Game Preview: Posse of Renegades rides northwest To Seattle

Seattle Dragons

SEATTLE — This afternoon at 4:00PM CST, the (-5) Dallas Renegades (1-1) continue their journey through the West with a matchup against their divisional foe (+5) Seattle Dragons (1-1). The Renegades are a 5-point favorite at Seattle with an expected total of 43.5 points.

Dallas eked out a 25-18 win last week in a tumultuous game against the Los Angeles Wildcats. They finished the game in a 4th-quarter shootout to bounce back from a disappointing 15-9 Week 1 loss against St. Louis BattleHawks at home in Arlington. Meanwhile, the Dragons follow a similar redemption path, losing by a dozen to the DC Defenders before beating the Tampa Vipers, 17-9, at home the following week.

Both teams have struggled to find an offensive identity thus far, but believe they are closer to the top than their records reflect. Dallas took a step closer to finding that offensive identity last week, when quarterback Landry Jones and his offense gained momentum in the 4th quarter against the Wildcats. The Renegades, with their Offensive Coordinator Hal Mumme’s staple Air Raid offense, love to pass the ball, often ignoring the run game entirely. This affinity for the passing led Dallas to struggle to find the end zone in Week 1 where their only points came from kicker Austin MacGinnis’s three field goals. He was the only Renegade to score in the first half of Week 2 as well, putting another field goal through uprights in Carson. It wasn’t until Mumme embraced the run game and transition the offensive to a more balanced attack did the Renegades finally start to score touchdowns, creating 22 second-half points against the Wildcats.

Cameron Artis-Payne scores his second touchdown on the ground against the Wildcats
(via ABC Network)

Seattle put up 19 points and 310 total yards against the talented Defenders secondary. The Dragons faced a greater struggled to move the ball at home a week later, gaining only 199 yards of offense against the Vipers, though this may be more indicative of the Tampa Bay defensive prowess. The Vipers have managed to accomplish an unconventional feat, outgaining both the New York Guardians 394-226 in a 23-3 Week 1 loss and the Dragons 289-199 in a 17-9 Week 2 loss.

These two teams have already met once, though not in an official game. They held a joint practice with a live scrimmage last month, so they are not complete strangers. A primary difference is where Landry Jones (knee) stands now.

Keys to the game for Dallas

Keep the offense balanced

The Renegades lead the league in passing yards (524 through two games), with Landry Jones sitting in 5th in passing (305 YPG) having played in only one game. He is also the first and only XFL player to have thrown for over 300 yards in a single game.

Those impressive stats have come at a cost.

When Dallas relied heavily on the passing game, all their scoring came from one source, kicker Austin MacGinnis, who is now 5 for 5 on Field Goals (tied for the league lead). It wasn’t until Mumme began to trust his backfield, primarily former Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne, that the offense found the end zone.

Cameron Artis Payne speaks to the Media after practice on February 19th
(via XFL Dallas Renegades)

Still not convinced about the importance of the run game in Dallas’ success?

In a losing effort against the Defenders, Dallas ran for only 58 total yards as opposed to 154 yards last week in the win over the Vipers.

While Dallas should look to throw the ball when they can, especially if they can target Donald Parham (leads all TE’s in receiving) or Josh Crockett (deep play threat), it is critical that they trust Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar to run the ball. The Renegades lead the league in Yards Per Carry and they need to capitalize on that.

Touchdowns, not Field Goals

Until Cameron Artis-Payne scored the first touchdown in Dallas Renegades history, with 9:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the first 15 points in all came from kicker Austin MacGinnis. As cool as that stat sounds, having a kicker lead the team in scoring through two games is not particularly promising. If the Renegades want to continue winning games into the playoffs and the Championship, they must place a heavier emphasis on balanced offensive efficiency, rather than having to trust the Special Teams unit to close drives. Against the St. Louis BattleHawks, all of Dallas’ field goals came inside the St. Louis 24-yard line (kicking from 31, 41, & 22 yards respectively).  Against the Wildcats, their first 6 points came from field goals kicked behind the 23 and 27-yard lines. Both kicks capped drives that made it inside the red zone before being forced back. A more balanced offense will help prevent drives from stalling out this far inside the opponents’ territory.

Defense, Defense, Defense

A big concern for Renegades last weekend was allowing Wildcats quarterback Josh Johnson to make his way downfield more often than not. Johnson combined with wide out Nelson Spruce for two separate touchdown connections. The Renegades also gave up crucial defensive pass interference penalties on deep throws that fell incomplete. This sloppy execution allowed the Wildcats multiple opportunities to score. The Renegades benefited from the Wildcats shooting themselves in the foot through costly unforced turnovers. A better scoring offense like Seattle (4th in league scoring) will likely make Dallas pay for giving up long drives and big penalties.

Win the turnover battle

The Seattle Dragons have forced 5 turnovers on defense this season and are a +3 in season turnover differential. Dallas, on the other hand, is a -1 in turnover differential after a 3-turnover game last week, which included 2 interceptions thrown by Landry Jones. Turnovers kept the Wildcats in the game late last week, so managing turnovers this afternoon will be a huge key to avoiding an upset at the hands of the Dragons, perhaps the deciding factor of the game.

Prediction

In an important early matchup for both teams to build momentum within the division moving forward, Dallas turns it over too many times in a losing effort. Both teams find the end zone a few times but Seattle wins 23-19.

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