Defenders vs. BattleHawks: Key Players to Watch
After a rough road trip, the DC Defenders (2-2) return home to Audi Field to host the St. Louis BattleHawks (3-1) Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (FS1).
It'll be the first matchup of the season between the two teams, with the second meeting coming in Week 10.
Getting back on track won't be an easy task for the Defenders. The BattleHawks hold the best record among all Eastern Conference teams, and feature a varied offensive attack to complement a dangerous defense.
Here are six key players to watch once the action gets kicked off on Sunday.
#93 DT Jay Bromley
Over the past two weeks, the Defenders' struggles against the run have clearly factored into the final score.
DC's surrendered five touchdowns over two games. Last week, the Vipers bludgeoned DC on the ground, as their runners averaged 6.4 yards per carry.
The Defenders will face an incredibly tough offensive line, with 80 percent of the BattleHawks' unit boasting NFL experience. Winning battles up front should play a large role in determining the outcome of Sunday's game.
Bromley will be one of DC's defenders tasked with disrupting St. Louis' ground game. Bromley has the ability to penetrate the offensive line and stop plays in the backfield.
#29 S Tyree Kinnel
With Matt Elam's departure from the team, expect to see more snaps for Kinnel.
The Michigan product figures to get a lot of action against St. Louis, especially in three-safety sets. Kinnel should help the Defenders in coverage, as the 5'11" safety tends to see the field well.
#19 Malachi Dupre
The past two weeks have not been kind to the Defenders passing attack.
No receiver has finished with more than 25 yards during that span, which is obviously something that needs to improve.
As the Defenders look to find their groove through the air, Dupre could be in for a big day against the BattleHawks. With only seven receptions for 26 yards, Dupre has been held mostly in check this season. Against Tampa Bay, Cardale Jones nearly connected with Dupre on a deep strike. Although the referees ruled Dupre out of bounds, it was a great example of the threat Dupre poses on the outside.
Standing at 6-foot-2, Dupre has the clear size advantage over St. Louis' two starting corners, who both register at under 6-foot.
St. Louis BattleHawks
#10 QB Jordan Ta'amu
While Houston's P.J. Walker has grabbed the mainstream spotlight as the XFL's premier passer, Ta'amu has been incredibly impressive in his own right.
Ta'amu has been the Eastern Conference's best quarterback through four games by a substantially wide margin. The former Ole Miss standout currently has 876 yards and five touchdowns. Ta'amu also has also completed a staggering 75 percent of his passes.
As if stopping Ta'amu through the air wasn't troublesome enough, the Defenders need to worry about him using his legs as well. Ta'amu's ran for 186 yards, while averaging 5.2 yards per clip.
The BattleHawks adeptly utilize Ta'amu's skill set, operating a run-pass option early and often.
#25 SS Will Hill
Hill, who had stints in the NFL with the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens, plays with a blend of athleticism and aggression. Hill nabbed his second interception of the season last week, as he intercepted Seattle's B.J. Daniels and effectively iced the game for St. Louis.
He's a human hit stick and a vaunted playmaker. Cardale Jones needs to be hyper-focused on where Hill is at all times.
#15 WR De'Mornay Pierson-El
The BattleHawks' most dangerous receiver may be their most diminutive.
Pierson-El, who measures in at 5-foot-8, has 21 receptions on 23 targets, to go along with 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Pierson-El is at his most dangerous in the open field. The BattleHawks frequently implement him across the middle of the field to best take advantage of his shiftiness.
The Defenders also need to worry about Pierson-El as a passer.
Pierson-El, a former high school quarterback, has thrown the ball on two separate PAT attempts this year. One resulted in a successful conversion, while the other was dropped by the receiver. Pierson-El also tossed a touchdown running the same concept at Nebraska.