We’re halfway through the regular season of the XFL and so far, everyone has fulfilled the dream that the Rock and company laid out when they bought the league from Mr. Vince McMahon. They even enjoyed back-to-back sold-out crowds in St. Louis for the BattleHawks’ two home games against the Arlington Renegades and the D.C. Defenders.

Even the play has improved from week to week as some of the athletes have stepped up and shown their teams that they’re becoming NFL-ready. Let’s take a look at some of the most improved players from the start of the season.

Seattle Sea Dragons

Ben DiNucci- (QB)

Who is this guy, and what did he do to Ben DiNucci? Don’t get me wrong. He’s always been a very talented and smart quarterback, but he went from being a dud with the Cowboys to looking like Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes in the XFL. I see him scrambling on third and longs by extending drives with his legs to making a flip pass for a touchdown in the opening game against the D.C. Defenders.

It makes you wonder if he played this way in Dallas if he would be Dak’s backup instead of Cooper Rush, who just signed a fresh new contract. To give “Gucci” DiNucci the benefit of the doubt, his starting debut was on Sunday Night Football which is a very hard ask for a seventh-round rookie who was replacing a star quarterback out for the year.

DiNucci is currently the top quarterback in the XFL in passing yards with 1,328. He also has nine touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 66.3 completion %.

Seattle Sea Dragons WR Josh Gordon (0) – @Josh_GordonXII/Twitter Account

Josh Gordon- (WR)

For a guy who has always been big and talented, Josh Gordon has reinvented himself into the physical playmaker he was when he first entered the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. So far, he has 118 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

His big game moment happened in week 3 of the XFL when he caught a game-winning 65-yard touchdown from quarterback Ben “Gucci” DiNucci, which he backpedaled into the end zone. The Sea Dragons picked up their first win of the year, narrowly defeating the Vegas Vipers on the road 30-26.

The big issue with Gordon in his previous stops in the NFL was drugs, PED,s and suspensions that prevented him from becoming a premier WR in the game. If he gets another shot in the league, hopefully, he will have learned his lesson. Otherwise, his football career will definitely be over.

Seattle Sea Dragons WR  Jahcour Pearson (3) – @JayPeezyy/Twitter account

Jahcour Pearson- (WR)

For what Pearson lacks in size, he makes up for in speed. The 5’8″, 190 lb. speedster leads the XFL with 430 yards on 36 catches and one touchdown. In a sport where speed matters at every position and offenses are all about tempo, then he is the guy you want to line up in the slot position in the NFL.

His NFL comparison would be to Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley or former New England WR Julian Edelman. He is virtually uncoverable whether defenses line up in man or zone.

One of his many highlighted games this year was in the first half of a 21-14 upset of the previously undefeated Houston Roughnecks in Seattle during Week 5. Pearson torched Houston’s top-notched defense with five catches for 82 yards. This performance has shown he has lived up to why head coach Jimmy Haslett and the Sea Dragons Organization selected him in the XFL draft.

St. Louis BattleHawks

A.J. McCarron- (QB) 

With A.J. McCarron, you sort of get the best of both worlds. During the first half of the game, McCarron looks like he did when he was in the NFL with the Bengals. Very inconsistent and sporadic. He also looks like he’s not in control of the offense. Luckily, there are four quarters that makeup two halves in football.

In the second half, however, especially in the fourth quarter, you get the McCarron that looks like the National Championship quarterback at Alabama.  This is the positive version where he is decisive with the football, accurate, and very fast in a tempo offense.

In week one against Hines Ward’s San Antonio Brahmas, McCarron led a comeback that included a touchdown and a successful three-point conversion attempt. It was followed by a successful fourth and 15 attempts for 22 yards by WR Austin Proehl.

The BattleHawks ran the clock down to kick a go-ahead field goal and lead 18-15 with seconds remaining. San Antonio had one last chance on offense but quarterback Jack Coan was sacked and Seattle won 18-15.

McCarron is currently tied with Houston Roughnecks’ quarterback Brandon Silvers with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has a 65.5 completion percentage and has thrown for 1,086 passing yards.

Hakeem Butler- (WR)

Is this guy a TE or a WR? Because, boy, is he a big man? At 6’6″, 230 lbs. Butler plays WR but has the frame of a TE. He tried to play TE originally but was not a very good blocker. The organization did realize he had pro-like route running skills and outstanding hands to catch the ball and lined him up at receiver. That decision is one coach Becht and company are very happy with.

Butler is tied for second in the XFL along with Orlando Guardians TE Cody Latimer with 336 yards receiving, trailing Seattle Sea Dragons WR Jahcour Pearson with 430 yards receiving. He has four touchdowns from QB AJ McCarron, who was previously mentioned as a game manager.

Butler’s best game of the season came in week 3 against the D.C. Defenders occurred when the big receiver hauled in nine catches for 105 yards and one touchdown. Sadly, the Defenders squeaked out a 34-28 win, but it was still a defining moment for the league’s second-best receiver.

D.C. Defenders

Michael Joseph- (DB)

Joseph is definitely the most NFL-ready player of the entire XFL. He loves to create takeaways through the always-animated Gregg Williams. Coach Williams loves his takeaways as much as he loves his aggressive 4-3 blitzing scheme with man coverage. This can create one of two scenarios; sacks or Joseph’s incredible interceptions.

You also might want to take a double look when watching Joseph return a pick for a touchdown, as he likes to do his signature backflips in the end-zone.

The DB is second in the XFL in picks with four interceptions, and his longest one was a 41-yard pick six that included his signature end-zone backflip in a 34-28 win over McCarron and the St. Louis BattleHawks in week 3.

Joseph is kind of the Nadia Comaneci of the XFL with those Backflips. To me, every single one has been a “Perfect 10”.

D.C. Defenders (RB) Abram Smith (4) – @BramSmith_28@XFLDefenders/Twitter account


Abram Smith- (RB)

This guy is the Christian McCaffery of the XFL and I’m not joking when you watch his highlights. Whether it’s Jordan Ta’amu or D’Eriq King handing him the ball out of the shotgun, Smith always fights for that extra yard to pick up the first down.

He is also like a Marshawn Lynch or a Derrick Henry back where even 5 or 6 tacklers can’t bring him down. After that, he can break it 62 yards to the house, as he did against the BattleHawks in their last game.

Last week, Smith had 218 yards rushing, including a 70-yard TD run against McCarron and the BattleHawks. It is one of the reasons why the Defenders are the number-one rushing team in the XFL.

Smith leads the league in rushing with 432 yards on 84 carries and four touchdowns.

Houston Roughnecks

Jontre Kirklin- (WR)

The final NFL-ready player in the XFL, Kirklin is another small and speedy wide receiver who can play both outside and in the slot. With Silvers at QB, they have become a nice throwing-catching tandem that can be compared to Seattle’s DiNucci and Pearson duo.   Kirklin has great hands and can make swift moves after the catch that turn on the jets.

The versatile receiver currently has 253 yards on 15 receptions and four touchdowns including five of them being 20 yards or above. His longest touchdown of the season so far came in week 4 against the Orlando Guardians when he caught a 42 yard bomb from Silvers. The Roughnecks dominated the Guardians and won 44-16.

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