This weekend features a must-win home game for the Defenders as the 1st place BattleHawks come to Audi Field.
The DC Defenders opened the season 2-0 and chants of MVP boomed through Audi Field faithful for quarterback Cardale Jones, who was playing at an elite level. Fast-forward two games and the possibility of benching him seems like the only smart move for the team.
At 2-2, the Defenders host the 3-1 St. Louis BattleHawks with a chance to correct their offensive woes. In the previous two games, the Defenders offense could only score nine points, all of which came two weeks ago against the Los Angeles Wildcats. The Tampa Bay Vipers shutout the Defenders last week.
Who are the BattleHawks?
Head Coach and General Manager, Johnathan Hayes, has built a well-balanced team.
The St. Louis BattleHawks are first place in the XFL East Division. The team is led by a new breakout star, former Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.
Signed to the Houston Texans for less than a month as an undrafted free-agent (UFA), Jordan Ta’amu has made himself a household name in the XFL and his stock is rising. Through four weeks under center, he is leading the BattleHawks to to top of their division.
Not only can Ta’amu is make plays through the air, throwing for 876 passing yards, he also can make plays with his feet with 186 yards rushing.
Matt Jones, the six-foot three-inch former Washington Redskins running back is second leading rusher in the XFL with 244 yards on the ground. Former Seatle Seahawks back, Christine Michael adds some depth in the backfield as well.
The BattleHawks defense has only allowed seven touchdowns, four of which came in the loss to the top-ranked Houston Roughnecks. James Madison alumn and Gaithersburg native, defensive end Andrew Ankrah leads the team in sacks.
What do the Defenders need to do for victory?
Establish competent quarterback play
The lack of offense can be directed to the play of starting quarterback, Cardale Jones. If the Defenders are to find any chance of winning, Jones needs to find the form he played in the first two games.
Only completing 45.8 percent of his passes with five interceptions and no touchdowns in the Defenders’ two losses, the leash may be short for Jones and Coach Pep Hamilton may need to go to another option at quarterback: backup signal-caller Tyree Jackson.
Run the Football
The Defenders have not found a consistent way to move the ball on the ground. The best rushing game for the Defenders was a 200 net yard performance against the Wildcats; a blowout 39-9 loss. Outside that game, the Defenders only muster 3.3 yards-per-carry.
Stop the Run
Opponents have gained 490 yards against the Defenders. Except for one game, the blowout loss to the Wildcats, teams average 4.8 yards-per-carry against DC. Keeping the outside contained and closing the BattleHawks’ running lanes is essential to keep the Defenders offense in the game.
Wide receivers need to get separation.
There is an APB out on DeAndre Hopkins, Rashad Ross, and Eli Rogers. None of the three receivers have stepped up to declare themselves as the number one option. With that kind of uncertainty among receivers, it’s no wonder Cardale is struggling to find the end zone.
The BattleHawks are riding a two-game win streak and the Defenders are coming off two embarrassing losses.
The Defenders are undefeated at home, while the BattleHawks are 1-1 on the road.
The Defenders are the home dogs (+3) but will bounce back at home.
Final Score: Defenders 21, BattleHawks 20.