For DC Defenders fans, they won’t have to wait long to see their team take the field. The very first game of the season will see the DC Defenders host the Seattle Dragons at Audi Field. Rosters were set last week and it appears the Defenders have a very talented squad. Today, we take a look at the offense, the defense, as well as the coaching staff for the DC Defenders.
On paper, the DC Defenders should have a lot of firepower on offense. As we discussed earlier, they have arguably the best set of quarterbacks in the XFL. Along with the quarterbacks, the Defenders have some talented wide receivers and running backs on their roster. The biggest question will be if their offensive line can hold up to allow the offense to reach its potential.
Defensively, the DC Defenders have a quite a few players that the common NFL fan will recognize. Their safeties and linebackers should be the leaders of their defense. The biggest question we see is if they have the right person coordinating their defense.
Here is a preview of the 2020 DC Defenders.
A Potential Explosive Passing Attack
Cardale Jones is everything you look for out of a professional quarterback. He has the size, 6’5″ 250 lbs., and a cannon of an arm to go along with it. A former fourth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, Jones is looking to shine and possibly make his way back to the NFL. From all the reports out of DC Defenders training camp, the talk was the play of Jones. He looked like a quarterback who is ready to have a big XFL season.
Jones will be backed up by Tyree Jackson. Jackson is another big statured quarterback, 6’7″ 250 lbs… He was a standout quarterback at the University of Buffalo. He has the talent to be a starting quarterback. If Jones falters, the DC Defenders could quickly turn to Jackson.
Talented Group of Wide Receivers
Jones and Jackson will have a very competent group of wide receivers to throw to. Heading up the group will be Eli Rogers. Rodgers played three seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers. While playing in Pittsburgh, Rodgers hauled in 78 passes for 822 yards with four touchdown receptions. Expect Rogers to line up frequently as the DC Defenders starting slot receiver.
Playing on the outside, fans should expect to see a lot of Malachi Dupre. Dupre is a former seventh-round draft pick from 2017 by the Green Bay Packers. Dupre played his college ball for LSU. During his time at LSU, he hauled in 98 receptions for 1,609 yards with 14 touchdown receptions. Dupre, along with Jones, had a very strong training camp.
For DC Defenders fans that follow Big Ten football, Simmie Cobbs should be a recognizable name. Cobbs was a standout for Indiana University. Cobbs brings great size to the wide receiver position, standing 6’3″ tall. He used that height well while playing in the Big Ten. In his three years playing for the Hoosiers, he totaled 139 receptions for 1,990 yards with 12 touchdown receptions. Cobbs is a player to watch for this XFL season.
While the DC Defenders have a talented group for their passing attack, they should be helped out by their rushing attack.
Capable Running Backs
If you are a fan of college football, you should recognize the name of Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey is the all-time leading rushing for division 1 football. While at San Diego State, he used every bit of his 5’8″ 178 lbs body. During his three-year career playing for the Aztecs, he accumulated 6,405 yards rushing with 62 rushing touchdowns. In his last season, he rushed for 2,133 yards. If the DC Defenders can give him some creases, he could be a homerun threat out of the backfield.
His running mate in the DC Defenders backfield will be Jhurell Pressley. Pressley isn’t a stranger to professional football played in the spring. Last spring, he was a standout for the Arizona Hotspots. In their shortened season, he rushed for 431 yards and also chipped in 11 catches for 86 yards. With Pumphrey being smaller in size, expect Pressley to see quite a bit of time to spell Pumphrey.
The DC Defenders should have one of the best offenses in the XFL. But like with the rest of the teams, there are questions on the offensive line. If the offensive line can get the job done, the DC Defenders offense should put a lot of points on the board this season.
Safeties that Pack a Punch
While the DC Defenders offense will get a lot of attention, their defense might be flying under the radar. The defensive group is led by two very capable safeties.
Matt Elam is a former first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens. Elam was drafted 32nd overall in the 2013 draft. He was selected in the first round due to his standout career at the University of Florida. While playing for the Gators, he totaled 124 solo tackles, had five sacks, and picked off six passes.
While he was a standout player for the Gators, Elam never played up to his draft status for the Ravens. In his three seasons with the Ravens, he had 131 combined tackles. He hasn’t played a game since 2016, so he will need to knock the rust off quickly.
Like with Elam, Thomas was a standout during his college career. While at Syracuse, he totaled 177 solo tackles, registered 4 sacks, and had two interceptions. He made a name for himself as a big hitter and should bring some toughness to the back end of the DC Defenders defense.
An Underrated Linebacker Group
If the safeties are the leaders of the DC Defenders defense, the linebacker group is a close second.
Leading the Defenders linebackers is Scooby Wright. Wright was a standout at the University of Arizona. In 2014, he was the Pac 12 defensive player of the year. That year, he also won the Bronco Nagurski, Lombardi, and Chuck Bednarik awards for his outstanding play. Last fall, he played for the Hotspots in the now-defunct AAF.
Wright isn’t the only Defenders linebacker who has spring professional football experience. A.J. Tarpley played for the San Diego Fleet last spring. Tarpley was a standout linebacker at Stanford University. In 2014, he was voted second-team All Pac 12. In 2015, he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bills. He went on to start two games in his lone season with the Bills. He registered two interceptions and had one sack.
One DC Defenders linebacker to keep an eye on his Jonathan Celestin. Celestin played his college ball at the University of Minnesota. In his career at Minnesota, he registered 145 solo tackles, three and a half sacks, and one interception. He isn’t the biggest linebacker, but he is very athletic.
This group could be one of the deepest linebackers group in the XFL this season.
DC Defenders Coaching Staff
When the XFL started to announce the head coaches of each franchise, there was one name that stood out to us.
Pep Hamilton has a lot of experience coaching teams with successful offenses. He is best known for his work with Andrew Luck at Stanford and the Indianapolis Colts. While Tanner Engstrand has the title of offensive coordinator, it is expected Hamilton will call the plays. Hamilton has waited for his time to be a professional head coach. We expect him to lead a very explosive offense for the DC Defenders.
There is some concern regarding the person leading the Defenders defense though. Former Indianapolis Colts assistant Jeff Fitzgerald was expected to be the defensive coordinator. But he abruptly resigned during training camp.
Hamilton has pegged secondary coach Louis Cioffi as the new defensive coordinator. Cioffi was an assistant coach in the NFL from 1993-2016. However, the last time he was a part of a winning team’s staff was back in 2009 as an assistant defensive back coach with the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2016, he was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. A team that went 1-16.
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