The DC Defenders are currently the favorites to win the XFL Championship as we head into Week 2 of the schedule. A brand name like Cardale Jones on the roster helps the Defenders get some attention, but are the odds and hype warranted? There are people blindly betting the DC Defenders because they see the most recognizable quarterback in the XFL and make DC an auto-bet. Just keep in mind that there is plenty of other talent out there in the league, including P.J. Walker of the Houston Roughnecks who made a statement in Week 1.
Jones would likely still be in the NFL if teams were confident in him, so don’t think it equates to an automatic championship for the Defenders. That said, a complete and deep team would give DC a seriou advantage over the competition. Jones does have a former NFLer to toss the rock to in Eli Rogers, who was too much to contain in Week 1 against the Seattle Dragons.
Rogers joins Cardale Jones as two of the most recognizable players on the DC Defenders. They were able to develop nice chemistry immediately and are likely going to put up nice numbers throughout the season. I think what you really want to look out for on this team is their defense, though. Jones may get the attention, but if they’re going to live up to expectations and win a championship in the inaugural season of the XFL, it’s likely going to happen because of their defense. Let’s breakdown some of the key players that you will want to pay attention to on the DC Defenders in 2020.
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Houston Roughnecks Roster Breakdown
The former Ohio State standout, Cardale Jones, who led the Buckeyes to a National Championship in 2014 is the captain of the ship in DC for the Defenders. Jones did not have three or four years to showcase his talent in college. He was thrown into the fray because of injuries, which ultimately resulted in a blessing in disguise for Urban Meyer.
During his incredible run to a National Championship, there were talks that Jones could be a first-rough selection in the draft. He slipped to the fourth-round with Jones landing in Buffalo. Jones moved to San Diego thereafter and spent two years with the Chargers before being released after poor preseason play this past August. Jones then spent just 11 days with the Seahawks before getting canned.
Jones passed for 235 yards with 2 touchdowns in his XFL debut against Seattle. Backing Jones up on the Defenders is former Buffalo Bull and Bill, Tyree Jackson. I was a fan of Tyree in college at Buffalo, as he had the strongest arm in the MAC. He struggled to find a spot on the Bills, but the 22-year-old is still young and could get another opportunity. Jackson has some speed and can move around which comes in handy.
True college football fans will find a familiar face in the backfield for the Defenders. Donnel Pumphrey is trying to ignite his professional career in the XFL after a failed stint in the NFL. Pumphrey put up jaw dropping numbers at San Diego State, as he totalled 6,405 yards and 62 touchdowns on the ground, along with 1,039 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. Before Rashaad Penny at San Diego State there was Pumphrey. However, it didn’t translate to success with the Philadelphia Eagles. The furthest Pumphrey got in the NFL was fourth-string back on the Eagles.
Pumphrey received only four carries in Week 1, as he rushed for just 5 yards. The No. 2 back on the roster, Jhurell Pressly, was given 12 carries for 31 yards on 2.6 yards per carry to lead the Defenders. He’s a 27-year-old that has been given a chance with five different NFL teams. Pressly was able to find an active role with the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF and parlayed it into a contract with the Defenders.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
This is where the Defenders are likely going to have a serious advantage over the competition. Eli Rogers has regular season experience in the NFL with the Steelers, having spent three years between 2016 to 2018 in Pittsburgh. Rogers caught 78 balls for 822 yards and 4 touchdowns in the NFL. His experience is going to be more than welcome in DC for the Defenders. Rogers clearly has a step left in his game. He led the Defenders with 6 receptions and 73 yards in Week 1. Expect him to continue to hook up with Jones often this season.
Defenses will have to concern themselves with Rashad Ross as well. He is best known as being the starting kick returner for the Redskins in 2015. Ross spent minimal time as a wide receiver, as he caught 9 receptions for 192 yards and a total of 3 touchdowns. He saw more time in that regard with the Hotshots of the AAF, where Ross was able to show off his speed. Ross is a burner who can be gone if he gets lost in the secondary. The former Arizona State Aztec had the highest receiving grade in the AAF, according to Pro Football Focus. When the season was cut short, Ross finished with 36 receptions for 586 yards and an AAF-leading 7 touchdowns.
Former Chicago Bear, Khari Lee, who was drafted in the sixth round in 2016, spent a year in Chicago and then the Lions for about a year as well. Lee is a big bodied tight end that isn’t exactly fast, but is a sizable target for Jones. He was able to get free in the secondary in his XFL debut and score a 39-yard touchdown for his only reception of the day. It was only one catch but he made it count.
