Important Mini Camps

The news that mini camps could happen at some point in June was a welcome boost to a sports fan craving any crumb of positivity in this COVID-19 world that we are currently living in. As the world gradually gets back onto its feet sports teams are going to have to find ways to adapt to any new restrictions placed upon them. It’s hard to imagine how the NFL will look with social distancing measures potentially in place, particularly in the trenches.

The off season usually provides crucial learning time for squads, a chance for newbies to blend in and chemistry to develop amongst positional groups. It may look different this time around but let’s take a look at 3 teams that really need this off season more than others in my opinion.

Carolina Panthers

There are obvious challenges for any new head coach in a “regular” off season. Having anything but a “regular” off season could not have come at a worse time for the Carolina Panthers. If you look in the dictionary for the definition of a rebuild, then this is well and truly it. Not just a new head coach, but a new quarterback, new systems to implement on both sides of the ball, and the first ever rookie draft class in NFL history exclusively on the defensive side of the ball to blend in.

He didn't flinch': Panthers coach Matt Rhule needed to show David ...

The defense was horrible last year surrendering 52 total touchdowns. This was only outdone by the Miami Dolphins who gave up 54 but showed fight and improvement down the stretch. An area of particular weakness was in the run game where they surrendered a league high 5.16 yards per carry and a whopping 31 touchdowns! It’s understandable with statistics like that they chose Derrick Brown with the 7th overall pick to shore up the middle of the defensive line.

Teddy Bridgewater is the man chosen to replace Cam Newton following his 6 game cameo for the Saints last year. In those 6 games he threw for an average of just 228 yards per game but crucially limited turnovers with just 2 INT’s from his 205 throws. Having seen Kyle Allen melt down into a turnover machine after a promising start to life in 2019 this should be a welcome relief for Panthers fans. Bridgewater did of course have Michael Thomas as a true #1 receiver in New Orleans. This generated a target rate of over 31% during Teddy’s run at the controls. Iit will be interesting to see where the football is distributed in an offence that saw fewer catches from its top 2 wideouts combined last year compared to what Thomas put up.

Luke Kuechley was in on 143 tackles last season and has been the leader of the defence for some time, but he has sadly retired. Greg Olsen may not be the force that he once was but he has moved on to Seattle. The trend? Leadership presence has left the building for one reason or another. The Panthers are a young team, with a young head coach and possibly needed this off season more than most. It will be a tough road ahead for Matt Rhule and company to field a successful product in 2020. At least they have Christian McCaffery!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He may well be the greatest of all time but even Tom Brady surely needs some time to acclimatise to a new environment. For the 1st time in 20 years TB12 will not have Bill Belichick on the practice field when training camp roles around. I still find that quite weird to type but it will very quickly become reality so I best get used to it. It probably feels like repeating the narrative, but surely father time will have his say at some point?

Brady had a down year last year dropping a full 5% off of his 2018 completion percentage. For a man renowned for his accuracy, that’s a worrying drop. Outside of James White and Julian Edleman he struggled last year to make any connections. In fact when looking at the target breakdown of said duo it’s quite startling just how much he relied on them.

<5 yards of line of scrimmage 52% of all targets

6-10 yards of line of scrimmage 48% of all targets

11-20 yards of line of scrimmage 59% of all targets

>21 yards of line of scrimmage 38% of all targets

That chemistry has been built up over a period of time and will not be immediately replaced. You can certainly point to the fact that Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are better receivers but practice makes perfect and the Bucs will hope to be able to get plenty of it in for this superstar offence to gel. The signing of Rob Gronkowski after a 12 month “retirement” as much as anything offers Tom a comfort blanket.

The Bucs were in lots of close games last year so you feel the obvious likely regression in turnovers may be enough on its own to make the difference between 7-9 and the playoffs. The gunslinger mentality of Jameis Winston has been replaced with effectively the polar opposite. Brady has thrown less INT’s since 2016 than Jameis did last season alone, in fact his career INT rate of 2.8% is exactly half of the man he is replacing over nearly 4 times as many passing attempts.

Brady obviously wins from the pocket so affording him time will be key. Being able to snag Tristan Wirfs in the draft was an ideal scenario for the Bucs. Moving up to get him shows the Bucs are all in for the next 2 years and for that reason alone they can’t afford to have any time wasted.

EA Madden NFL Has Already Placed Tom Brady In A Bucs Uniform

Los Angeles Rams

High scoring, explosive, entertaining and innovative, ladies and gents the 2018 LA Rams. As for 2019, erm not quite so much. A franchise that suffered the superbowl hangover fate the same as many have done before will be looking to rebound in 2020. Sean McVay has rang the changes at the coordinator positions with Kevin O’Connell and Brandon Staley being brought in. Will this be the key to unlock some of that McVay magic that was all of the rage in the 2019 off season?

Player wise the rams are a different team to the one that went so close to superbowl glory just 15 months ago. This off season, Brandin Cooks has been traded (again), Todd Gurley and Clay Matthews have been released. There is the impending talk of a Jalen Ramsey holdout which will add further headaches although, it’s not as though character issues weren’t apparent before the trade however. But enough about who has and who might be going, let’s look at the players that will be suiting up.

Backfield by committee, Daryl Henderson and rookie Cam Akers. Steady if not spectacular, although I have heard many people say they think Akers could become special. Out wide Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Again steady, not 2 names that jump into top 5 wide receiver conversation but certainly a nice pairing. At tight end Tyler Higbee emerged over the last 5 weeks of 2019 averaging 104.4 yards per game over that stretch. So the rams do have some pieces to work with, but of course it’s all eyes on Jared Goff.

