The XFL 2023 season is right around the corner. The DC Defenders are returning, but this time with a whole lot of new faces. Join me as I breakdown the roster, starting with defensive backs.
Kentrell Brice, Safety
Brice played three seasons with the Green Bay Packers as a key contributor on special teams and a rotational safety. As one of the more seasoned players on the Defenders defense, Kentrell Brice will be held responsible in a big way on the backend for DC. Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams’ safeties are notoriously known for being aggressive in the box, no different from the rest of the defense. If you need examples, take a look at Jamal Adams when Williams arrived in New York, or when he coached Sean Taylor throughout his career in Washington. Brice is anticipated to be a key contributor for Williams and the rest of the Defenders defense.
Here’s a look at Brice showing off his range inside the box for Green Bay:
Kentrell Brice has renewed my faith. He wasn’t sensational but he played the way you want your Strong Safety to perform. Brice’s biggest challenge will be stacking success and staying healthy. 📈#Packers pic.twitter.com/qOzOIXNt3j
— Eye In The Sky (@The_Green_Gold) September 14, 2018
Holton Hill, Cornerback
Former Minnesota Vikings cornerback Holton Hill brings additional NFL experience to the DC Defenders secondary. Hill was an undrafted free agent signing out of the University of Texas in the 2018 NFL Draft, and had a three-year stint with Minnesota that included highs and lows. Hill began his career in Minnesota making the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent, which is a huge accomplishment for any player in itself, but more so for an undrafted rookie like Holton Hill. During his rookie season, Hill played in all 16 games with three starts late in the year, capping his rookie campaign off on a high note. Unfortunately during the following offseason, Hill was handed two separate four game suspensions by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and also violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He was eligible to be reinstated in Week 9 of the 2019 season, but Hill’s offseason debacle surely put him in the doghouse of Minnesota’s organization. This is a common theme we see throughout the XFL and other incoming spring league players; the margin for error is so miniscule in the NFL and we continue to see examples of this throughout the sport. Nonetheless, Hill returned to the Vikings in Week 9 and recorded his first career fumble recovery on a kickoff return against the Chiefs.
The following 2020 season was not kind to Holton Hill. Hill ended up playing in only four games in 2020 due to a foot injury that sidelined him three games prior to being placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. Soon after, Hill was placed on the Vikings injured reserve where he stayed until he was waived by the team on December 8th, 2020.
Since his time in Minnesota, Hill’s NFL career has been stagnant, consisting of multiple tryouts and short practice squad stints. The XFL is a prime opportunity for the 25-year-old Hill to thrive, dominate, and carve his way back to the NFL.
This is cool: Chris Spielman tells Sam Darnold to go after rookie @Vikings CB UDFA Holton Hill & the next play Hill gets his first career INT
(*yes,bad throw but still cool. Dont ruin Holton’s moment*) pic.twitter.com/3G9zf1phI7
— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) October 21, 2018
DeJuan Neal, Cornerback
As one of the only XFL veterans in the Defenders DB room, DeJuan Neal brings an edge to the Defenders secondary that may be felt on the field in more ways than one. Neal attended Shepherd University and went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. Neal played for the New York Guardians in the XFL (2020) before COVID, and also played in the USFL (2021) for the New Jersey Generals, where he was in and out of the lineup due to injury. Following the USFL season, Neal signed to the Washington Commanders preseason roster, but was cut just before the season began. The biggest knock on Neal throughout his career has been his speed, and his inability to keep up with quick, twitchy receivers. Neal makes up for that with his physicality at the LOS and in the run-game. Listed at 5’10”/190 lbs, Neal plays much bigger than his size and frame.
Take a look at how he completely blows up this sweep play:
DeJuan Neal of the New Jersey Generals is reportedly signing with the Washington Commanders, making him the second #USFL player to sign with the NFL.
Neal was often injured this season, but was a strong performer for New Jersey when healthy. #HTTC pic.twitter.com/hRRQvPbkOY
— Shaun Chornobroff (@SChornobroff) July 14, 2022
K.J. Sails, Defensive Back
Tampa native K.J. Sails arrives in DC with a lot to prove since not playing football in over a year and a half. Sails was cut by the Los Angeles Chargers in August 2021 after being signed throughout training camp/preseason as an undrafted free agent from USF. He originally attended UNC before transferring back down home to USF for his junior and senior year. Sails best collegiate season came in 2019 with USF when he recorded three interceptions and was named to the American Athletic All-Conference Second Team.
𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝑩𝒂𝒚 𝑴𝒂𝒅𝒆 𝑩𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒓 USF DB KJ Sails for being an @PFF_College honorable mention All-American! #𝗦𝗵𝘂𝘁𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻𝗦𝗮𝗶𝗹𝘀 posted 42 tackles (34 solo), 3 INTs, 2.5 TFL, 9 passes defended, & recovered 2 fumbles!
❾ @KJ2LiVE#813Island #USF pic.twitter.com/3M7fhSdWyR
— SoFloBulls (@SoFloBulls) December 3, 2019
In 2020, Sails was primed for a big senior season with placements on multiple preseason watchlists, but due to injuries and other non-football related reasons, he severely underperformed in eight games with zero turnovers recorded.
Sails, 25, has become beloved in the Tampa community due to his impact on the growth and exposure of high school football in the area. K.J. recently had opportunities around Tampa Bay coaching and broadcasting, but decided to give football another shot.
How do you think the DC Defenders will do in 2023? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.