Austin Proehl
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By the Numbers

Scouting Every XFL Offense Entering Week 2

Updated On: February 12, 2020, 3:02 pm ET

We're on to Week 2!

What follows is a breakdown of every offense that includes some team-wide stats as well as brief analysis on each team's QB, backfield and receiving group. Special thanks to Pro Football Focus and for all stats and data.

D.C. Defenders (1-0)

  • PPG: 31 (2nd)
  • Yards per play: 5.3 (3rd)
  • Yards per attempt: 8.73 (1st)
  • Yards per rush: 2.43 (8th)

Cardale Jones easily and entertainingly orchestrated the XFL's most-efficient passing offense in Week 1. No other unit managed to average even seven net yards per pass. Unsurprisingly, Jones was at his best when attacking downfield, as he completed all four of his passes thrown at least 20 yards for 118 yards and a pair of scores. A league-high 32.3% play-action rate reflects the reality that coach Pep Hamilton is running one of the league's most QB-friendly offenses.

D.C. utilized a two-RB committee during their Week 1 victory over the Dragons:

  • Jhurell Pressley: 59% snaps, 12 carries, 2 targets
  • Donnel Pumphrey: 43% snaps, 4 carries, 3 targets

Pressley was clearly the superior back and consistently provided some true burst with the ball in his hands. Overall, only Tampa Bay Vipers RB De'Veon Smith (10) broke more tackles than Pressley (7) in Week 1.

Rashad Ross (59% snaps), Eli Rogers (69%) and Malachi Dupre (77%) are working in three-WR sets, although TE Khari Lee (97%) also figures to be plenty involved moving forward. Rogers (27% target share) was the clear No. 1 option ahead of Dupre (15%) and Ross (8%), but it's clear the Defenders plan on utilizing Rogers on more quick-hitting screens than deep shots.

D.C.'s solid offensive scheme, combined with speedy talent everywhere, makes the Defenders anyone's idea of a top-two offense entering Week 2.

Houston Roughnecks (1-0)

  • PPG: 37 (1st)
  • Yards per play: 5.6 (1st)
  • Yards per attempt: 6.79 (2nd)
  • Yards per rush: 3.13 (6th)

Phillip Walker threw 11 of his 38 pass attempts at least 20 yards downfield, good for an astronomical 28.9% deep-ball rate. This was possible thanks to the Roughnecks' QB-friendly scheme and offensive line, as Walker was pressured on a league-low 15% of his dropbacks. Coach June Jones clearly wants to force defenses to account for every last square inch of the field at all times, and Walker's combination of deep-ball goodness and scrambling ability makes him a prime option to keep this early success rolling.

Only Dallas (73% pass-play rate) threw the ball more often than Houston (70%) in Week 1. It seems likely that the Roughnecks will take the top spot at some point considering the Renegades faced heavy negative game script during their loss.

Further complicating matters for this backfield is the reality that they're currently featuring a four-back committee:

  • James Butler: 71% snaps, 9 carries, 2 targets
  • Nick Holley: 66% snaps, 0 carries, 4 targets
  • Andre Williams: 13% snaps, 2 carries, 1 target
  • De'Angelo Henderson: 3% snaps, 1 carry, 0 targets

Houston literally doesn't have a TE on their roster, so they'll likely continue to utilize plenty of two-RB formations. Still, only Butler seems to have a chance to flirt with double-digit touches on a week-to-week basis.

Three-WR sets for the Roughnecks feature Cam Phillips (100% snaps), Sammie Coates (71%) and Kahlil Lewis (66%). Still, Phillips (21% target share) and Coates (23%) appear to be firmly established as the top-two options in this high-flying passing attack. Coates had a league-high five targets thrown at least 20 yards downfield in Week 1, but experienced drops and a general inability to come down with contested catches. He's basically a homeless man's version of Will Fuller: Speed, air yards, but consistently sporadic production.

Walker's dual-threat ability, combined with Jones' downfield pass-happy scheme, makes the Roughnecks the league's most-dangerous offense entering Week 2.

