Let the games begin. More than a year after Seattle was awarded a franchise in the new XFL, the Dragons will play for the first time. Led by coach Jim Zorn, the starting quarterback for the expansion Seahawks, the Dragons will have to wait another week to play at home as they open in the nation’s capital.
What: Seattle Dragons at DC Defenders
When: Saturday, 11 a.m. (PT), Audi Field, Washington, D.C.
TV/radio: Channel 4 (ABC); 710 ESPN AM
Why watch? Because it is the first-ever game for the Seattle Dragons in the new XFL. The first incarnation of the XFL was in 2001 (Seattle did not have a team), and the league folded after one season. There was a lot of glitz and glamour, like you might expect from a league owned by WWE founder Vince McMahon, but the football wasn’t good. The focus this time was to make the football much better. How much better and what will that mean for the league’s success is the big question. It will also be worth watching how the league’s innovative rules work: like the 25-second play clock, the three options after scoring a touchdown (one play from the 2-, 5-, or 10-yard line for 1, 2 or 3 points), and the overtime shootout, where teams alternate plays from the opponent’s 5-yard line.
Who to watch? Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers, who beat out B.J. Daniels for the starting job. The former Troy star last played in the Alliance of American Football (AAF), emerging as the starter for the Memphis Express just before the league folded last spring. He was 80 of 125 for 799 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions. … Jaquan Gardner, a 5-foot-5, 201-pound running back, had some electric runs when the Dragons scrimmaged the Defenders last month in training camp. … Two Dragon receivers to keep an eye on are former UW star Kasen Williams and former Navy star QB Keenan Reynolds. Both have spent time with the Seahawks. … The Defenders are expected to start Cardale Jones, the former Ohio State star, at quarterback.
Who will win? CBSsports.com has the DC Defenders as No. 1 in their preseason power rankings and the Dragons last at No. 8. But really, any rankings before games have been played are just a guess. It’s always tough to win on the road, so that would seem to give the Defenders an edge if the two teams are somewhat equal. But not knowing if that is true, you might as well flip a coin.
How to prepare? The XFL released theme songs for each of the eight teams. So in order to get properly hyped for Saturday’s game, please enjoy the Dragons’ anthem: “Burn ’em up.”