The San Antonio Brahmas have had a busy offseason after finishing their inaugural season with a 3-7 record in the XFL. Since the end of the 2023 XFL season, the Brahmas have been overhauling their team from top to bottom after they were selected to be one of four XFL teams that would continue playing football in the newly formed UFL. The opportunity to continue building a successful spring football franchise invigorated the Brahmas as they worked to make the changes to improve their team to compete in an improved league.

At the top, former Houston Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips and general manager Marc Lillibridge stepped in to lead the Brahmas into their first season in the UFL. Phillips brought many of his assistant coaches from the Roughnecks. During the UFL player allocation process, he also brought many of his Roughnecks players to continue their careers with the Brahmas. The result is a new look for the Brahmas and the expectations that they should be able to entertain their fanbase with an explosive offense and a lockdown defense. During a radio interview this week, Phillips discussed his expectations for his team: “We will have a wide-open offense and a defense that will pressure our opponents every play; we are going to be aggressive.”

With the change of personnel and expectations in mind, the Brahmas are ready to charge into their first game of the season at home against the DC Defenders at noon EST on Sunday, March 31st.

The matchup between the Brahmas and Defenders features two teams that come into the 2024 UFL season from different ends of the spectrum. In 2023, the DC Defenders were one of the most dominant teams in the UFL until losing in the XFL Championship Game against the Arlington Renegades, which was played in the Alamodome. The 2024 Brahmas is a team that is looking to turn around its image from a struggling team in the XFL to a championship-caliber team in the UFL.

Coming into the game, the DC Defenders are currently favored to win by 6 points by Draft Kings with an over/under of 44 points. If the Brahmas are going to have a successful start to their 2024 UFL season, they will need to exceed expectations and find ways to make explosive plays to counteract the Defender’s steady and consistent approach. One advantage of the Brahmas is that while they have made many changes to every aspect of their organization, the Defenders return many of the same players and coaches they played in during the 2023 season.

For the Brahmas to have a chance to pull off a Week 1 aspect, they need to find success in three areas vs. the Defenders.

AJ Smith’s “Air Raid” Offense vs. Gregg Williams’s “Come Get Some” Defense

One of the most significant changes that fans will see with the Brahmas is their implementation of a pass-heavy offense led by former Houston Roughnecks offensive coordinator AJ Smith. The success of Smith’s offense will depend on how quickly quarterback Chase Garbers, running back Anthony McFarland, receivers Jontre Kirklin and TJ Vasher, and tight end Cody Latimer can find chemistry against the Defenders. Garbers is starting his first game in the UFL, and he will be relying heavily on getting the ball to his weapons in space and allowing them to make plays against the defense of DC.

Defensively, Gregg Williams uses an ultra-aggressive 4-3 defensive scheme that brings a variety of blitzes from multiple players each play. The Brahma’s newly constructed and upgraded offensive line will need to protect their quarterback and give the offense a chance to find holes in the Defender’s defense. Historically, the best strategy to beat William’s defensive scheme is an effective vertical passing game. If the Brahmas can complete passes downfield and pick up first downs with runs in short-yardage situations to keep moving the chains, they will have a chance to produce big plays against an aggressive defense.

The “Phillips” 3-4 Defense vs. Fred Kaiss’s RPO-based Offense

During the 2023 XFL season, the Brahmas developed a solid defensive team identity. Head coach Wade Phillips also has an identity as a strong defensive coach. With the addition of defensive coordinator Will Reed, the Brahmas expect to continue to have a strong defense. The Brahma’s defensive leaders will be linebackers Jordan Williams and Tavante Beckett. In addition to Beckett and Williams, the Brahmas have stacked their defensive line with some of the top defensive players from the XFL by adding defensive lineman Caeveon Patton and bringing back Brahmas sack leader Delontae Scott.

The Defenders come into the Alamodome with a powerful run game that relies on dual-threat quarterback Jordan Ta’amu’s ability to make quick decisions and athleticism within the RPO system implemented by offensive coordinator Fred Kaiss. The DC offense will force the Brahmas to be disciplined while working to stop a strong running game and contain an athletic quarterback. It will be vitally important for the Brahmas defensive front to keep Ta’amu in the pocket so that he cannot extend plays and find ways to get the ball to his weapons at receiver.

The Brahmas Special Teams vs. The Opinions of “Deestroying” Critics

During training camp, the Brahmas made headlines when they selected YouTube star “Deestroying” Donald De La Haye as their placekicker. After the decision was made, several critics on social media declared that choosing De La Haye over former NFL kicker Matt Amendola was an attempt to get attention and win followers for their social media accounts. The controversy surrounding De La Haye has put big expectations on his performance heading into Week 1.

De La Haye has responded to the critics by making a video on his YouTube channel demonstrating his performance in practice and his relationship with fellow specialists punter Brad Wing and long-snapper Rex Sunahara.

YouTube video

If De La Haye comes out and handles business, the criticism should quickly disappear. The Brahmas expect strong special teams units led by special teams coordinator Payton Pardee. Field position and execution, especially on kickoffs and punts, will significantly impact who wins this game between the Brahmas and the Defenders.

Injury Report

In Week 1 of the UFL season, the Defenders and Brahmas have a few players banged up from training camp. The Defenders running back Abram Smith suffered a torn ACL during training camp, and they also have tight end Shaun Beyer and strong safety Sam Kidd on their injured list. The Brahmas have offensive guard John Yarbrough and cornerbacks Quincy Wilson and Gavin Heslop on their injured list.

In addition, the Brahmas have had cornerback BoPete Keys (groin), outside linebacker Jamir Jones (groin), defensive lineman Caeveon Patton (abdomen), and outside linebacker Zach McCloud (ankle) miss practice time this week. The Defenders have also had wide receiver Vyncint Smith (elbow), cornerback Deandre Baker (hamstring), defensive tackle Niles Scott (groin), wide receiver Brandon Smith (hip), and cornerback Gareon Conley (hamstring) miss practice time.

How Do the Brahmas Win This Game?

This Week 1 UFL matchup between the DC Defenders and San Antonio Brahmas features contrasting expectations and philosophical approaches. For the Brahmas to win, they will need to be able to score points, which can be a challenge for any team early in the season. Defensively, the Brahmas will need to contain the Defenders running game and quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, and they need to for the Defenders to turn the ball over.

Game Prediction: San Antonio Brahmas 24, DC Defenders 22

Follow me on X: @AaronSauter7

author avatar
Aaron Sauter
Aaron Sauter is a 23-veteran high school football coach that is also an fan of all levels of football. He is especially interested in alternative football leagues like the CFL, UFL, and IFL. Aaron enjoys analyzing innovative schemes on offense and defense during his free time.

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