Football is back in St. Louis courtesy of the XFL. It made perfect sense to put an XFL team in St. Louis after the Rams picked up and left for Los Angeles. The St. Louis BattleHawks are the only team in the league without an NFL team in the city as well. Instead of going for markets that don’t have NFL like the AAF and the previous XFL, Vince McMahon wanted to target cities that are already known for their support of football.
The Rams had a dedicated fanbase in St. Louis, but the lure of Los Angeles and a new stadium was a bit much to pass up. In any event, McMahon noticed that St. Louis still deserves a football team. It might not be a championship level team, but the BattleHawks might be one of the dark horses of the XFL. Along with the Dallas Renegades, the BattleHawks are a team that might have some value to win the XFL Championship.
The BattleHawks are led at head coach by former Cincinnati Bengals’ tight ends coach, Jonathan Hayes. Hayes was with the Bengals for a long time, from 2003 to 2018 before getting hired to run the BattleHawks. He is also the GM of the team, so decisions are going through him for the first time in his career. It’s a big opportunity for Hayes who has never been able to showcase his ability as a head coach. Could it lead to a bigger position elsewhere? Perhaps, but Hayes will have to go above and beyond to get the attention of a potential suitor.
St. Louis is depending on a former Ole Miss standout to carry the offense. Jordan Ta’amu has his eyes set on getting back to the NFL, but before he can do that, a solid showing in the XFL is going to be required. This is going to be a full season of auditions for Ta’amu who might be the most intriguing quarterback in the league to NFL teams. He’s going to need some help from the rest of the team as well. Get an overview and St. Louis BattleHawks’ roster breakdown below. We will investigate players to pay attention to for the Battlehawks in 2020.
— St. Louis BattleHawks (@XFLBattleHawks) February 18, 2020
Houston Roughnecks Roster Breakdown
New York Guardians Roster Breakdown
DC Defenders Roster Breakdown
Tampa Bay Vipers Roster Breakdown
Dallas Renegades Roster Breakdown
Jordan Ta’amu’s age gives him a solid advantage over other quarterbacks in the XFL who are trying to get the attention of the NFL. At only 22 years old, Ta’amu might have the most upside in the XFL. He had the luxury of working with D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown in college, which gave him two monster weapons.
Ta’amu passed for 3,918 yards and 19 touchdowns with 8 interceptions in 2018. The Hawaiian spent the preseason with the Houston Texans this past season, but was cut prior to Week 1. It was a numbers game for the Texans, though Ta’amu is likely going to be watched by NFL scouts in the XFL.
The Battlehawks have one of the better backups in the XFL with Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke has recent NFL experience, most notably with the Carolina Panthers. He backed up Cam Newton for a year in 2018, and even got a chance to start because of injuries to Newton. Heinicke passed for 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions in the NFL.
A serious elbow injury derailed his career, and seeking to get his career going again in St. Louis. The Battlehawks are carrying a third quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald, on their roster as well. Fitzgerald was known for his dual-threat potential at Mississippi State, but never seemed to have an NFL arm. Nevertheless, Fitzpatrick had an opportunity on the Buccaneers’ practice squad in 2019 before getting released in October. He will likely be used as a runner in certain sets for the Battlehawks.
Christine Michael and Matt Jones will combine to be the 1-2 punch for the Battlehawks. They’re likely going to get about an equal workload before somebody shows they can run away with the leading role. Michael isn’t a household name, but he has more NFL experience than most running backs in the XFL. He was selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, and won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks as a reserve back in 2014.
Michael has also spent time with the Cowboys, Redskins, Packers, and Colts briefly. In total, he’s rushed for 1,089 yards with 4.3 yards per carry in the NFL. Michael also had 135 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. At 29 years old, though, he’s lost a step and likely isn’t an attractive option for NFL teams any longer.
Jones was a fairly high draft pick in the NFL as well. He was selected in the third round by the Redskins in 2015, and was waived in 2017 after getting bypassed on the depth chart. In any event, he rushed for 964 yards with 3.9 yards per carry, along with 377 receiving yards for a total of 7 touchdowns. Between Michael and Jones, the BattleHawks have a total of 2,053 rushing yards between the two in the NFL. That should help keep defenses honest enough to allow Ta’amu to find targets downfield.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Ta’amu will look to find L’Damian Washington in the secondary. He’s the deep threat for the BattleHawks, and still has some decent speed on his legs at 28 years of age. Washington was a gypsy in the NFL, as he was with seven different teams before landing in the CFL, where he finally saw a bit of regular season action. It didn’t last long, though, with the Blue Bombers cutting him in 2018 after totalling 246 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Washington will hope to find a home in the XFL. If the league stays around, he will likely be one of the better receivers in the XFL. Definitely not the best, but his speed should give him an advantage. De’Mornay Pierson-El, Alonzo Russell, and Keith Mumphrey join Washington as Ta’amu’s favorite weapons in the offense. If Washington can stretch the field, good things should be available for the rest.
