We are officially 2 weeks away from the end of the 2023 XFL Season. Where does each specialist rank? Let's discuss that;
First, some housekeeping. As the season draws to an end, I'm running into a couple of small issues I'd like to discuss. I've had some issues with my editing software and therefore was unable to create/collect any highlights last week. This leads to 2 things; I will link the 4 complete game highlights from the XFL Youtube channel so that you can still scrub through them to find the special teams' standouts if you would like to.
Moving forward, I will not collect highlights unless I am watching a game live. With the start of the 2023 USFL Season, the workload has already doubled for the next month or so and I just won't have the time to watch each game for the specific highlights I usually find. Let's move on to the Week 8 Power Rankings!
Let's discuss how each of the Kickers performed with a look at my (un)Official Week 8 XFL Kicker Power Rankings;
John Parker Romo (SA) continued to show why he is the best kicker in the XFL. He was 3/3 on field goal attempts for the Brahmas this week. He started the night with an easy 26-yard field goal and then followed it up with a 42-yarder that was straight down the middle. What impressed the XFL community was his longest field goal that came after a 9-play, 44-yard drive. With just 3 seconds left on the game clock, Romo rushed out onto the field and was good on a 49-yard field goal that sent the Brahmas and Roughnecks into overtime. Unfortunately, the Brahmas were unable to capitalize on Romo's performance.
Dominik Eberle (SEA) will remain in the Second Position this week after completing his only field goal from 29 yards out. While both Eberle and Romo have the same number of field goal attempts and makes, Romo has completed more field goals from 40+ yards and will edge out Eberle. Dominik is still extremely consistent and has only missed 1 field goal on the year.
Taylor Russolino (ARL) rounds out the Top 3 with a perfect week. He went 2/2 on his field goal attempts this week with a long of 31 yards.
Matthew McCrane (DC) did not attempt any field goals this week but did manage to jump into the Fourth Position due to the new addition of 2 kickers this week who cannot rely on their earlier performances like McCrane can.
Austin Jones (HOU) will replace an injured Hunter Duplessis for the Roughnecks. He excelled in his single opportunity from 41 yards out. While I am glad Austin was able to perform well, we need more data before we can say how well he performed as a replacement. That being said, the Houston Roughnecks have attempted the least amount of field goals on the season and Jones may not get too many more chances to show how he has improved from his days in the USFL
José Borregales (ORL) will jump into the Sixth Position after yet another perfect week. He completed his only field goal attempt from 24 yards out.
Donny Hageman (STL) will slide down one Position in the Power Rankings this week after going ½ on field goals. He was good from 34 yards out but missed a 47-yard field goal early in the night. While Hageman has shown he has the ability to make extremely long field goals (He holds the record for the longest field goal in the XFL at 59 yards), he has had consistency issues, missing a league-high 5 field goal attempts.
Sam Sloman (VGS) will unfortunately not have the performance we wanted to see out of him this week after going 1/2 on field goals in his first professional game. His first attempt was an easy 23-yard field goal but when he attempted his second field goal from 43 yards out, he ended up missing. While this is not the start Vipers fans were looking for when Sloman was signed, I expect Vegas to let him play out the rest of the season and become more confident as their starting kicker. I will wait until the end of the season to pass any judgment on Sloman.
Let's discuss how each of the Punters performed with a look at my (un)Official Week 8 XFL Punter Power Rankings;
Daniel Whelan (DC) will jump into the First Position this week after punting 3 times for an average of 46 yards and 40.3 net yards per punt. He had 1 punt travel over 50 yards and had 2 of his 3 punts land inside the 20-yard line (66.6%!). This will boost his Inside-the-20-yard line season percentage to 40%, which is super impressive. Whelan also leads the XFL in Fair Catch Percentage with 24% of his punts resulting in a Fair Catch. He has also been extremely disciplined in terms of punts resulting in touchbacks and punts travelling out of bounds, of which he only has two.
Brad Wing (SA) punted 4 times for an average of 53.5 yards and 31.3 net yards per punt but continues to struggle with another 2 punts resulting in touchbacks. While Wing has led the XFL in terms of average yards per punt for several weeks, he has had 5 punts result in touchbacks in the past 3 weeks. This, paired with the fact that Whelan has a higher Inside 20-yard line percentage, will ultimately be the cause of his slide.
Race Porter (HOU) punted 5 times this week for an average of 36.2 yards and 36.2 net yards per punt as he continued to show why he is one of the XFL's most precise punters. 60% of his punts pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line, which brings him to 15 on the season. This means that overall, 40.5% of his punts are remaining inside the 20-yard line. This is more than 14% higher than the league average and what's more, is that Porter has punted more than almost every other punter! He is performing extremely well over a large volume of punts and deserves to be in the Top 3.
