AAF Week Two Preview: Orlando Apollos at San Antonio Commanders

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Apollos Commanders
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Garrett Gilbert #3 of Orlando Apollos is pursued by J.T. Jones #91 of Atlanta Legends during the third quarter on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF/Getty Images)

The Alliance of American Football had a fantastic debut and now looks to build on their strong start with another round of great games. Week Two pits two undefeated teams together in the Orlando Apollos and the San Antonio Commanders. Orlando is coming off a monstrous 40-6 victory, while the Commanders edged out the San Diego Fleet in a 15-6 defensive slugfest. Which team has the edge in this AAF Week Two showdown?

Orlando Apollos at San Antonio Commanders: AAF Week Two Preview

When the Apollos Throw It

The Orlando Apollos have to feel comfortable about having Garrett Gilbert under center. The former Carolina Panthers passer played a smart, efficient game in Week One’s blowout victory. While he wasn’t asked to do much as a thrower, Gilbert still managed to finish his night with 227 passing yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Additionally, Gilbert displayed his impressive athleticism by hauling in a five-yard touchdown pass.

The Apollos passing game is led by wide receivers Charles Johnson and Jalin Marshall. Johnson actually put together some impressive NFL tape as a rookie, recording 31 receptions for 475 yards and two touchdowns back in 2014. While he never managed to build on that promising campaign, stopping him should be the Commanders’ top priority in Week Two. Complementing him is 23-year old Jalin Marshall. While Marshall is clearly second on the depth chart, he showed an ability to make plays during Week One’s action. At the end of the day, Marshall recorded five receptions for 50 yards to go along with the first touchdown in AAF history.

Part of the reason the Apollos passing attack looked so good in Week One is that the Legends roster is absolutely atrocious. Orlando won’t have the same luck, as San Antonio has quite a few capable playmakers. Back in Week One, San Antonio’s defense recorded six sacks and three interceptions. Linebacker Shaun Washington recorded two of the six sacks, and Zack Sanchez had the play of the game with a fantastic endzone interception. Throwing the pass won’t be as easy as last week, but the Apollos should still find a decent passing attack.

When the Commanders Throw It

Logan Woodside did not have the same sterling debut as Gilbert. A seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Toledo product struggled throughout his AAF debut, completing just 50% of his passes for 255 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. It wasn’t all bad though, as Woodside made a few nice throws and showed some promise. With any luck, Week One’s struggles were just due to unfamiliarity with his targets. Woodside has decent arm talent and the Commanders will need him to improve over the course of the season.

San Antonio has a trio of promising receivers in Mekale McKay, Greg Ward Jr., and Alonzo Moore. McKay and Ward appear to be the favorite targets, as the duo combined for 21 of Woodside’s 36 targets. Both players finished Week One with five catches, with McKay recording 80 yards and Ward Jr. finishing with 65 yards. Moore could take on a bigger role in Week Two, as he finished with 78 yards on three receptions, including a 46-yard reception. With Woodside’s early inconsistency, the offense could look to Moore to pick up chunk yardage.

It’s hard to know exactly how good Orlando’s pass defense is, simply because Matt Simms and Aaron Murray were genuinely atrocious in the Week One blowout. The Apollo’s pass rush constantly won at the point of attack, consistently applying pressure to the quarterback. Linebacker Terence Gavin recorded two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. All in all, this defense looked like one of the best in the league in Week One. Whether that was due to genuine talent or just the complete incompetence of the Legends is to be determined.

When the Apollos Run It

Orlando did whatever they wanted against the Atlanta Legends, and that carried over into the run game. Akeem Hunt took the majority of the carries, turning his 10 rushing attempts into 73 yards. Backup D’Ernest Johnson performed well when given the rock, recording 35 yards on five carries. While he only recorded 2.6 yards-per-carry, De’Veon Smith recorded Atlanta’s lone rushing touchdown in Week One and could be in line for goal-line carries.

San Antonio’s pass defense was impressive in Week One, but they struggled to stop the run. The Commanders allowed a cumulative 99 rushing yards on 16 carries while lead running back Ja’Quan Gardner averaged 6.9 yards-per-carry. Orlando should have the upper hand here and could try to turn this into a run-heavy affair.

When the Commanders Run It

Kenneth Farrow II saw the majority of the Week One carries, but that’s unlikely to carry into Week Two. Farrow recorded a team-high 14 carries, but averaged just 2.6 yards-per-carry and finished his night with 37 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Green was significantly more efficient, recording 43 yards on six carries. Even former Tennessee Titans running back David Cobb looked good in limited opportunity, recording nine carries for 36 yards. Look for a changing of the guard in San Antonio’s backfield.

Orlando, unsurprisingly, shut down the Legends rushing attack in Week One. Legends running back Tarean Folston recorded just 32 carries on 12 carries as Orlando’s defensive line constantly closed running lanes. San Antonio should have a bit more success, but Orlando’s front seven shouldn’t be easy to run on.

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