Pierson-El was a contributor at Nebraska in 2016, having reached a career-high as a senior with 623 yards and 5 touchdowns. He lasted less than a month with the Redskins, and didn’t get a chance to showcase his talent in the preseason. Pierson-El also failed to grab the attention of CFL teams, suiting up for just one game and getting released. He will primarily play out of the slot for the BattleHawks. Alonzo Russell got NFL experience from the practice squad of the Bengals, Cardinals, and Giants from 2016 to 2019. The undrafted rookie out of Toledo should contribute for the BattleHawks in 2020.
Mumphrey is looking for a second chance in the XFL after sexual assault allegations at Michigan State derailed his career. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by the Texans, and mainly handled kick and punt return duties. The off-field issues ultimately caught up to him and the Texans waived him in 2017. He finished his NFL career with 198 receiving yards and 618 return yards.
The BattleHawks have NFL experience in their secondary with the presence of strong safety Will Hill. The former Baltimore Raven, who was with the Ravens from 2014 to 2016, got axed after failing a drug test and getting a ten-game suspension. Hill also spent time with the Giants from 2012 to 2014 after getting acquired as an undrafted free agent out of Florida.
He was productive in the CFL following his NFL career, but was cut as a result of character concerns once again. Hill tallied 25 tackles, a sack, and 2 blocked field goals. He’s not expecting to go back to the NFL, but he does provide the BattleHawks with experience and there is some talent left in the tank.
Lurking deep in the secondary at free safety, expect to see former Charger, Dexter McCoil, causing some issues for offenses. McCoil was awarded with the 2014 Rookie of the Year award in the CFL, and played a significant role in the Edmonton defense. Unlike several guys who have fizzled out in the CFL without much action, McCoil excelled with 76 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 interceptions, and recovered a fumble in 2015. McCoil finished with 151 tackles, 6 sacks, and 9 interceptions in the CFL.
He was able to parlay that into a season with the Chargers in 2016. McCoil played all 16 games and also started two. His NFL career was a success by XFL standards, having notched 30 tackles and an interception. McCoil is a versatile defender who could go to inside linebacker if there is a major need there.
Darius Hillary will be leaned on to be the best shutdown corner for the BattleHawks. He bounced around between five different teams in the NFL, but the high point of his career was a spot on practice squads. Robert Nelson spent time on the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans’ active roster in 2015 and 2016, as he racked up 24 tackles and an interception. From that point on, Nelson was a practice squad lifer with appearances in four different cities.
The BattleHawks have some flexibility with McCoil on defense. They can either have him at free safety or inside linebacker. It’s always nice to have a player with the ability to play multiple positions. If Terence Garvin can hold up and carry the load at linebacker, the BattleHawks should be fine. Garvin’s professional experience mostly comes from Pittsburgh and Washington, where he was able to make the active roster as an undrafted rookie out of West Virginia. Garvin was serviceable, having recorded 77 tackles and 1.5 sacks with 2 forced fumbles. He’s a reliable player for the BattleHawks, but depth at linebacker should be a problem. Their talented secondary should be able to carry the weight defensively, though.
Offensive lines are going to have to be aware of Andrew Ankrah and Gimel President in the trenches. The former James Madison Duke, Ankrah, should be able to thrive off the edge at defensive end. He was a force at James Madison in 2017 as a redshirt senior, with FCS first-team awards to back up his production. He was also the FCS ADA Defensive Player of the Year. Ankrah compiled 59 total tackles with 15.5 for a loss and 8.5 sacks to finish up a stellar college career.
Ankrah signed a three-year deal with the Redskins in April, though he didn’t last long in the NFL. He seems to be too small for the defensive line in the NFL, but not fast enough to compete at linebacker, where the Redskins worked him out at. He and President should be good enough to make plays at the XFL level, though. President joines Ankrah as a flameout from the NFL. He played on the active roster of the Texans in 2017 and registered just 2 tackles before he was waived the following April. The Titans gave him a chance in 2018, though only appeared in preseason games without sniffing the regular season. Jake Layne and Channing Ward should be able to provide some depth to the BattleHawks’ defensive line, too.
Ta’amu is included with a group of players in the XFL with the most to lose this season. The 22-year-old failed to catch on an NFL roster as a rookie, but he’s still young, and if he shows that he can be coached up, an NFL team might take a chance on him in the future. For now, his presence on the BattleHawks has to make them a pretty good dark horse candidate. I’m certainly concerned with the defense holding up against offenses like the DC Defenders and Houston Roughnecks, though. Both can score points and it’s questionable whether St. Louis has the defense to hold them in check. With Ta’amu and some decent weapons around him, the St. Louis BattleHawks might be a team to pay attention to, though. They’re going to be in games all season, but might need a break or two to get to the XFL Championship.