We’ve been looking at which players stood out in the first half of the 2020 XFL season to assess which ones could be brought in to work out for NFL teams. This could happen this week now that the season has been suspended.
Having already covered offensive players, we conclude today with a look at defense and special teamers.
This group is headlined by two former third round picks - Jay Bromley and Will Sutton. Of the two, Sutton had the bigger impact with solid play against the run and as a pass rusher.
The 24-year old Boogie Roberts performed well against the run, generating some good penetration with quickness. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown on Sunday night.
Cavon Walker, a 25-year old, was the league’s leader with 4.5 sacks. Walker, who is 287 pounds, played a mixture of inside and on the edge.
Other than Walker, no edge had more than three sacks but Jarrell Owens and Marcell Frazier impressed with their playmaking ability.
Owens, an undrafted free agent just last year, broke out with two sacks and a key field goal block in a win over the Wildcats a few weeks ago.
Frazier only had one sack but he added five quarterback hits, two passes defensed, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pick-six that saw him pluck the ball out of the air as he went to bat down a pass at the goal line.
Steven Johnson is one of the XFL’s most experienced players with 74 regular season appearances at the NFL level, including seven starts. The 31-year old was easily the most productive tackler in the league with 48 in the first five games.
While not as productive as Johnson, Beniquez Brown did a solid job against the run and in coverage. He is also five years younger, although he never got much of a shot at the NFL level.
One of the best-known defensive names in the entire league is Rahim Moore, a former second round pick notorious for his gaffe that led to a long game-winning touchdown in a 2012 playoff game against the Ravens. The 30-year old Moore, who was out of the league a few years later, was outstanding patrolling center field at this level, with two interceptions.
For box safeties, look no further than former seventh-rounder Ahmad Dixon, who was productive in run support. He was second in the league in total tackles.
At cornerback, Ajene Harris, a former teammate of Sam Darnold, led the league with seven pass break-ups. Harris’ Houston teammate Deatrick Nichols, who was employed primarily in the slot, led the league in interceptions.
Harris also contributed on special teams as he was in the top five in the league for return yardage, although with the slightly different rules being employed there was only one return of longer than 50 yards all year and that was on a gadget play.
A familiar name topped the charts in punting average; former Oakland Raider Marquette King. However, he was injured in Sunday’s game and had been inconsistent with his directional punting anyway.
As for placekickers, Matt McCrane was probably the most impressive. He made all five of his attempts including two from beyond 50 yards.
Finally, safety Marqueston Huff, a former mid-round pick, was among the league leaders in special teams tackles but Jerome Couplin III made the biggest impact of any player so far in Sunday night’s game with five special teams tackles, including a couple of big hits.
As we stated at the end of part one, it’s unclear how much of a shot NFL teams will be prepared to give the stand-out performers from the XFL, especially older players.
However, there’s an interesting mix of younger players and former NFL contributors that have made their mark. With the rest of the season cancelled, players will reportedly get their exit physicals today and then be able to sign with teams.