SPEED DRILLING: 5 Observations from the Houston Roughnecks’ 44-16 annihilation of the Orlando Guardians

Feb 18, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; The Houston Roughnecks take the field before playing against the Orlando Guardians Houston Roughnecks at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

SPEED DRILLING: 5 Observations from the Houston Roughnecks’ 44-16 annihilation of the Orlando Guardians

Here are the five things that stood out the most during the Houston Roughnecks’ 44-16 beatdown of the Guardians in Orlando.

When the offense is hot, it’s really hot. When they’re not, they are ice cold. Brandon Silvers is hot and cold within every game, but he was red-hot in the first quarter, leading a pair of touchdown drives that helped the Roughnecks build a 20-0 lead. Silvers then had several pass completions for zero yards in the second quarter as Houston’s first three drives of the quarter went for three, three, and five plays, all resulting in punts. Houston began the second half with a pair of three-and-outs that generated a total of 11 yards. Silvers then connected on a 59-yard strike for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. When Silvers is sharp, the offense looks unstoppable, but when he’s misfiring, the Roughnecks struggle to get out of their own way. Through four games, he’s been sharp about half of the time. Silvers finished 24-for-30 for 239 yards and three touchdowns.

The defense continues to generate turnovers. Through four games, the Roughnecks are the best in the XFL at forcing turnovers. The Roughnecks recovered a pair of fumbles, leading to a defensive score and a touchdown drive. Another turnover forced by the Roughnecks was overturned when Will Likely’s interception was negated due to a defensive penalty for offsides. Houston also stuffed Orlando on a pair of fourth-down conversion attempts in the fourth quarter. While the offense continues to go through stretches of stagnation, the defense’s ability to take the ball away consistently has allowed the Roughnecks to overcome those issues.

Somebody get Garrett Owens the stickum. Owens is a terrific athlete and versatile player. Before the season, head coach Wade Phillips noted the mismatches he can create. The problem is he doesn’t catch the ball. He dropped both of his targets in this game, one while he was falling down and one that would have resulted in a big first-down conversion. He should be a much more impactful player, but he needs to hold onto the football.

Teams have no answers for the Roughnecks’ speed at receiver. Houston receivers consistently beat coverage, beat defenders deep, break double-teams, and generate big plays. Brandon Silvers doesn’t have to hold the ball long because his receivers get separation quickly. Houston had three different pass plays for more than 40 yards on Saturday. The Roughnecks were less concerned about players’ body types and sizes and more concerned about getting some of the fastest guys they could, and it has paid off. The Roughnecks rip explosive plays faster than other teams hit their breaks. Houston’s speed has proven to be its biggest offensive advantage.

Houston can survive offensively without Max Borghi. While it wouldn’t be the Roughnecks’ first preference, Dejoun Lee and Brycen Alleyne showed that they are capable of holding down the running back position. Houston doesn’t call many run plays, to begin with, but Lee and Alleyne made Orlando pay when it sold out in coverage and left only five in the box. Lee’s pair of touchdowns have him tied for the league lead at the moment. Dejoun Lee averaged 7.5 yards per carry as well. Borghi was the team’s top running back and a weapon out of the backfield as well, so the showing from Lee and Alleyne was important for the offense. Lee finished with six carries for 45 yards and two scores.

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