Quarterback play in the XFL is what wins games and if Cardale Jones does not improve his decision-making when the DC Defenders (-2.5) travel to prevent the 0-3 Tampa Bay Vipers from earning its first win of the 2020 season, there will be a cry for a quarterback change.
How short is the leash for Jones?
If Jones, 27, does not playback to the form from his first two games, former Buffalo Bulls quarterback Tyree Jackson is waiting for his opportunity.
Jackson, 22, has a similar skill set to Jones. As a three-year starter at Buffalo, Jackson, the 6-foot-7 250 lbs quarterback, threw for 6,999 yards and 49 touchdowns.
Don’t let Jackson’s lack of rushing yards fool you; he only amassed 759 yards rushing while in three years at Buffalo. At the 2019 NFL combine, Jackson ran a 4.59 40-yard dash.
Opening a football season 2-1 for most seems like a good beginning, but the Defenders were outplayed from the start by the Wildcats.
The Defenders look to get right versus a Vipers defense that allows a 50 percent conversion rate on third-down.
What do the Defenders need to do for the win?
Perhaps Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton can force his team to make offensive adjustments and involve the running backs more.
The Defenders need to apply a thunder and lightning approach to the run game with Nick Brossette and Donell Pumphrey.
Brosette received a lot of touches last week once the game was out of control, rushing for 75 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.
Pumphrey, the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher, needs to be used similar to a Darren Sproles. A multi-purpose weapon that can catch balls out of the backfield and return kicks as well.
Coach Hamilton needs to find more efficient ways to get Pumphrey the ball in space.
The Vipers must have quality quarterback play for a chance to win
On defense, The Defenders must focus on running game—the Vipers average 140 yards-per-game on the ground, led by backs De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick.
Even after scoring 27 points against the Houston Roughnecks, opponents have outscored the Vipers by five touchdowns this season. The defense is not stopping anyone from scoring, allowing nearly 25 points-per-game.
Cornelius, 24, is 31-59 on the season for 310 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.
The Vipers do have size on the perimeter with a pair of 6-foot-3, 200 lbs receivers: Jackson State product, Dan Williams, and Arkansas -Montecillo standout, Jalen Tolliver.
No Defenders defensive back is taller than 6 feet.
Williams, despite hauling in 6 receptions for 123 yards in the first game against the NY Guardians defense, was held him to five receptions and 57 yards between the following two games.
Tolliver is the opposite, not producing much in the first two games before he blew up for eight receptions for 104 yards in Week 3.
The Vipers must try and move the ball in chunks down the field by exploiting the size advantage at the receiver position. Tampa fans are used to having large playmaking wide receivers on the field.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Quinton Flowers is taking a leave of absence from the Vipers and will be unavailable for Sunday’s game.
Flowers, 25, is a former AAC Offensive Player of the Year from the University of South Florida, where he played quarterback.
While at USF, Flowers averaged 2,673 yards passing and 1,199 yards rushing with a total of 112 touchdowns in his final three seasons as a starter.
The model XFL quarterback suits Flowers’s skill set, good the great arm and good mobility.
This may be the worst move the Vipers have made, besides choosing Aaron Murray as their starter to begin the season.
The Vipers offense played better last week, but Defenders still have the superior player at the most crucial position of quarterback.
Defenders (-2.5) (44.5+/-)
Final score: DC Defenders 26, TB Vipers 21.