The D.C. Defenders (2-0) are set to play in their first road game this season when they travel to Dignity Health Sports Park on Feb. 23 to face off with the Los Angeles Wildcats (0-2).
D.C. is looking to retain its unblemished record, while Los Angeles is still searching for its first win of the season.
Defenders Week 2 Recap
The Defenders embarrassed the New York Guardians last Saturday in a 27-0 shutout, tallying two interceptions – one that went for a score – and three sacks on quarterback Matt McGloin. On offense, D.C. had another solid outing, as quarterback Cardale Jones completed 23 of 37 passes for 276 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. After the convincing win over New York, D.C. established itself as the team to beat in the Eastern Division.
Wildcats Week 2 Recap
After surrendering 37 points to the Houston Roughnecks in their season opener, the Wildcats participated in a defensive slugfest with the Dallas Renegades for three quarters last Sunday. But Dallas’ offense heated up in the fourth quarter, scoring three touchdowns to spoil Los Angeles’ debut at home. Wildcats wide receiver Nelson Spruce caught six passes for 89 yards and two fourth-quarter scores against the Renegades, giving Los Angeles’ offense some momentum going into their matchup with D.C.
Here are five key players (outside of the quarterbacks) who could have a sizable impact on the game:
No. 15 Rashad Ross, WR, Defenders
Ross might’ve marked his calendar for D.C.’s showdown with Los Angles, as the Wildcats traded him to Defenders in exchange for wide receiver Tre McBride in January. Ross quickly became a top target with the Defenders, and he will be looking to prove the Wildcats’ wrong for jettisoning him. Against the Guardians last weekend, Ross led all receivers with 95 yards.
No. 11 Nelson Spruce, Wildcats
Spruce is somebody the Defenders must take seriously if they want to improve to 3-0. He’s been the top target for the Wildcats in each of their first two games this season, catching 17 total passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. If D.C. doesn’t have an answer for Spruce, Los Angeles can make this game interesting.
No. 97 Anthony Johnson, DL, Defenders
Like Ross, Johnson was formerly a Wildcat before being traded to the Defenders. In his first game with D.C. last weekend, Johnson tallied 1.5 sacks. Johnson left Los Angeles on not-so-great terms, so he may have some extra motivation to get more sacks in this matchup.
No. 77 Shawn Oakman, DL, Wildcats
Oakman is one of the most recognizable faces on the Wildcats’ defense, as he was the subject of a viral meme in the early-2010s due to his intimidating size. He registered a sack against the Roughnecks in Week 1 and a quarterback hit against the Renegades last weekend.
No. 24 Donnel Pumphrey, RB, Defenders
D.C.’s offense has been dominant so far, but its run game has yet to break out. That could change on Sunday against a Wildcats defense that struggled badly against the run last weekend, allowing 7.05 yards a carry.
Key Matchup: Defenders secondary vs. Nelson Spruce
Opposing defenses haven’t had much of an answer for Spruce so far this season. On the other hand, D.C.’s secondary has lived up to its nickname this season and is coming off a stealer performance against the Guardians last Saturday. The Defenders don’t need to completely neutralize Spruce, but they will need to at least contain him.
Prediction: Defenders over Wildcats, 37-24
D.C. is superior to Los Angeles in all three phases of football, meaning this game could get out of hand quickly if the Defenders bring their A-game. The Wildcats’ defense will struggle mightily against Jones, who will pass for over 300 yards and score three total touchdowns. Spruce will give D.C. problems and crack 100 yards receiving, but his performance won’t be enough to shadow an abysmal performance by Los Angeles’ defense.