The two-year wait is over. The XFL season will kick off on Saturday with the Seattle Dragons and the DC Defenders. Both conferences in the league seem to be a wide-open competition. The XFL Western Conference is stacked between Dallas, LA, Seattle, and Houston. Here’s a closer look at each in the western conference and how they fair this season.
Head Coach: June Jones
This team is going to be a ton of fun to watch offensively. June Jones is known for having a knack for passing it often. He coached former Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang to NCAA records in passing. He could do the same with “expected” starter PJ Walker. I say expected because nothing has been set in stone by coach Jones. We know this, whoever is their quarterback should have plenty of passing stats to their names.
Quarterback: P.J. Walker and Connor Cook
It has been reported in the past few days that P.J. Walker is expected to be named the starter. With that said, let’s play it safe and talk about both quarterbacks. Walker is mobile with a strong arm. Despite not having professional experience, he brings a lot to the offense with a fresh arm. He was dominant owning all passing records at Temple. Connor Cook started an NFL playoff game for the now Las Vegas Raiders. His experience and great pocket awareness made him a great candidate for the starter. His lack of playmaking ability could have held him back if reports are true.
Offensive X-Factor: Sammie Coates
This was a pretty easy choice. Highly regarded as one of the best in the XFL, Sammie Coates played in a strong, spread out the offense with the Pittsburgh Steelers in his past life. He runs a 4.4 40-yard dash with great hands. He should put up big numbers in June Jones’ pass-heavy offense. Coates has great ability who should have no trouble catching touchdowns throughout the season.
Defensive X-Factor: Kony Ealy
There’s no telling what this defense will look like, but one of their strengths comes from the front four on the defensive line. Kony Ealy played exceptionally well as a pass rusher with the Carolina Panthers from 2014 to 2016. He has great speed and can break away from pass blockers with good ability. He should be able to register plenty of sacks in a defensive line that includes big man Gabe Wright.
Head Coach: Winston Moss
The voice of the XFL early and often during the XFL’s first offseason in nearly 20 years has been Winston Moss. His presence in the LA area as well as on social media has been fun to watch. Moss has never been a head coach before, but it seems to have good control of the locker room. He’s got some weapons in the passing game and the defensive line looks pretty scary. Moss put together a tough team that will play physical football.
Quarterback: Josh Johnson
Josh Johnson has mobility and a strong arm. His long experience in the NFL makes him an asset to the Wildcats in terms of leadership. He was originally going to be Mike Martz’s starting quarterback over in the AAF for the San Diego Fleet. He would instead start the last few games for the Washington Redskins. Johnson might be one of the oldest players in the league, but there’s no doubt he outplayed Luis Perez in camp. He offers more to the team with his legs and arm. If he can get healthy quickly, he’ll be a fantasy favorite in the western conference and around the league.
Offensive X-Factor: Nelson Spruce
Another former San Diego Fleet player in Nelson Spruce should be a top target for LA. He has great hands and runs perfect routes. He was top three in receiving categories in the AAF last season. Rashad Ross was traded from the Wildcats during training camp. This opened the door for Spruce to take the number one spot at receiver.
Defensive X-Factor: Shawn Oakman
Shawn Oakman was drafted by the LA Wildcats in the XFL Draft. He was then surprisingly cut from the team during mini-camp for “locker room issues”, according to reports. An even bigger surprise came when the Wildcats signed him back onto the roster. He is not listed as a starter on the team’s depth chart, but he’s too good to be on the bench. Fast, strong, and a great pass rusher. Oakman will ease into the lineup since he missed all of training camp. Expect him to be a difference-maker later in the season.
Head Coach: Jim Zorn
Jim Zorn’s NFL head coaching experience should give him an advantage over most of the coaches in the XFL. Zorn is most known for his work with developing Matt Hasselback into a solid NFL starter. He had to deal with a tough quarterback battle in camp and a deep running back position. Good problems to have to say the least. He built a strong offense that may focus more on the run. Expect the Dragons to be the most balanced attack in the western conference and the XFL thanks to Zorn’s offense.
Quarterback: Brandon Silvers
Brandon Silvers was a shining star in the last three weeks of the AAF season. Silvers won’t hurt you with his legs, but has a great arm and can hurt you in the pocket. He took big strides in his development from his time at Troy. Zorn is the perfect head coach to get him to the next level. Silvers was able to fight off B.J. Daniels from winning the job.
Offensive X-Factor: Ja’Quan Gardner
Any of the running backs between Kenneth Farrow, Trey Williams, and Ja’Quan Gardner can be X-Factors. Gardner is the pick here because he’s a home run hitter. Farrow and Williams will get tough yards, but Gardner will explode for big yardage. He reminds fans and analysts of Maurice Jones-Drew for his small size that can break the tackle. He hammered out the longest run in AAF history with an 83-yard touchdown. Gardner will be looked at to do the same.
Defensive X-Factor: Will Sutton
Will Sutton was a beast at Arizona State where he recorded 13 sacks in 2012. Sutton’s NFL career was much quieter but played in the league from 2014 until 2018. He still has what it takes to get to the quarterback. At the same time, his 303-pound frame makes him tough to block as a defensive tackle. Good luck to the centers and guards who go up against him this season.
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Bob Stoops is the most decorated coach in the XFL with his national title ring on his finger. A league like the XFL is perfect for Stoops since it’s all about recruiting and scouting the best players available. Football fans won’t find a better roster builder than Stoops. He found plenty of talent and speed on offense and defense. He recruited his former quarterback Landry Jones to join him in the league. Talk about an advantage for the Renegades. Stoops should have the Renegades as the favorites to win the western conference.
Quarterback: Landry Jones
Landry Jones has been working with Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Hal Mumme since he joined the team in October. His experience in the offense in college and his work in the NFL marks him as one of the best. Jones has a great arm and has an incredibly high football IQ. His knee injury is an obvious concern for fans of the team. He has been suiting up and playing during game week. Fans are hoping that means he’ll play week one.
Offensive X-Factor: Jazz Ferguson
Jazz Ferguson made more spectacular catches than any other XFL receiver in camp. He has great size and even better hands. He’s going to be tough for defenders to cover in the red zone. A new hand injury now has kept him out of practice which may raise some concern. Seattle Seahawk fans know how good Ferguson is after his preseason play. More great plays from Ferguson should be expected this season.
Defensive X-Factor: Derron Smith
He created a lot of turnovers in the AAF and is a great tackler. He makes for a great safety and will be one of the leaders on defense. Frank Alexander is a veteran leader on the defense, but Smith can impact the game. Playing pass-happy teams like their western conference rivals Houston Roughnecks will show how important Smith is to the team. He might be brought on to blitz as he is a great open-field tackler.
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