This past Leap Day, Saturday February 29th, the St. Louis Battle Hawks continued there high octane offensive outputs with a 23-16 victory over the visiting Seattle Dragons. The Dragons cut it close, turning a 14-point hole in a 4 point deficit with a quarterback switch and red-zone TD from B.J Daniels to tight end Evan Rodriquez. Despite Daniels’ 100 yards and touchdown Battle Hawks’ kicker Taylor Russolino notched a late game 58-yard field goal to seal the deal.
Now we examine where St. Louis excelled on Saturday. It starts with quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who is solidifying himself as a star in the XFL. The Old Miss product posted 74% completion (20/27 passing), 264 passing yards and a touchdown to wide-out Demournay Peirson-El, as well as showing off his scrambling capabilities with 64 yards rushing. Ta’amu looked especially comfortable in the pocket (even with edge pressure coming off his blindside in St. Louis’ second drive of the first quarter), delivered the ball accurately and read defenses well. This was shown indubitably in play-action where he bit linebackers off the middle as they flowed to the flats at his will. Another standout performance came from aforementioned wide receiver Demournay Pierson-El, who caused match-up problems, catching 5 balls for 71 yards. He had an easy time creating separation against Seattle’s man coverage sets as well as looking fast in the open field.
The Battle Hawks win did not come perfectly as they squandered that early 14 point lead and although they recovered let’s take a look at what went wrong with the defense in the second half and more importantly, how it can be improved in Week 5. Whilst Ta’amu did an excellent job drawing Seattle defenders off their spot, B.J Daniels did so to St. Louis defenders. Three separate examples in chronological order show us here. First, a Kenneth Farrow touchdown on a goal line draw concept where the linebackers flowed to the weak side and created an open lane in the C-gap for Farrow to walk into the end-zone. Second, on the next drive, a play very similar to what worked for Ta’amu earlier, an RPO where the front-7 of the Battle Hawks flowed right, leaving a 1 on 1 match-up in open space for wide-out Alonzo Moore. Thirdly, B.J Daniels’ score to tight end Evan Rodriguez didn’t come without confusion in Battle Hawks coverage as Rodriguez’s crossing route created a mismatch with a linebacker over the middle. Whilst their upcoming opponent the DC Defenders ranked third to last in total offense, their quarterback is one of the most seasoned and technical in the XFL and will capitalize on any opportunities given to him throughout the course of the game and can make strong, accurate throws because of his size.
The St. Louis Battle Hawks travel to D.C to defend their East Division crown on Sunday, March 8 (3:00 e.t on FS1)
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