With the USFL’s inaugural game just a few days away, it’s a good time to start looking at the season as a whole. For the Tampa Bay Bandits, there’s a lot to be excited about. The team landed some great players in the draft, and with an experienced staff to help out along the way, the overall ceiling is very high. In order to understand how far the Bandits could go, we have to look at both the roster and their schedule before making any conclusions.
Tampa Bay’s offense has the potential to truly be one of the league’s best. Highlighted by former XFL star Jordan Ta’amu, the Bandits should be strongly focused on attacking defenses through the air. With seven receivers available to catch passes, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. Unproven running back BJ Emmons could add an unexpected burst to the ground game, complementing Ta’amu’s talented arm when necessary. On the offensive line, there are many XFL/CFL/TSL alumni making their next stop in Tampa Bay. Two of the most notable at the position are Juwann Bushell-Beatty and Bruno Reagan, the latter of which was a former teammate of Ta’amu.
While the defense may not be as powerful as the offense on paper, there is still plenty of upside to be found within this unit. Most of the focus can be directed on the secondary, where players such as Rannell Hall (former wide receiver) and Quenton Meeks (14 career NFL games) will look to force as many turnovers as possible. If the linebackers and edge rushers can live up to their previous hype, the Bandits will be very hard to stop on their quest for a championship.
Perhaps the most interesting positional competition for the Bandits will be with the kickers, one of the few competitions that will actually take place in the league as a whole. Currently, the team has two on the roster: Tyler Rausa and Brandon Wright. Rausa was a former kicker at Boise State, and after a few stints in the National Arena League (NAL), finally got his big break with the XFL’s DC Defenders. Wright, on the other hand, has the benefit of NFL experience, but only converted 1 of 2 extra point attempts in [meaningful] pro football games.
The Bandits’ should have the upper hand in a majority of their matchups, although some should be more entertaining than others given what history would tell us. Of course, there are the division rivals (Birmingham, Houston, and New Orleans), which Tampa Bay will take on a total of six times. Another showdown to put on the calendar is Bandits vs. Panthers in week 5, which will feature the first and second overall picks of the USFL draft (Shea Patterson and Jordan Ta’amu). Additionally, it will also mark a meeting between Todd Haley and Jeff Fisher, two coaches with long tenures in the NFL.
Once all is said and done, the Bandits should be at the top of their division as long as they avoid injuries. Even if there are still some unanswered questions with certain pieces of the team, a strong core is what will guide Tampa Bay to success. Fans should tune in for the first game on Sunday, April 17th, at 8 p.m. EST against the Pittsburgh Maulers, indulging in Bandit Ball for the first time since 1985!