Ah yes, Washington D.C., the home of freedom, democracy, and more recently, professional athletic success. In a saturated market for professional sports, D.C.’s newest sports franchise, the Defenders, may be easily overlooked.
Not so fast!
The Defenders have compiled an impressive roster that will put them in position to represent their city well. Led by collegiate legend Cardale Jones, the team has enough talent to set a realistic goals of bringing home another professional sports championship to Washington. But what do we know about the new big man in D.C.?
Will he be able to live up to all of the hype surrounding him?
Meet Cardale Jones
The former Buckeye dual threat is, without a doubt, the most discussed name on any roster in the league. His status as the XFL’s poster child was not an easy one to earn, but smooth seas do not make skilled sailors. Jones’ college resumé speaks for itself. As a redshirt sophomore for Ohio State in 2014, Jones experienced a baptism by fire with his first starting job coming in the Big 10 Championship Game; after previous starter J.T. Barrett suffered a season-ending injury the week prior in the Shoe against Michigan.
Jones led the Buckeyes to an unprecedented 59-0 victory over 11th-ranked Wisconsin. Completing 12 of 17 passing attempts for 257 yards and three scores, Cardale received the game’s MVP award for his performance.
Three weeks later, he took his team to New Orleans where they triumphed in a tough skirmish with perennial juggernaut Alabama in the CFP Semifinal, defeating the Crimson Tide 42-35. It was a less stellar performance by Cardale (18-35, 243 yards, a TD, and an INT) but he got the job done.
Then in only his third start with Ohio State, Jones won the 2014 College Football Playoff Championship 42-20 over the Oregon Ducks. Despite the Buckeyes coming up on the losing end of a 4:1 turnover ratio, they managed to score three unanswered touchdown’s in the final fifteen minutes of play to secure the championship. Jones rallied his offense and played with high efficiency, finishing 16-23 on pass attempts for 242 yards, a with a touchdown and one interception.
This amazing string of victories triggered questions about Jones’ NFL draft status. Cardale decided he was not ready for that level of competition yet -not so crazy since he did, in fact, only have 3 collegiate starts under his belt. But the trouble begins midway through his 2015 season. After getting the preseason nod for the starting position over J.T. Barrett, Jones was eclipsed by Barrett’s ability by Week 8, and was demoted to the bench. Following the Buckeyes final home game of that season, he declared for the NFL draft.
Although a hamstring injury at the NFL combine may not have helped the young prospect, it didn’t kill him either. A star-studded college resume, brief though it may have been, secured Jones’ draft position as the 139th overall selection in the fourth round to the Buffalo Bills in 2016.
After an underwhelming year as the Buffalo third string quarterback, he was traded to the Chargers for a conditional pick. Following an uneventful two-year stint in Los Angeles, Jones was signed to the Seattle Seahawks practice team, where he was a beloved member of the program for all of 12 days before he was released on September 18th, 2019.
Luckily, the story doesn’t end there for the young and talented Cardale Jones. He was picked up by the DC Defenders on October 15th of the same year after the Defenders’ dual-hatted head coach and manager Pep Hamilton designated Jones as his starting quarterback. Jones is expected to lead DC in their home opener on February 8th.
Cardale Jones is a very talented quarterback with the ability to throw the deep ball, and the athleticism to get it done on the ground as well. His tumultuous years in the pros shouldn’t worry Defenders fans too much, and to me can be attributed to the age-old tale of wrong place wrong time for the young man. But now the stage is set to be all Cardale from here on out. The Defenders’ coaching staff have clearly shown their trust in Jones by designating him as their starter and have built an offensive system around his abilities and limitations. The world has never known a Cardale Jones with an entire franchise behind him, but I have a feeling that we will see plenty of productivity from him at this level.
Paired with the speed D.C. drafted in the receiver room, look for him to make big plays with the deep ball early and often. Another bright spot for Defenders fans everywhere is that second string QB Tyree Jackson also has a dangerous dual-threat ability. We might see him occasionally worked into game plans, potentially in a similar role to New Orleans Saints back-up quarterback Taysom Hill. One thing is certain: The Defenders will have a talented, athletic, gunslinger with something to prove at the helm this year, and that is something to be very, very excited about.