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What Houston Roughnecks Week 1 snap count tells us about the depth chart

We have our baseline of information for assessing the XFL. Week 1 is a wrap and we can consider snap counts and performances to prepare for Week 2.

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Houston Roughnecks running back James Butler runs the ball against the Los Angeles Wildcats during the third quarter in a XFL football game at TDECU Stadium. Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Roughnecks put together a dominant second half to run away with a 37-17 win over the Los Angeles Wildcats in their XFL season opener on Saturday. It was a back-and-forth game in the first half, with Houston taking an 18-17 lead into the third quarter. Houston quarterback P.J. Walker threw a short touchdown in the third quarter, and Houston added ten more points in the fourth quarter to win handily.

Earlier in the week, the eight XFL teams released their Week 1 depth charts. In the NFL, the PR departments emphasize the depth charts are unofficial and don’t necessarily reflect what Sunday will show us. It’s not a big deal most of the time because we have a lot of history on these players and teams.

In the XFL, we have no such history. These teams were thrown together over the past two months, and so the depth chart is all we have to work with in assessing who is worthwhile in daily fantasy football and who will impact the point spread.

Now that Week 1 is a wrap, we can start to assess where the depth charts were accurate. Pro Football Focus has tracked the snap counts for the XFL, so we have a good starting point. We can compare Houston’s pregame depth chart with their snap count to figure out what to consider for Week 2.

Offense

The biggest name of note is running back James Butler. The Roughnecks listed him as their kick returner, and nothing else. However, he ended up getting the starting running back role against LA. He finished with 44 snaps and the next back wasn’t even close. Andre Williams was the backup running back, but only played eight snaps. Butler finished with nine carries for 30 yards and a touchdown, and caught two targets for 20 yards and a touchdown.

Houston’s head coach is June Jones, so it is no surprise they spent much of the day throwing the ball. The team’s running backs had 12 carries, while P.J. Walker completed 23 of 39 passing attempts. Walker was the leading DFS option in Week 1 and it’s safe to say people will be jumping on that bandwagon in Week 2.

Defense

The big change on defense from the depth chart saw some adjustments to the secondary. Marqueston Huff and Cody Brown were listed as the backup safety positions, but they actually started. Deatrick Nichols was listed as the starting strong safety, but instead spent most of the game as a slot cornerback.