DC Defenders vs. San Antonio Brahmas | Week 1 UFL Preview

San Antonio Brahmas vs. DC Defenders | Week 1 Preview

What a time to be alive. Spring football fans, we have finally made it to week one of the 2024 UFL season. This has been a wild offseason, most notably consisting of the infamous, XFL-USFL league merger. Even with the league merger, Sunday’s featured matchup between the DC Defenders and San Antonio Brahmas may bring back some memories for XFL fans.

The two teams faced off last year in the regular season finale, ending with DC squeaking out with a 29-28 win at San Antonio.

Last year’s Brahmas team looked completely different though, as GM Marc Lillibridge has totally revamped San Antonio’s roster and coaching staff heading into this season. Wade Phillips replaces Hines Ward as head coach, also bringing in offensive coordinator AJ Smith. Phillips coached with Smith last year with the Houston Roughnecks, bringing along quite a few 2023 Houston players as well. The Brahmas will be keen on improving their 3-7 record from a year ago.

For DC, they return to the nation’s capital with a bulk of their roster from last season, headlined by QB1 Jordan Ta’amu. The Defenders finished 9-1 last season, eventually falling to the Arlington Renegades in the XFL Championship, 35-26. Head coach Reggie Barlow seems poised to lead his team to another championship run this season.

Quarterback Play

The Brahmas named Chase Garbers as the starter heading into week one, making the announcement earlier this week.

Garbers’ background isn’t super flashy, he signed with the Las Vegas Raiders as an UDFA following the 2022 NFL Draft. He remained with Vegas throughout 2022, but was released before this past NFL season. Garbers beat out Quinten Dormady and Tom Flacco for the starting job during training camp. Now, he leads San Antonio’s charge into week one alongside a few QB friendly options, with WR Jontre Kirklin and TE Cody Latimer.

Ta’amu Back With DC

As mentioned for DC, they enter the season with a higher level of comfort at the QB position than most teams in the league. Ta’amu is a seasoned veteran in spring football, and is heading into year two with OC Fred Kaiss’ RPO-heavy offense.

Ta’amu heavily leaned on RB Abram Smith last season, but will now be without his backfield mate as Smith will miss the season with a torn ACL.

Brahmas Playmakers vs. Defenders Secondary

On paper, this appears to be the matchup to watch on Sunday afternoon. San Antonio has a plethora of receiving options, led by WR Jontre Kirkin and TE Cody Latimer. Kirklin played for Wade Phillips in Houston last season, prior to his season ending injury in week five. In a short time, Kirklin made a tremendous impact on the league with highlight plays weekly.

Latimer is best classified as a hybrid tight end, as he officially made the transition from WR to TE last season for Orlando, and blossomed as a receiving threat. Latimer played on a struggling Guardians team last year that shuffled quarterbacks throughout, but that did not deter him from finishing with 50 receptions for 593 yards, and four touchdowns.

Alize Mack is another tight end to watch for San Antonio. Mack could end up playing more snaps than expected, due to his blocking pedigree as a true tight end. He also brings value as a receiving threat, especially in the red zone.

Shifting to DC’s secondary, they are led by returning CB Michael Joseph, who finished second in interceptions last season (4). He also returned half of those interceptions for a touchdown, a true playmaker on defense for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Defenders GM Von Hutchins also took the liberty of adding two former NFL first round draft picks, with Gareon Conley and Deandre Baker. Both Conley and Baker were listed on this week’s injury report for DC, but expect both to be available barring any significant setbacks.

The rest of DC’s cornerbacks room consists strictly of returning players from 2023, including Anthoula Kelly, Nydair Rouse, and Isaiah Johnson. The safeties are not much different, as they kept the group mainly the same with DJ Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, and Santos Ramirez. They also added former Vegas Vipers safety Deontay Anderson, who has reportedly impressed Defenders brass throughout training camp.

San Antonio Overlooked?

The San Antonio Brahmas are entering this season as the biggest underdogs, according to multiple sports betting sites across the globe. This week, they come in as 6-point home underdogs against DC, a surprising spread for a Wade Phillips led team.

While it’s tough to gain a feel for how teams will perform right now, San Antonio appears to be a team that can only come up from their previous 3-7 record and current status as the UFL’s biggest underdogs. If Phillips’ track record as an NFL and XFL head coach tells us anything, it’s that his team will consistently compete.

Final Thoughts

The Alamodome should be raucous for this week one clash between two XFL teams beginning their journey for a divisional crown, and UFL Championship trophy. The DC Defenders come in favored, with an upgraded defensive pass rush and majority of the returning roster that dominated the regular season last year. The competition will be different, no doubt, so how will DC adjust to a new league without top contributors from last season like Lucky Jackson, Chris Blair, and now Abram Smith?

This week should answer lots of questions for fans and media, generally concerning how the team’s depth charts shakeout after training camp.

The San Antonio Brahmas host the DC Defenders at the Alamodome on Sunday, March 31st. The game kicks off at 12pm ET on ESPN.

Full Roster Breakdowns: DC, San Antonio

What are your thoughts on this matchup between San Antonio and DC? Will the Defenders or Brahmas reign victorious? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!