New York Guardians (1-0)

  • PPG: 23 (3rd)
  • Yards per play: 5 (5th)
  • Yards per attempt: 6.28 (5th)
  • Yards per rush: 2.75 (7th)

Matt McGloin didn't suck! Still, he was pressured on 14-of-30 dropbacks (46.7%) and doesn't possess anything resembling great scrambling ability. His TD run was a QB sneak from the goal line. The Guardians managed to get the W in Week 1 against the Vipers, but this offense wasn't exactly the reason why. They didn't look in rhythm for the majority of the afternoon. I'm pessimistic about McGloin's chances at spearheading an above-average offense moving forward.

The Guardians offer a clear-cut two-RB committee, although one back seems to be in the lead as far as touches are concerned:

  • Tim Cook: 53% snaps, 4 carries, 1 target
  • Darius Victor: 51% snaps, 9 carries, 3 targets

Note that neither Victor (5-foot-7 and 227-pounds) nor Cook (6-foot-0 and 242-pounds) possess a ton of quick-footed ability as receivers, so it wouldn't be shocking if Justin Stockton (5-foot-9 and 201-pounds) plays more than one snap in future weeks when there isn't as much positive game script.

There's a clear hierarchy in this passing game, with Colby Pearson (96% snaps), Mekale McKay (94%) and Joe Horn Jr. (78%) working in three-WR sets alongside TE Jake Powell (90%). Each of Horn (24% target share), Powell (17%), McKay (14%) and Pearson (14%) wound up receiving at least four targets, indicating that McGloin and the passing game might continue to spread things around and not hone in too much on any individual receiver.

Kudos for the Guardians on starting off the season with a win. They certainly don't look like one of the worst teams in the league, but I'm hesitant in treating them as anything more than an average offense after 60 minutes of action.

St. Louis BattleHawks (1-0)

  • PPG: 15 (6th)
  • Yards per play: 5.3 (4th)
  • Yards per attempt: 6.78 (tied for 3rd)
  • Yards per rush: 4.55 (4th)

Jordan Ta'amu is orchestrating the league's most run-heavy offense, as the BattleHawks ran the ball on an absurd 62% of their plays in Week 1. Only the Defenders (54%) also cleared 50%. The good news is Ta'amu demonstrated plenty of ability to rack up explosive plays on the ground, converting his nine rush attempts into 77 yards and four first downs. The bad news is this doesn't appear to be particularly sustainable and produced a whopping 15 points. The former Ole Miss QB has a strong arm and plus athleticism that could continue to result in some fantasy-football goodness, although an unwillingness to throw downfield (7.4% deep ball rate) could ultimately lead to more stacked boxes and less rushing lanes moving forward.

Ladies and gentlemen: we have a workhorse:

  • Matt Jones: 64% snaps, 21 carries, 1 target
  • Christine Michael: 31% snaps, 7 carries, 1 target
  • Keith Ford: 8% snaps, 4 carries, 0 targets

Jones averaged a rather pedestrian 2.57 yards after contact per attempt and didn't resemble a top-three talent in the league at the position. With that said: Jones (22 combined carries and targets) and Vipers RB De'Veon Smith (17) were the only RBs in the league to rack up at least 15 opportunities in Week 1.

The league's most run-heavy offense likely won't result in many pass-game opportunities for any single receiver. The good news is that this situation appears to be fairly straight forward, as L'Damian Washington (96% snaps), Alonzo Russell (80%), De'Mornay Pierson-El (77%) and Marcus Lucas (73%) each received near full-time roles on the outside. Lucas (26% targets share) and Washington (19%) worked ahead of Pierson-El (15%) and Russell (15%), although I wouldn't assume this will be the case moving forward. Pierson-El could ultimately emerge as this offense's primary receiver thanks to his fantasy-friendly role in the slot and demonstrated after-the-catch goodness.

More than half the battle in fantasy football is simply identifying who will receive the most opportunities to touch the ball. After one week, Ta'amu is the league's most run-heavy QB and Jones is the most-fed player (regardless of position). I'm pessimistic about the general upside of this passing game, but this spread-out rushing attack is certainly capable of providing plenty more production as long as the usage remains so concentrated.

