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Inside the XFL

by Fran Stuchbury
February 20, 2020 - XFL (XFL)

I traveled from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Washington, DC, to watch the DC Defenders home game against the New York Guardians with my good friend Nation Hahn on Saturday. After not seeing an XFL game in person when I covered the league in 2001, I made travel plans shortly after the league released the 2020 schedule.

The Defenders play their home games at Audi Field, home of Major League Soccer's D.C. United. The National Women's Soccer League's Washington Spirit will play some games there as well. The seating capacity is 20,000, and all seats offer a great view of the action, no matter which type of football one's watching.

Fans packed the merchandise stores well before game time, buying a lot of Defenders merchandise - everything from shirts, caps, footballs and other items. I ran into a friend, New York Guardians fan Matt Feimer, who was one of several Guardians supporters wearing team jerseys or caps.

The DC Defenders dominated the New York Guardians 27-0. It was the first time a DC football team shutout the opposition since 1991.

Attendance for the game was 15,031, which is a good crowd in the stadium with the smallest capacity in the XFL. Attendance would have been a little higher with a walk up crowd if the game time temperature had been more than 30 degrees. A holiday weekend also may have kept some people busy.

The Defenders fans were loud and passionate the entire game. Some of the fans had the Defenders shields to show their support.

Every time Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones completed a pass, fans chanted, "MVP!"

The XFL did a great job during the game explaining the rules differences on the video boards. When DC scored a touchdown, fans called for the "three point play." The Defenders ended up going for one after a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, and the fans were happy even though it wasn't converted.

Jones had a solid game, completing 23 of 37 passes for 276 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Here is his first touchdown pass in the first quarter, 13 yards to DeAndre Thompkins:

DC Defenders wide receiver Eli Rogers skipped his mother's funeral to play in the game and had a good performance with five receptions for 49 yards.

Anthony Johnson, who was acquired in a trade from the Los Angeles Wildcats for cornerback Bradley Sylve, arrived in the DC airport at 2 am on Saturday, ended up with one and a half sacks for the game.

On the other side, New York Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin suffered through a very poor performance, completing only 8 of 19 passes for 44 yards and two interceptions, one which Jameer Thurman returned 46 yards in the third quarter for a touchdown. McGloin got benched for Marquise Williams late in the fourth quarter.

McGloin's in-game and post-game comments served only to blame practically everyone else for his poor performance:

During Sunday's Dallas Renegades - Los Angeles Wildcats game both quarterbacks, the Renegades' Landry Jones and Wildcats' Josh Johnson got off to slow starts, but when both were interviewed they kept their composure and took responsibility for it, keeping a positive attitude by saying things would get better.

It will be interesting to see how New York moves forward with McGloin. He was a tier one quarterback assigned to them as one of the most recognizable players in the XFL. Some fans want him cut and that has not happened. It hasn't been announced if he remains the team's starting quarterback against the St. Louis BattleHawks on Sunday. If he does start and struggles early, look for Guardians coach Kevin Gilbride to replace him with backup Marquise Williams.

Nation Hahn, who worked in the front office of the United Football League and attended the game with me, said, "The DC Defenders game felt like a high-level, professional game. It didn't feel like the NFL - and in many ways that felt like the point. It was creative, different, and fun. In many ways, it felt more like a higher quality, more professional college football game. And that should be the niche the XFL fills."

Overall it was an outstanding experience. Audi Field is the perfect size stadium for XFL games and gives the Defenders a great home-field advantage.

Extra Points

  • Of the 19 touchdowns that were scored in week two, teams made two of eleven one-point conversions, one of six two-point conversions and one of two three-point conversions. The three point, the first in XFL history, was completed by the Los Angeles Wildcats against the Dallas Renegades. The play was moved up from the 10-yard line to the five thanks to a penalty. Dallas didn't dare jump offside again as XFL rules state that if the defense is called for back-to-back penalties on a conversion, the offense is rewarded those points.

  • Here are all the touchdowns scored from Week 2:

  • The Tampa Bay Vipers are 0-2 with the offense having failed to score any touchdowns thus far. They will get some help after acquiring wide receiver S.J. Green from the Seattle Dragons for linebacker Korey Toomer. Green played 12 years in the CFL, compiling 716 receptions for 10,222 yards and 60 touchdowns. He is reunited with Vipers coach Marc Trestman who coached him in the CFL.

  • Another CFL player, wide receiver Armanti Edwards, signed with the XFL. He will be assigned to a team with the highest waiver. Edwards had 244 receptions for 3,181 yards and 16 receiving touchdowns during his four years in the CFL. Edwards is best known for being the quarterback at Appalachian State where he led them to a 34-32 upset victory over fifth-ranked Michigan in 2007.

  • The Seattle Dragons drew 29,172 fans in their 17-9 victory over the Tampa Bay Vipers. With the lively crowd, the game had the feel of a Seahawks gameday:

  • The St. Louis BattleHawks home opener this Sunday against the New York Guardians is sold out with 28,000 fans in the lower bowl, and some suites are open as well. The upper level won't be open.

  • Renegades quarterback Landry Jones made his debut for Dallas in their 25-18 victory over the Los Angeles Wildcats. He passed for 305 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Jones struggled the first half but had a much better second-half performance and now has a 40-12 record while playing under Bob Stoops.

  • Houston Roughnecks quarterback PJ Walker leads the XFL with seven touchdown passes:

  • Home teams went 3-1 in week two.

  • If you bet the under in the first eight XFL games, you would have gone 6-2. With teams getting more familiar with each other, scoring should increase.

  • My XFL best bet lock of the week is the Houston Roughnecks -6 over the Tampa Bay Vipers. The Roughnecks have averaged 33 points the first two games of the XFL season with that high-power, run-and-shoot offense. With the Vipers woes on offense, having yet to score an offensive touchdown, they'll be hard-pressed keep up with Houston.

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XFL Stories from February 20, 2020

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