Houston Roughnecks Roster Breakdown – XFL Football

houston roughnecks breakdown

In our latest look at the XFL, we’re going to provide you with a breakdown and overview of every team in the league. I think the one thing deferring people from watching the XFL is because they have no idea who the players are, or at least, the vast majority. Anyone who follows the NFL knows who Landry Jones and Cardale Jones are, for the most part, but other than that there are a lot of unknowns on these rosters.

I know there are already some XFL experts out there who picked up the game before the season even started. They’re ahead of the curve and probably don’t need a breakdown, but for everyone else, an overview of each team will be helpful for your XFL betting needs. It’s a betting friendly league that has emphasized gambling. There is a sports betting section on their website, and they even have the odds posted on the screen during games.

Perhaps there comes a day in the future that they provide in-game betting odds on the screen, from their odds provider, which would be a groundbreaking addition. You can get everything you need for your XFL betting over at MyBookie. Along with point spreads and totals for games, you can also lock in a selection for the XFL champion. And I am fairly certain that this league isn’t going to collapse in the middle of the season, so you can be confident that you’re not going to get a refund, unlike the AAF.


In the first edition of our XFL roster overview edition, we’ll go over the most impressive team in Week 1 of the XFL schedule. That honor belongs to the Houston Roughnecks led by former NFL quarterback P.J. Walker. Also known as Phillip, Walker spent time with the Indianapolis Colts fresh out of Temple University. He appeared in some preseason games with the Colts and on the practice squad. Walker failed to catch on the Colts’ active roster or practice squad this past year, and landed in Houston with the Roughnecks. You can learn about Walker and his team below. They are currently one of the favorites to win the XFL Championship following a 37-17 victory. Head below for our Houston Roughnecks’ roster breakdown for 2020 in the XFL.



As we noted above, P.J. Walker is the unquestioned starter in Houston at quarterback. He had a brilliant college career at Temple that saw him throw for 74 touchdowns and 44 interceptions between 2013 to 2016. He led the Owls to a fine season in 2017, which saw them ranked fairly highly in the country. They got smacked 49-16 against Notre Dame that year, but otherwise had a successful campaign.

Walker was acquired by the Colts as an undrafted free agent and threw for a total of 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in the preseason. No touchdowns and 2 interceptions this past preseason ultimately got him cut. His play in Week 1 of the XFL was superb. Walker passed for 272 yards and 4 touchdowns and 1 interception against the LA Wildcats to get an early start on the MVP award and garner the attention of NFL scouts as well.

Behind Walker on the depth chart is another quarterback with NFL experience, Connor Cook, who is best known for his time with the Michigan State Spartans and Oakland Raiders. Walker won the quarterback battle in training camp, but Cook provides solid depth as a backup. His experience in the NFL should be helpful if he gets called on to replace Walker.

Running Backs

Unable to make a dent in the NFL or CFL, James Butler has turned his attention to the No. 1 role with the Roughnecks in the XFL. The former Nevada and Iowa product saw mega success in Nevada before transferring to the Hawkeyes. He rushed for 2,681 yards and 22 touchdowns before going to Iowa and having a lesser impact.

Unable to catch on the Raiders’ roster this past preseason, Butler still has a lot left in his career. He’s only a 24-year-old that could get another NFL tryout in the future. That said, Butler has already been cut by a CFL and NFL team. He rushed for 30 yards on 9 carries to lead the team in Week 1.

Former Boston College runner, Andre Williams, fills in as the backup to Butler. Williams has a fair bit of NFL experience, having rushed for 1,090 yards and 8 touchdowns between the Giants and Chargers from 2014 to 2017. At 27 years old, Williams provides solid veteran leadership, but his speed has clearly diminished over the years. Don’t expect a big impact from Williams, though this is an offense predicated on passing the ball, so the running backs are going to play second fiddle to Walker throughout the year.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

The most recognizable face of Walker’s weapons is Sammie Coates. Coates is well known for his time with the Tigers at Auburn. He hauled in 1,757 yards and 13 touchdowns in his career, including a trip to the National Championship in 2013 against Florida State. Coates was targeted the most in Week 1, though he caught just two receptions for 26 yards. He spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers following his departure from Auburn after his junior season. As a third-round selection, we can call him a bust, but could maybe find a new career in the XFL.

Cam Phillips led the Roughnecks with 67 yards on four receptions. He caught a deep bomb from Walker that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown. Phillips is only 24 years old, having spent time in training camp with the Buffalo Bills the last two years. He was waived in final cuts by the Bills in late August. Phillips was unable to find a home in Buffalo, but could thrive in Houston. The combo of Phillips and Nick Holley could be tough on defenders this season.

