The last time the XFL had a championship game, Los Angeles participated in the championship known as the Million Dollar Game. They were known as the Los Angeles Xtreme then, as Tommy Maddox led the team to a 38-6 win over the San Francisco Demons. That version of the XFL had a lot of quirks, and sort of blended the world of WWE with football. It was incredibly different than this rebirth of the XFL, which is attempting to put a professional product on the field now. The problem for the Los Angeles Wildcats is that they’re not going to be sniffing the XFL Championship. It’s highly unlikely they will have a chance to defend their championship from 2001.
If that’s going to happen, the Wildcats are going to need some luck along the way. A plethora of injuries to other teams, and Josh Johnson playing out of his mind will be required to give the Wildcats a fighting chance. Maybe Johnson can do it and find a way back into the NFL. He was heading back to the NFL with the Detroit Lions, but Johnson already signed a contract with the Wildcats and the XFL didn’t allow him to leave. This was when the Lions were dealing with a slew of injuries at quarterback, and needed Johnson as an emergency replacement. That’s a bad deal for Johnson, who would have made a lot more money in the NFL.
Longtime Packers’ assistant head coach and linebacker’s coach, Winston Moss, signed on to be the head coach of the Wildcats. Moss lost his job with the Packers when Mike McCarthy was canned in 2018. The odds are stacked against Moss having success in the XFL, though if he can turn in an early season underdog into a contender, that should earn him some points. Moss has a lot of work to do in Los Angeles, though. It’s imperative that the offense goes through Johnson at quarterback, because the Wildcats are likely going to struggle otherwise. Head below for a LA Wildcats’ roster breakdown and key players to look out for this season.
— Los Angeles Wildcats (@XFLWildcats) February 18, 2020
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Josh Johnson must stay healthy for the Wildcats to at least have a puncher’s chance this season. He entered this season banged up and was unable to contribute in Week 1. That’s not going to work for the Wildcats. There isn’t much behind Johnson on the depth chart. Johnson is a familiar face around the NFL. He’s been around since coming into the NFL in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Before his professional career, Johnson was coached by Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego.
Johnson has been on nine different teams in the NFL. His career also includes a stint in the UFL with the Sacramento Mountain Lions in 2012. That was another alternative to the NFL that didn’t last long, but I do recall a bit of it, and Johnson and Brooks Bollinger were the only redeeming features of the UFL. Johnson has played about just every role you can as a quarterback in the NFL. He’s been on practice squads, a No. 1 QB for a minute in Tampa, and a backup throughout his long career. Johnson has recorded 8 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and 394 rushing yards. He looked good with the Lions this past preseason, but was unable to make the final 53-man roster.
The Wildcats have a lot of quarterbacks, but there’s only one that is likely going to lead them anywhere. Chad Kanoff, Jalan McClendon, and Marcus McDade are all under contract with the Wildcats. Kanoff started the year with the New York Guardians, but was traded after it was apparent Johnson was unable to play to open the season. Kanoff has been on the Cardinals, Lions, and Buccaneers’ practice squads, but hasn’t played a down in the regular season of the NFL.
Elijah Hood spearheads a weak running back core for the Wildcats. Again, the success of this team will fall on Josh Johnson. He is unlikely to get much help from his runners, but maybe they can find a gem in the ground. Hood was drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 draft by the Oakland Raiders and quickly fizzled out. He made the practice squad, but was waived in 2018 after failing to perform well. His chances of making a roster was dashed when he suffered a knee injury after getting picked up by the Panthers. Hood was able to get another opportunity this past preseason with the Jaguars, but was released in final cuts, like the majority of players in the XFL.
DeJuan Harris is the most recognizable face in the Wildcats’ backfield, but he is living off a strong performance in a playoff game with the Packers in 2013. Harris beat the Vikings for 100 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown to be the unlikely star for the Packers. The 2012 season was by far the best of his career. After a knee injury, though, Harris’ career has spiraled down. He signed with five other teams thereafter and got nowhere in each destination. Harris owns 590 yards and 244 receiving yards at the NFL level. Harris may have experience, but he’s 31 now and has lost a major step in his game.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The wide receivers aren’t a flashy group, and likely are going to have trouble consistently putting solid games together. Their success may hinge on how Nelson Spruce can do with the Wildcats. If Johnson can quickly develop a rapport with Spruce, a No. 1 target is likely going to emerge in LA. The 27-year-old made a splash with the LA Rams in the 2016 preseason after going undrafted out of Colorado. However, a calf injury landed him on the IR, and he was unable to play a down in the regular season. Spruce is hoping that the Wildcats can rejuvenate his career that seemed to have a bit of potential before the injury.
