We’re just a little under 7 months until the XFL kicks off on Feb 8th, 2020 and the league has just wrapped up the inaugural Summer Showcase. If you don’t know, the Showcase is the XFL’s version of the NFL combine, with a twist. The league held a showcase at each of the franchise locations to scout potential players for a chance to eligible for the draft come October.
The Summer Showcase kicked off in Dallas on June 7th, with the last event taking place July 13th in St. Louis. For the most part there two Showcase events each weekend, the last two took place individually with a holiday break in between. Each event had a minimum of 100 players showcasing their talents, with half being offense and the other defense.
Now that this chapter has concluded, we thought this was a good time to look and see what is next for the XFL between now and kickoff.
Team Identities (Names/Logos)
The biggest thing on every ones mind is the team identities. People have been asking about the names and logos since before Bob Stoops was announced as head coach of XFL Dallas. The good news, they’re coming; we just don’t know when specifically. Commissioner Luck has touched on this subject a few times in the past; with a lot of fans angry that the timeline has changed a few time. We initially hear April, then May, June and now July. There are a lot of possibilities for the delay, so I’ll give the league a pass on this one.
We are definitely getting closer, as XFL Seattle has already trademarks 5 potential team names for their franchise. The league also seems more confident when telling fans that the names are coming this month. We expect to hear an official announcement from the XFL very soon on what the identities will be. It could be as soon as tomorrow or as late as the 31st, but we fully expect to hear the names this month.
Now that the league has had a change to scout players via The Spring League, Your Call Football as well as their very own Summer Showcase, it’s time to start signing players. League officials have stated that the Showcase wasn’t a tryout, it was a place for scouts and coaches to get a first hand look at players that the league was already interested in. In the Summer Showcase alone there was roughly 1000 players that participated throughout all of the events.
We also know that the XFL is looking to pick up players cut by the NFL prior to the season start. They have also stated that they are keeping an eye on Quarterback battles in the NFL, in hopes that they may be able to intrigue one of the backups to join the league as a starter. Players aren’t going to be signed to any particular teams. Once signed, they will be entered into the XFL draft pool. The XFL Draft is to take place in early October, but we’ll touch on that more later.
Official Rule book
We know a lot of the rules the XFL has been testing, but noting is final yet. Commissioner Luck has stated that he expects the finalized rule book to come in late August or early September. Regardless, we should have them by end of summer; and that’s right around the corner.
Unlike the AAF, the XFL will have kickoffs. From the looks of it, it seems to be similar to the CFL where there will be a 5 yard halo-rule, with no fair catch. The ball will be booted from a team’s 15- or 20-yard line, in order to prevent touchbacks; to cut down on the trauma of high-speed collisions, the rest of the kicking team will line up on the opponent’s 35, five yards from the return team’s blockers.
Similar to the kickoff, there will still be a 5 yard halo rule with no fair catch. One thing to remember, is the 5 yard halo is dependent on the ball and not the player. Meaning, if the ball hits the ground and bounces towards the kicking team, the players will need to retreat until the receiving team picks up the ball.
Running Play Clock/Come Back Period
Instead of stopping the clock on incomplete passes and runs out of bounds, the clock will keep running, except in the last two minutes of the half; this is what the league has been calling the “come back period”. The hope is that it will speed everything up, and accomplish the leagues goal of creating a fast-paced game.
Unlike the NFL, the XFL will not utilize kickers after a touchdown. Instead the scoring team will have three options:
1 point starting at the 2 yard line
2 points starting at the 5 yard line
3 points starting at the 10 yard line
This will give the opposing team more chances to get back into the game, which should create a more exciting game for the fans. An interesting aspect of this is also how they would handle interceptions that result in a score. If this is to happen, the defense would receive the amount of points that the offense was attempting. For instance, if XFL Houston is going for a 3 point attempt and XFL Seattle intercepts and runs it back, Seattle would receive three points.
Multiple Forward Passes
The league has been testing the ability to have multiple forward passes; meaning more than two. All passes would need to be performed behind the line of scrimmage. If the QB passes to another player and becomes the receiver they will be treated as any other player and would no longer be protected by QB safety rules. This would potentially open up more plays for the backup QB, or at least that is a thought at the moment. If any of the passes are incomplete, the whole play is incomplete.
As part of keeping the game up tempo, the XFL is aware that officiating is going to play a key part of that. There will be a dedicated ball spotter to ensure that time isn’t wasted setting the placement after each play. They will also have a officiant in the booth, much like the AAf and it’s Sky Judge. There will be replay reviews, but they are looking at ways to expedite the process. Dean Blandino has also recently stated that the XFL is making a concerted effort to hire female and minority officials.
Probably the most intriguing innovation they are testing out is new overtime rules. Again, a huge focus that they are working to achieve is keeping all of the games under 3 hours, including overtime. To achieve this, and give each team an opportunity to score they are testing rules similar to hockey and soccer. Both teams offense and defense would be on the field at the same time starting at the 5 yard line. Each team would take turns attempting to score, with each touchdown accounting for one point. If there is a tie after 5 rounds, then it becomes sudden death. Whoever scores first, wins the game.
There will be 4 refs on each side, with a ref in the booth similar to the AAF’s Sky Judge to officiate the plays. If the defense commits a penalty the ball would move to the 1 yard line, if they commit a second penalty, the offense receive a point. Alternatively, if the defense intercepts the ball or recovers a fumble then they would receive a point. With these rules in place there will always be a winner, no ties in the XFL.
We have heard numerous times that the XFL Draft will occur in early October; first fro, XFL St. Louis Head Coach Jon Hayes, then further confirmed by Commissioner Luck. There has also been some rumors that Tier 1 quarterbacks will not be apart of the draft; instead they would be assigned to teams. League representatives had commented on this issue and said this is only up for consideration. Johnny Manziel has said that he’d be open to play for either Dallas or Houston. If the league went this direction, it would allow for this to happen without the uncertainty of the draft.
The league if going to be comprised of 8 official teams and a “Team 9” also based of of Dallas. We’re assuming that this team will not partake in the draft, rather they will select players from the pool of left over players. Something else to keep in mind is that the XFL has different eligibility rules from the NFL. This means we could see players come straight from high school, or leave college early to join the league.
Training camp will take place in Houston next January with all eight leagues participating. This would replace a pre-season for the league, at least for the inaugural season. It’s very possible that if the league surpasses it’s predecessors existence that we may see a proper pre-season.
Commissioner Luck has stated in the past that he expects team practices to start around late fall, this would not replace that, rather this would supplement those practice sessions.
Last but not least, we arrive at the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The XFL officially kicks off just six days after the Super Bowl on Feb 8th, 2020. The early game starts at 2pm EST on ABC, and the later game starting at 5pm EST on Fox.
That is huge news for the XFL, both of their opening day games are going to be aired on “free” over-the-air television. Not to mention that all XFL games will be broadcast across ABC, ESPN, Fox or FS1. The times and dates of all of the games have been announced, but no teams associated with them just yet.