The XFL will kickoff in 66 days, and I for one, could not be more excited. The talent in the league is exciting and the depth charts are deep all around. The jerseys have been unveiled and the mini-camps have begun. The promise of football reimagined is starting to become true, and all we wait for now is the official rulebook.
Since mini-camp’s are starting, and the next 66 days will go by extremely quick, I felt this is a good time to preview each position in the XFL, starting with Quarterbacks.
I have decided to go over the Quarterbacks that fans may be familiar with, as well as a few that could challenge for the starting spot. There are a few unique situations where I think the starter is pretty cut and dry, but there will also be some very competitive camp battles getting underway soon.
After examining quite a bit of film, as well as doing some research, here is the 2020 XFL Quarterback Preview.
Landry Jones(University of Oklahoma 2009-12, Pittsburgh Steelers 2013-17, Jacksonville Jaguars 2018) College Statistics: 63.6 CMP%, 16,646 Passing Yards, 123TD/52INT, 141.5RTG
Film Analysis: Jones had a prolific career at Oklahoma, leading to a 4th round selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent 3 years backing up Ben Roethlisberger, starting 5 total games. What I see during his time at Oklahoma is that Jones was very crisp and efficient in Bob Stoops offense, routinely getting the ball out on time. His anticipation is impressive, and he does process defenses pre-snap better than a lot of quarterbacks. He has average mobility, however he is very good when throwing on the run, but he does struggle when facing a lot of pressure. His arm is nothing extremely special, but it is strong enough to get the job done. While at Oklahoma, Stoops system required Jones to throw quite a bit of timing routes, and to get the ball out quick. Assuming Stoops runs a similar offense, Jones will fit like a glove in the scheme, and Dallas fans should be excited for what lies ahead.
Philip Nelson(University of Minnesota 2012-14, East Carolina University 2015-17, San Diego Fleet 2018) College Statistics: 59.1 CMP%, 4,800 Passing Yards, 33TD/22INT, 127.2 RTG
Film Analysis: During his time at East Carolina, Nelson was a very solid passer. What I see from his tape is that he has a very good ability to move within the pocket, and set his feet for throws. His arm certainly is not elite, but his sense for timing routes and ability to put the ball in a spot that only his receiver can go get is extremely impressive. His mobility is not anything special, but he can evade pressure when he needs to. I think if Landry Jones were to go down with an injury, Nelson will be a very good fit in Stoops system. He is a strong backup, and his skill set is pretty similar to Jones.
Outlook: This is probably the most clear cut and straight forward Quarterback situation in the entire league. Landry Jones has the largest pedigree and resume of any other quarterback, as well as having his former college coach, Bob Stoops, running the show in Dallas. It’s almost impossible to see Nelson beating out Jones, but you never know with injuries. The Renegades have a very solid duo here, and should be in a good spot with Nelson even if Jones were to get injured.
Cardale Jones(Ohio State University 2013-15, Buffalo Bills 2016, Los Angeles Chargers 2017-18) College Statistics: 61.9 CMP%, 2,323 Passing Yards, 15TD/7INT, 150.9 RTG
Film Analysis: Even though he only made 11 starts in college, Cardale Jones showed good enough traits to get himself drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. When watching his tape, one thing clearly stands out to me; Arm Strength. Jones can make just about any possible throw anywhere on the field. He also has incredible finesse when throwing, showing a great ability to have touch on his ball, even when throwing downfield. He also has incredible size, standing 6’5 tall, and weighing 250lbs. Clearly, he is not an easy guy to take down in the pocket, and his mobility is not terrible. He does have a variety of weaknesses, he struggles to read the defense pre-snap, and he struggles to hit timing routes on time. Additionally, what I saw in his college interceptions is that he tends to stare down his first read, only occasionally looking off to his secondary read. Jones has been out of college for a while, and if anybody can get him to develop above the shoulders, it’s Pep Hamilton. Jones has all the physical traits to be an MVP-caliber player, but it will all boil down to the mental side.
