After two weeks of the XFL season, the DC Defenders have already won both of their games and look like the best team in the league. The only other undefeated team is the Houston Roughnecks and the Defenders are looking to make themselves the very best after a dominant matchup versus the Los Angeles Wildcats. Fan favorites like Cardale Jones and Eli Rogers have been great in their XFL debuts, but some people may not know about their career before the Defenders.
QB Cardale Jones: 511 yards passing, four touchdowns, 102 passer rating
Of all the players on the Defenders, Cardale Jones is most likely the biggest name on the roster. Jones attended Ohio State from 2012-15 and was a high caliber starter on the team. He was redshirted in 2012, didn’t play much in 2013, and was a third-stringer for most of 2014. That was until the Big Ten Championship game, where Jones led Ohio State to a 59-0 win over Wisconsin and was given the game MVP award. He then went on to beat Alabama and Oregon in his second and third career games to lead Ohio State to the championship game. In 2015, Jones started the first 7 games of the season before getting benched for J.T Barrett. Jones finished his college football career without a single loss.
Jones was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills after just 11 college starts. His only start was in Week 17 of the 2016 season against the Jets, where he completed 6 passes for 96 yards and an interception. That would be the last start of his NFL career, as he was traded the next year to the Chargers, where he didn’t play a single snap.
WR Eli Rogers: 11 rec, 122 yards
One of Jones’s favorite targets this season has been wide receiver Eli Rogers. Rogers attended Louisville and was a starter all four years. He had a total of 12 touchdowns and 2,020 yards receiving. Rogers went undrafted in the 2016 NFL draft but was picked up by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent (UDFA).
In his first year, he started eight games and had three touchdowns. His career went downhill from there, however, as he only started 7 more games and caught one touchdown in his final two seasons in Pittsburgh. After the end of the 2018 season, the Steelers did not re-sign Rogers, marking the end of his run in the NFL.
DT Anthony Johnson: 1.5 sacks
Anthony Johnson has been one of the team’s most interesting players, as he is the only one who has been acquired after the start of the season. To start the season, Johnson played the Los Angeles Wildcats. After one week, they traded him for DC’s cornerback Bradley Sylve (who had the team’s first pick-six of the season). Johnson has already made an impact for the Defenders, as his pressure has led to multiple defensive stops that helped the team shut out the New York Guardians. He is currently third in the league with 1.5 sacks.
Johnson played for LSU from 2011-13 where he recorded 7 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. He went undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft and was picked up by the Miami Dolphins as a UDFA. From 2014-17, he bounced around 4 different teams, playing 22 games in total. After an uneventful 2017 season in Indianapolis, Johnson never returned to the NFL.
In 2019, Johnson joined the Memphis Express in the American Alliance of Football (AAF). He only played in 5 games before being placed on the injury reserve. The AAF failed after just 3 months, and Johnson found a new home in Calgary, playing for the Stampede in the Canadian Football League.
After being released from the Stampede roster, Johnson was invited to play in the CFL. He was drafted by the Wildcats and played in their first game of the season. Reports came out that he was unhappy with the teams’ defensive coordinator, Pepper Johnson, and wanted an exit.
After just 2 weeks, the XFL has been one of the most entertaining all year. Through big hits, huge plays, and seltzer shotguns, we have gotten to see some great football after the NFL season. This league is giving players a second chance at stardom, and a hope to get back in the NFL.