As we kicked off the first game of the regular season of the new and improved XFL, we saw the DC defenders take on the Seattle Dragons. The topic of the day for the Dragons would be costly turnovers and big plays given up on the defense. Without some of those key mistakes, we would potentially be looking at a Dragons victory. Here is a breakdown of what I saw in today’s game:
Watching the dragons in their first action of the year I was actually pleased with what I saw. I’m hoping to see OC Mike Rielly really step it up week two and open up the playbook a little more. With it being the first week he probably wanted to see how the players were going to respond in real game situations. One thing that I was surprised to see was just how much the Dragons threw the football.
Jim Zorn and Mike Rielly are both pro-style coaches with a run-heavy scheme, so throwing over forty times in a game was a shock in itself. I believe as we see the season go on will start to see more wrinkles added in once the main targets emerge on the team.
As I watched former Troy Trojan quarterback Brandon Silvers, I saw a quarterback that in most situations made the right reads. Obviously, he looked a little rusty but so did most players we saw playing on the field today. Silvers’ first pick was a situation where he tried to fit a ball into a window that simply wasn’t there. The second pick, however, was the right read, unfortunately, the receiver slipped causing the interception to go the other way for a touchdown.
On the other hand, he was able to improvise on broken-down plays and from a coaching standpoint is exciting, because that isn’t something that you can teach a player. Silvers finished the day 21-40 with 217yards passing and three touchdowns. Austin Proehl was the main target of the day bringing in five of the ten passes and was able to find the endzone not just once but twice. He was able to break a huge 57-yard touchdown on one of Silvers (Patrick Mahomes like) improvised plays.
Ja’ Quan Gardner and Kenneth Farrow saw most of the workload out of the backfield. The two of them rushed for 77 yards combined over sixteen carries.
The defense in the XFL is an interesting topic to me. The league’s rules are stacked for the offense leaving the defense out to dry in some cases. For example, in the NFL you are only able to talk to the QB for a limited time in the helmet headset. While in the XFL QB’s have constant communication with their offensive coordinators giving them the chance to make last-second audibles if the see the defense is doing something that doesn’t fit their play.
One positive I saw of the defensive side of the ball was Steven Johnson and Nick Temple. They were the anchor for the defense today. In total, these guys accounted for fifteen total tackles. While the Dragons seem to have a solid linebacking core their demise really seems to start in the secondary. Cardale Jones torched the Seattle secondary throwing 291 yards and sporting an impressive 126.6 QBR.
You saw too many guys with their eyes in the backfield resulting in big plays for the offense, and with an experienced quarterback like Cardale Jones you are going to get picked apart like a surgeon. For example, on the double reverse pass, it is crucial for a defensive back to read the offensive line because that will determine if it is a run or pass. Instead, you saw DB’s flowing with the reverse causing Lee to be left all alone on the sideline and then almost going untouched into the endzone.
Again, mistakes like this are not uncommon to see in players that haven’t seen game time action in quite some time. If the defense can clean these areas up (which I’m sure will be a focus this week) this group will be really fun to watch.
The dragons are a couple of mistakes away from winning this ball game. They have the talent and were in the right position to make good things happen but self-caused mistakes will kill you at the professional level. With the right tweaks and adjustments though we should see a more disciplined Dragons team then we saw this week.
Check back next week as the Seattle Dragons take on the Tampa Bay Vipers for their first home game of the XFL season.