Tyree Jackson(University at Buffalo 2016-18) College Statistics: 55.8 CMP%, 6,999 Passing Yards, 49TD/24INT, 129.3 RTG
Film Analysis: Jackson was projected to be selected in the later rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, but fell down the boards, and was undrafted. He got into camp with the Buffalo Bills, but was released before camp was over. What jumps out on tape immediately is Jackson’s size, he stands at 6’7 and weighs 249lbs. He is also a very good athlete, very often extending plays with his feet, and with his frame he is very hard to take down. He has an absolute rocket for an arm, there is truly not a single throw he cannot make on the field. When he sets his feet and drives the ball with conviction, his arm strength can rival even the best NFL Quarterbacks. Another plus is his ability to extend plays and throw on the run into tight windows, he did this many times at Buffalo, and it’s extremely impressive. But similar to Cardale Jones, Jackson really struggles above the shoulders. He routinely threw the ball into double or triple coverage, without regard. He also is very inaccurate, and really struggles to get the ball out on time. He falls into bad habits of heaving the ball downfield even against 2 high safeties, as well as not really knowing when to just throw the ball away. Overall, Jackson is definitely a project for Pep Hamilton, but he has immense talent and if he can put it all together, he easily has the ability to become a star.
Outlook: This is Cardale Jones’ job, but if there is an injury or if he makes too many mistakes, don’t be surprised if Tyree Jackson comes in and plays really well. Both Jones and Jackson are perfect fits for Pep Hamilton’s offensive scheme, and I think this is going to be a team that will love to air the ball out downfield and let the receivers run under it. Jones and Jackson are very similar in their strengths and weaknesses, and I think Jackson will have a unique opportunity to develop behind a player so similar. Both these quarterbacks are in a great spot to succeed in DC, and this should be a very explosive offense coming to Audi Field in February.
Philip Walker(Temple University 2013-16, Indianapolis Colts 2017-19) College Statistics: 56.9 CMP%, 10,668 Passing Yards, 74TD/44INT, 129.1 RTG
Film Analysis: Running June Jones’ run-n-shoot system is no small task, but I think Philip Walker is the exactly perfect prototype for this scheme. Walker is a bit undersized, standing 5’11 and weighing 216lbs, however, I don’t think this will matter all that much in Jones’ system. In his run-n-shoot, you are generally in the shotgun, meaning that Walker will be able to read defenses without his size being too much of a factor. His biggest strength is his ability to throw the ball downfield accurately, and at times, into tight coverage. I also love the touch Walker throws his deep ball with, he truly gives his receivers a chance every time. He also had above-average mobility, and had a knack for extending plays with his feet. When he is chased out of the pocket, he simply just makes things happen. A big weakness of his is consistency, as well as timing. There seem to be games where he simply isn’t effective, and others where he catches fire. There were three games his senior year that his statline is pretty horrendous, and to be a starter in professional football, you simply cannot be that inconsistent.
Connor Cook(Michigan State University 2012-15, Oakland Raiders 2016-17) College Statistics: 57.5 CMP%, 9,194 Passing Yards, 71TD/22INT, 139.8 RTG
Film Analysis: Connor Cook had a very decorated career at Michigan State, leading him to be taken in the 4th round by the Oakland Raiders. He made his first career start in a road playoff game in Houston, and never played in another NFL game. I really like the fit here with Cook and Jones’ system, Cook loves to air it out and be a gunslinger, and thats exactly what this system promotes. I absolutely love Cook’s arm strength, as well as his ability to fit the ball into tight windows. He simply makes throws others cannot, and he has great anticipation when throwing to his first read. He struggles at times to find his other reads, as well as reading defenses pre-snap. He doesn’t have very good mobility, but he will stand in the pocket and take a hit under pressure. A weakness of his is consistent accuracy, as well as sometimes not getting his feet set before making a throw. But one thing that truly jumps off the tape; Connor Cook is never scared to make any throw, at any time. He makes every throw with confidence and conviction, he really is a true gunslinger.