Mac Brown (ORL) came into the league in Week 3, saw the level of his competition and rose to meet it almost immediately. This week he punted 3 times for an average of 40 yards and 42.7 yards per punt. Impressively, all 3 of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line. In addition to this, Brown had 1 punt land inside the 10-yard line, 1 punt travel over 50 yards and 2 punts that resulted in fair catches. His skill set is reminiscent of Whelan/Porter's ability to pin opponents deep with a mix of Wing/King's ability to kick 50+ yard bombs.
Marquette King (ARL) had a bounce-back week, punting 4 times for an average of 47.8 yards and 40 net yards per punt. 2 of those punts were over 50 yards, which is where King really shines, as he leads the league in this category (13 punts over 50+ yards). I would like to see fewer touchbacks and more punts remaining inside the 20-yard line, especially in the XFL where that statistic is weighed much higher.
Sterling Hofrichter (STL) punted 2 times for an average of 40.5 yards and 39.5 net yards per punt. One of those punts was downed at the 8-yard line. Hofrichter did have an opportunity that no other punter received this week when St. Louis pulled off a fake punt where Hofrichter's pass went all the way to the house for a touchdown!
Michael Carrizosa (VGS) punted 3 times this week for an average of 44.3 yards and 20 net yards per punt. While he did have 1 punt travel over 50 yards, he also had 2 that resulted in touchbacks, which is what is keeping him from climbing in the Power Rankings. He will need to clean some things up in the next 2 weeks.
Cameron Nizialek (SEA) punted 5 times for an average of 42.2 yards and 38.2 net yards this week. He managed to have 1 punt that resulted in a fair catch inside the 20-yard line and another that was over 50 yards. Unfortunately, Nizialek has also struggled with penalties, with 2 more punts resulting in touchbacks this week.
There was quite a bit of movement for kickoff specialists this week as two new kickers joined the competition. Overall, specialists kicked off 32 times for an average of 62.6 yards per attempt. We saw a season-low 6 kickoffs remain inside the 25-yard line and 2 Major Touchbacks. Let's discuss how each of the Kickoff Specialists performed with a look at my (un)Official Week 8 XFL Kickoff Power Rankings;
Donny Hageman (STL) will remain in the top position after kicking off 3 times for an average of 61.7 yards per attempt. While he did have 1 kickoff result in a Major Touchback, it was his first penalty all season long and will not impact his Ranking.
John Parker Romo (SA) will jump into the second position. He kicked off 3 times for an average of 61.3 yards per attempt. Despite not having the highest number of kickoffs remaining inside the 25-yard line or any Minor Touchbacks, Romo is one of the least penalized specialists in the XFL.
Dominik Eberle (SEA) will round out the Top 3 after kicking off 5 times for an impressive average of 65 yards per attempt. He had 1 kickoff remaining inside the 25-yard line. With Duplessis on the Reserve List, Eberle now leads the XFL's kickoff specialists with 13 kickoffs remaining inside the 25-yard line.
José Borregales (ORL) will climb into the Fourth Position after kicking off 3 times for an average of 67 yards per attempt. He had 1 kickoff remain inside the 25-yard line but unfortunately also had 1 kickoff result in a Major Touchback.
Taylor Russolino (ARL) kicked off 5 times for an average of 63.4 yards per attempt. He had 1 kickoff remain inside the 20-yard line this week.
Sam Sloman (VGS) kicked off for the Las Vegas Vipers this week in his XFL debut. He kicked off 4 times for an average of 60.8 yards and had 1 kickoff remain inside the 25-yard line. He did not accrue any penalties
Austin Jones (HOU) had some big shoes to fill as he replaces Hunter Duplessis. He kicked off 4 times for an average of just 55.3 yards per attempt. Despite averaging the least yards per kickoff, he managed to keep 1 of his kickoffs inside the 25-yard line.
Matthew McCrane (DC) kicked off 6 times for an average of 65.2 yards per attempt. He slides into Eighth Position since he has been penalized more than any other kickoff specialist in the XFL
Kickoff Return Specialists
Kickoff Return Specialists were able to field 34 kickoffs for a total of 726 yards, an average of 21.4 yards per attempt. They had 4 kickoff returns that travelled over 30 yards with a long of 44 yards. Let's discuss how each of the Kickoff Return Specialists performed with a look at my (un)Official Week 8 XFL Kickoff Return Power Rankings;
Darrius Shepherd (STL) returned 4 kickoffs for 72 yards, an average of 18 yards per return. He had a long of 27 yards.
Dejoun Lee (HOU) returned 4 kickoffs for 100 yards, an average of 25 yards per return. He had an impressive, 41-yard return this week, which brings his total to 6 returns over 30 yards on the year!
Fred Brown (SA) returned 4 kickoffs for 51 yards, an average of 12.8 yards per return. His long was 27 yards. He will round out the Top 3.
Cinque Sweeting (VGS) returned 2 kickoffs for 51 yards, an average of 25.5 yards per return. He has a long of 44 yards, which was the longest return we saw all week. Vegas also saw Mathew Sextion return 1 kickoff for 17 yards.
