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Defenders vs. Guardians: Looking ahead to Week 2

Defenders QB Cardale Jones (12) and Guardians QB Matt McGloin

Week 2 of the 2020 XFL regular season is finally here, and the DC Defenders (1-0) look to stay unbeaten as they host the New York Guardians (1-0) at Audi Field on Saturday, Feb. 15.

While the season is still early, Week 2 is a pivotal matchup in the East. Both the Defenders and Guardians looked impressive in Week 1, thanks to stout quarterback play from Cardale Jones and Matt McGloin, respectively.

Both teams got tremendous efforts from their defenses as well. The Defenders recorded a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown, while the Guardians forced three fumbles (while taking one to the house) and recorded two interceptions.

Week 2 is likely to be decided by quarterback performance and the turnover game. Whichever team maintains better control of the ball likely will emerge with the victory and a 2-0 record.

MORE: Audi Field Guide | Get to Know Your Opponents

DEFENDERS VS. GUARDIANS PREVIEW

Matchup: DC Defenders (1-0) vs. New York Guardians (1-0)
Game Location: Audi Field, SW Washington D.C.
Date & Time: Saturday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
TV Broadcasters: Steve Levy (play-by-play), Greg McElroy (analyst), Tom Luginbill (field analyst), Dianna Russini (reporter)
Live Stream: ESPN.com
Radio Station: 106.7 FM The Fan (Live Stream)
Radio Broadcasters: Grant Paulsen (play-by-play), Logan Paulsen (Analyst)

WHAT TO WATCH

1. A New Face

On Friday afternoon, the Defenders officially traded cornerback Bradley Sylve to the Los Angeles Wildcats for defensive end Anthony Johnson. The former LSU star served as the Wildcats' team captain and had brief stints with the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins. Johnson is expected to be in uniform for the Defenders on Saturday.

2. Beasts in the East

 We recognize that it is still incredibly early in the season, but Week 2 is shaping up to be a showdown between two of the most physically impressive teams in the XFL.

Both teams recorded multiple turnovers, without turning any over themselves, in Week 1. Both teams amassed 40 penalty yards or fewer in Week 1. Both teams scored more than 20 points in Week 1. Expect Week 2 at Audi Field to be an entertaining slugfest that is both clean and just the right amount of messy.

3. Run Game Woes

Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton wants to establish the run game. He believes it is paramount to being able to have a dynamic passing attack.

He's right, too. But with rules in place to de-incentivize punting, along with a shorter play clock, the run game might become less valuable. Picking up large chunk yardage could become paramount.

Regardless, production is key, and in Week 1, the Defenders ran the ball 28 times for just 68 total yards. Jhurell Pressley led the way 31 yards on 12 attempts, and Donnel Pumphrey finished with five yards on four carries.

The same poor review goes for New York, following a Week 1 in which they ran for 44 yards on 16 carries.

4. Protecting the Assets

Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones made a bevy of highlight-reel plays in Week 1, many of them coming with his feet instead of his arm. Jones was under pressure a majority of the game, and new York's defensive front-seven is expected to pose a more significant threat than Seattle did.

Guardians defensive end Bunmi Rotimi registered nine tackles and a forced fumble in New York's 23-3 win over Tampa Bay in Week 1. The Defenders offensive line will need to do a better job protecting its QB. When he has time to operate, the results kinda speak for themselves.

5. Repeat Performance

The atmosphere at Audi Field for Week 1 against the Dragons was unlike anything we expected.

Over 17,000 fans packed the stadium and cheered their hearts out for the entirety of the game. Every play mattered to the fans, and it made for a wildly entertaining viewing experience. Now that the buzz is palpable, we expect another incredible performance not just from the players, but from the home crowd too.

STAT LEADERS

Passing: Cardale Jones -- 16-fot-26, 235 yards, 2 passing TDs, 8 carries for 25 yards

Rushing: Jhurell Presssley -- 12 carries for 31 yards; long of 14; 2.6 average

Receiving: Eli Rogers -- 6 receptions for 73 yards on 6 targets; long of 27; 12.2 average

Defense: Jameer Thurman -- 8 combo tackles, 6 solo tackles. 2 pass deflections

DC DEFENDERS: PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

QB: #12 Cardale Jones, #3 Tyree Jackson
RB: #24 Donnel Pumphrey, #26 Jhurell Pressley, #32 Khalid Abdullah, #31 Nick Brosette
WR: #19 Malachi Dupre, #16 Tyler Palka, #10 Simmie Cobbs
WR: #15 Rashad Ross, #1 DeAndre Thompkins
WR: #4 Eli Rogers, #9 Jalen Rowell
TE: #86 Khari Lee, #85 Derrick Haward, #80 Donnie Ernsberger
LT: #79 De'Ondre Welsey, #72 Logan Tuley-Tillman
LG: 74 Rishard Cook, #51 Dorian Johnson
C: #64 Jon Toth, #77 James O'Hagan
RG: #78 Malcolm Bunche, #75 Chris Brown
RT: #69 Cole Boozer

