The DC Defenders announced their initial 52-man roster for the XFL’s inaugural season Monday, and it includes a few names that should be familiar to Washington Redskins fans.
Receivers Simmie Cobbs and Rashad Ross both made the first roster ahead of the Defenders’ season opener Feb. 8 against the Seattle Dragons.
The Defenders claimed Cobbs after another XFL club, the Dallas Renegades, cut him at the end of training camp. Despite the cut, reports indicated that Cobbs had a very good showing during camp.
Cobbs signed with the Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and became a fan favorite, but spent much of the regular season on their practice squad. The New Orleans Saints signed him off their practice squad in December of that year, prompting then-coach Jay Gruden to tell the “Redskins Talk” podcast, “In hindsight, I probably should have activated him sooner.”
After Cobbs’ first practice with the Defenders on Monday at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, in the shadow of FedEx Field, Cobbs said he didn’t know he had so many fans in Washington.
“It’s definitely a cool thing,” Cobbs said, before nodding in the direction of the stadium and adding, “It’s right there in my face, so it’s definitely motivating even more now. I’m just here trying to take it one day at a time and just keep getting better.”
Ross, on the other hand, bounced around the NFL for years and had two stints in Washington. He played 20 games for the Redskins between 2014 and 2016, scoring a receiving touchdown and a kick return touchdown in 2015.
Last year, Ross played for the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football, which folded before the end of its first season.
The Defenders swapped receiver Tre McBride to acquire Ross from the Los Angeles Wildcats earlier this month. Ross is from California and said he was looking forward at first to being close to his grandmother after his father died of cancer last year.
“At first when I first got traded I didn’t understand it … But when I found out I got traded to D.C., I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going back to my second home,’” Ross said. “The fans really loved me out here when I was with Washington. And (coach Pep Hamilton) and my teammates, when I first came in they opened up with open arms. Now I’m just enjoying it, and I’m happy everything happened.”
Wide receiver might be the Defenders’ position of greatest strength. In addition to Ross and Cobbs, they also have Eli Rogers, who played three seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Eighteen Defenders players have played in at least one NFL game, including former Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Matt Elam and six-year NFL veteran Shamarko Thomas, who are both safeties.
Cardale Jones, best known for leading Ohio State to the 2014 college football title after the two quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart went down with injuries, is expected to be DC’s starter under center.
The Defenders will host the first game of the new iteration of the XFL, Vince McMahon’s alternative football league played one season in 2001. The game will be played at Audi Field and broadcast nationally on ABC.
The full roster can be found here.
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