The off season started for Goff with a restructure of his contract which actually makes it more difficult for the Rams to move on from him down the line. So that’s obviously the good news, the bad news however is that he is regressing. His touchdowns were down to 22 from 30 the year before and his interceptions were up to 16 from 12 the year before. There have been rumblings of discontent from the fanbase and the pressure will be cranked up more with a shiny new building to play in.

Defensively the Rams have lots of money tied up in both Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey so will be looking to their superstars to carry a defence without the stewardship of Wade Phillips. Nickel Robey-Coleman is a loss as the 3rd corner but for a unit that generated 50 sacks last year ranked 4th in the league, they will look for Terrel Lewis out of Alabama to stay injury free and add his unique blend of size and athleticism to add playmaking ability in the front 7. A big year ahead in LA can’t start soon enough.

Aqib Talib: Jared Goff will be good 'as long as he stays where he is'

That’s 3 teams from my perspective but who have I glaringly missed off the list? Do you think Brady will fit in just fine? Let us know @full10yards

Shaun’s Mock 1.0

So, let me start by saying that I have never done a mock draft. I usually read hundreds and might even have a play around on a mock draft simulator, but I’ve never actually taken pen to paper. Maybe it’s being in “lockdown”, or maybe it’s recording our series of “wayyyy too early” pods and discussing team needs, but whatever it is, without further ado I give you………

Shaun’s Mock Draft 1.0 (of all time…….)

1 – BENGALS SELECT – JOE BURROW – QB

NFL Draft Film Room: The best throws of Joe Burrow's historic 2019 ...

So I might not win prizes for getting my first pick bang on, but surely this is effectively signed and sealed? The Bengals hope to land their franchise QB for the next decade or more.

2 – REDSKINS SELECT – CHASE YOUNG – EDGE

The best player in the draft could become a transformational piece on the Skins line. Look at what Nick Bosa brought to the 49ers and imagine that being replicated in DC.

3 – DOLPHINS SELECT – TUA TAGOVAILOA – QB

Trade w/DET – MIA sends #5, #56, 2021 2nd

The dolphins might not “need” to make this trade, but there is no way they leave it to chance. Tua is the QB that has been talked about here for over 12 months, with all the draft capital not just this year, but next, the dolphins make their move.

4 – GIANTS SELECT – ISAIAH SIMMONS – LB

This is what I “think” will happen and not necessarily what “should”. Simmons is viewed as a sexier pick and Dave Gettleman passes up on all of the premier tackles (poor Danny Dimes)

5 – LIONS SELECT – JEFF OKUDAH – CB

From Miami

A perfect scenario plays out for the Lions as they get the man that they would have taken at #3. The best corner in the draft fills a big need, and extra capital is gathered in the process.

6 – CHARGERS SELECT – JUSTIN HERBERT – QB

I didn’t “buy” the Tyrod Taylor talk when he was in Cleveland, and I’m not buying it now. The Chargers hope to be nowhere near the top 10 next year so they take their QB here whilst the opportunity presents itself.

7 – BRONCOS SELECT – CEEDEE LAMB – WR

Fantasy Football 2020 NFL Draft Profile: Is CeeDee Lamb the top ...

Trade w/CAR – DEN sends #15,#77,2021 2nd

The Broncos trade up to grab the wide receiver of their choice. With Courtland Sutton on 1 side this could form a tantalizing partnership for years to come. I have Denver as a dark horse this year to surprise a few people.

8 – CARDINALS SELECT – MEKHI BECTON – OT

There is talk of a wide receiver going to Arizona but after investing in Kyler Murray its time to find him some protection. Becton is raw but possibly has the highest ceiling of the tackle class and the combine drugs test doesn’t bother the Cardinals.

9 – JAGUARS SELECT – DERRICK BROWN – DL

The Jags are in a rebuild and start by trying to re-establish what was considered a formidable defence a few years ago. Josh Allen played well on the line last year and is joined by the Auburn prospect to give the Jags some nice building blocks.

10 – 49ERS SELECT – JERRY JUEDY – WR

Trade w/CLE – SF sends #13, 2021 2nd

The 49ers look primed for a wideout and with Lamb off the board and receiver needy teams ahead of them they pull the trade for the Alabama man. This is a big need to take pressure off the run game and also replace Emmanuel Sanders.

11 – JETS SELECT – TRISTAN WIRFS – OT

The Jets will be thrilled if this scenario plays out. Explosive and athletic, Wirfs will start day 1 and provide Sam Darnold with some much sought after protection.

12 – RAIDERS SELECT – HENRY RUGGS – WR

The last of the big 3 receivers comes off the board to Las Vegas. Although scheduled to pick again at 19 they pull the trigger on the defense stretcher here and wait to address other needs.

13 – BROWNS SELECT – ANDREW THOMAS – OT

From San Francisco

Jets 2020 Draft Prospect: LT Andrew Thomas - Full Press Coverage

Offensive line was the Browns biggest weakness last year. With Jack Conklin added via free agency, the Browns address the left hand side with the selection of Thomas who they may have taken at #10 had they stayed put.

14 – BUCS SELECT – JEDRICK WILLS – OT

The Bucs have invested in Tom Brady and now they invest in his protection. With Donovan Smith on the left side, Wills can start off on the right side of the line and learn from playing with Brady to begin his career.

