The San Diego Fleet placed Philip Nelson at the helm once again in a Week Three victory over the San Antonio Commanders. Nelson shook off an early interception, eventually leading his team to a 31-11 victory.
The Memphis Express also made a quarterback change in Week Three, though it didn’t come until the third quarter. Zach Mettenberger relieved the struggling Christian Hackenberg to start the second half. He also provided an aerial attack the Express has not had thus far. The Express fell to the Orlando Apollos 21-17 after attempting a comeback in the second half.
AAF Week Four Preview: San Diego Fleet at Memphis Express
San Diego Fleet (2-1)
The Fleet, like many teams in the Alliance of American Football, are still finding their offensive identity. After only one game with Mike Bercovici at quarterback, they opted to see what they had in Nelson. The end result was very positive, despite a shaky start in Week Three. His first pass attempt in that game was a long interception. Once he settled in, he delivered strike after strike from the pocket. Nelson finished with 193 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one long pick.
Running back Ja’Quan Gardner was bottled up for most of the first half. Unphased, the Fleet utilized Terrell Watson whose bruising style of downhill running kept the opposing defense on their toes. In the second half, Garnder plowed forward a highlight-reel-worthy 83-yard touchdown. Garnder’s 281 rushing yards currently lead the league.
The Fleet’s defensive unit is starting to gel and has some standout players. Shakir Soto‘s 2.5 sacks are currently good enough for third-best in the league. Ryan Moeller is tied for second in the league with his two interceptions.
As a unit, the Fleet are allowing just over 12 points-per-contest, which is second-best in the league.
Memphis Express (0-3)
The Express are not the train-wreck their record seems to indicate. Despite a shut-out in Week One, they’ve gone toe-to-toe with three of the top teams in the league. The Birmingham Iron that shut them out in Week One are currently undefeated. The Arizona Hotshots hold a 2-1 record. And the Apollos are also undefeated thus far.
With the change at quarterback, and it’s only rational that they would stick with Mettenberger moving forward, the Express are putting themselves in a position to notch that first victory. Mettenberger finished the Week Three game with 120 yards and two touchdowns. He very nearly led his team to a comeback in only one half of play. He’s not afraid to throw down-field and challenge defenses. His decisive arm talent will finally showcase some of their receivers raw talent.
Their running game has been fairly potent from Week One on. They are deep at the position with Zac Stacy, Terrence Magee, and recently acquired Sherman Badie. Stacy’s 188 rushing yards are currently second-best in the league. Badie may be an interesting back to watch, after leading the team in rushing yards in week three.
The Express defense can be both stifling and porous, sometimes within plays of each other. The defensive front is solid and their struggles seem to be from plain and simply being on the field for too long. DeMarquis Gates‘ 19 tackles are third-best in the league. However, they are currently allowing an average of over 22 points-per-game. Their defense needs time to breathe between series if they want to keep themselves in games.
Last Word on Fleet at Express
The Fleet’s defense is going to test both aspects of the Express offense. Teams learned early on that Hackenberg wasn’t going to challenge corners down the field. Mettenberger is poised to do exactly that. The Express offense is going to come out swinging, hungry to not only notch their first win but to do so on home turf. Both teams provide good defenses and quarterbacks on only their second starts, respectively. Expect a smash-mouth, ground and pound type of game to establish tempo early on. The team that controls the clock and pace of the game will come out on top.