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Washington has a football team playing for a championship this weekend

The DC Defenders are pursuing gridiron greatness in the Nation’s capital

Houston Roughnecks v DC Defenders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

This Saturday evening, the XFL will host its championship game in San Antonio, Texas at 8pm in the Alamodome. Washington’s XFL franchise, the DC Defenders, who went 9-1 during the regular season, and are coming off a playoff victory against the Seattle Sea Dragons, are taking on the Arlington Renegades, who had a losing record during the regular season (4-6), but beat the Houston Roughnecks in last week’s playoff game.

This game will be the first championship game in the third incarnation of the XFL (which was originally rolled out in 2001). The game can be watched on ABC/ESPN.

NFL: SEP 23 Packers at Redskins Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

DC Defender Notables

Washington’s roster includes a number of former NFL players, including former Redskins/WFTs, like quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and safety DJ Swearinger. Ta’amu is the team’s primary QB, and captained the most efficient passing offense in the XFL this year, leading the league in yards per attempt (8) and first down conversion percentage (39%).

The Defenders frequently ran a wildcat formation as well, substituting in the elusive quarterback D’Eriq King, who threw for 184 yards and 4 TDs this season, but also added 102 yards and 5 TDs on the ground.

The one-two punch of Ta’amu and King has thrown opponents out of their comfort zone all season, and has been used by the coaching staff to create some novelty in the offense when it seems to be bogging down.

The Defenders had two of the top five receivers in the league, with both Chris Blair and Lucky Jackson grabbing over 570 yards through the air. For context, the top receiver in the league, Seattle’s Jahcour Pearson had 670 yards receiving.

Washington also led the XFL - by a wide margin - in yards on the ground this year, collecting 1,408 rushing yards, nearly 450 more than the next closest team. They were led by running back Abram Smith - the former Baylor single-season rushing leader - who rushed for 791 yards and 7 TDs. Ta’amu added another 298 yards and 3 TDs on the ground as well.

Houston Roughnecks v DC Defenders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Washington’s defense was orchestrated by former Redskins’ defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, and actually gave up the most yards per game in the XFL this season (341.4) and the third highest points per game (24). However, much of that was on account of opponents playing catch up nearly every game.

The Defenders simultaneously gave up the most passing yards (2,661), by a wide margin, and the fewest rushing yards (753) in the league. Not surprisingly, Williams’ defense had the second most sacks in the league and the second best scoring total (4 defensive TDs).

Other potentially familiar faces on the Defenders include LB Ferrod Gardner, DB DeJuan Neal, DL Jacob Panasiuk, DT Gabe Wright, and S Montae Nicholson. Former Redskins cornerback Vernon Dean serves as the Defenders DBs coach.

If you haven’t caught a game yet this season, I’d highly recommend watching this weekend. The play level isn’t the same caliber as the NFL - the best of these players have tended to be NFL practice squad guys - but it’s a fun product to watch, and in the doldrums of the NFL cycle, it’s nice to have something to fill the void. I hope it’s able to get a foothold and persist.

In any case, it’s been a very long time since we’ve had a potentially championship caliber football team to root for in the DMV, so in the spirit of solidarity: Go Defenders!

Highlights from Washington’s playoff game against the Sea Dragons can be found below:


Did you know the Defenders are playing for the XFL championship this weekend?

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