15 – PANTHERS SELECT – JAVON KINLAW – DT

From Denver

The Panthers have a lot of holes to fill on this roster and replace the slightly disappointing Gerald McCoy experiment with the 6ft 5inch, 325lb man mountain in the middle that is Kinlaw.

16 – FALCONS SELECT – CJ HENDERSON – CB

The consenus 2nd best available corner in the draft becomes an opening day number one corner in Atlanta for a secondary that has been a weakness in recent years.

17 – COWBOYS SELECT – KRISTIAN FULTON – CB

The Cowboys continue to retool their secondary with the addition of Fulton out of LSU. Safety is also an option here but free agency moves dictate the move is made at corner.

18 – DOLPHINS SELECT – AUSTIN JACKSON – OT

Miami traded away their premier left tackle in Laremy Tunsil so now they have to use some of that capital to find a replacement. There is talk of them trading up but I feel they value Tua more so sit at 18 and pick the tackle here.

19 – RAIDERS SELECT – JEFF GLADNEY – CB

The Raiders switch attention from their biggest offensive need at #12 to their biggest defensive need here. Gladney is a physical corner who should start right away in the Vegas defensive backfield.

20 – JAGUARS SELECT – JUSTIN JEFFERSON – WR

The Jags switch the opposite way to the Raiders and now go offense by adding a legitimate weapon to the passing game. Gardner Minshew will have someone other than DJ Chark to throw to at last.

21 – EAGLES SELECT – XAVIER MCKINNEY – S

One safety for the Patriots in each round of the 2020 NFL Draft

I can’t believe I have the Eagles making this pick as is their history of trading up or down but safety is a need and the best available prospect is on the board, sometimes just do the simple things.

22 – VIKINGS SELECT – JOSH JONES – OT

Tackle makes a lot of sense for the Vikings. Jones is a raw prospect but might not need to be pushed into day 1 starting duty so this is a good landing spot for him.

23 – PATRIOTS SELECT – JORDAN LOVE – QB

I refuse to belive that the Patriots will not address the quarterback position in a big way over the course of the draft. The board is kind to them here as they stay put and take Love who is the consensus “best of the rest” option.

24 – SAINTS SELECT – PATRICK QUEEN – LB

The Saints don’t have a lot of obvious holes but lnebacker is one that probably does need some help. The LSU product provides the Saints a rangy presence at the second level of the defence.

25- VIKINGS SELECT – TEE HIGGINS – WR

The Stefon Diggs drama is over and with one of the picks that trade landed the Vikings look for a replacement. The Clemson product carries enough deep threat to be a nice compliment to Adam Thielen.

26 – DOLPHINS SELECT – K’LAVION CHAISSON – EDGE

A surprising fall this far down the board possibly but if it works out this way the Dolphins will be thrilled. A new QB, LT and now a pass rusher would be an excellent nights work in South Florida.

27 – SEAHAWKS SELECT – YETUR GROSS-MATOS – EDGE

Another team within need of pass rush help get it at the back end of the first round as Seattle lands the edge rusher out of Penn State.

28 – RAVENS SELECT – KENNETH MURRAY – LB

2020 Raiders Draft Prospect: LB Kenneth Murray - Full Press Coverage

The Ravens linebacker room has been depleted over the last few seasons and they are able to start the rebuild here with addition of Murray.

29 – TITANS SELECT – TREVON DIGGS – CB

An underrated roster doesn’t have many holes to fill and for me this was a toss up between offensive line and cornerback. Corner is the selection here as Stefon’s baby brother heads to an AFC rival of his brothers new team.

30 – PACKERS SELECT – DENZEL MIMS – WR

Outside of Davontae Adams can anyone honestly name a Green Bay receiver (outside of Packers fans)? Mims projects as a good running mate for Adams with size and speed to beat 1 on 1 coverage.

31 – 49ERS SELECT – EZRA CLEVELAND – OT

The 49ers will need to be on the lookout for Joe Staley’s replacement and pick the Boise State product who is a perfect fit for the wide zone scheme in San Francisco.

32 – CHIEFS SELECT – D’ANDRE SWIFT – RB

The rich get richer! The needs of linebacker and corner can wait as the guys the Cheifs may have taken are gone so they pick the drafts best running back to add to their already high powered offensive unit.

 

XFL Takeaways – Week 5

“Whoa, we’re halfway there!”

Which team is “Livin on a prayer”? And which team is threatening to “runaway”? That’s enough Bon Jovi let talk XFL.


It Only Takes a Second

The XFL were keen to promote that the enhanced scoring opportunities meant that a comeback in the 4th quarter is always on. Why then with clearly 2 seconds left on the game clock following a PJ Walker kneel down on 4th down did everyone enter the field for post game handshakes? It should have been 1st and 10 for Seattle on the plus 22 with a chance to find the endzone and then potentially go for 3 to tie it up. Highly unlikely yes but it was a poor look for the league, so much so that they even published an official announcement about the screw up.


 

Maybe Take a 2nd Look

The above call wasn’t the only dodgy decision from the zebras this weekend. A seemingly perfectly good touchdown in the New York Guardians game wasn’t reviewed despite replay evidence suggesting the officials had blew the call. They also ejected a player for his “role” in a fracas following an interception in the same game. The first week or 2 saw plenty of praise for the transparency of the league officiating and access to the replay booth, maybe the league need to stop worrying so much about speed of play and getting the decisions right instead.

