One of the most interesting things to look forward to as the new XFL prepares to kick off is the quarterback play. The league boasts an interesting mix of names that are familiar to fans. Also, players that remain shrouded by question marks. Below, we will break down who should start as their team’s starting quarterback for Week One. We discuss their backgrounds, and what to expect from them.
Landry Jones – Dallas Renegades
Jones enjoyed a four-year starter tenure at Oklahoma, reunites with his college head coach, Bob Stoops. Under Stoops’ system, Jones threw for over 4,000 yards his sophomore through senior seasons, putting up numbers that eclipse the likes of Baker Mayfield. While his passing numbers boggled minds, so were his interception rates, as he threw for double-digit interceptions all four seasons. It was this uncertainty complied with weak performances in the Cotton and Senior Bowls that saw him to become a fourth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013. In Pittsburgh, Jones showed several decent outings over his five starts.
Jones may have the best initial success in the league due to his prior relationship with Bob Stoops. Both are incredibly familiar with each other and Stoops’ Air-Raid offense will be designed to help Jones succeed on the field. Expect Jones to be pass-happy in this system and throw deep bombs to his receivers. Since this type of Big-12 offense has worked for this duo in the past, expect Dallas to be one of the teams with the most offensive firepower in the league.
The biggest questions surrounding Jones revolve around his health. The 30-year-old suffered a knee injury during the first day of training camp, and still has question marks surrounding his health and status for Dallas’ first few games. In the meantime, expect former Minnesota QB Philip Nelson to take up the mantle until Jones is ready for a full return, which is expected to be in the next two weeks.
Cardale Jones – DC Defenders
Cardale Jones is most well-known for coming off the bench and leading Ohio State to win the first-ever College Football Playoff in 2015. In the time since Jones had a brief tenure in Buffalo after the Bills took him as a fourth-round pick in 2016. He was then sent to the Chargers in 2018 where he had a short stint before being relegated to the practice squad. Jones was brought back to play for the Chargers in the preseason but was ultimately waived by the team last September.
Jones’ name recognition alone should be enough to turn some heads and bring more attention to the XFL. He has a cult following from Ohio State fans due to his heroics and story of going from a third-string to national champion. It will also help that he is being coached by quarterback whisperer Pep Hamilton, who spent a large portion of his career coaching Andrew Luck, serving as his offensive coordinator at Stanford and later for the Indianapolis Colts.
Out of all the quarterbacks in the league, Cardale Jones has one of the greatest upsides. He has raw arm power and the ability to run if he needs to. He will also be helped out by a robust receiving core in Jhurrell Pressley and Donnel Pumphrey. Jones is being touted as one of the faces of the leagues, and rightfully so. Given the ability and untested potential he has combined with the players surrounding him, we may see him become a champion quarterback once again.
Philip Walker – Houston Roughnecks
P.J. Walker was just named the Roughnecks’ starting quarterback after being in a tight battle for the spot against Connor Cook. In college, Walker played for Matt Rhule as he rebuilt Temple. He broke school records for the Owls and won them their first conference title in 49 years. This was enough to get him signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent, where he would spend the next three years on their practice squad.
Walker is an undersized quarterback, standing at 5’11” 215 lbs., and he knows it. Head coach June Jones has complemented Walker’s ability to play confident and loose. He trusts his wideouts and isn’t afraid to let the ball fly. An agile quarterback like Walker is also exactly what Jones needs in his run and shoot offense.
Throughout his career, Walker has had to compensate for his size with his pure athleticism and grit. He’s a quarterback who knows how to extend a play and isn’t afraid to run or take a big hit. It’s this type of player who plays with a chip on their shoulder than can shine in the XFL and put on a true display of agility and lightning-fast quickness. On the other hand, if Walker comes out and doesn’t meet expectations in his initial starts, Cook will be waiting for his opportunity to prove himself as the right quarterback for Houston.
Josh Johnson – LA Wildcats
This 33-year-old quarterback has seen plenty of action in professional football, being signed to 13 different NFL teams since he entered the league in 2008. Johnson was the first overall pick in the AAF quarterbacks draft but left to play for the Washington Redskins, where he started the final three games of the 2018 season while putting up solid numbers and earning his first win as an NFL starting quarterback.
Because of his vast experience as a journeyman NFL backup quarterback, expect Johnson to be a top XFL QB out of the gate. Head coach Winston Moss won’t be running a high-flying uptempo system, but Johnson should excel with his ability to lead an offense and his dual-threat potential.
