Cool Cats – Examining the Wildcats in 2020 and Beyond

The LA Wildcats of the XFL had themselves an interesting 2020 season to say the least. A 2-3 record, a true NFL journeyman at QB and a defense that went through some hurdles during the year. The Wildcats inaugural season was one for the history books in the revamped XFL. Below I’ll examine all of that and much more.

The Season started with a lopsided 37-17 loss to the Houston Roughnecks in week one. Two days after the loss, the Wildcats fired their Defensive Coordinator Pepper Johnson. The Wildcats went on to finish 2-2 in their final four games, in part to a more disciplined defense and quarterback Josh Johnson taking the reigns of the offense.

Players lost to the NFL:

Storm Norton – LA Chargers

Kahlil McKenzie – Cincinnati Bengals

Josh Johnson – San Francisco 49ers (Practice Squad)

Johnny Stanton – Cleveland Browns (Practice Squad)

Giorgio Tavecchio – Tennessee Titans (Practice Squad)

(Credit: CARSON, CA – FEBRUARY 16: Wide receiver Adonis Jennings #18 and offensive tackle Storm Norton #72 of the Los Angeles Wildcats block safety Tenny Adewusi #20 of the Dallas Renegades for wide receiver Kermit Whitfield #10 of the Los Angeles Wildcats as he gains a first down in the first half of the XFL game at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 16, 2020 in Carson, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Wildcats Players who Made an Impact:

Josh Johnson – 81 of 135, 1,078 Passing Yards, 11 Touchdowns, 2 Interceptions

Nelson Spruce – 20 catches, 256 Yards, 2 Touchdowns

Tre McBride – 16 Receptions, 271 Yards, 4 Touchdowns

Storm Norton – Highest graded Offensive Linemen according to PFF, 82.6 PFF Grade against the run

Ahmad Dixon – 44 combined Tackles, 1 Interception

Cedric Reed – 13 combined Tackles, 3 Sacks, 5 QB Hits

Jack Tocho – 18 Combined tackles, league leading 2 Forced Fumbles, 2 Interceptions

(Credit: CARSON, CA – FEBRUARY 23: Quarterback Johnson Josh #8 of the LA Wildcats gets set to throw a complete pass in the first quarter of the XFL game against the DC Defenders at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 23, 2020 in Carson, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Here’s what to Look Forward to:

Despite the LA Wildcats defense being below average, the offense was about as prolific as you could ask for. Quarterback Josh Johnson had the passing attack humming once he took over as the starter in week two. So much so that an NFL team expressed interest in signing the veteran thrower to a deal. The Wildcats denied the team’s attempt and Johnson thrived under Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow in 2020. Johnson finished as the top rated QB in the XFL in 2020 according to Pro Football Focus.

LA finished second in passing yards per game, points scored and touchdowns in 2020. Although the running game struggled, the Wildcats had no issues moving the ball and putting points on the board. The offense was successful in the Red Zone as well, scoring on 76.5% of their trips inside the 20. We know the defense played sub par, but, LA managed 12 takeaways, tied for first in all of the XFL. The Wildcats also boasted 11 sacks in 5 games. What does this all mean for 2022? Head coach Winston Moss and Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow have clearly figured out the XFL from an offensive standpoint. If this team can shore up the defense, the Wildcats could be a serious contender when XFL resumes action.

(Credit: EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – FEBRUARY 29: Head coach Winston Moss of the LA Wildcats looks on during the XFL game against the New York Guardians at MetLife Stadium on February 29, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rob Tringali/XFL via Getty Images)

Final Thoughts:

LA was the worst team in the league when running the football in 2020. 60.6 yards per game just won’t cut it. The Wildcats gave up the most average yards per game and allowed the most points this past season. Rectifying the defense should be priority number one as LA heads into 2022. Behind that, the field goal unit was the worst in the league, connecting on just 2 of 6 kicks in 2020. 4th down conversions saw the Wildcats coming out successful on just 3 of 9 attempts.

The Wildcats wrapped up their season with a 41-34 win over the Tampa Bay Vipers. Despite a 2-3 record before the 2020 season was cancelled dude to COVID-19, one couldn’t help but think LA was finally putting things together. As mentioned above, shoring up the defense and executing in key situations will be important in the growth of the Wildcats in 2022. If the team can correct these deficiencies, the Wildcats could easily be considered the best team in the XFL come 2022.

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