced team in the XFL and Jordan Ta’amu continues to climb up the MVP ladder as they took the lead early and never looked back against the struggling Dragons. Dragons’ QB Brandon Silvers was benched at halftime and backup BJ Daniels provided a spark on offense leading the Dragons to 13 points in the second half on 100 yards passing, a touchdown but a pick, as well. Daniels ran for 84 yards on seven carries showcasing his overall ability to help spark the offense. Kenneth Farrow ran in a touchdown, the first rushing touchdown for the Dragons but no running back had more than 26 yards rushing. Seattle didn’t have a receiver catch more than 2 passes, as well. The BattleHawks were led by MVP candidate Jordan Ta’amu. He threw for 264 yards on 20 of 27 passing and a touchdown. He added 63 yards rushing and made big plays all game to keep St. Louis moving offensively. Dexter McCoil continues his push for defensive player of the year with 7 total tackles and a couple passes defended. St. Louis ran 74 plays compared to Seattle’s 42 which controlled the game flow and wore down Seattle’s defense throughout the game.

Thoughts: A strong start was enough for St. Louis in this game but the surprise addition of BJ Daniels put the defense on their heels. They settled in nicely in the fourth quarter and were able to contain the sudden explosion on offense under Daniels’ leadership. The BattleHawks are the most balanced team in the XFL and it’s showcased every week. De’Mornay Pierson-El has become the biggest threat through the air for Ta’amu and the three STL running backs compliment each other enough to make this team dangerous. Jordan Ta’amu is a star and is slowly becoming the front runner for MVP of the league. The QB switch worked for Seattle in this game but they still need to figure themselves out. Head coach Jim Zorn is proven to be out of his element. He’s confused and lost out there, it’s taking too long to get plays into the offense and his inability to understand the game at the XFL level is a glaring issue. If Seattle is going to win games, they need better from Jim Zorn moving forward. They also need to feature those three running backs more because the receiving group just isn’t strong enough to overcome mediocre QB play.

(2)D.C. Defenders – 0 v. (7)Tampa Bay Vipers – 25

Dominant. There’s nothing else to describe this game. The Defenders, for the second straight week, looked like they forgot there was a football game to be played. The ran a total of 39 plays for just over 100 yards and Cardale Jones for the second straight week played like one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. The Vipers flat out ran over the Defenders. The D.C. defense couldn’t get off the field and to compound matters and make them worse, the offense couldn’t get any momentum to help bail the defense out. Tampa Bay had the first, and second, 100 yard rushers in the young XFL season as De’Veon Smith(122) and Jacques Patrick(108) ran for a combined 230 yards. Taylor Cornelius bounced back and threw for 211 yards and a touchdown, he threw a pick but the Vipers defense did their part in shutting down the D.C. offense. Daniel Williams continued to impress and added another 7 receptions for 72 yards to his season totals and Jalen Tolliver continues to emerge as a reliable option. In comparison to the 39 plays ran by D.C., the Vipers ran a total of 80 plays as they grinded out multiple double digit drives and wore that defense into the ground.

Thoughts: What is going on in D.C.? After a strong two week start, the Defenders put together two of the worst road games anyone has ever seen. Desmond Lawrence is still the lone bright spot on defense, but that front seven got exposed by the power running of Tampa Bay. Cardale Jones was inaccurate and didn’t make plays when it mattered most. They are continuing to under utilize Rashad Ross in the passing game and the running game, thought to be a strong part before the season started, continues to be a real headache for this offense. The Vipers have improved steadily and Taylor Cornelius has been impressive in the last two weeks. The Quentin Flowers saga appears to behind the Vipers and with the win, the fanbase should start coming back around. They need to continue this success and Cornelius needs to prove he can beat teams if the Vipers want to push for a playoff spot. The combination of Patrick and Smith needs to be featured every game moving forward.

Offensive Player(s) of the Week: De’Veon Smith & Jacques Patrick, RBs Tampa Bay Vipers – 230 combined rushing yards

Defensive Player(s) of the Week: The Houston Roughnecks defense(5 turnovers)

Special Teams Player of the Week: Matthew McCrane, K New York Guardians – 3 for 3 on field goals in poor weather conditions

MWSquared’s Toughman Award for the Week: Hal Mumme, OC Dallas Renegades – coached two and a half quarters with a broken leg

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! 

~Michael Washington-Weeks

XFL Now Host & Analyst and AFN Live Host