DE: #93 Tracy Sprinkle, #91 Tavaris Barnes, #90 Peli Anau
DT: #96 Jay Bromley, #95 Kenny Bigelow Jr.
NT: #92 Elijah Qualls, #94 Kalani Vakameilalo
SLB: #55 Antwione Williams, #54 Jonathan Massaquoi
MLB: #59 A.J. Tarpley, #58 Scooby Wright 
WLB: #53 Jameer Thurman, #52 Jonathan Celestin
EDGE: #56 KeShun Freeman, #99 Sam Montgomery
CB: #28 Elijah Campbell,  #21 Doran Grant
CB: #25 Desmond Lawrence
S: #22 Matt Elam, #29 Tyree Kinnel, #45 Rahim Moore
S: #20 Carlos Merritt, #38 Shamarko Thomas

TBD: #97 Anthony Johnson 

Special Teams: #2 Tyler Rausa (K), #7 Hunter Niswander (P), #42 Brian Khoury (LS)

MORE: XFL Injury Report | XFL Transactions

DC DEFENDERS: INJURY REPORT

Injured Reserve: WR Frank Brown, CB Deion Harris, WR Deion Holliman, CB Jaylen Myrick

Injury Report:  OG Malcolm Bunche (shoulder, probable), WR Simmie Cobbs (flank, probable), WR Malachi Dupre (thigh, probable), CB Desmond Lawrence (shoulder, probable), TE Khari Lee (foot, probable), LB A.J. Tarpley (hand, questionable), S Shamarko Thomas (thigh, probable), WR DeAndre Thompkins (foot, probable), DT Kalani Vakameilalo (ankle, questionable), LB Scooby Wright (knee, probable)

Inactive: #51 LG Dorian Johnson,  #9 WR Jalen Rowell, #59 LB A.J. Tarpley, #72 LT Logan Tuley-Tillman, #94 DT Kalani Vakameilalo

NEW YORK GUARDIANS: STAT LEADERS

Passing: Matt McGloin -- 15-for-29, 182 yards, 1 passing TD, 1 rushing TD
Rushing: Darius Victor -- 9 carries for 32 yards; long of 22; 3.6 average
Receiving: Mekale McKay -- 3 receptions for 58 yards on 4 targets; long of 45 yards; 19.3 average
Defense: Bunmi Rotimi -- 9 combo tackles, 7 solo tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble

NEW YORK GUARDIANS: PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

QB: #14 Matt McGloin, #12 Marquise Williams, #7 Luis Perez
RB: #20 Tim Cook, #27 Darius Victor, #23 Justin Stockton, #34 Matt Colburn
WR: #1 Mekale McKay, #9 Teo Redding
WR: #10 Austin Duke, #2 Joe Horn
WR: #3 Colby Pearson
TE: #87 Jake Powell, #83 Jake Sutherland, #88 E.J. Bibbs, #85 Keenen Brown
LT: #74 Jarron Jones, #71 Brant Weiss
LG: #78 Anthony Coyle, #65 Jervontius Stallings
C: #77 Damien Mama, #69 Ian Silberman (Out)
RG: #73 Avery Young, #68 Garrett Brumfield (Out)
RT: #70 John Kling

LDE: #99 Cavon Walker, #91 Jarrell Owens
3T: #93 T.J. Barnes
NT: #94 Joey Mbu, #95 Toby Johnson
RDE: #58 Bunmi Rotimi, #55 Charles Wright, #44 Ryan Mueller
WLB: #45 D'Juan Hines, #48 Jawuan Johnson
MLB: #56 Ben Heeney, #47 Frank Ginda
SLB: #59 Garrett Dooley, #49 Nick DeLuca
LCB: #21 Jamar Summers
RCB: #29 Bryce Jones, #31 Terrence Alexander, #25 Jeremiah McKinnon
NCB: #22 Dravon Askew-Henry, #24 Ranthony Texada
SS: #30 Andrew Soroh, #28 Wes Sutton
FS: #33 A.J. Hendy, #36 Demetrious Cox

Special Teams:  #8 Justin Vogel (P), #16 Matt McCrane (K), #42 Scott Daly (LS)

NEW YORK GUARDIANS: INJURY REPORT

Injured Reserve: WR Tanner Gentry, TE Garrett Hudson, WR DeAngelo Yancey, DE Rykeem Yates

On Weekly Injury Report: DB Dravon Askew-Henry (shoulder, probable), OL Garrett Brumfield (head, out), OL Ian Silberman (thigh, out), DT Cavon Walker (ankle, probable)