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Hot Read: Top 5 defensive players

Episode 125: Top 5 defensive players of the year

Alan Tuszynski and Bryant Solorzano from the This is the XFL Show podcast break down their top 5 defensive players in the 2020 season. The conversation culminates with the crew naming the XFL Show Defensive Player of 2020.


5) Bunmi Rotimi

New York Guardians defensive end Bunmi Rotimi kicks off the list.

"The defensive lineman was non-stop. He was like the motor of this defense...Week one he came out, really a dominating effort against the Tampa Bay Vipers and it was nonstop. He was one of the guys he could rely on all season long on a defense filled with great players, this was a guy that was maybe the most consistent player on the defense," Alan said.

Rotimi had 16 solo tackles and nine assists, combining for 25 tackles total. The defensive end also had four tackles for a loss, five quarterback hits (second in the league) and one sack. 

"He was clogging up the middle and did it well," Bryant added. "We went back and watched a lot of his play...He did his job and he was a lot of fun to watch. He was someone you could account for on that defensive line."

4) Cavon Walker

The Guardians take down the first two spots on this list as the No.4 honor goes to New York defensive tackle Cavon Walker, the league leader in sacks (4.5).

"During his XFL tenure, this guy was the most vicious, vile and beastly cat getting after the quarterbacks," Alan said. "If Rotimi was the motor of the Guardians' defense, then I would probably call Walker the rancor, just the beast that was kept in the wings waiting for those moments where they needed him most and he came out there for maximum punishment."

The DT delivered 19 combined tackles, nine quarterback hits and five tackles for a loss.

"The man spent more time in other team's backfields then their running backs. It was insane to see this man play," Bryant added.

3) Steven Johnson

Seattle Dragons linebacker Steven Johnson gets slotted third on the list following a tackling barrage in 2020. 

"The heart of soul of the Seattle Dragons, not just the defense...He was the quintessential linebacker leader on the defense," Alan said. "The guy getting the play calls, making sure everyone was on the same page and while that defense as a collective struggled at times, Steven Johnson did everything for them that he possibly could."

Johnson led the XFL in tackles, combining for 48 takedowns -- six for a loss. The Seattle linebacker also had two pass deflections as the Dragons' go-to defensive player. 

"Football is a team sport, but when you look at individuals as players that do what they are supposed to, Steven Johnson did that and more," Bryant said.

2) DeMarquis Gates

Houston Roughnecks linebacker DeMarquis Gates comes in at number two on the list after a dominating performance throughout 2020. 

"I would say a top-five playmaker on offense or defense in the XFL," Alan said. :Twice, this guy had a turnover to seal victories for his team. He was everywhere."

Gates combined for 32 tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits, and three fumble recoveries.

"But if you think about what he was able to accomplish ... he was an all-around defensive star," Bryant added.

1) Will Hill

St. Louis BattleHawks safety Will Hill is your 2020 XFL Show Defensive Player of the Year, following his downright staggering season. 

"He was the leader of the XFL's best defense," Alan said. "He was getting tackles for loss, getting interceptions, leading the defense. He made plays in the backfield and in the secondary as a safety, doing it all over the field."

Hill was sixth in the league in tackles, combining to bring down 33 opponents along with three quarterback hits and four tackles for a loss. The safety also had two interceptions and two pass deflections.

"The reason I think he was No. 1 was, like you said, he was all over the place as a safety," Bryant added. "This man did everything. He also took the young Kenny Robinson under his wing and showed him what it was like to be a professional football player."