Defenders at Vipers: Key Players to Watch
The DC Defenders (2-1) travel south to face the Tampa Bay Vipers (0-3) in Week 4 of XFL action.
The Defenders were met with an unfavorable outcome out West, as they fell to the Los Angeles Wildcats 39-9 in Week 3. The team now has a chance to rebound against a Tampa Bay team that remains winless.
Despite still chasing their first victory, the Vipers went punch-for-punch with the undefeated Houston Roughnecks a week ago.
- MORE: Get to Know the Vipers
These seven players should play large roles in deciding Sunday night's outcome in Tampa.
DC DEFENDERS: PLAYERS TO WATCH
#31 RB Nick Brossette
Last week, Nick Brossette notched the Defenders' first rushing touchdown of the season. The LSU product found pay dirt on a 38-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
Even without that long run, Brossette was DC's most effective rusher in Week 3. Brossette finished with 75 yards on the ground while averaging an impressive 7.5 yards per carry.
Brossette is a hard-nosed runner who never shies away from contact. He also has desirable speed and acceleration to outrun opponents once he gets to the second level of the defense.
#58 LB Scooby Wright
Vipers quarterback Taylor Cornelius favors the middle of the field more than the sidelines.
In fact, Tampa Bay's passing game appears to be predicated on short, efficient throws rather than consistent shots down the field.
Scooby Wright, one of the Defenders' key inside linebackers and defensive leaders, will be faced with slowing down the Vipers' aerial attack. Wright is an absolute thumper of a hitter, and he doesn't let ball carriers stay up for long after making a catch. He was responsible for the big hit that resulted in a Rahim Moore fumble recovery against the New York Guardians in Week 2.
Preventing short passes from turning into long gains will be paramount for DC.
#25 CB Des Lawrence & #28 CB Elijah Campbell
Both of DC's starting cornerbacks will play key roles in deciding the outcome of Sunday night's game.
It's also worth noting neither Lawrence nor Campbell has registered an interception this season. Sunday night could prove to be an opportune time to nab their first.
TAMPA BAY VIPERS: PLAYERS TO WATCH
#4 QB Taylor Cornelius
During their first three games, the Vipers have implemented a unique dual-quarterback philosophy. That doesn't appear to be the case this weekend though, as Tampa Bay head coach Marc Trestman confirmed Taylor Cornelius will get the starting nod.
Cornelius is coming off an uneven performance (16-31, 193 yards, one touchdown, one interception) against Houston. However, having a full week taking the first-team reps should behove the Oklahoma State alumnus.
"To get the full week of preparation knowing you're the guy, it shows coach Trestman has confidence in me," Cornelius said.
In addition to his passing prowess, the Defenders need to be mindful of Cornelius as a runner. While not a burner, Cornelius possesses the ability to make plays with his legs. Cornelius will, however, look to run before surveying the entire field.
#23 CB Anthoula Kelly
Vipers cornerback Anthoula Kelly had a rough outing against Houston.
Shadowing Houston's Cam Phillips for the majority of the game, Kelly surrendered a pair of touchdowns. Additionally, Kelly got flagged for two costly defensive pass interference calls.
It will be interesting to see how Kelly rebounds against a group of talented DC receivers that's looking to bounce back themselves.
#17 WR Jalen Tolliver
The Vipers targeted Jalen Tolliver a staggering 13 times against Houston, and it's easy to see why.
Tolliver is 6'3", and has a frame that allows him to bully smaller cornerbacks. Tolliver is fresh off of a 104-yard performance against Houston.
Tolliver is also dangerous as a runner, as the Vipers utilized him on a jet sweep on a two-point conversion. With an offense that implements a heavy dose of screen passes, getting the big-bodied Tolliver to the ground should be a focal point for the Defenders.