Saturday kicks off the opening season of the XFL after a 19-year absence. There are many uncertainties in terms of who will be good in the XFL and who will fall short. We first will take a look at the XFL Eastern Conference and what to look out for from all four teams.
Tampa Bay Vipers
Head Coach: Marc Trestman
A smart offensive-minded coach who will find the best out of his offensive players. Marc Trestman found a lot of success in the CFL winning three Grey Cups in seven seasons as head coach. Trestman got a taste of the NFL for two seasons with the Chicago Bears that did not go as well as planned. With his offensive style, the offense should be fun to watch since they have a lot of athletes on the team.
Quarterback: Aaron Murray
Aaron Murray enjoyed a successful college career at Georgia where he threw for over 13,000 yards and 121 touchdown passes in four seasons. His professional career has been up and down until he got a shot with the Atlanta Legends of the AAF. He started as Matt Simms’ backup, but took over and threw for over 1,000 yards, three touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Murray seems to have a better running game and more talented receivers than what he had in Atlanta. He’s a pocket quarterback who should strive for better success.
Offensive X-Factor: De’Veon Smith
He was a game-changer for the Orlando Apollos in the AAF. Now he’ll once again be one of the featured players on offense. Antonio Callaway went down with an injury so the passing game took a hit. De’Veon Smith should get plenty of carries and touches. He’ll get the job done on the ground and will be relied on to make big plays.
Defensive X-Factor: Jalen Collins
Considered to be one of the best corners in the XFL, Jalen Collins will take on the number one receivers. He has shutdown ability while being strong in coverage. The defense already has some questions surrounding the group, but Collins will have to lead this defense. Expect a lot of turnovers to be created by Collins in the secondary.
Prediction: 3-7 record, 4th Place
St. Louis BattleHawks
Head Coach: Jonathan Hayes
First-time head coach Jonathan Hayes has built a strong secondary for his defense. Hayes will have some weapons on offense to work with as his running game between Christine Michael and Matt Jones should make for a strong duo. The development of Jordan Ta’amu will be huge as they will be the only team in the league starting a rookie quarterback. They have stiff competition in the conference, but depending on how their young talent does, Hayes might have a sleeper team in place.
Quarterback: Jordan Ta’amu
A versatile quarterback with a strong arm that should make plenty of big plays from the start. Playing as a rookie quarterback could present a challenge for Jordan Ta’amu. He struggled to adjust to the NFL game with the Houston Texans. The XFL is seen as a way to ease him into professional football. A ton of upside as a passer and will need time to develop.
Offensive X-Factor: Christine Michael
A hard-hitting runner who should have no trouble getting those tough yards. Christine Michael should be the featured back in the running game. Matt Jones will help in the running game, but Michael’s ability to break tackles after the first contact makes him a threat on offense. The passing game will need a few weeks to adjust so most XFL teams will lean on their running game. This could be an advantage for the BattleHawks.
Defensive X-Factor: Kenny Robinson
The XFL is Kenny Robinson’s platform for boasting his NFL Draft status. A perfect place for him to learn how to be a professional football player. He was dominant in the secondary for West Virginia with his tackling skills and ball-hawking tendencies. He provides a lightning rod to an already strong secondary. Robinson should have plenty of fun going after offenses and causing havoc.
Prediction: 4-6 record, 3rd Place
New York Guardians
Head Coach: Kevin Gilbride
He worked with a future hall of fame quarterback Eli Manning with the New York Giants and won Super Bowls with them. He runs a pro-style offense which could in favor of the Guardians. He’s got an experienced quarterback with a strong receiving core. If the defense gets on the same level as the offense, the Guardians will be one of the favorites to win the conference.
Quarterback: Matt McGloin
Plenty of NFL experience makes Matt McGloin one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Not much for mobility, but has a great pocket presence. He’s a great leader who knows what it takes to win on the biggest level. He’s plenty of weapons to work with which will make his life easier. McGloin has a chance to get his foot back in the door in the NFL as long as he plays at a high level in the XFL.
Offensive X-Factor: Mekale McKay
He was considered one of the best receivers in the AAF with the San Antonio Commanders. Mekale McKay was top five in the league in receiving. McKay has great size and strong hands. He’s a threat from anywhere on the field. With Deangelo Yancey and Tanner Gentry in injured reserve, McKay will be asked to do a lot in the passing game.
Defensive X-Factor: Jamar Summers
Along with Jalen Collins, Jamar Summers is another example of a strong shutdown corner. Summers had a strong training camp impressing with his coverage skills. The defense has some key pieces that can help, but Summers is a difference-maker that can make an immediate impact on the defense side of the ball.
Prediction: 6-4 record, 2nd Place
Head Coach: Pep Hamilton
A young, innovative first-time head coach is what the XFL needs. Pep Hamilton has impacted several offenses including helped create what Andrew Luck has become. It seemed like a perfect fit for him to work with Cardale Jones and help him develop his game. Hamilton should be creative and come up with fun offensive plays helping keep the defense on their heels.
Quarterback: Cardale Jones
A strong arm quarterback who dominated through his short time at Ohio State. His NFL career has been short-lived, but there’s no question the upside that he shows. Jones has been working hard since joining the Defenders on collaborating with Hamilton. He and Landry Jones will be considered the top two quarterbacks in the league.
Offensive X-Factor: Rashad Ross
The deep threat ability makes Rashad Ross one of the best receivers in the league. He was top three in every receiving category in the AAF with the Arizona Hotshots. Originally with the LA Wildcats prior to the trade, Ross now has the quarterback to deliver the deep ball to him. Ross has incredible speed that will make life difficult for corners. Good luck catching up to him once he burns a corner down the field.
Defensive X-Factor: Scooby Wright
Another Arizona Hotshot who performed well during his time in the AAF. Scooby Wright is a high motored tackler who rarely misses an initial tackle. He has a great read on running games and can stop the run to perfection. His leadership will be called upon after his experience jumping between leagues. A strong performance in the season could help him get a chance to make an NFL team.
Prediction: 7-3 record, 1st Place
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