Image result for xfl officials

xfl.com


2 New Potential Seattle Backup QB’s

Move over Brandon Silvers, its now definitely the BJ Daniels show in Seattle. The Seattle offence flashed some life and Daniels himself carried a threat on the ground as the Dragons gave the Roughnecks all that they could handle. The bigger “news” of the weekend however may well be the fact that the Seattle Seahawks sent scouts to check out PJ Walker behind centre for Houston. Walker has a similar playing style to Russell Wilson so would seemingly be a good fit and certainly an upgrade on current incumbent Geno Smith.


Home Not Sweet Home

The Dallas Renegades continue to remain without a win at home from 3 attempts. Its a bizarre statline in a sport and league where home field advantage is seemingly so important. This ended up being a true beatdown against a New York Guardians side who have seemingly found a reliable general in Luis Perez. Dallas have now switched offensive coordinators as Hal Mumme is unable to continue following his broken leg incident last weekend. It will be interesting to see if Phillip Nelson continues at QB with a fresh set of eyes overseeing the offence.


Game of the Season

LA Wildcats 41 – 34 Tampa Bay Vipers. You know its a good game when the over/under is settled before the halftime whistle. 3 turnovers for each side, 2 quarterbacks putting up superb numbers and a brilliant advert for the league. If you haven’t watched this one then go and check it out on youtube, you will not be disappointed.

Image result for josh johnson xfl

nbcsports.com


Pardon Your Language

Disappointing news this week that BT sports have not committed to broadcasting all games due to the swearing being picked up during some sideline interviews. It is a delicate balance as yes you do not want that broadcast to watching kids and to be fair to the sideline reporters they are trying to moderate the language but one of the problems of a heat of the moment interview is you are going to get it with both barrells. Hopefully sense prevails and BT either broadcast with a slight delay to mute bad language or they display a disclaimer and let the viewer choose.


Power Rankings Update

1 – Roughnecks, 2 – Battlehawks, 3 – Defenders, 4 – Guardians, 5 – Wildcats, 6 – Vipers, 7 – Renegades, 8 – Dragons

Until next week……..#fortheloveoffootball

Week 4 Takeaways

Something a little different for week 4……. “Power Rankings”. We all love them, yes they are totally pointless but all the same lets have a look because surely after 4 weeks we can begin to paint some kind of a picture????


8 – Seattle Dragons (1-3)

A big sorry to my podcast buddy Michael, but things are looking pretty bleak in Seattle. Jim Zorn is struggling with simple mathematics let alone assembling a competent football team. Brandon Silvers has struggled all season long and a switch to B.J. Daniels will surely be considered moving forwards. Austin Proehl leads the team with 13 catches for 169 yards and Kenneth Farrow paces the ground game with 126 yards from his 28 carries. Those stats would be excellent over a single game but are no where near good enough 4 weeks in. Defensively they have yielded the 2nd most yardage through 4 games so work to be done on both sides of the ball up in the Pacific North West.

Image result for jim zorn xfl

profootballtalk.com


7 – LA Wildcats (1-3)

Stop me if this sounds familiar, LA keep stalling on offence. A great week 3 showing was quickly forgotten about as a conversion rate of just 2/12 on third down meant despite a nice stat line for Josh Johnson the Wildcats couldn’t defeat what had looked a team in disarray in the 2 weeks prior. Nelson Spruce was obviously a big loss in this weekends defeat but the Wildcats should feel good about Tre McBride and Jordan Smallwood pairing with Spruce down the stretch. As for the ground game…… Elijah Hood leads the team with just 78 yards. In other words stop Johnson and you stop LA, this is why short yardage 3rd downs are problematic. The defence is opportunistic but has given up a league high number of points.


6 – New York Guardians (2-2)

Based purely on the fact that they have just beaten LA, I put the team from the East a spot ahead on these rankings. Has Luis Perez done enough to win the starting job from Matt McGloin? Maybe, if nothing else New York at least appeared organised and disciplined this weekend. Defensively they have leaked the most yards but conceded the fewest touchdowns so they are a tough one to figure out there. Offensively however, they have the least yards, least points and least touchdowns, so yeah, they are pretty bad. Darius Victor looks good when given the ball (4.5 ypc) but no wide receiver is yet to break 130 yards. Kicker Matt McCrane is perfect on the season however, so there is a positive New York fans!

Image result for matt mccrane xfl

forbes.com


5 – DC Defenders (2-2)

Talk about a fall from grace. After 2 impressive home wins have come 2 successive away defeats by a combined 64-9 score line. I didn’t think it could get much worse for DC after the pummelling they took in LA during week 3, but to then go scoreless in week 4, boy are those alarm bells ringing. Cardale Jones has gone from MVP candidate to after thought, criticising his receivers after his own poor play recently isn’t good on the optics. Eli Rogers brings a touch of quality to the wide receiver room but nobody is really standing out. Rahim Moore has a couple of picks defensively but when you consider they pitched a shut out in week 2, in the 3 games they have yielded points its been at an average of just under 28 per game!


4 – Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3)

I know what you’re thinking, homer! Well its not unusual for a team with an inferior record to be higher on these lists, particularly after a big win which is exactly what Tampa got on Sunday. If you listen to our pod though you will know we have been saying “don’t sleep on Tampa”. They lead the league in offensive yardage gained and lead the league in fewest defensive yardage given up. They comfortably lead the league in rushing and have the 1st pair of 100 yard runners in Smith and Patrick following their week 4 displays. Stability at the QB position is key and Taylor Cornelius appeared better without such a tight noose around his neck. Can they now repeat the trick on the road next weekend is the key question?