Outlook: Houston is in a great spot, with both Walker and Cook being perfect fits for the system they are in. This is going to be an absolute battle all camp long, and could even continue into the season. In my opinion, I think Connor Cook is the better quarterback, and better fit for this system. His ability to make any throw, as well as his fantastic anticipation makes him cookie cutter for the Run-N-Shoot. However, Walker does have something that Cook does not, which is mobility. If Jones wants a dual-threat element in his offense, this is going to be Walker’s job. The Roughnecks will probably have the most competitive QB battle in camp, and it will definitely be a situation to follow leading up to the season.
Los Angeles Wildcats
Luis Perez(Texas A&M Commerce 2015-17, Birmingham Iron 2019) College Statistics: 67.5 CMP%, 8,327 Passing Yards, 78TD/16INT, 161.4 RTG
Film Analysis: At Division II Texas A&M Commerce, Perez put up some amazing numbers leading his team to a National Championship. He didn’t have any NFL interest, so he went the route of the Alliance of American Football. He was solid with the Birmingham Iron, and won a lot of games, but never put up impressive numbers. From his film with the Iron, I think Perez can be summed up pretty simply; he is a game manager. He doesn’t have any traits that make him special, however he does generally make good decisions and limits the mistakes. His anticipation is average, and his mobility is not anything to write home about. He has pretty good touch on medium to deep sideline throws, but his arm strength is not anything super special either. One thing that I do like about him is that he routinely goes through all his reads, and doesn’t lock onto one specific receiver pre-snap. Perez can definitely win games if he has a strong running game and a good defense, but he just hasn’t shown the talent necessary to be counted on to carry his team.
Josh Johnson(University of San Diego 2004-07, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2008-11, Cleveland Browns 2012, Cinninatti Bengals 2013, San Francisco 2014, Indianapolis Colts 2015, New York Giants 2016, Houston Texans 2017, Washington Redskins 2018) College Statistics: 68.0 CMP%, 9,699 Passing Yards, 113TD/15INT, 176.7 RTG
Film Analysis: Josh Johnson is an NFL journeyman, and declined a few opportunities to be a backup in order to come to the XFL. I believe Johnson simply wants to be the starter, and doesn’t care about the money anymore. That being said, I really like what i see from him on tape. Looking at his playing time with the Redskins last season, he shows a veteran poise in the pocket, and always looks comfortable. He has great mobility, and his elusiveness is not terrible. He manipulates the pocket well, and is good when throwing on the run. His arm strength is not amazing, but he shows an ability to get through all his reads, and consistently make his throws on time. A big weakness he has is an inability to effectively make downfield throws, and his deep ball touch isn’t great either. While his arm strength is below-average, he has enough positive traits to make up it.
Outlook: Winston Moss and Norm Chow will certainly have a difficult decision ahead of them, whether to start the assigned quarterback Perez, or the NFL journeyman Josh Johnson. In my opinion, I think Johnson will be the day 1 starter. He has more positive traits than Perez, and while neither quarterback will set the world on fire with their downfield passing, Johnson has better anticipation, mobility, and timing than Perez. Either of these quarterbacks can win with a good running game, and the Wildcats should have one. Fans of Los Angeles should be happy that their coaches have such a tough decision, and truly with Norm Chow at the helm, this offense should have tremendous upside no matter who the Quarterback is.
St. Louis Battlehawks
Jordan Ta’amu(Ole Miss 2017-18) College Statistics: 64.5 CMP%, 5,600 Passing Yards, 30TD/12INT, 156.8 RTG
Film Analysis: Jordan Ta’amu is a very unique situation, as he has only spent very minimal time with NFL teams, however he did have an impressive season his senior year at Ole Miss. He ranked 2nd in SEC passing yards and yards/attempt behind only Tua Tagovailoa, and I really like Ta’amu’s film, he is an extremely raw prospect but he shows an ability to do a lot of things well. His best trait is his deep ball, he loves to sling it downfield, and he is normally very accurate in doing so. He has incredible touch on deep sideline throws, always giving his receivers a chance to make a play. He is outstanding on the run as well, with his arm strength on the run being NFL caliber. When he sets his feet and drives the ball to the middle of the field with conviction, he has a lot of zip on it. His biggest weakness is his anticipation, he really struggles when he needs to deliver a ball before the receiver breaks out of his route. Additionally, when watching his film you can clearly see his inexperience; he struggles to correctly adjust his protection and read zone coverage. Overall, he has a lot of talent, and I think he just needs more experience reading defenses for him to be successful. His inability to react positively to difficult defensive schemes could be his undoing.
