The wait is over.
The time has finally come.
Week one has arrived.
Where else are you going to get a Haiku to ease your mind followed by week one analysis to get you hyped up for the game?
Tampa Bay vs New York.
— XFL (@xfl2020) February 7, 2020
Breaking down week one of the XFL might be the most difficult task I’m given this season. We have very little information on the league. We have very little information on the opponent. Hell, I have limited information on the Vipers, and I’ve seen them live eight times. We haven’t seen either team play an official game. I don’t have access to film. Nor can I make educated projections based on prior game play because, well this is an entirely new set up than what we’re used to watching. I’ve done a lot of reading and researching to come to the conclusions that I’ve come up with for week one.
What to know about the Guardians
Kevin Gilbride is the head coach and offensive coordinator for the Guardians. Gilbride spent 21 years coaching in the NFL. Most notably as the offensive coordinator with the New York Giants (2007-2013) where he won two Super Bowls.
Matt McGloin, 30, is the starting quarterback for the Guardians. He was the QB assigned to the team when the XFL made that announcement. McGloin was a walk-on at Penn State where he started the better half of three season for the Nittany Lions. In 2012, he led the Big Ten in attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. In the NFL, he spent four years on the Oakland Raiders where he went 1-6 as a starter. McGloin is the oldest current starting QB in the XFL.
Guardians first-round pick in the skill position phase was wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey, but unfortunately he’s on IR and will miss week one. As potentially the number one receiver this week, Mekale McKay will look to start his XFL career the way his Alliance of American Football (AAF) career ended. McKay scored in each of his final three games in the AAF. At 6″5′ (according to his player page), he led the AAF in redzone targets (12) and was fourth in targeted air yards (668). His combination of size and speed will be a tough matchup for the Vipers defensive backs.
Tim Cook, the Guardians fourth-round pick in the skill position phase, will start at running back. Cook spent his time in the AAF with the Arizona Hotshots where he rushed 56 times for 274 yards in seven games. He was the backup to Jhurell Pressley, who is the current starter for the DC Defenders.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Endzone? Something corny will stick. And if it is Guardians of the Endzone, I want the credit. Or maybe it’s so bad that I don’t..
The Guardians are regarded as having the best defensive back group in the XFL. Led by Jamar Summers, the Guardians DBs also feature Bryce Jones, Dravon Askew-Henry, A.J. Hendy and Andrew Soroh. Summers dominated in the AAF as he was tied for second in pass deflections (10) and interceptions (three).
For the thump, the Guardians go to guy is middle linebacker, Ben Heeney. Heeney, 27, was a fifth-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2015. He was the seventh overall pick in the front seven phase of the XFL draft. He played his college ball at Kansas where he amassed 334 tackles, including 36 tackles for a loss.
— New York Guardians (@XFLGuardians) January 31, 2020
Vipers gonna strike
We have a much better idea how the Vipers will look come Sunday. And luckily for me, that will make this section much easier to write!
The offense is going to be fast. Coach Marc Trestman has emphasized that throughout camp and the practices leading up to week one.
“The one thing we do know is we have to play fast,” coach Trestman said when asked about the challenges of the shorter play clock. “Everybody has to get the information right now and not second guess it or not ask questions about it because there’s no time to ask questions.”
Aaron Murray headlines the offense, as most starting quarterbacks do. The Vipers have arguably the deepest offense in the XFL.
“It starts with our offensive line,” Murray replied when he was asked about the offense. “I am so excited. I think we’re going to have one of the best units in this league. We’re going to be able to run the football, run the football and run the football and utilize stuff off of that. We have so much talent on the outside too. Guys with speed. And then you look at our tight ends. [Nick] Truesdall is 6″6′ or 6″7′. That’s such a great matchup that we can create with secondaries.”
Depth on O
Murray emphasized running the football in his interview. De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick will both get their share of work on Sunday. I expect for Smith to be the lead guy, however Patrick is a big physical runner that also has an underrated ability to catch the ball out of the back field.
Nick Truesdall, the fifth overall pick in the skill position phase, seems entrenched as Murray’s number one target. In Trestman’s two years with the Chicago Bears, tight end Martellus Bennett had 94 and 124 targets. Murray has been seen to get the ball out quickly, and Truesdell looks to be the beneficiary of that.
Daniel Williams, Reece Horn and Jalen Tolliver are listed as the starting wide receivers heading into week one. Williams has been the biggest standout in camp based on what I’ve seen. He makes big play after big play. I see Williams emerging as the teams leading receiver. Horn ranked fourth in the AAF with 429 receiving yards for the Memphis Express. In his last two games played, he totaled 19 catches for 242 yards and a touchdown. Tolliver signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 after he went undrafted. He played his college ball at Arkansas-Monticello where he had back-to-back 1090+, 14+ TD seasons.
Seantavius Jones, the receiver everyone expected to be the go-to receiver in this offense, is listed as a backup on the initial depth. He was fifth in the AAF in targets (50) and tied for fifth in redzone targets (9). He figures to be a key part of the redzone offense with his size.
Vipers Secret Weapon
The X-Factor for this entire offense might be Quinton Flowers. Listed as the number three quarterback, coach Trestman has made it clear that Flowers will have a role in this offense. With his experience as a passer and a runner, the double forward pass is wrinkle that the Vipers can exploit like no other team.
“No, I haven’t been in coach [Trestman’s] ear,” Flowers responded when I ask if he’s been hinting to coach about the double forward pass. “Whatever coach Trestman has for me, I’ll just wait my time. Whenever my number is called I’ll be ready to play. I’ll go out there, continue to showcase my talent and do what people think I can’t do.”
Flowers continued to say that he is “very anxious” to get that call and execute a double forward pass.
We are too, Q. We are too.
The Vipers defense in anchored by defensive end Deiontrez Mount, middle linebacker Lucas Wacha, and weakside linebacker Terrence Plummer.
“We’re at the point where we want to hit somebody,” defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said to the media after practice. “Everything we’ve done, we think we’re a good football team. But the physicality of the game changes the game. We all have high expectations about our physicality, but right now it’s just verbiage. It’s just words. We have to go prove it.”
The depth chart has cornerback Jalen Collins listed as a backup. The Vipers traded their first-round defensive back pick to acquire him, and the fact he’s been a camp stand out, I’d fully expect him to play a fairly large role this week.
The Vipers (-3) open as the only road favorite heading into week one. Every other game is a six point spread or higher. The total is set at 51, the second highest total of the week. Weather might play a factor as it’s February in East Rutherford, NJ. It looks like the high will be in the mid-40s come game time. Not the weather the Vipers are used to.
The Vipers are +400 to win the championship, which are the second best odds in the league. Meanwhile, the Guardians are +600, tied for fifth.
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