Houston Roughnecks vs. Arlington Renegades | Week 4 Preview

Houston Roughnecks vs. Arlington Renegades | Week 4 Preview

Week four in the UFL will wrap up on Sunday, with a lone matchup between the Houston Roughnecks and Arlington Renegades on FS1. These two winless teams are looking for something positive, so it’s fortunate for both that one of them is guaranteed to come away with a victory this weekend.

The Houston Roughnecks have been a disaster this season. Yes, they’ve been close in two of the three affairs – but, this team has done nothing to prove that they’re legitimate playoff contenders this year. Against Michigan, they were outmanned – and out coached – which was clear to anyone who watched the game.

Meanwhile, the Arlington Renegades are one of the best 0-3 teams we’ve seen in a spring league. The last two weeks they’ve lost by the skin of their teeth, which has no doubt frustrated this unit as they believe they should be one of the top XFL teams this year.

Let’s take a look at the major factors heading into this game – one that could save either team’s season, or effectively end it.

Quarterback Play

Luis Perez has been balling for the Arlington Renegades this season. He leads the entire UFL with 737 passing yards, dicing up defenses the past couple of weeks. Somehow, that has not resulted in wins, though.

His composure in the pocket has been quite impressive this year. Luis is a spring football veteran at this point, and has been playing some of the best football of his career. Given the Houston Roughnecks’ struggles in the secondary in 2024, Perez should be primed for another solid outing.

Reid Sinnett is no slouch, having put up some decent numbers over the past couple of weeks since filling in for Jarrett Guarantano. Is this offense better with Reid than Jarrett? Not exactly. Neither have been all that dazzling. That said, Sinnett has filled in nicely, and overall this unit has been running a bit smoother with him at the helm.

What Sinnett has done well is getting the ball out of his hands quickly. Throwing an array of slants and short passes to Emmanuel Butler, Justin Hall, and Keke Chism has helped this offense look a bit more competent compared to week one. Considering that Arlington is, statistically the worst defense in the UFL, Reid could be in for a career day.

That said, both teams are expected to utilize their backups. Lindsey Scott has been efficient in Arlington, displaying his speed in specific packages for the Renegades. On the other side, the Roughnecks will look to give some snaps to Nolan Henderson, who moves to QB2 with the injury to Guarantano.

Standout Playmakers

In Arlington, Tyler Vaughns has emerged as a clear WR1 in Chuck Long’s offense. He’s been a trustworthy target for Luis Perez, posting nine receptions for 109 yards in week three. He’s been targeted on 28% of Perez’ passes so far this year, and is someone to watch closely against an inconsistent Roughnecks secondary.

Tight End Sal Cannella has been relatively quiet this year, but has shown some sparks of life in weeks two and three. Hopefully, Arlington will look to get him more involved – it feels like this should be a game where he makes an impact.

Big news for Houston: Mark Thompson seems to be back. The USFL’s offensive player of the year in 2023 has returned from a knee sprain, and is poised to make his UFL debut this weekend. Thompson changes so much for the Roughnecks. Head Coach CJ Johnson has spoken time and time again about how important he is to this organization. Straight up, their offense revolves around what Mark can produce:

Look for Emmanuel Butler to continue to put up numbers, as he’s emerged as a legitimate target for Sinnett. Butler has played more snaps each and every week. Also, Justin Hall is due for a breakout game at some point. He recorded a score against Michigan, but he hasn’t been as involved as one would expect.

Can Either Defense Step Up?

If we’re being honest, both of these defenses have been rather underwhelming in the UFL this year. It’s hard to say which has been more discouraging.

Houston, according to PFF, is the sixth worst defense in the UFL. Their coverage grades have killed them, though, at 55.1 (7th). This was evident against Michigan. They’ll be missing Olive Sagapolu for the year, and Toby Johnson is also slated to miss some time with a knee injury.

Their secondary has gotten Kiondre Thomas back, who was suspended during training camp. Corn Elder has really been the only consistent playmaker in the second level, so hopefully Thomas and/or someone can step up for some support.

Arlington…where do we even start. Jay Hayes’ unit has been such a disappointment this season. They’re dead last in almost every defensive category. It’s a stark contrast from a year ago. Last year, it was this Renegades defense that allowed them to hang around just long enough to go on a playoff run late.

In the offseason, the Renegades opted to revamp their defense – especially their secondary.

So far, this hasn’t paid off in the slightest. Their coverage grade via PFF is dead last at 47.1, which is a massive decrease from last season in the XFL, where they held a respectable 79.4 grade in that category. They’re giving up 121 rushing yards a game – no other UFL team is allowing over 100 yards per game.

If Arlington doesn’t figure things out sooner than later, this season is over. Their vaunted defense from a season ago is a shell of its former self, which is quite concerning for a team trying to defend their Championship title.

Coaching Matchup

Houston Roughnecks | Curtis “CJ” Johnson: Curtis Johnson has had his struggles this year. Dating back to a season ago with the Gamblers, things haven’t been perfect by any means under his leadership. With Houston off to an 0-3 start – and plenty of mental mistakes along the way – something has got to give for this organization before they’re in too deep of a hole.

Johnson had some comments about Luis Perez and the challenges they’ll have slowing him down:

“I think he [Luis] is the best quarterback in this league. He leads the UFL in yards. He’s incredibly accurate, he knows who it’s getting to every time. Perez can also run with it just enough to hurt you. They have the longest time of possession, they have the most plays in the game, and they do a good job of keeping the defense off the field. Perez is a tremendous player who is doing everything for their team.”

Arlington Renegades | Bob Stoops: It’s been a frustrating season for the Oklahoma coaching legend. Stoops is still winless in 2024, which is surprising given the amount of talent this team rosters. Quite frankly, their inability to close out games has haunted Arlington all year long. For Big Game Bob, he needs to find a way to get this team to win a couple of these close matchups – otherwise, the big game won’t be happening this year.

Final Thoughts

This game, albeit featuring two 0-3 teams, should still be relatively entertaining. Both organizations know how important this one is – as mentioned previously, a loss here could effectively end either team’s season, especially given the high level of competition in the UFL this year.

Arlington feels like the favorite in this one, just given how close their losses have been. The Renegades are literally just two or three plays away from being a 2-1 team. If Perez keeps slinging the pigskin at this clip, it’s going to spell trouble for a Houston franchise that is still searching for its identity.

The Houston Roughnecks host the Arlington Renegades this Sunday, at 2pm ET on FS1.

Full roster breakdowns: Arlington, Houston

What are your thoughts on this upcoming matchup between the Arlington Renegades and Houston Roughnecks? Which UFL players will have to impress in order to get a win? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!