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
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 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.