Image result for taylor cornelius xfl

xflnewshub.com


3 – Dallas Renegades (2-2)

The 2 defeats that Dallas have suffered are to my top 2 ranked teams so there is no disgrace there. They have 2 game changing weapons in Donald Parham and Cameron Artis-Payne on offense and a top 3 ranked defence. The big game changer to these rankings of course could come in the next few weeks as Landry Jones recovers from a reoccurrence of the knee injury he suffered in pre season. This team has looked better with him at the controls, despite his proneness to throw interceptions (he leads the league with 7). His ability to push the ball down the field will be missed and Dallas will certainly hope for a 2 week recovery time as has been indicated.


2 – Houston Roughnecks (4-0)

Controversy! The only undefeated team left in the XFL do not take my top spot. The past couple of weeks have seen Houston win a couple of close games without demonstrating the flair of their opening 2 week victories. Cam Phillips was held in check for the 1st time all season this weekend, but they still found a way to get the job done which is obviously positive. The defence is very opportunistic leading the league in takeaways with 11, but they have conceded more points and 1st downs than anyone else. PJ Walker is still clubhouse leader for the MVP award and if the defence can continue winning the turnover battle then these Roughnecks will be a tough nut to crack.


1- St Louis Battlehawks (3-1)

Jordan Ta’amu is emerging as a star in this league. He put together his most complete game as the Battlehawks moved their record to 3-1. That’s the word and the reason I have this team ranked on top, “complete”. 2 good running backs in Jones and Micheal and 3 solid wide receiving options to supplement the dual threat QB have this offence ticking nicely. Will Hill has emerged as a leader on a defence that plays with a lot of speed and intensity and has given up a league low 62 points so far. Quite possibly the biggest home field advantage in the XFL may well play a huge difference down the stretch also, and that is certainly something St Louis has on its side.

Image result for jordan ta'amu xfl

usatoday.com


So there you have it, after a month of action that’s how I see it. The reality is my number 1 and 2 teams are probably a class apart from the others but there is still time for it all to shake about over the next 6 weeks of action. How would you rank the teams at this stage? Get in touch…………. #Fortheloveoffootball.

XFL Takeaways – Week 3

It’s Tuesday – It’s takeaway day and time for some XFL goodies for you……………………

Making Tight Ends Great Again

There is a Donald that everyone in America can get behind, and his surname certainly isn’t Trump. Of course I’m talking about the Dallas Renegades tight end Doanld Parham who has exploded into life since the return of Landry Jones. A match-up nightmare at 6 feet, 8 inches tall, with an impressive turn of foot for a big man, he has become the big play receiver in the Dallas offence. His Saturday stat line of 5 catches for 101 yards was punctuated with 2 touchdowns including a 66 yarder where he sprinted away from the trailing defence. Parham spent time on the Redskins practice squad last season and if he carries on with this fine form surely an NFL team will come calling.

insidethestar.com


The True #1 Receiver

It was expected coming into the season that the Houston Roughnecks would be fielding the most productive wide receiver of the league. That expectation was on Sammie Coates, who has spent several seasons on NFL squads. He picked up just a single catch for 11 yards in the game against Tampa to take his season tally to 4 receptions for 45 yards through 3 games. Luckily the alleged #3 wide receiver on the depth chart, Cam Phillips has more touchdowns than Coates does catches so far on the season. He has 7 touchdowns from his 20 receptions and also leads the league in receiving yardage in what has been a great start to the campaign. Come on Houston, sort out the depth chart!

usatoday.com


The Masked Defender

Michael confessed his love for the XFL threads on our most recent podcast, but I’m not sure he was referring to the “hidden extra” that seems to becoming a tradition for his Seattle Dragons defenders. Whenever a defender takes away the ball from the offence, either as an interception or a fumble recovery he celebrates by putting on a ski mask. It’s a slightly bizarre tradition and we will see how long it lasts but it’s certainly novel if nothing else. I’m sure the defence would prefer to leave the masks off and tighten up after conceding nearly 400 yards of offence again this weekend.

Image result for seattle dragons ski mask celebration

pro player insiders


A Few Firsts

With the league still in its infancy we are still seeing some things for the first time. This weekend saw the 1st kickoff return for a touchdown. The new rules have seen plenty of return opportunities but it took a little trickery for the Battlehawks to break the first return touchdown of the season. We also saw the 1st attempted onside kick, and the first successful 3 point after touchdown play. As teams become more comfortable with the rules expect the coaches and their deployment of strategy to become more important.

Image result for battlehawks kick off touchdown

total pro sports


Changing Of The Guardians

Remember when New York took their home opener? Remember when things seemed rosy, Matt McGloin looked like a veteran leader and the team looked cohesive? Well 2 weeks have passed and all of those things seem like distant memories. McGloin who was under the spotlight in this one didn’t last a half of play before being injured. They actually ended the game on their 3rd QB (who ironically looked the best). There were penalties galore including several for unnecessary roughness, resulting in a benching for their centre. On the road against St Louis in their home opener was always going to be a tough assignment and New York didn’t help themselves. They need to get back to winning ways – quickly!