Elijah Campbell and Desmond Lawrence are responsible for the corners of the DC defense. Campbell wasn’t too active in the first game, but the ball wasn’t thrown in his direction very often. In other words, that’s a good thing. Campbell did make a tackle and broke up two passes, though. The 24-year-old is playing in a starting role for the second time in his professional career after failing to catch on with the Browns and moving on to the AAF.
Lawrence was active in his XFL debut, having made three tackles, a tackle for a loss, and two passes defended. The former Tar Heel signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and was close to making that team. He suffered an injury and landed on IR to set his professional career back. Lawrence spearheaded the North Carolina defense when he was in college, as he racked up 175 tackles, three interceptions, and a forced fumble. A strong showing in the XFL, and he may have another look in the NFL. If he didn’t get injured, Lawrence may still be in the NFL at the moment.
Baltimore Ravens and Florida Gator fans will be familiar with safety Matt Elam. Elam was a bust with the Ravens after being selected in the first-round of the 2013 draft. He was regarded as the best safety in the draft, though his production fell off after a productive rookie season. His best days are behind him, and he’s more of a veteran presence in the locker room.
Former Michigan Wolverine, 23-year-old Tyree Kinnel, and fellow youngster, Carlos Merritt, have a lot more upside than Elam. Merritt is an unknown talent out of Campbell University, having spent last season in the AAF with Atlanta. Brandon Silvers was held to 217 passing yards in Week 1, so it was a decent effort by the secondary.
Jonathan Massaquoi has had one of the better NFL careers among active players in the XFL. His three seasons with the Falcons was fairly productive. Massaquoi made 70 tackles and 6 sacks in 39 games with the Falcons. He tailed off following a foot injury, and didn’t provide meaningful contributions again until last year in the AAF. The 31-year-old veteran is joined by a host of talent, including Jameer Thurman and A.J. Tarpley.
Tarpley was drafted by the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2015. After a promising start to his career, he announced his retirement from football at 23 years old because of concussion concerns. Tarpley made his return to football last season with an appearance in the AAF. He showed in his XFL debut that he still has the talent to play.
Tarpley made five combined tackles along with a pass defended in his first game with the Defenders. Thurman was with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL most recently, helping them to a Grey Cup victory in 2018. He led the team in tackles a week ago with a total of eight, which included a TFL.
Jayson Bromley anchors a solid defensive line for the Defenders. Bromley has been to New York with the Giants, Saints, and 49ers the past several years. He entered the league in 2014 in New York and played there for three years, highlighted by a career-high 36 tackles in 2015. He was a surprising contributor at Syracuse after getting no recruiting attention, and hopes to find more success in his professional career with the Defenders.
Elijah Qualls was selected in the sixth round of the 2017 draft by the Eagles. He was able to collect a Super Bowl ring with the team, but wasn’t much of a factor. Qualls went on to sign short contracts with the Panthers, Ravens, and Buccaneers as well, finding no love and no playing time anywhere. The XFL is going to be his last hope of finding a role on a professional football team.
Northern Arizona product, Siupeli Anau, who signed and was waived multiple times by the Arizona Cardinals, should provide some nice depth to the Defenders’ defensive line as well. The guy I’m really keeping an eye on is Tracy Sprinkle, though. Sprinkle was supposed to be a major contributing factor at Ohio State, but injuries were unkind to the 24-year-old. He is one of those guys that you have to think what his career would be like right now if he didn’t get hurt. If he’s healthy, Sprinkle could play a role in helping the Defenders to an XFL Championship.
Head coach Pep Hamilton has a really solid team to work with this season in DC. Fortunately, the franchise drafted extremely well and is setting up to be a difficult team to beat in 2020. The fact they were able to draft Cardale Jones, Eli Rogers, and Rashad Ross is pretty impressive. Tyree Jackson as a backup option behind Jones is a terrific luxury item as well. But, those three on the field together is likely going to spell trouble for opposing defenses. The Defenders may not have a defense like the Roughnecks, but I believe they’re talented enough to give Jones and the offense enough room to pull away from teams often this year. We’ll see how this season shakes out, but the odds makers are thinking highly of them at +225. If you’re confident that they are winning the XFL Championship, MyBookie has you covered with a welcome bonus to get started.