XFL Week 2 Preview: Landry Jones set for his debut
Version two of the XFL returns to living rooms and live crowds for Week 2 this weekend with a quartet of appealing showdowns that in the standings should be highlighted by the undefeated battles between the New York Guardians and D.C. Defenders along with the St. Louis Battlehawks facing the Houston Roughnecks.
However, while those unbeaten face-offs bookend the weekend slate, the marquee matchup might well be the debut of quarterback Landry Jones as he leads the Dallas Renegades against the host Los Angeles Wildcats on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on ABC.
“I feel like it’s been really long,” Jones said, via XFL.com. “This is my first time actually missing time and working to get back out there. I’m excited.”
As teams continue to find their footing, defense is likely to still be prevalent, but expect the offenses to improve and look better in their execution on offense.
Of the quartet of games, two pit undefeated teams and the other two pit 0-1 squads, meaning the standings will see some evening out while others begin to separate as the favorites moving forward.
Here’s a game-by-game look at Week 2 of upcoming XFL action:
N.Y. Guardians (1-0) at D.C. Defenders (1-0), Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ABC
Kicking off the second week of XFL excitement is an XFL East first-place matchup between a host Defenders team that’s Cardale Jones-led offense had one of the more impressive opening-weekend outings but is facing a Defenders defense that allowed a league-low three points to begin the season.
Jones had two touchdown passes and 235 yards through the air as D.C. overcame a 13-9 second-quarter deficit to pull out a 31-19 Week 1 win over Seattle. While Jones and the passing game got going, the rushing attack mustered just 68 yards in 27 carries. It came to be during a somewhat odd game against the Dragons in which D.C. won by 12 points, but was actually outgained in total yards, 310-295. The Defenders also had more turnovers and fewer first downs.
D.C. will square up with a New York team that offered up a similar performance against the Vipers in a 23-3 win.
The Guardians were outgained, 394-226, lost the turnover battle (2-1) and had fewer first downs, but won handily. Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin was the offensive catalyst with two total touchdowns — one on the ground and one through the air to go with 182 yards. Defense led the way for New York and iced the win with Jamar Summers‘ fourth-quarter fumble return for six. However, highlights dotted the stat sheet for the Guardians with defensive end Bunmi Rotini and linebacker Ben Heeney each tallying a league-high nine tackles, while safety Wesley Sutton had a league-high two sacks.
Whoever wins this one stays atop the XFL East.
T.B. Vipers (0-1) at Seattle Dragons (0-1), Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, FOX
Both teams are vying for their first victories, while the Vipers are vying for their first touchdown.
Despite 394 yards of offense, the Vipers couldn’t find the end zone in a 23-3 season-opening loss. Perhaps the most troubling stats for the Tampa Bay offense were the five sacks they allowed and the four trips to the red zone that equated to no points. A change will come at quarterback as starter Aaron Murray is out with a foot injury and Taylor Cornelius or Quinton Flowers will get the nod. Coach Marc Trestman told XFL.com it would be a game-time decision.
Led by De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 79 yards), the Tampa Bay rushing attack gobbled up 150 yards at five yards a tote, so look for the ground game to play a huge role in the Vipers’ offensive fate for multiple reasons.
The Dragons’ offense was mercurial in a 31-19 defeat to the Defenders, though it was highlighted by receiver Austin Proehl’s two-touchdown debut in which he had five catches for 88 yards. Brandon Silvers threw for three scores and 217 yards, but had two picks and completed just 53 percent of his throws.
Both teams have offensive questions that a first win will most certainly help answer. But keep an eye out for Dragons linebacker Steven Johnson, who had eight tackles, including two for a loss, in the opener.
Dallas Renegades (0-1) at L.A. Wildcats (0-1), Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ABC
A trio of Austin MacGinnis field goals were all the offense Dallas could muster in its season-opening 15-9 defeat to St. Louis. Hence, this is a perfect setting for Landry Jones, who spent five seasons with the Steelers, to make his debut under center for Bob Stoop’s Renegades.
Per the XFL website, Stoops announced Jones would get the starting nod on Thursday and he’ll look to ignited the dormant Renegades offense that was held to 267 total yards.
The Wildcats struggled, as well, after building a 17-12, lead against the Roughnecks before falling underneath an avalanche of 25 straight points to end the loss. Wildcats QB Chad Kanoff had his moments as his two total touchdowns stood as L.A.’s offensive output.
The defeat brought about a stunning amount of significant change for head coach Winston Moss’ Wildcats. After Saturday’s loss, Moss and the Wildcats fired defensive coordinator and longtime former NFL linebacker Pepper Johnson on Monday. The changes weren’t yet done as the Wildcats traded defensive lineman Anthony Johnson to the Defenders on Valentine’s Day Friday for defensive back Bradley Sylve.
Following losses to start the season, that quickly the Wildcats and Renegades will look much different come kickoff on Sunday.
St. Louis BattleHawks (1-0) at Houston Roughnecks (1-0), Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, FS1
The best might be saved for last as the XFL East BattleHawks take on the XFL West’s Roughnecks.
Led by a phenomenal showing from P.J. Walker, the Roughnecks ran roughshod over the Wildcats for a 37-17 win to start the season. Walker had four touchdowns and 272 yards passing in what was arguably the finest offensive showing of the XFL’s debut weekend.
Walker threw touchdowns to four receivers and eight Roughnecks caught passes. Defensively, linebacker LaTroy Lewis had himself a game, tallying two sacks, two tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, one pass defended and one forced fumble.
St. Louis might not have had the sexiest final score, but may well have provided the most balanced showing in Week 1.
Led by the defensive trio of cornerback Darius Hillary (nine tackles), linebacker Terence Garvin (eight tackles) and safety Dexter McCoil (eight tackles), the BattleHawks held the Wildcats out of the end zone.
Offensively, St. Louis showed promise through the air and on the ground. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu had 209 yards and a score through the air while completing an efficient 74 percent of his passes. On the ground, the BattleHawks churned out 191 rushing yards, led by league-high rusher Matt Jones’ 85 yards in 21 carries while Ta’amu was a dual threat not far behind with 77 yards on nine carries.
This could be a fun one to end the weekend with the winner emerging not just in first place in its division but also as an early title contender.