Game Preview: St. Louis Battlehawks at D.C. Defenders , Sunday 28 April, 2024

  • St. Louis Battlehawks (3-1) at D.C. Defenders (2-2)
  • Sunday, Apr. 28, at 12:00 PM ET (11:00 PM CT)
  • Audi Field, Washington, D.C.
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and  Stubhub
  • Broadcaster: ESPN
  • Announcers: Kevin Kugler (Play-by-Play), Robert Smith (Analyst), and Brock Vereen (Sideline Reporter)

Injury Report/Depth Chart


The D.C. Defenders return home to Audi Field for their week five contest versus the St. Louis Battlehawks. 

Historically, the Defenders have played very well at home, with a 10-0 all-time record in games played at Audi Field. But this week’s game against the Battlehawks will arguably be the biggest home test yet for D.C., a team that has faced some adversity to begin the season. 

While the Battlehawks went 0-2 against the Defenders last XFL season, Anthony Becht’s squad has been rolling lately on a three-game winning streak. Both DC-STL matchups last year came down to one possession, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this one came down to the wire, either.

St. Louis Battlehawks

The season got off to a tough start for the Battlehawks with an 18-16 loss to the Panthers in week one, but St. Louis has seemingly gotten better and better in each game since.

Overall, veteran quarterback A.J. McCarron has gone 97-for 138 passing (70.3% completion rate) with 838 yards and eight touchdown passes through four games. A big part of his success can be attributed to his offensive line, which has looked good aside from a choppy start in week one.

McCarron’s protection has improved exponentially since the beginning of the season, allowing him to be sacked zero times last week for the first time this season. St. Louis currently has the highest-graded pass blocking on PFF (74.1).

McCarron’s pass-catching arsenal only makes things easier for him, as all he has to do is get it to receivers like Jahcour Pearson and Marcell Ateman, who can make defenders miss in open space. But McCarron is also great with intermediate and deep concepts. He has one of the best deep threats in the UFL in 2023 All-XFL wide receiver Hakeem Butler.

St. Louis’ offensive line has also been effective in creating holes for a rushing attack where former East Tennessee tailback Jacob Saylors has emerged as the lead-back. Saylors currently leads the Battlehawks in rushing yardage with 172 yards on 28 carries in only three games. Saylors’ touches will only increase with Mataeo Durant now on the Injured Reserve.

Meanwhile, the Battlehawks’ defensive unit has caught some slack with how well the offense has produced (303.2 yards per game, league-high 26.5 points per game). But don’t underestimate this defense, which is graded the third-best in the UFL with a 72.4 PFF grade and is full of playmakers like Willie Harvey, Qwynnterrio Cole, and 2023 XFL Defensive Player of the Year Pita Taumoepenu.

While D.C.’s offensive output has been solid so far this season, it hasn’t quite matched its 2023 status of being the best in the league. We will see how St. Louis fares against it.

D.C. Defenders

The Defenders are coming off a respectable effort in their 20-18 loss to the undefeated Stallions. The contest came down to the final seconds on a winning field goal from Birmingham’s kicker, Ramiz Ahmed.

In a game where weather conditions played a factor, the Defenders were able to depend on their run game – a good sign considering they were facing one of the better, if not the best, front sevens in the UFL. Tailbacks Cam’Ron Harris and Zaquandre White averaged 3.2 yards on 21 combined carries, while Jordan Ta’amu added four rushes for 24 yards in the contest.

There is no rain in the forecast for today’s noon kickoff. If the Defenders’ rushing attack can produce like it did last week while complementing the passing game, D.C. will be in a good spot from an offensive perspective. 

2023 XFL Offensive Player of the Year Jordan Ta’amu entered this season with an almost entirely new set of wide receivers. Expectedly, there have been some growing pains and chemistry issues with this. But the passing attack has seemingly only gotten better on a weekly basis as Ta’amu has figured out his favorite targets.

Keke Coutee and Kelvin Harmon are both wide receivers to watch for the Defenders. Each has at least one full season of NFL experience. If they get going early, the Battlehawks could be in trouble.

Defensively, D.C. allowed 356 offensive yards against the Stallions last week, a high figure. But the Defenders forced two fumbles at the goal line and forced two field goals in the red zone, which was enough to keep them in the game. 

If the Defenders are going to let the high-powered Battlehawks’ offense get drives going, Gregg Williams’ unit will at least need to hold strong and make plays in the red zone as it did last week.

Final Thoughts

It’s a redemption season for both of these teams in a way. The Battlehawks went 7-3 last XFL season yet didn’t make the playoffs, while the 4-6 Renegades clinched a spot due to their seeding in the XFL South. Ironically, Arlington, a team many said didn’t even deserve to be in the playoffs, defeated heavily favored D.C. in the XFL Championship.

As mentioned, the Battlehawks went 0-2 against the Defenders last season. I’m sure Head Coach Anthony Becht will use this as fuel going into a huge XFL Conference clash.

I’m confident this game will be a good one, as this matchup has historically been. Audi Field always has a great game-day atmosphere, and today will be no different.

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