AAF Recap: Philip Nelson Starts, Wins 31-11 at Home vs. San Antonio Commanders

Philip Nelson
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: Philip Nelson #9 of the San Diego Fleet avoids a sack by Arthur Miley #93 of the San Antonio Commanders during the first half of an Alliance of American Football game at SDCCU Stadium on February 24, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/AAF/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Commanders and the San Diego Fleet squared off in Week One in San Antonio, and the Commanders took that contest convincingly in a defensive battle. This week, the Fleet played a strong offensive game on the arm of Philip Nelson and the feet of Ja’Quan Gardner and Terrell Watson and won the rematch 31-11.

Takeaways from Week Three Commanders vs. Fleet Rematch

Nelson is the right choice for San Diego

Philip Nelson flung a deep interception on the very first play from scrimmage in this one but was able to shake it off and settle in. Nelson was able to stand in the pocket and deliver all throughout the first half, even as the Commander’s pressure bore down on him. The Fleet’s new starter struggled when plays began to break down as the San Antonio secondary smothered receivers and prevented Nelson from extending plays with his feet. Nonetheless, Nelson showed that he can get through his progressions quickly and find open receivers from the pocket when necessary.

Nelson has provided a spark that this San Diego team was missing with Mike Bercovici at the helm.

The Fleet have their own Zoom & Boom

Last week, Ja’Quan Gardner tore up the Atlanta Legends on the ground. This week, it was Terrell Watson’s turn. When Gardner’s number was called, the Commanders had his number and stifled him in the first half, but Watson was able to run downhill and keep the stalwart San Antonio defensive line on its heels. Watson bullied the Commanders over and over, alleviating some of the pressure on Nelson to deliver and contributing to the quarterback’s ease on the field.

In the second half, Gardner exploded on a blazing 83-yard rush for a touchdown. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram may have the NFL’s handle on Zoom & Boom, but Gardner and Watson might just be their mirror image.

The Commanders lack QB consistency and RB identity

Logan Woodside started the game off with a gorgeous bomb to Mekale McKay on his first possession, but shortly threw a pair of interceptions in the first half and failed to find his rhythm during the game. Marquise Williams made an appearance in the first half, but his athleticism and ability to run the ball didn’t make up for his poor decision-making skills, and Woodside reappeared in short order.

The offensive line was unable to protect Woodside enough for him to deliver the throws he’s proven to deliver, and he took more than his fair share of lethal hits. Woodside’s accuracy wavered, and he threw a heavy handful of targets too high for his talented receivers to pull down.

Williams reappeared midway through the fourth quarter but again chose to move the ball on the ground and inside the numbers when quick passes to the outside were a necessity. The UNC product threw a dart to Josh Stewart but then drastically overthrew a wide open receiver streaking to the end zone on the very next play.

Kenneth Farrow was successful early on, but the Fleet dialed in and slowed it down enough for the Commanders to make not one, but two, changes at running back. Trey Williams saw his first action of the season for the Commanders today and saw some success running on the perimeter.

But the three-man rotation including David Cobb isn’t helping the Commanders establish an identity in the running game, and if Woodside keeps playing like he did today, the Commanders offense is going to keep stalling out. Cobb hasn’t contributed much to the offense so far this season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the speedy Williams emerged in the coming weeks as the light-footed complement to Farrow.

Quick Hits from SA Commanders vs. SD Fleet

  • The Commanders passed on Luis Perez and Trevor Knight to protect Dustin Vaughan in the AAF’s Protect or Pass QB Draft, and Vaughan’s absence despite the quarterback struggles makes that decision seem especially bad.
  • Lack of discipline did the Commanders no favors today. At one point, the Commanders faced 1st and 30 on what looked to be a promising drive because of penalties and missteps.
  • The Commanders came into this game as the best third-down offense in the league.
  • A.J. Tarpley, who was responsible for a pick-six and ____ tackles, and Ryan Moeller, who had two passes tipped and an interception, are forces to be reckoned with on the Fleet defense.
  • Gardner’s 83-yard rushing touchdown is the longest scoring play in AAF history.
  • Keep an eye on Nelson Spruce as the season continues and the Fleet offense keeps improving.

The Commanders will go on the road to face the Birmingham Iron and their stout, undefeated defense next week. The Fleet, now tied with the Arizona Hotshots for first place in the West, take on the Memphis Express in week three.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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