Because of his age, Johnson has also had some questions surrounding his ability to stay healthy. He is currently suffering an undisclosed injury and will be a game-time decision in the Wildcat’s opener against Houston. If he is unable to play, expect Charles Kanoff to start instead. Kanoff played at Princeton where he averaged 9 yards per pass and completed 73 percent of his throws before signing with the Arizona Cardinals and playing on several NFL practice squads.
Matt McGloin – New York Guardians
McGloin was formerly a walk-on at Penn State who won the starting spot during his sophomore season. McGloin broke multiple school records, putting up 3,271 yards during his senior season and throwing 46 career touchdowns. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders, where he made 13 appearances across four seasons. McGloin then bounced around the league, spending time with the Eagles, Texans, and Chiefs before finding his way to New York.
The best way to describe McGloin is as a scrappy quarterback with a fun playstyle. He’s not the most athletic quarterback, but his experience and ability to handle pressure gives him a high upside. McGloin will be comfortable having Kevin Gilbride’s offense run through him, which will be heavily dependent on DeAngelo Yancy, a deep-threat receiver whose talent will go hand-in-hand with McGloin’s ability to throw the deep ball.
Behind McGloin on the depth chart will be AAF breakout Luis Perez, who was traded to New York from the LA Wildcats last month. Perez was allocated as a Tier 1 quarterback in the XFL but was traded for Charles Kanoff in a move that shocked fans. Perez was once a professional bowler who learned to play football by watching YouTube videos. His tireless work ethic saw him ball out for the Birmingham Iron before the league folded in the middle of the season. Since then Perez has been looking for a way to show his worth on the gridiron once again, and expect him to challenge McGloin for the starting spot all season.
Jordan Ta’amu – St. Louis Battlehawks
Ta’amu was named the starting quarterback in St. Louis after a battle with Taylor Heinicke. Ta’amu is one of the few quarterbacks in the league who has no professional regular season experience. He previously played for Ole Miss where he was surrounded by future NFL receivers in D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown. Despite the talent around him, Ta’amu struggled with decision making and his accuracy. In 2018 he finished his senior season with 3,918 yards, second in the SEC behind Tua Tagovailoa. Ta’amu would go on to sign with the Houston Texans before being released later that month.
Ta’amu is the most curious case out of all the starting quarterbacks in the XFL. He could go either way by having a bad season, or he could show the league how much he has progressed and developed since his senior season at Ole Miss and prove his doubters wrong.
Head coach Jonathan Hayes will be running a fast-paced offensive scheme that Ta’amu is no stranger to. The faster 25-second play clock that the XFL has implemented will also be an advantage for the young quarterback, who has grown accustomed to no-huddles and throwing the ball in an air raid offense.
Brandon Silvers – Seattle Dragons
Silvers was a four-year starter at Troy before going on to make a name for himself in the AAF with the Memphis Express. His beat out Christan Hackenberg and Zach Mettenberger to start for the team, and his success landed him a brief tenure with the New York Jets.
Silvers was able to prove his worth after a competitive training camp with the Dragons that saw him named the starter over B.J. Daniels. Head coach Jim Zorn made this decision due to the consistency he saw with Silvers over the course of training camp and the preseason.
There is still more Silvers will need to get used to, as his background in the air raid offense. Meanwhile, Zorn’s approach of running a West Coast system differs. While he may not appear fluid in his dropback, Silvers should compensate for his immobility with the way he’s able to read the defense and effectively throw the ball on a reliable basis.
Aaron Murray – Tampa Bay Vipers
Murray will be a familiar name for college football fans, as his historic tenure with the Georgia Bulldogs saw him put up 13,166 yards and 121 touchdowns. Murray’s team ranked top 5 in the AP Poll twice during his time playing from 2010 to 2013. Murray was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Murray was with the team for two years but never saw any playing time. After his release, he bounced around several teams before playing in the AAF for the Atlanta Legends.
He grew up in Tampa and blossomed into a five-start prospect before going on to have great success in Athens. A return to his home serves as a catalyst and help reinvigorate him after a disappointing tenure in the AAF that saw him throw just a 57.7 completion percentage.
Murray gained attention as a great game-manager, and his composure in the pocket combined with his great reads will help bring life to Marc Trestman’s offense. The Tampa Bay high school phenom returned home and hopes to prove his talent once again.