Image result for kevin gilbride xfl

usatoday.com


We Know Nothing

A condensed 10 game season means that jumping to quick conclusions is an automatic reaction, as week 3 proved, we are still learning a lot each week. Tampa might be winless but have improved week to week and with some stability at QB would not be far away. The previous undefeated Cardale Jones was awful as he tossed 4 picks on route to the defenders 1st defeat against a previous winless LA team. Credit to coach Moss not just for the win but for also not flinching in his gatorade shower! Dallas continue to improve and have won 2 on the road in back to back weeks. The Dome will be a huge advantage for the battlehawks as St Louis welcomed back football in a big way. Not even a month in – is the league actually starting to take shape?

Image result for winston moss gatorade

fox news


XFL Week 2 – Takeaways

We like to bring you a takeaway Tuesday during the NFL season, so why not extend it for a bit of XFL action? Week 2 is in the books and there are plenty of talking points to get our teeth into. Lets start in Tampa…….


2 Out Of 3 Are Bad


Aaron Murray may have disappointed in the Tampa Bay Vipers opener against New York but its safe to say his stock rose this week as he sat out the loss in Seattle with a foot injury. Backup Taylor Cornelius played even worse, a relief effort that still did not generate an offensive touchdown. Quinton Flowers may well get some plays behind center. Bearing in mind though he is primarily a running back, he is nothing more than a gadget player behind center. This was demonstrated by his screen pass that was picked off just outside of his own end zone. Yes Murray will need to improve, as will the whole Tampa squad, but he is the best QB option that they have. It seems a long time ago he was breaking SEC records but surely generating 1 touchdown pass is not too much to ask?

Image result for aaron murray
ABC ActionNews

Defenders By Name, Defenders By Nature


It only feels right that the first shutout of the XFL went to the team called the defenders. A swarming defense harassed Matt McGloin all night as they recorded 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery. Anthony Johnson who had been traded from the Wildcats during the week made some big plays in limited playing time. You have to imagine once he gets fully up to speed with the playbook this defense will continue to go from strength to strength.

Image result for dc defenders defense
NBC Sports

Not My Fault Gaffer


Un-rivaled access we were promised, and boy did it deliver on Saturday. Running into the halftime locker room we got to see the pleasure of Matt McGloin spitting his dummy out after an awful first half showing against the DC Defenders. Immature? Ill advised? Or just ultra competitive? Whichever way you want to dress it up, it wasn’t a good look for the Guardians so called leader when he threw basically everyone under the bus, except of course for himself! 

McGloin has proven to be tenacious throughout his football life. From walking on at Penn State to getting picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Oakland Raiders, dealing with tough situations is McGloin’s biggest strength. Expect a bounce back in week 3.

Image result for matt mcgloin
Fansided

For The Love Of Football


A huge shout out to Eli Rogers who suited up for the Defenders, that despite the loss of his mother during the week. The funeral was actually being held at the time of the game but Rogers took to the field to help his team to a victory. He was heavily involved in the offence too, with several of his catches moving the chains. If anyone was in any doubt about the passion and commitment from the players in this league, then please doubt no more. The league is all about opportunities and Rogers is certainly determined to make the most of his.

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Bleacher Report

Not Exactly Hi-Ho Silvers


Importantly Seattle beat Tampa Bay. In a 10 week season, starting 0-2 is never going to be easy but don’t get too carried away. The Dragons weren’t exactly an offensive powerhouse however. A genuine committee approach at running back and plenty of dink and dunk from QB, Brandon Silvers. Yes he was down a few starters on the offensive line but minus his 68 yard bomb to Keenan Reynolds the aerial attack couldn’t even be described as pedestrian. This will be 1 to watch once the line is solidified.

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Seattle Times

Too Chilled Winston


Winston Moss thought he could do a better job with the LA defense than Pepper Johnson. The controversial firing of a DC after 1 game means the microscope is well and truly under the Wildcats defense. A switch to much more zone coverage, and the benefit of playing a rusty Landry Jones brought plenty of joy through the first 3 quarters, unfortunately a football game consists of 4. In the end the Renegades put up 25 points and more than 400 yards of total offense. There was success to be found both through the air and on the ground and the Wildcats need to find answers, quickly.

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SI.com

Mixing It Up


Talking of Dallas its no surprise to see Hal Mumme employ an offence set up to pass. That was in heavy use in Sunday’s win against Los Angeles with QB Landry Jones throwing for 305 yards while completing 70 percent of his passes after a shaky start. But the Renegades rushed for 158 yards, including 99 yards on 14 carries by Cameron Artis-Payne. If Dallas can continue to run like that, its passing game is going to be even more dangerous as teams have to set up to be able to defend the run.

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DraftKings Nation

Too Early To Talk MVP?


It’s no surprise that 2 signal callers dominate the early discussion after 2 weeks of the regular season. Cardale Jones has moved to 13-0 as starting QB (including his run with Ohio State) and has the defenders looking strong. Cardale has had some NFL exposure however so maybe more love should be going to Roughnecks QB, PJ Walker. 7 touchdowns in 2 weeks, an ability to shift in the pocket and a threat on the ground, he is displaying all of the characteristics you want from a modern day QB. Add in the intrigue surrounding the Carolina Panthers plans at the position and the Matt Rhule connection, I’d say keep your eyes peeled on this one.

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Yahoo News

St Louis Loves It’s Football


We could witness the most passionate home opener when the Battlehawks finally play a home game in week 3. It is looking like a 28,000 sell out in the Dome for the battle with Guardians in the only XFL market outside of a traditional NFL franchise. Of course the Rams were in town only a few short years ago but having your football team taken away does not take your passion for the game away. If TV ratings are anything to go by, the Battlehawks may well be the most loved team in the city, already doubling the viewership of the well established St Louis Blues ice hockey team. Get ready for more noise and atmosphere from the sidelines as the hometown fans look forward to welcoming their new heroes.

