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Roughnecks, Defenders emerge as elite



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With the novelty of the reinvented XFL more or less out of the way, players, coaches and fans can turn their focus toward football.

The second regular-season week played out this weekend. We saw a couple of players, quarterbacks P.J. Walker of the Houston Roughnecks and Cardale Jones of the DC Defenders, separate themselves in the very early MVP race.

Two teams remain unbeaten. Four are bunched in the middle of the pack with 1-1 records. And, unfortunately, two teams are still seeking their first victory.

Here are the Week 2 power rankings in the XFL.

1. Houston Roughnecks (2-0)

Coach June Jones and Walker have this offense humming. They had to fend off a third-quarter rally from a very good BattleHawks squad, but Houston prevailed 28-24, thanks to an improving defense and Walker’s ability to keep plays alive and create when things break down. Walker has seven total touchdowns. That ties him with the entire Defenders team.

Last week: No. 1

2. DC Defenders (2-0)

This very well might be the ranking at the top two until Week 7 on March 22, when DC and Houston face off. The Defenders have the best offensive line through two weeks, having allowed Cardale Jones to get sacked just once. DC completely shut down and flustered coach Kevin Gilbride, quarterback Matt McGloin and the rest of the Guardians in a 27-0 shutout.

Last week: No. 2

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DC Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones shakes hands with fans while leaving the field after a game against the New York Guardians.

3. St. Louis BattleHawks (1-1)

It says something that St. Louis crawled back into its game against Houston, despite averaging just 2.9 yards per rush. The running game should be the BattleHawks’ strength. But even through an uneven performance, quarterback Jordan Ta’amu showed that he can elevate the rest of his team. Now he must eliminate the big mistakes, like a fourth-quarter interception that hindered St. Louis.

Last week: No. 4

4. Seattle Dragons (1-1)

Give props to Seattle for showing up. The 29,172 fans at CenturyLink Field shattered an XFL attendance record. The Dragons repaid them with their first victory, and receiver Keenan Reynolds – who caught a 68-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that helped spark a comeback against the Vipers – looks like a reliable weapon. Seattle, though, must improve its third-down conversion rate because 6 of 25 (24%) through two games likely won’t be good enough.

Last week: No. 5

5. Dallas Renegades (1-1)

There was some good. But there was also plenty of bad for the Renegades, who took down the Wildcats 25-18. Quarterback Landry Jones sprayed inaccurate passes all over the field in the first half and made some awful decisions. Two interceptions among three team turnovers were a problem. But Jones cleaned things up in the second half and posted the first 300-yard passing performance in XFL history (not counting the league’s initial season in 2001). Coach Bob Stoops also unleashed running back Cameron Artis-Payne in the second half, and that paid off, too.

Last week: No. 7

6. New York Guardians (1-1)

What a difference a week makes. After posting a 20-point victory in the opener, the Guardians were shut out in Week 2. DC’s defense completely frustrated McGloin so much that he criticized the game plan and execution of it during in-game interviews and after. Five total first downs and just 1 of 11 conversions on third down underscored the offensive ineptitude. Another big concern: After sacking Tampa Bay’s QBs five times in the opener, New York couldn’t even notch one against Cardale Jones and that Defenders’ O-line.

Last week: No. 3

7. Los Angeles Wildcats (0-2)

Coach Winston Moss fired defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson after the opener, and the defense was a bit better. But the unit still gave up 444 yards to the Renegades and was outscored 22-15 in the second half. On offense, quarterback Josh Johnson and the offense moved the ball, but they could not finish drives – they went 1 of 4 (25 %) in both red-zone and goal-to-go scenarios.

Last week: No. 6

8. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-2)

They’re the only team in the XFL that hasn’t scored a touchdown, failing to convert seven trips inside the 20-yard line. They’ve scored 12 points through two games and quarterback remains an issue. Starter Aaron Murray – who struggled in the opener – missed the Week 2 loss against Seattle with a foot injury. Taylor Cornelius started but wasn’t any better, and Quinton Flowers also sputtered, albeit in a much smaller sample size. Coach Marc Trestman needs to solve the most important position before he can address Tampa Bay’s other weaknesses.

Last week: No. 8

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