The San Diego Fleet have just concluded their second week of practice as the team continues to prepare for the season opener on February 9th.
With the first-ever Alliance of American Football preseason games on the horizon, the Fleet has started to buckle down and there have been some signs on what the team could look like come opening day.
The Fleet did have its first joint practice of the season this week, as the team practiced with the Atlanta Legends on January 17th. The Fleet will play the Legends on January 27th in a preseason game and there was no media access available for this joint practice.
Let’s take a look at some of the notable things that occurred at Fleet practice this week.
AAF Announces Game times for the San Diego Fleet
While this is not necessarily something that happened in practice, it is still significant and did occur during the week. On January 14th, the Alliance of American Football league announced the scheduled game times for each team throughout the league.
The San Diego Fleet will play every single game at 5 PM Pacific Standard Time, with the March 24th game against the Arizona Hotshots being the only exception. That game will be played at Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona at 1 PM Pacific Standard Time.
It is not a coincidence that a West Coast team is playing the majority of their games in the time slot that the Fleet is, but it is worth noting that the Fleet will still play in the same time slot when they travel to the East Coast.
The AAF has not announced any sort of “prime time” games yet, but the Fleet’s game against the Atlanta Legends on February 17th and the April 6th game against the Orlando Apollos would be the most logical choices. Those three times are arguably the best teams in the league and the AAF would benefit the most from putting the best teams in the national spotlight.
A Growing Connection
In last weeks practice report, I mentioned the ongoing quarterback competition between Mike Bercovici and Alex Ross. I also touched on Kameron Kelly’s surprising transition from safety to wide receiver and how he could potentially have success in his new role.
The team’s second week of practice gave us some clarity on both of these situations and how they are unraveling.
Bercovici took the majority of the reps at quarterback in 11-on-11 drills this week and appears to have reclaimed his spot atop the depth chart. Some believed that Alex Ross may have surpassed Bercovici because of his play at practice last week, but it looks like head coach Mike Martz will stick with Bercovici as the signal caller.
This does not mean that this quarterback competition is over. To be completely honest, it is far from that. Alex Ross is a very talented player and could continue to challenge Bercovici with strong play. All it takes is a bad week of practice from Bercovici and Ross could surpass him for the starter. For now, however, it looks like Mike Bercovici will be the starting quarterback for the San Diego Fleet.
As for Kameron Kelly, his transition is going rather well. Martz and wide receiver’s coach Az-Zahir Hakim have both spoken highly of Kelly and his ability to learn the position on the fly. Kelly is slowly becoming a legitimate playmaker for the Fleet, as it seems like he constantly makes plays at every single practice. It would be extremely surprising if he is not towards the top of the Fleet’s depth chart.
The most intriguing part about both of these situations is that there seems to be a growing connection between Bercovici and Kelly. There were numerous different occasions where Bercovici connected with Kelly for both short and long completions and he targeted him several times as well. We haven’t really seen any of the quarterbacks establish a good connection with any of the receivers, but the writing is on the wall for this to be the first one.
A Bercovici-Kelly tandem has the potential to be absolutely lethal. Kelly has the size, speed, and athleticism to be a legitimate deep threat and Bercovici might have the best arm of any quarterback in this entire league. Pair those two together and the Fleet has a devastating duo in the making.
An Elite Front Seven
In last week’s report, I talked about the dominant week of practice that the Fleet secondary had. Not much has changed this week, as players like Na’im McGee, Tyree Holder, and Demetrius Wright all had great weeks and the unit as a whole was pretty solid.
With that being said, the Fleet’s front seven stole the show this week. This team has all the pieces in play to have a solid defensive unit. With an athletic linebacking core and an elite pass rush, the Fleet defense is going to terrorize some opposing offenses.
Eric Pinkins, Travis Feeney, and Frank Ginda all had fantastic weeks at practice and continue to earn high praise from Defensive Coordinator Larry Marmie and Linebackers coach Larry Macduff. All three of them headline a very deep linebacker group that may be the strongest position group on the entire team.
Pinkins, the oldest of the group, brings NFL experience and could be the leader of this defense. Ginda had a standout career at San Jose State University and might have gotten drafted had he not been hit by a car prior to his pro-day. He is an aggressive tackler that is known for being a hard hitter and should man the middle with Pinkins for the Fleet.
Unlike Pinkins and Ginda, Feeney is an outside linebacker that played his college ball at Washington. His calling card has always been his athleticism, as Feeney has 4.50 40-yard dash speed, good agility, and has elite strength. The former Washington Huskie uses his athletic tools to his advantage and should be one of the Fleet’s best pass rushers. He is an absolute wrecking ball and is the focal point of this defense in my opinion.
Moving away from the linebackers, the Fleet’s defensive line also impressed in practice this week. This is a sneakily underrated unit led by Alex Barrett, Damontre Moore, and Jonathan Peterson. All three of them impressed in 11-on-11 drills as well as individual drills, as defensive line coach Vince Amey spoke highly on all three of them. Each of these players should virtually be a lock to make the final roster and should be key contributors to the Fleet’s defense.
Moore is the heart and soul of this defensive line. He has the most experience of the bunch and is a very talented player. A former third-round pick by the New York Giants, Moore never amounted to much in the NFL and is looking to make a comeback. Joining him on the end is Jonathan Peterson, an extremely underrated player who left the University of San Diego as the FCS all-time sack leader. He was named a first-team All-American four times but constantly gets overlooked because of the competition he played against.
Barrett will slide inside for the Fleet and immediately give the team a physical presence up the middle. He was dominant in college with the Aztecs and was arguably the best defensive lineman in the Mountain West Conference for the majority of his college career. NFL scouts deemed Barrett to small to play at the next level, but his physicality and aggressiveness should translate well to the AAF.
Combine all of these players into one unit and you have the foundation for an elite defense. What once looked like a weakness for the Fleet is slowly turning into the team’s strength and it will be interesting to see how this holds out throughout the season.
The San Diego Fleet currently have 74 players on their active roster. With the January 31st roster deadline only 11 days away, expect to see a lot of cuts coming soon as the team takes its final shape.
Players signed: OG Ben Huss, DB Damarius Travis, P Ryan Winslow, DT Donte Wilkins
Players waived/lost: FB Daniel Marx