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St. Louis Post

2 weeks in and there is no sign of a loss in momentum. The league built on its successful opening weekend with a solid offering in week 2. Superior QB play is already proving to be a difference maker, which should surprise nobody, but it will be interesting to see how the other teams respond. It may only be week 3 but are we already talking about must win games for Tampa and LA this weekend? Do the Defenders and Roughnecks continue to set the pace? Make sure to tune in to the full10yards XFL podcast as myself and Michael break it all down in audio form, and be sure to check out Michael’s in depth game previews ahead of the weekends action.

Foe the love of football – for another week!

Initial Impressions of XFL 2020

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

I retweeted out the following statement over the weekend:

I saw plenty of comments of the caliber, “It’s not as good as the NFL”. Really? Is that the standard we are expecting on opening weekend, or ever for that matter? The NFL has just celebrated its 100th season, has established fan bases, a global audience and obviously the best players on the planet. Throw in 32 rich owners, a truck load of TV money and I’d say its pretty safe to assume the NFL will always reign supreme. 

xfl.com

That is exactly where the original concept of the XFL failed, it tried too hard to compete. When it realized that the main attraction would be the standard of play and it was naturally lacking they tried to pump up on the sex and violence to draw in viewers. Too much WWE and not enough football lead to its quick demise, but XFL 2.0 already feels different. With the opening weekend in the books, lets have some takeaways from my initial impressions.


The Lack of WWE was a Good Thing


Apart from the odd ringing out of the Undertaker’s “gong” between some plays you wouldn’t have known that Vince McMahon was involved with XFL this time around. The only other connection I saw was, Jordan Smallwood celebrating his 2 touchdowns with a Randy Orton style pose. However, when you consider that Gronk and more recently George Kittle have hyped up WWE whilst in the NFL, you could hardly see this as an issue. The focus was very much on the football, no plugs for Smackdown (I thought FOX might go there), no superstars in the crowd or tossing the coin and most importantly, no Jerry “The King” Lawler snooping through the cheerleaders locker room at halftime. 

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wrestlingnews.com

The Halftime Alternative


So if the decision was made to not show half naked cheerleaders at halftime then what exactly were we going to get instead? Well, here is a novel idea…… some actual focus on coaching and tactics. We hear a lot on NFL broadcasts about halftime adjustments but never get to actually see or hear any of it being discussed in the locker room. Thanks to the access that the broadcasters have during the XFL we actually get a view inside the locker room to find out what tweaks the coaches are implementing. A great addition to the broadcast and surely better than listening to the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Phil Simms and company state the obvious for 10 minutes or so.


The Coverage


We were told ahead of time to expect unrivaled access to the teams throughout the broadcast and the opening weekend did not disappoint. Hearing Pep Hamilton talk his offence through an entire play as it developed was a great insight into the headset. Sideline interviews had mixed results with an early “F bomb” being dropped and the sideline reporter trying to chat with a cornerback who was trying to get back on the field providing 2 of the more amusing moments. The general concept however was again good and providing the timing is right and its not overly used it can be a big enhancement.

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the18.com

There wasn’t a horrendous commentary booth to be found, and in fact the crew of Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen was a nice surprise. The graphics were slick with FOX continuing the presentation style that they debuted during the Superbowl. Even the preview shows that were available via the XFL youtube channel were good 15 minute updates to get you set for the game. Overall I enjoyed the coverage, even though I wish BT sport would give some opportunities to upcoming media enthusiasts to get in a UK studio (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

Hearing the officials debate calls and the replay booth (armed with an Xbox controller) digesting footage of  plays under review was also another good addition. I’ve always liked Dean Blandino and it was good to see him pop up every now and again to provide some clarity on what had just been called and why.


Crowds


Just before kick off it was revealed that the league has already sold more tickets for its debut season than the AAF did for the entirety of its run. It’s a great sign for the longevity prospects of the league. Playing predominantly in markets with existing NFL teams may have raised a few eyebrows, but there was plenty of passion on display from the stands in week 1.

Playing in smaller stadiums, or only selling portions of the larger venues both seem sensible decisions in the early going. Fans who were in attendance made plenty of noise and seemingly had purchased plenty of merchandise ahead of opening weekend. With 4 teams obviously still to play a home opener this will be 1 to monitor.

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loudontimes.com

Rule Changes


I’m yet to find somebody who doesn’t love the new kick off rule. I really hope that the NFL was paying close attention because one of the most exciting plays in football certainly has life in the XFL. It was strange on the eyes to begin with as the poor kicker stood alone in his own half but the concept worked brilliantly. If safety is the primary concern on this play then I believe we have found a perfectly acceptable answer. 

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CBSSports

The PAT adds an intriguing strategy element and I’m sure it will grow organically over time. The idea that an 18 point lead is only a 2 possession game means again that the original concept has legs. I would probably like to see an option to kick for 1 point included but it has to be for argument sake a 50 yard attempt so that it’s not a “gimme”.

The timing rules inside of 2 minutes are again a good concept to allow for more offence with the clock stoppages opening up the entire playbook. That however brings me to my 1 minor complaint of the weekend, the games took too long. I say that in the context of the league marketing itself as a fast paced game. A continual running clock (outside of 2 minutes), fewer timeouts and a shorter halftime were all intended to shave time off the game.

