Week 3: What We Learned
After the first two weeks, it appeared as if the XFL was light at the top. It looked like the Houston Roughnecks and DC Defenders were on another level than the rest of the league.
After Week 3, everything has changed. The league suddenly has more parity than anyone expected at this point. Houston is the only remaining undefeated team, but even the Roughnecks struggled in Week 3, beating winless Tampa Bay by only seven points.
The huge surprise came on Sunday when winless Los Angeles stunned previously undefeated DC, 39-9. Several other teams that looked mediocre in the first two weeks looked like strong playoff contenders. St. Louis looked dominant in a 29-9 win over New York and Dallas was impressive in a road win at Seattle, one of the league’s most unfriendly venues.
Tampa Bay and New York may be in big holes, but every other team is a legitimate playoff contender. Here are eight other things we learned from Week 3.
THINGS YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE
Part of the beauty of the XFL is the access fans get through the broadcasts. It’s nothing like any other league, most of which tend to be very guarded.
In Sunday’s game between New York and St. Louis, I saw multiple things I’ve never seen before. Start with St. Louis offensive coordinator Chuck Long drawing up a play for the ESPN camera at halftime that he planned to use.
There also was XFL commissioner Oliver Luck socializing with fans before the game.
And I’ve never seen (or heard) officials inform both coaches that a player had been warned he was on the verge of being ejected as they did with New York center Ian Silberman after he became a little too aggressive.
Also, we saw the first kickoff return for a touchdown of the season by St. Louis’ Joe Powell.
DONALD PARHAM IS THE XFL’S LATEST STAR.
If you’re not familiar with Dallas tight end Donald Parham, you should change that right now. Although Parham has been a virtual nobody throughout his pro career, he has become a star in the XFL and his potential appears to be limitless. In Saturday’s 24-12 victory against Seattle, Parham had five catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
So, Parham is showing production, but he also is showing potential for even more. He’s an intriguing prospect because he’s 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds. He showed surprising speed, outrunning the secondary on a 66-yard touchdown catch.
Parham played in college at Stetson and spent part of last season on the Washington Redskins’ practice squad. He’s already shown enough to get invited to an NFL camp and could make an active roster in the fall.
HOUSTON’S “OTHER” MVP
While Houston quarterback P.J. Walker continues to look like he’ll run away with the XFL’s Most Valuable Player award, there is at least another candidate on the horizon. Surprisingly, that’s Walker’s teammate, wide receiver Cam Phillips.
We already knew Phillips was good after he caught four touchdown passes in the first two weeks. But Phillips firmly established himself as the league’s best wide receiver Saturday with eight catches for 194 yards and three touchdowns.
Phillips, a Virginia Tech product, spent a few weeks on Buffalo’s 53-man roster in 2018. But, if he keeps playing at his current pace, Phillips should find a spot on an NFL roster for the foreseeable future. Stunningly, Phillips is still listed as the No. 3 receiver on the Roughnecks’ depth chart, but that’s just an oversight. There’s no question he’s No. 1.
SCRATCH CARDALE JONES FROM THE MVP LIST. ADD JOSH JOHNSON
Coming into the game, Cardale Jones, the DC quarterback, appeared to be second to Walker in the MVP race.
Forget about that -- for now. Jones had a miserable game, throwing four interceptions. Josh Johnson, Los Angeles’ quarterback, put himself on the radar by throwing for 278 yards, three touchdowns and a 148 passer rating. By the way, Johnson’s next two games are against New York and Tampa Bay.
FLOWERS NEEDED IN TAMPA BAY
In a league with a three-game season, it’s time to panic when you start off 0-3. That’s happening in Tampa Bay.
In a Week 3 loss to Houston, coach Marc Trestman turned play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo. Things went relatively well as the Vipers, who had not scored an offensive touchdown in the first two weeks, scored 27 points.
But they still lost and their quarterback situation is muddled. It’s time to clear that up. It’s time to turn things over to Quinton Flowers. Original starter Aaron Murray played poorly in the opener and has missed the last two games with a foot injury. Backup Taylor Cornelius has started the last two games, but he’s not the answer. He completed just 52 percent of his passes and threw an interception Saturday.
Flowers, a fan favorite who played at the University of South Florida, got some playing time against Houston and looked like the Vipers’ most explosive quarterback, posting a 93.1 passer rating and running for a touchdown. Flowers should get the start next week against the DC Defenders.
SEATTLE CAN’T MASK A LOSS
Although Seattle lost to Dallas on Saturday, the Dragons have started one of the XFL’s coolest traditions. Every time Seattle intercepts a pass or recovers a fumble, the player coming up with the turnover puts on a ski mask.
It may seem a little silly, but a new league needs to build traditions. The Dragons have what I think are the best uniforms in the league and are also colorful on defense. Even at 1-2, the Dragons still could be a playoff contender. The defense is opportunistic, but it needs to be more consistent after giving up 103 rushing yards and 274 passing yards to Dallas.
GUARDIANS IN DISARRAY?
Last week, New York quarterback Matt McGloin spouted off in a halftime television interview.
This week, ESPN analyst Joey Galloway said it looked like the Guardians had no discipline. Sometimes, where there is smoke, there is fire.
It sure looks like the Guardians have been disorganized in their last two games. Plus, McGloin suffered a rib injury and sat out the second half. There are warning signs all over. The Guardians are 1-2, so it’s not a catastrophic situation just yet.
But it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if head coach Kevin Gilbride takes over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus.
THE NO FUMBLE LEAGUE
One trend that has jumped out in the first three weeks is that there aren’t a lot of fumbles in the XFL. In Saturday’s two games, there was not a single fumble. On Sunday, it was more of the same. There was only one fumble lost, on a muffed punt by DC.