The D.C. Defenders have turned it around in the worst way possible these last two weeks. After starting the season 2-0 and dominating at all-three phases of the game, the Defenders are coming off consecutive blowout losses. Head Coach Pep Hamilton, Defensive Coordinator Louie Cioffi and Quarterback Cardale Jones all seem to be out of sorts. With the Defenders upcoming two-game return home, they need to figure it out fast.
It’s no opinion that former Ohio State champion Cardale Jones was the most notable face in the XFL when the league began in February. With ABC cameras rolling while millions watched from home and the sold out Audi Field crowd cheered, Jones electrified in opening week. It continued in a week 2 27-0 shutout of the New York Guardians, with Jones winning with his arm and feet. Since, Jones has thrown five interceptions over the last two games. In that span, he’s thrown for just 175 yards with zero touchdowns. Many have discussed the lack of experience Jones has, playing less than 15 games of football since high school. Over the last few weeks, the inexperience has been evident, from the erratic passes to how he’s dealt with adversity. In week 3, it was the body language; In week four, Jones took to blaming others.
The Defenders run game has been inconsistent throughout the season, but the inability to get it going early has been a problem since Week 1. In Week 4, the Vipers held the Defenders to just 46 yards on the ground.
Louie Cioffi got ample praise after taking over the Defensive Coordinator just days before the XFL kickoff, and his defense looked great through the first two weeks. In that time, the Defenders allowed an average of just 9 points. In the two weeks since, they’ve allowed a combined 64 points.
If there’s a hot-seat in D.C. after dropping to 2-2 in ugly fashion, both coaches should be splitting it. It’s hard to imagine that there will be no heads rolling if this continues for another week. There’s only one undefeated in the league, but the Defenders lack of effort when down has been disgusting. In both losing contests, D.C. has failed to make adjustments on either side of the ball coming out of the half. It’s not an issue of talent, but execution and effort.
Vipers running backs Jacques Patrick and Deveon Smith became the first duo in XFL history to each rush for 100-yards. In Week 3, Wildcats running backs Larry Rose and Martez Carter combined for three touchdowns. For a D.C. team that was the only team not to allow a 100-yard rusher through Week 2, it’s about effort. While the XFL has not released the stat yet, the tape shows that the Defenders have missed no less than 20 tackles. Second and third effort short-yardage runs continue to go for chunk plays. The Vipers converted 2 of 3 fourth down attempts Sunday, with both being running plays.
D.C. returns home to face the red-hot St. Louis BattleHawks, who are on a two-game win streak. St. Louis is allowing just 15 points per game, and quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has been electrifying. Ta’amu currently ranks second in passing yards (876) and fifth in rushing yards (186).
Despite the loss, D.C. still sits second behind the Hawks in the East standings. The Defenders will need to figure it out immediately as we near the midway point of the season. Not just for the sake of playoff implications, but for the makeup and the staff and roster. The last thing the D.C. area needs is another incompetent football team. It’s too early to jump to that conclusion, but some better play would be nice.