After lighting up scoreboards across the XFL last season, the DC Defenders are gearing up for an encore performance in the inaugural United Football League. Their prolific 2023 campaign was spearheaded by offensive coordinator Fred Kaiss’ run-heavy attack that averaged a staggering 29.8 points per game – the highest mark by any spring football team since the 2020 Houston Roughnecks put up 31.6 points per contest.

At the heart of DC’s offensive juggernaut is their unwavering commitment to the ground game. The Defenders fielded the most run-oriented offense in modern spring football history in 2023, passing on just 45% of their offensive plays. While that extreme run-pass ratio is expected to tilt slightly more towards the aerial assault this year due to the loss of bellcow running back Abram Smith to a season-ending ACL tear, make no mistake – this offense will continue to impose its will by pounding defenses into submission.

Jordan Ta’amu Lead Offense

The man tasked with conducting Kaiss’ brutally efficient attack is signal caller Jordan Ta’amu. Now entering his third straight season of spring football and second as DC’s starting QB, Ta’amu has proven himself a remarkably productive passer when called upon despite historically low pass volume. His 2023 numbers – 206.2 passing yards per game and an 84.2 PFF passing grade over the final seven weeks – illustrate an ability to shred defenses through the air while still operating within the team’s clearly defined run-first identity.

Inheriting the lead running back torch from the departed Smith is Cam’Ron Harris, who the Defenders’ coaching staff has fully endorsed as capable of shouldering a true bell-cow workload.

“We believe Cam Harris has that ability,” asserted head coach Reggie Barlow. “We believe that he can be the guy that [carries the load].”

Harris should benefit from a robust 70% snap share to open the year, providing him with a tremendous volume-based weekly ceiling in an offense that deploys rushing attacks as its Universal Basic Income. However, he may face some inefficiency woes in negative game scripts and potentially see his overall touchdown equity get nipped by McClendon’s potential poaching of goal-line work.

The path isn’t quite as clear-cut for DC’s pass-catching corps. While the electric Keke Coutee appears locked into a high-volume slot role, his fantasy profits may ultimately be capped by the Defenders’ tendency to flood the field with multiple tight ends – potentially curtailing Coutee’s achievable route shares and target share upside.

On the outside, a tight competition is brewing between Brandon Smith, Kelvin Harmon, and Vyncint Smith to claim the full-time starting roles. Smith produced admirably in a rotational capacity last season but has been labeled “just a guy” by some analysts. Harmon and Vyncint Smith, meanwhile, boast NFL pedigrees that can’t be ignored.

Speaking of NFL talent, former 6th-round draft pick Kaden Smith headlines what should be a prolific rotation of tight ends that combined for 6 touchdowns in 2023 – the most of any XFL tight end room. He’s joined by returning vets Briley Moore-McKinney and Alex Ellis, likely forming a headache-inducing committee approach that could limit all of their individual ceilings while pilfering valuable targets away from the receivers and backfield.

Make no mistake – with so much returning offensive firepower and the brilliant Kaiss once again calling the shots, the Defenders offense is set up to simply obliterate opponents on a weekly basis. But good luck trying to pinpoint exactly which DC assets will be the biggest beneficiaries of their prolific scoring onslaught. If this unit picks up where they left off a year ago, the smart money may simply be on betting the over every time they take the field.

Gregg Williams Impact Play Defense

Under the fiery leadership of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the D.C. Defenders defense is poised to be a force again in the 2024 UFL season. Williams, known for his aggressive schemes and “bring the heat” mentality, returns for a second year with the Defenders after a successful 2023 campaign.

A hallmark of Williams’ defenses is their versatility. Last season, the Defenders utilized various fronts, with a base 4-3 scheme featuring a stout defensive line. Key returning players like Joe Wallace and T.J. Barnes will anchor the interior, while a deep group of edge rushers like Davin Bellamy and Malik Fisher provides consistent pressure.

The secondary remains a strength, with the core of Swearinger, Nicholson, and Ramirez returning. This veteran group thrives in Williams’ system, playing a physical brand of football with a focus on takeaways. New addition Deontay Anderson adds depth and competition at free safety.

The success of the 2024 unit hinges on Williams’ ability to maximize his players’ talents within his complex scheme. Communication and discipline will be crucial, especially with the potential for opponents to exploit weaknesses created by aggressive play.

One thing is certain: with Gregg Williams at the helm, the D.C. Defenders’ defense will be exciting to watch. They’ll be a headache for opposing offenses, generating turnovers and keeping scores low. Whether they can match last year’s success and propel the Defenders to a championship run remains to be seen.

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Jordan Rains
Jordan Rains is a versatile sports writer with a focus on professional football, known for his talent in capturing the unique voices and overlooked narratives within the game. With a deep passion for storytelling and an intuitive understanding of the competitive spirit that drives athletes, Rains collaborates closely with players, coaches, and teams to craft compelling profiles, game recaps, and in-depth features that resonate with fans and bring the sport to life. Follow @50shadesofdrunk on Twitter/X.

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