The reality saw games around the 3 hour mark, with the 2nd game on Saturday actually kicking off before the 1st game had finished. It’s by no means a disaster but if the XFL wants to market itself as the place to see a faster game then it needs to produce 1.


Bring on Week 2


Near enough everything that was wrong in 2001 was put right on opening weekend of 2020. What was seen was some solid, hard-hitting football with some highlight reel plays thrown in. The presentation was excellent and as the league continues to learn will no doubt be refined throughout the season. 

It feels only right as a Browns fan that I decided to root for the team that put up the fewest points in week 1. If it means I now get to be miserable for another 10 weekends every year then I’m all for it. More football is a good thing! Yes, it’s no NFL – IT’S NOT TRYING TO BE! 

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Bleacher Report

We will have game reviews and previews each week on www.full10yards.com be sure to check them out.

XFL 2020 – Season Preview

The sight of a coach drenched in Gatorade and a field covered in ticker tape usually signals no football for 7 whole months. Yes we have the combine, free agency and draft to get excited about but nothing beats the excitement of an actual game. The AAF had a brief cameo last year but hopefully football fans we have a more permanent spring offering starting up on Saturday as XFL kicks off.  8 new teams, some interesting tweaks on rules and a UK home to watch it all on, here’s a preview to get you in the mood. 

The Teams and Coaches

  • Dallas Renegades – Bob Stoopes
  • Houston Roughnecks – June Jones
  • LA Wildcats – Winston Moss
  • Seattle Dragons – Jim Zorn
  • New York Guardians – Kevin Gilbride
  • DC Defenders – Pep Hamilton
  • St Louis Battlehawks – Johnathan Hayes
  • Tampa Bay Vipers – Marc Trestman

The Draft

With 8 new teams, rosters needed to be formed. The XFL player allocation process was held in multiple phases, separated by position groups. Each XFL head coach submitted a list of their preferred quarterbacks, with the league assigning one quarterback to each team prior to the draft as “tier 1” quarterbacks. The remaining players were drafted by position group using a traditional “snake format” with each team given 90 seconds per pick.

  • Phase 1: Offensive skill positions
  • Phase 2: Offensive lineman
  • Phase 3: Defensive front 7
  • Phase 4: Defensive backfield
  • Phase 5: Any remaining players

Teams drafted 71 players, with a requirement to be cut down to 52 for opening weekend kickoff.

Notable Players Selected

At quarterback, there are a couple of former household names from big-time programs, including Landry Jones from Oklahoma and Cardale Jones from Ohio State. Both men spent time as back-ups in the NFL so will be keen to prove their worth leading the Dallas Renegades and DC Defenders respectively.

In the offensive skill positions familiar faces Matt Jones, formerly of the Washington Redskins and former Carolina Panther Cameron Artis-Payne will be carrying the rock out of the backfield. 2 former AFC North receivers will see the field as ex Steeler Sammie Coates and ex Cleveland Brown, Antonio Callaway suit up.

On the defensive side of the ball, former 1st and 2nd round NFL draft choices Matt Elam and Rahim Moore will team up together in Dallas. Kony Ealy who recorded 3 sacks in Superbowl 50 has signed on with Houston. Nick Novak will be a recognizable name on special teams, whilst Scooby Wright III wins quite simply the most memorable name prize.

The Schedule

The 10-week regular season starts Saturday, February 8, less than a week removed from the Superbowl, with the DC Defenders hosting the Seattle Dragons, followed by the Los Angeles Wildcats traveling to Houston for a game against the Roughnecks. 

The XFL’s first weekend continues on Sunday, February 9, when the New York Guardians host the Tampa Bay Vipers and concludes later that day as the Dallas Renegades host the St. Louis BattleHawks. Additional regular-season highlights include home openers for Seattle on February 15, Los Angeles on February 16, Tampa Bay on February 22, and St. Louis on February 23. The 2 biggest US markets, New York and Los Angeles, meet only one time on February 29, when the Wildcats take on the Guardians at MetLife Stadium. The first of two Texas intrastate match-ups between the Roughnecks and Renegades follows on March 1 in Dallas.

Following the regular season, the top two teams in each division will square off for the right to play for the league championship on Sunday, April 26. The East Final is scheduled for Saturday, April 18, and the West Final will be held Sunday, April 19. The first-place team in each division will host its respective division final.

UK fans will be able to catch coverage of the games across the BT sport network or via ESPN player.

The New Rules

When the XFL kicks off on Feb. 8, the new league will feature exciting gameplay innovations that are designed to deliver a faster pace of play and more action. With 5 Gameplay Innovations, 5 Timing Changes, and 5 Common Sense Rules, the league is building on traditional football while preserving its authenticity. 

5 Gameplay Innovations:

Kickoff | Point-After Touchdown | Punt | Double-Forward Pass | Overtime

5 Timing Changes: 

25-Second Play Clock | Comeback Period | Running Game Clock | Timeouts | Replay Rulings

5 Common Sense Rules: 

One Foot Inbounds | Ball-Spotting Official | Coach-Player Communication | Simplified Illegal Man Downfield | Shorter Halftime

Check out this useful summary video via youtube here.

Time To Get Excited

In summary, its more football to enjoy and I’m really interested to see how some of the new rules play out. The XFL appears to have learned from its previous failings and has the financial backing to be a success. I would suggest you pick a team and have a bit of fun for the next 12 weeks, its surely better than refreshing twitter to see which free agents your NFL team has overpaid for.