Seattle Dragons (0-1)

  • PPG: 19 (4th)
  • Yards per play: 4.8 (6th)
  • Yards per attempt: 5.2 (6th)
  • Yards per rush: 4.62 (3rd)

Only Phillip Walker (28.9% deep-ball rate) threw the ball downfield more often than Brandon Silvers (17.5%). Still, Silvers was significantly less efficient while doing so, posting the league's second-worst QB rating on his seven deep shots. The good news is the Dragons utilized play-action passes at the league's third-highest rate, which is usually a good indication of a sound scheme. The bad news is that it didn't help, as only the Renegades (4.86 net yards per pass attempt) and Wildcats (4.45) were less efficient through the air than the Dragons. Note that both Dallas and Los Angeles were without their respective starting QBs in Week 1; Seattle doesn't have the same excuse.

Not helping matters for this meh offense is the realization that they'll likely utilize a three-back committee moving forward:

  • Kenneth Farrow: 42% snaps, 7 carries, 4 targets
  • Trey Williams: 32% snaps, 3 carries, 5 targets
  • Ja'Quan Gardner: 28% snaps, 9 carries, 0 targets

Williams (3.3 yards after contact per attempt) appears to be the better talent over both Farrow (2.3) and Gardner (2.2). Still, this situation is a mess at the moment inside of anyone's idea of a below-average offense. I'd approach each of these backs with extreme caution in fantasy contests of all shapes and sizes.

Each of Keenan Reynolds (94% snaps) and Austin Proehl (70%) worked well ahead of the likes of Dontez Byrd (58%) and Alonzo Moore (48%). Proehl (24% target share) was the offense's No. 1 pass-game option ahead of Reynolds (17%), but the aforementioned snap disparity, combined with the coaching staff's insistence on feeding the former Navy QB the ball, leads me to believe we might not see this same sort of difference in opportunity moving forward. The good news is both Reynolds and Proehl possess the type of open-field ability to make good use of their respective targets inside of the league's fourth-most pass-heavy offense.

Silvers and the entire offense failed to demonstrate any sort of consistency during their opening week loss. It's just one game, but being one of three offenses to average fewer than five yards per play was hardly an ideal start to the season. Seattle sure looks a lot like the XFL's worst overall team at the moment. 

Los Angeles Wildcats (0-1)

  • PPG: 17 (5th)
  • Yards per play: 3.9 (8th) 
  • Yards per attempt: 4.45 (8th)
  • Yards per rush: 3.96 (5th)

As I wrote in my XFL Preview: "Chad Kanoff is a former Princeton QB who appears to have the leg up on former-Baylor backup Jalen McClendon. An injury to Josh Johnson (thigh) would be terrible news for this offense." This nightmare came alive in Week 1, as the Wildcats were the league's worst offense by far in both yards per play and net yards per pass attempt. Of course, being pressured on 28-of-53 (53%) combined dropbacks certainly didn't help matters. Ultimately, the likelihood that Kanoff could lose snaps to McClendon moving forward renders each as non-viable fantasy options as long as Johnson remains sidelined.

The good news is that we may have ourselves another workhorse RB!

  • Elijah Hood: 71% snaps, 12 carries, 0 targets
  • Larry Rose: 24% snaps, 3 carries, 2 targets
  • DuJuan Harris: 15% snaps, 2 carries, 1 target

The bad news is that there isn't much indication that Hood (6-foot-0 and 232-pounds) possesses enough receiving ability to carve out a true three-down role moving forward. Hood is the clear-cut No. 1 RB, although I'm hesitant in putting him in the same top tier with De'Veon Smith and Matt Jones as far as usage is concerned.

Nelson Spruce racked up an absurd 15 targets in Week 1, good for a league-best 34% target share. He's a safe bet to continue to see all the pass-game opportunities he can handle as long as Kanoff remains under center, although Spruce (72% snaps) was actually out snapped by Saeed Blacknall (77%). The potential for any of Adonis Jennings (60%), Jordan Smallwood (58%) or Kermit Whitfield (24%) to get more involved with Johnson under center would obviously limit Spruce's ceiling.

QB play is almost always the most-important factor in football at all levels of the sport. Unsurprisingly, the Wildcats functioned as one of the league's worst offenses when forced to address their backup plan at the position. Neither Kanoff nor McClendon deserve the benefit of the doubt behind potentially the league's worst offensive line.

Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1)

  • PPG: 3 (8th)
  • Yards per play: 5.5 (2nd)
  • Yards per attempt: 6.78 (tied for 3rd)
  • Yards per rush: 5 (1st)

Aaron Murray was competent in driving the Vipers up and down the field for most of the afternoon, but also threw two completely unacceptable interceptions and took three sacks. The Vipers dropping a league-high five passes wasn't Murray's fault, although we probably overestimated Marc Trestman's ability to seamlessly turn this into a high-flying offense. Perhaps Murray's 21.6% play-action rate could signal more success in the future. Still, the offense seemed to flow better with dual-threat QB/RB Quinton Flowers under center. The lack of a full-time role for Murray is a problem for his fantasy football upside, while Flowers (5 carries for 34 yards) would instantly vault into the league's top-three most-productive signal callers with a full-time role thanks to his proven rushing ability.

It's De'Veon Smith's world; we're all just living in it:

  • De'Veon Smith: 65% snaps, 16 carries, 1 target
  • Jacques Patrick: 39% snaps, 8 carries, 3 targets

I incorrectly tabbed Smith as the breakout star for Week 1. Still, he broke a league-high 10 tackles and averaged a robust 4.25 yards after contact per attempt. Smith was clearly the better talent over Patrick and figures to continue to work as a major part of this offense.

Hopefully Murray can improve his efficiency moving forward, because Daniel Williams (100% snaps), Jalen Tolliver (97%) and TE Nick Truesdell (96%) each played near every-down roles in a league that is lacking full-time players. Overall, Williams (25% target share), Tolliver (19%), Truesdell (17%) and No. 3 WR Reece Horn (14%) were the only players with more than three pass-game opportunities.

The Vipers scored just three points in Week 1. Still, their average of 5.5 yards per play was better than anyone outside of Houston (5.6). Don't expect Trestman's extremely conservative decision making to be fixed overnight, but it seems a bit early to write off Tampa Bay as one of the league's worst teams.

Dallas Renegades (0-1)

  • PPG: 9 (7th)
  • Yards per play: 4.5 (7th)
  • Yards per attempt: 4.86 (7th)
  • Yards per rush: 4.83 (2nd)

As was the case in Los Angeles, the Renegades were forced to dig deep and work with backup QBs in Week 1. Landry Jones (knee) is tentatively expected to return for Week 2. They certainly need him back, as Dallas posted the league's second-worst mark in both yards per play and net yards per pass attempt. Phillip Nelson (4.7% deep-ball rate) consistently refrained from testing defenses downfield and showed off a porous lack of scrambling ability. I'm not quite ready to write off coach Bob Stoops and OC Hal Mumme, but they'll need to do their QB more favors moving forward if Jones remains out. Overall, Nelson tied L.A. backup QB Charles Kanoff with a league-low 6.5% play-action rate.

This backfield is a mess:

  • Cameron Artis-Payne: 52% snaps, 3 carries, 4 targets
  • Lance Dunbar: 37% snaps, 5 carries, 6 targets
  • Austin Walter: 24% snaps, 2 carries, 1 target
  • Marquis Young: 23% snaps, 3 carries, 5 targets

Dunbar looked explosive with the ball in his hands and is clearly the offense's No. 1 pass-down back. Still, his mundane snap rate in a game that featured plenty of negative game script was troubling. It's impossible to trust any of these RBs until we see some sort of evidence that one is breaking free from the pack.

This offense *should* emerge as a pass-happy attack that forces opposing defenses to account for every square inch of the field. Still, we'll need to see a more defined pecking order at WR in order to confidently project that production. Each of Jeff Badet (61% snaps), Donald Parham (60%), Flynn Nagel (56%), Sean Price (47%), Jerrod Heard (42%), Jazz Ferguson (40%) and Freddie Martino (37%) were plenty involved last week. None managed to produce a target share of even 15%.

Week 1's performance was anything but encouraging, but we shouldn't make too many massive judgments about this offense until we see what happens when the starting QB returns. Changes will need to be made in order to elevate Nelson if Jones is unable to suit up soon.

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