Someone else will have to step up for the Wildcats as well. There are other teams in the XFL with more than a couple of weapons they can utilize. It’s thin in that regard for the Wildcats, though. Former Oklahoma Sooner, Jordan Smallwood, who never did develop up to his complete potential, is trying to catch the attention of NFL scouts in the XFL. Smallwood played in nine games his senior season and caught just 10 balls for 97 yards and a touchdown.
There was a lot more expected from him out of high school. Nevertheless, he did get a chance in the NFL and was cut by the KC Chiefs. Fortunately, Johnson will have a nice safety valve in the passing game with tight end Brandon Barnes. Barnes was unable to stick in the NFL following a productive career at Alabama State, but he provides Johnson with a big 6’5” 256 pounder to dish the ball to. A lack of speed in the receiving core is going to put a greater responsibility on Barnes to get open on short and intermediate routes.
The strength of this team is definitely not defense, especially at cornerback where the Wildcats are likely not going to hold up well against the better quarterbacks in the XFL. Landry Jones, P.J. Walker, and Cardale Jones should all be able to pick the Wildcats’ defense apart. There will be a lot of pressure on free and strong safety Ahmad Dixon and Jack Tocho. Dixon will likely be one of the most active defenders on the Wildcats’ defense. He
Dixon was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 by the Dallas Cowboys. He made the roster, but after missing practice in the preseason and then a meeting in the regular season, Dixton was released to make room for another player. Dixon then spent time on several practice squads and didn’t see real game action until 2017 with the Edmonton Eskimos, though only for a game. He tried to make the Eskimos the following season, but was cut after a poor training camp. So, yeah, in other words the Wildcats have some issues defensively.
Jack Tocho might have more upside, as he’s only 24 years old and only got drafted in 2017. It was a short stay, though, as Tocho was a waste of a late round pick by the Vikings. He was released after two weeks on the practice squad. The Wildcats will need somebody like cornerbacks Arrion Springs or Roman Tatum to step up for this defense to hold on against good offenses.
It seems like there’s a lot of failed Chiefs’ players in the XFL, and Springs is yet another cornerback who couldn’t make the roster. He was a three-year starter at Oregon and had success, though. 25-year-old Roman Tatum didn’t catch any attention at Southern Illinois from NFL scouts, so he could be a guy that gets an NFL look with solid play this season. He was a hard hitting defensive back at Southern Illinois that may have fallen through the cracks of pro scouts. Tatum might be a player that develops into something for the Wildcats.
There are some intriguing names on this Wildcats’ roster. And when I say intriguing names, I’m talking about their actual names. Willie Mays and Will Smith are both linebackers on the Wildcats’ roster. Including Mays and Smith, former Baylor Bear, Shawn Oakman is with the Wildcats in 2020. Oakman was a beast at Baylor and is a physically imposing player. NFL scouts were high on him, but that was until he was caught up in a rape case. The case was ultimately dropped, though the damage was already done. Oakman is trying to get his football career back on track, but he’s already 27 years old and is going to fight for playing time.
Smith is expected to be a contributor for the Wildcats, though. He was drafted in 2014 by the Cowboys in the seventh round, though was released and opted to go up north to play in the CFL. Smith found his way back to the Cowboys in 2014 on the practice squad, which didn’t last long either. And yes, Mays is expected to be a key linebacker for the Wildcats as well. Mays, like Smith, saw brief action in the CFL, with Smith playing in only one game in 2018. Tre William should be making plays as well this season. I wouldn’t expect a whole lot out of this group overall this season, though.
If you are looking for outstanding play from the defensive line, you’re probably not going to find it here, either. This may be the weakest unit of the defense and likely going to be their downfall in 2020. Don’t expect to see much push up front from the Wildcats this season, which should result in some big rushing games for the opposition. I try and find strengths, but there isn’t much to like here. Expect the Wildcats to churn through a lot of bodies on the defensive line this season, as coach Moss hopes to find something that works. The likes of Roderick Henderson and Boogie Robert likely isn’t going to cut it for the Wildcats.
The LA Wildcats are a team with holes all over the place. Their saving grace is that they have Josh Johnson at quarterback. If he can go above and beyond what’s expected of him, then maybe the Wildcats can pull off an upset or two this year. Keep in mind that he isn’t working with the best team, though. He likely is not going to have a running game to help him out, and the defense is going to get picked apart often this season. This likely wasn’t what Winston Moss had in mind when he took this job, but we’ll see what he can draw up. If you have faith in the Wildcats, though, you’re going to get them at fantastic odds over at MyBookie.