Film Analysis: Heinicke had a very successful career at Old Dominion, and bounced around the NFL before making his first career start with the Panthers last season. Unfortunately he suffered a left arm injury, and even though he had a very good preseason, the Panthers cut ties due to roster space. I really like what Heinicke brings to the table, he is somebody who does not thrive on arm strength but he relies on his football IQ and timing to be successful. His arm strength does leave a lot to be desired, but his touch on sideline throws can make up for it. His anticipation is great, as he is almost always on time when making throws to receivers off their breaks. I love his ability to manipulate the pocket, and he is a great improviser when chased out of it. A big weakness of his while playing with Panthers is that he locked on to a receiver pre-snap which led to a few interceptions. Heinicke definitely has potential to be successful, but his arm talent weighs him down.
Outlook: This is a different situation than most, as Ta’amu and Heinicke have completely opposite skill sets. Head Coach Johnathon Hayes and Offensive Coordinator Doug Meacham will simply need to decide exactly what type of offense they want to run, and that will make their decision pretty easy. If they want to go with the more explosive, downfield passer, then the choice is Jordan Ta’amu. But if they want more of a game manager to rely on the running game, then Taylor Heinicke is the answer. I like both of these guys, as they show good traits on tape. The Battlehawks are definitely in a good spot with two unique options.
Brandon Silvers(Troy University 2014-17, Memphis Express 2019) College Statistics: 64.4 CMP%, 10,677 Passing Yards, 71TD/29INT, 135.8 RTG
Film Analysis: Silvers was undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, and did not get a training camp offer after rookie mini-camps. He decided to the AAF route, and began the season as the third-string behind Zach Mettenberger and Christian Hackenberg. But at the end of the shortened season, he got some play time and capitalized on his opportunity, showing some really good ability in flashes. From his college tape, a few things stand out to me, especially in his 2017 game against LSU. Silvers has quite a bit of confidence in his arm, and he definitely is not afraid to make throws into tight windows. His arm strength overall looks pretty good, and he seems to move well in the pocket. In Troy’s spread system, he didn’t need to make full-field reads like pro quarterbacks do, but time will tell if has developed that skill since college. Despite generally only reading from hashmark to sideline and not the whole field, there are several instances where he does process that his first read is covered, and then shows a good ability to improvise and keep his eyes downfield to look for an open receiver. He has sneaky mobility for his size as he runs pretty well. His arm action is pretty long and funky, it takes him a while to get the ball out, allowing the defense to have a better chance at closing on the play. If his arm action has tightened up a bit, that will definitely help him out a lot on timing routes. From the film, I think he processes defenses pre-snap pretty well which is an important trait to have after college ball. Overall, after watching the film, I like Silvers a lot more than I thought I would. I think his arm action definitely can hinder him a bit, but he shows a lot of good traits that help to make up for it.
Chase Litton(Marshall University 2015-17) College Statistics: 60.8 CMP%, 8,335 Passing Yards, 72TD/31INT, 133.9 RTG
Film Analysis: Litton declared for the 2018 NFL Draft as a junior, and unfortunately, he wasn’t selected in the rounds. He latched on to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad for the last year or so, but was cut this fall. After a quick stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Litton signed with the XFL and was assigned before the Supplemental Draft. Going to the film, he looks to me like a very raw prospect. He flashes an ability to drop the ball in a bucket down the sideline, but he is very inconsistent in doing so. His anticipation is pretty good at times, but I see far too many plays where he is late getting the ball out to a receiver off his break. As most young and inexperienced quarterbacks do, he shows a lot of indecisiveness when he can’t throw to his primary target, and that sometimes leads to him taking sacks instead of progressing through his reads. All that being said, Litton has very good arm strength even when he is off balance. His deep ball accuracy is solid and when he throws to the middle of the field its even better. He does have a tendency to pull his left shoulder too quick when throwing to his left, but generally he does a good job of getting his feet set when making clean pocket throws. To sum up, Litton is another raw, young prospect, but I see some potential in his play-making and explosiveness. I think he needs some time to learn and improve on his timing, but I can see him challenging Silvers for playing time by seasons end.
