The DC Defenders couldn’t have asked for a much better start to their season. In the first game of the new XFL season, they were victorious in front of a home crowd. They forced four turnovers, scored a touchdown on special teams, and put 31 points on the board. One area of concern heading into the season, though, was their offensive line play. Following Week 1, there is still some concern regarding the offensive line of the DC Defenders.
DC Defenders Offensive Line Outlook
Struggles Running the Ball
Despite putting up 31 points (albeit six came from the punt team), the DC Defenders didn’t light the world on fire on offense in Week 1. Specifically, they really struggled running the ball. With arguably the best running back group in the league, there is no excuse for their offense to only average 2.4 yards per carry.
Now, yards per carry doesn’t tell the story. On third and one, a team will be happy to get two yards. But, DC’s run success rate wasn’t very promising either against the Seattle Dragons in Week 1. A run is considered successful if it means any of the following criteria:
- Gains at least six yards
- Gains 40% or more of necessary yards on first down
- Gains 60% or more of necessary yards on second down
- Converts the first down on third or fourth down
Just 36% of DC’s rushing attempts against Seattle were successful. This was the second lowest in the league in week one, only behind their Week 2 opponents the New York Guardians. It’s way too early to know how strongly run success rate will correlate to team success in the XFL. But, 2.4 yards per carry and a 36% successful run rate is definitely not a promising start. The good news is that New York allowed a poor 63.3% successful run rate in Week 1. So, this would be a good week for the Defenders to get their rushing attack straightened out.
Protecting the Quarterback
As bad as DC was running the ball in Week 1, they weren’t much better at protecting their quarterback. Sure, Cardale Jones was only sacked once in the game. He deserves a lot more credit for that than the offensive line, though. He was under pressure on 31% of his dropbacks against Seattle. Note: the XFL doesn’t report official pressure numbers. This number was recorded by watching the game film and recording sacks, QB hits, and hurries. If anything, this is a conservative estimate and the real number is actually higher.
Even worse news for the Defenders is that the Guardians know how to get after opposing quarterbacks. Not only did they record five sacks in Week 1, but they also recorded pressures on 32.5% of opponent’s dropbacks. Again, this is a conservative estimate and could be higher. For reference, the Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL this year with a pressure rate of 30.5%. So, that means the Guardians pressured Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks in Week 1 better than the Steelers did this season. With DC’s offensive line struggling in Week 1, the last thing they want to line up against this week is the pass rush of the Guardians.
This week’s game will say a lot about the DC Defenders as legitimate contenders in the XFL. They can play good defense, their special teams units are solid, and they are loaded with talent at quarterback and the skill positions. If their offensive line can pass a tough test this week, DC could establish themselves as the early favorites to win the championship.
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