Kelvin McKnight (SEA) returned 6 kickoffs for 135 yards, an average of 22.5 yards per return. He had no returns over 30 yards but had a long of 27 yards.
Deddrick Thomas (ORL) returned 4 kickoffs for 88 yards, an average of 22.2 yards per return, with a long of 27 yards. Orlando also had K.D. Cannon returns his first kickoff for 30 yards. I think Deddrick Thomas will remain their main returner for kickoffs.
Brandon Smith (DC) returned 5 kickoffs for 114 yards, an average of 22.8 yards per return. In his second week filling in for an injured Jaquez Ezzard, Smith had 1 return that really stood out; a 37-yarder. I want to see more volume for Smith before I move him in the Power Rankings.
Leddie Brown (ARL) returned 1 kickoff for 22 yards this week. We also saw Rannell Hall return 2 kickoffs for 46 yards, an average of 23 yards per return.
Punt Return Specialists
During Week 8, specialists returned 16 punts for a total of 85 yards. We only saw 1 return over 15 yards and had 2 fumbles. Let's discuss how each of the Punt Return Specialists performed with a look at my (un)Official Week 8 XFL Punt Return Power Rankings;
Will Likely (HOU) did not return any punts this week but remains Houston's best punt returner. Travell Harris returned 2 punts for 19 yards, an average of 9.5 yards a return.
Joe Powell (ARL) returned 1 punt this week but fumbled the ball and lost 8 yards on the return. This is not great for Powell, but his previous performances will bail him out just this once.
Justin Rogers (ORL) continues to perform well as the Guardian's main punt returner. This week he returned 3 punts for 28 yards and had this week's longest return of 16 yards.
Kelvin McKnight (SEA) returned 3 punts for 17 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per return. Mcknight had a long of just 6 yards this week.
Matthew Sexton (VGS) drops into the Fifth Position after returning 2 punts for just 7 yards this week, an average of just 3.5 yards per return.
Terrell Bonds (SA) slides into the Sixth Position after returning 1 punt for 0 yards. He should've signalled for a fair catch here.
Josh Hammond (DC) did not return any punts this week but is still my choice for punt returner if Ezzard is out with an injury. We saw Pooka Williams return 2 punts for 8 yards, an average of 4 yards per punt return.
Austin Proehl (STL) returned 1 punt for 3 yards this week. I'm not sure the Proehl experiment is working out for St. Louis. I would like to see another player get a chance to return a punt or two in the coming weeks.
Coverage teams played well this week, averaging just 5.3 yards allowed on punt returns and 21.4 yards allowed on kickoff returns. There where, however, an increase in penalties across the board, with teams receiving a season-high 20 flags. Let's discuss how each of the Cover Teams performed with a look at my (un)Official Week 8 XFL Coverage Team Power Rankings;
The St. Louis Battlehawks will jump into the First Position this week after allowing just 7 yards on 2 punt returns (3.5 average yards allowed) and 68 yards on 3 kickoff returns (22.7 average yards allowed). They only received 1 penalty this week and are tied for the least number of penalties received league-wide.
The Las Vegas Vipers slide into the Second Position this week but it was not due to my prediction last week. They performed well, allowing just 3 yards on 1 punt return and 72 yards on 4 kickoff returns (18 average yards allowed). Unfortunately, they received 4 penalties which is what forced them out of the First Position.
The Seattle Sea Dragons allowed 8 yards on 2 punt returns (4 average yards allowed) and 114 yards on 5 kickoff returns (22.8 average yards allowed). They did not receive any penalties this week. The Dragons continue to be the only team who can consistently block punts and field goals, which will keep them in the Top 3.
The San Antonio Brahmas allowed 19 yards on 2 punt returns (9.5 average yards allowed) and 100 yards on 4 kickoff returns (25 average yards allowed). They received a season-high 3 penalties this week but will remain in the Fourth Position due to how well they've limited returns in the past.
The D.C. Defenders allowed 17 yards on 3 punt returns (5.7 average yards allowed) and 135 yards on 6 kickoff returns (22.5 average yards allowed). While they have given up the most yards per kickoff return, the Defenders have also given up the least number of yards on punt returns, which will boost them into the Fifth Position
The Houston Roughnecks allowed 11 yards on 2 punt returns (5.5 average yards allowed) and 51 yards on 4 kickoff returns (12.8 average yards allowed). They will fall into the Sixth Position after receiving 6 penalties this week. The Roughnecks have accrued more flags on special teams than any other team in the XFL.
The Arlington Renegades allowed 28 yards on 3 punt returns (9.3 average yards allowed) and 118 yards on 5 kickoff returns (23.6 average yards allowed). They received 2 penalties this week.
The Orlando Guardians played well this week, and seem to be figuring things out on coverage teams. They actually allowed -8 yards on 1 punt return and only allowed 68 yards on 3 kickoff returns (22.7 average yards allowed).
As you come to the end of this article, I hope that you have found it informative and engaging.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work.