Outlook: I see this as a pretty clear cut race, with Silvers far ahead of Litton and the 3rd-stringer, BJ Daniels. I think Silvers shows a lot more poise and polish than Litton, and can be a lot more consistent. While I don’t think Silvers will be an MVP front-runner, I do think Jim Zorn will be able to run a solid offense with Silvers at the helm, and I think Seattle will have a very strong running game to help him out. Silvers should be good enough to win, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Litton is named the starter later on in the year to give the Dragons a spark on offense.
Tampa Bay Vipers
Aaron Murray(University of Georgia 2010-13, Kansas City Chiefs 2014-15, Atlanta Legends 2019) College Statistics: 62.3 CMP%, 13,166 Passing Yards, 121TD/41INT, 158.6 RTG
Film Analysis: Despite coming out of Georgia as the SEC All-Time Leader in touchdowns and passing yards, Murray wasn’t highly regarded by NFL teams going into the 2014 Draft. He had a season-ending ACL tear that definitely didn’t help his draft stock, as well as his smaller stature of 6 foot 1 inch tall. That being said, Murray does a lot of things well, and he certainly worthy of his Tier 1 QB status. Murray’s biggest strength is his football IQ, he is great at diagnosing defenses and switching up his protection pre-snap. Murray’s arm talent is great, his arm strength is well above-average allowing him to make just about any throw on the field, and with good accuracy most of the time. Another plus is his mobility as he has a knack for navigating the pocket and scrambling when pressured. He doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses as he is solid all-around. In the AAF, he struggled to win the starting job for the Atlanta Legends which doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s certainly possible that this was due to incompetent coaching, or something in his skill set. That being said, if he plays to the level he did in college, Vipers fans should be getting a very solid QB to lead their team this spring.
Outlook: There isn’t a true competition of any kind here. Murray should be far and away the starter, as Testaverde and Cornelius are first-year pros that could show promise down the road but aren’t anywhere near ready to challenge Murray for the starting job. Marc Trestman is known as an offensive guru, and despite his struggles to run his offense effectively in the NFL, he should still be able to coordinate one of the top units in the XFL. Murray looks to be the perfect prototype for Trestman’s west-coast scheme, and the Vipers should be in very good hands with this duo.
New York Guardians
Matt McGloin(Penn State University 2009-12, Oakland Raiders 2013-16, Houston Texans 2017) College Statistics: 57.4 CMP%, 6,390 Passing Yards, 46TD/19INT, 130.2 RTG
Film Analysis: McGloin is an NFL journeyman, making a handful of NFL starts and bouncing around some practice squads as well. He is the definition of a scrapper, going to Penn State as a walk-on, and going undrafted in the NFL. He’s an older guy and a veteran, and it shows on tape as he has a lot of poise and does not panic very often. I think his best trait is his ability to make his way through all of his reads, and to process what he is seeing from the defense. He consistently is on time with his throws, which helps make up for his average arm strength. Surprisingly, his mobility is not bad as he can run pretty well, and his throws on the move are generally pretty accurate. While his arm strength is not his best skill, he still can put enough zip on the ball when he gets his feet set to make a throw into a tight window. Overall, I really like McGloin, I think his experience as well as football IQ will make him one of the better XFL quarterbacks this spring.
Outlook: There is not much of a competition here, as Matt McGloin should far and away be the starter. Kevin Gilbride was an NFL Offensive Coordinator for a number of years, and it’s no surprise he wanted a polished NFL veteran to run his scheme. Gilbride worked with Eli Manning for a long time, and while McGloin is obviously not as good as Eli was in his prime, I think they both have some similar traits that should help Gilbride’s offense translate to McGloin. Marquise Williams will probably be the backup here, but I really don’t think he has much of a realistic chance to win the starting job in camp. Like I said before, I think McGloin really does have a chance to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and Guardians fans should be excited they are getting a guy so experienced.