Holley, who has been compared as a poor man’s Julian Edelman, partly because they both went to Kent State, and do their damage out of the slot. Holley can also be used out of the backfield as a running back. He spent time with the LA Rams in training camp and was designated as a running back; however, spent most of time in college at wide receiver and looked at his best there should do well for Houston this season. He’s a Swiss Army knife player that is likely going to provide plenty of mismatches.

Kahlil Lewis, who vomited on the field in Week 1, may prove to be an x-factor for the Roughnecks. He spent 2015-2018 at the University of Cincinnati, tallying 2,116 yards and 21 receiving touchdowns. Lewis is still young and has plenty of room to develop. He caught five balls for 45 yards with a touchdown in Week 1. I would also keep an eye on Sam Mobley who escaped in the secondary for a deep 39-yard score from Walker.



P.J. Walker got the attention in Week 1, but give the Roughnecks’ defense a lot of credit in their ability to slow down Chad Kanoff and company. Deatrick Nichols, who got attention at South Florida as a member of the first-team of the AAC in 2016 and 2017, made his impact felt immediately. Nichols has the third most interceptions in school history at USF with 11 in total. His ball hawking skills were on display immediately in the XFL, as he snagged an INT in the 4th quarter. Nichols also made 5 tackles and had a sack to lead the Roughnecks on defense.

He was cut by the Arizona Cardinals in the last rough of roster cuts in August, but still showed some promise in the preseason. Fellow cornerback, Cody Brown, has a minute of NFL experience as well after playing well in the AAF. He was cut after signing with the Jaguars in April, though it looked like they might have made a mistake after his effort in Week 1. Brown made a beautiful play in the end zone to break up a potential touchdown.

The play went to review for an illegal hit, but he didn’t lead with the crown of his helmet and made a great play on the ball. Brown finished with six combined tackles to lead the team. If Nichols and Brown can continue to play that well together, the offense isn’t going to be the only thing clicking in Houston. Also keep in mind that this secondary has Marqueston Huff, who has a lot of NFL experience. He came into the NFL in 2014 with the Titans and last appeared with the Cowboys in 2018. The 27-year-old safety provides experience and ability deep in the secondary for the Roughnecks.


Kaelin Burnett is another veteran of this squad with professional experience. Burnett was signed as an undrafted rookie in 2012 to the Raiders’ practice squad. Since then he bounced around the NFL, CFL, and then the AAF. Burnett made an impact in the XFL right away, with four combined tackles and an interception. There are some miles on his legs, and he will have to keep up with a lot of younger guys in this league, so we’ll see how it goes.

Edmond Robinson might be the key to this linebacking core. Robinson has recent experience in the NFL regular season. He appeared in 21 games between 2015 and 2016, as he racked up 12 combined tackles and a couple of passes broken up. Robinson tallied five combined tackles and a QB hit in Week 1. Burnett and Robinson are going to be the two linebackers to pay attention to this season on the Roughnecks.

Defensive Line

Kony Ealy is a name that is going to jump off the page to college and NFL fans. He was a highly touted college player at Missouri. He was flirting with first-round potential in college, but he ultimately fell to the Panthers in the second-round with the No. 60 pick. Ealy was a massive bust, as the Panthers cut him after two seasons, and then spent short stints in New England, New York, Dallas, and Oakland. He looked motivated and ready to prove something in Week 1. Ealy was a force off the edge with five tackles, 0.5 sacks, four QB hits, and two tackles for a loss.

Caushad Lyons is going to be the other defensive lineman to remember on the Roughnecks. This guy has been absolutely everywhere in the NFL in just four years. Lyons may have the record in that regard, as he’s spent time with a staggering nine in only four years. He also caught on with the Hamilton Tigercats of the CFL last season. Lyons was reasonably effective off the edge as well in their first XFL game, having recorded three combined tackles. Former Clemson lineman Corey Crawford had a nice debut in the XFL as well, with three tackles, combined for a sack with Ealy, and two tackles for a loss.

In Conclusion

There’s a reason why the Houston Roughnecks are being regarded as one of the best teams in the XFL, and it isn’t only because of P.J. Walker under center at quarterback. The Roughnecks are a well built team offensively and defensively. They also have a coach that has had lots of experience at multiple levels of football, June Jones. Jones is also serving as General Manager of the Roughnecks.

If Walker has an off game at quarterback, the defense should be good enough to keep Houston in games. And no, I don’t think we can expect Walker to play as well as he did last week every game. Against the Wildcats, the defense compiled five sacks, 16 QB hits, and two turnovers. According to the odds, Houston is regarded as the second-best team in the XFL. I don’t think I can argue that. +300 at MyBookie provides some nice value to win the XFL Championship on a team that is going to be a threat all season.


The Odds
Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of TheSportsGeek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at TheSportsGeek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, and horse racing. Prior to writing for TheSportsGeek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily only at TheSportsGeek.

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