DC Defenders vs. Houston Roughnecks | Week 2 Preview

DC Defenders vs. Houston Roughnecks | Week 2 Preview

Sunday’s slate of week two UFL action wraps up with the Houston Roughnecks (0-1) visiting the DC Defenders (0-1) at Audi Field for the home opener.

Both teams are coming off of week one games where neither led at any point of their matchup. The Defenders lost to the San Antonio Brahmas, 27-12. Then the Roughnecks followed DC’s performance last Sunday by falling to the Showboats, 18-12. On offense, neither team was able to move the ball efficiently as they tied for the least amount of points scored in the UFL during week one (12).

Let’s take a further look at the key factors, and discuss what we can expect.

Quarterback Play

The Roughnecks started QB Jarrett Guarantano to open the season against Memphis. Guarantano finished with the highest completion percentage (76.2%) in the league last week, after passing 16/21 for 158 yards against Memphis. Guarantano also added 22 rushing yards and a QB-sneak touchdown last week.

Houston’s backup quarterback, Reid Sinnett, made a brief appearance for the Roughnecks in last week’s loss. Sinnett went 0/1 before Guarantano checked back in.

Ta’amu Searching For Balance

Through one week, Defenders QB Jordan Ta’amu leads the UFL in passing yards, after throwing for 235 yards at San Antonio.

The underlying issue? Ta’amu threw 45 pass attempts to get there. Ta’amu was also sacked a league-high four times on Sunday afternoon. Defenders OC Fred Kaiss must find a balance this week, and improve the run-game against Houston.

Ta’amu spoke to media earlier this week about improving the rushing attack:

Standout Playmakers

Starting with the Houston Roughnecks, last week the playmaking on offense was few and far between. Houston was without All-USFL RB Mark Thompson last week vs. Memphis, and it appears that will be the case again against DC this week, as Thompson has yet to log any participation at practice.

Behind Thompson, TJ Pledger has emerged as the top option at running back for Houston. Pledger’s performance last week was forgettable, as he finished with six carries for 14 yards (2.3 YPC).

The top receiving options for Curtis Johnson’s offense are Kirk Merritt, Anthony Ratliff-Williams, and Isiah Hennie. Merritt led the way last week for Houston, finishing with four receptions for 34 yards. Merritt has the ability to line up all over the field for Houston’s offense, expect him to be involved early and often in this matchup.

On defense for Houston, their defensive line is the best positional group on the roster as they are loaded with talent highlighted by Toby Johnson and Olive Sagapolu at defensive tackle. The pair of disruptors caused havoc last week against Memphis, and made quite a few plays that kept Houston in the game. Any opposing offensive line this season will have their hands full with those monsters of men.

Shifting to the DC Defenders, WR Ty Scott was a vital piece to the minimal success they had on offense against the Brahmas. Scott currently leads the team and UFL in receiving yards, with 87 yards on just four catches after week one.

Defenders RB Cam’Ron Harris will look to improve his performance from week one, after finishing with eight carries for 20 yards (2.5 YPC). According to HC Reggie Barlow, RB Darius Hagans is expected to be active this week for DC after he was a healthy scratch last week. The Virginia State product should provide something on the ground that neither Cam’Ron Harris or Pooka Williams can do.

Speaking of Pooka Williams, Pooka appears poised for a big play on special teams any time he touches the ball. Not saying it happens this week, but do not move from your seat whenever he is on the field for DC.

Players to Watch

Houston Roughnecks

ILB Reuben Foster: If you watched Houston’s game last week vs. Memphis, you saw the dynamic range, speed, and overall “dog-mentality” that Reuben Foster plays with. The Roughnecks star linebacker led the team in tackles last week with seven (one TFL), and also snagged the team’s only interception on QB Case Cookus. Foster left the game briefly last week, but returned and was not listed on this week’s injury report. He’s good to go.

DC Defenders

DE Trent Harris: Former Roughneck Trent Harris is my player to watch this week, after a disappointing debut against San Antonio in week one. Harris led the XFL in sacks last season for Houston, and should be in a prime opportunity this week to gather his first sack of the new season against his former team. DE Andre Mintze, who saw a similar snap count as Harris last week, missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practice earlier this week with a right hamstring injury. His game status is uncertain, but it’s safe to assume Harris will see the bulk of snaps against Houston’s offensive line this week.

Final Thoughts

Falling to 0-2 in a ten game regular season can be a difficult hole for any UFL team to climb out of. Both Houston and DC’s offenses are in dire need of improved performances, especially after struggling mightily to move the ball on the ground in week one. This cross-conference clash may come down to whichever team scores 20 points first.

The DC Defenders vs. Houston Roughnecks kicks off at Audi Field on April 7th, at 4pm ET on FOX.

Full Roster Breakdowns: DC, Houston

What are your thoughts on this matchup between the Houston Roughnecks and DC Defenders? Which players will make an impact? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!