With their first ever game just a few days away, the San Diego Fleet are steadily preparing for their matchup against the San Antonio Commanders.
An official depth chart was released earlier in the week, and to nobody’s surprise, Mike Bercovici has been named the Fleet’s starting quarterback for this Saturday’s game.
The former Arizona State Sun Devil is surely an intriguing prospect. Despite only standing at somewhere around six feet tall, Bercovici might have the best pure arm in the entire Alliance of American Football league. He is the definition of a gunslinger, as he loves to throw the football down the field.
On top of being able to air it out, he also has some zip to his arm. The ball comes out of his hand at a good rate and has some heat to it. He doesn’t shy away from pressure and is willing to take a hit in order to make a good throw. Bercovici is not a great athlete, but he isn’t a bad one, and is very capable of extending a play with his legs.
With that being said, however, there are a lot of question marks surrounding his game. For someone whose calling card is his arm strength, Bercovici’s deep-ball accuracy is fairly inconsistent. In college, he only completed 25% of his pass attempts that went further than 20 yards, which is obviously not ideal.
Even though Bercovici does not shy away from pressure, he struggles when he is actually hit. He fumbled 11 times in 2015 with the Sun Devils, which is concerning when taking into consideration the struggles of the Fleet offensive line against the Orlando Apollos. Bercovici is turnover-prone in general, as he often forces throws to receivers that are simply just not open. This is the biggest negative on Bercovici as he tries to do too much at times instead of just taking the easy completion or throwing the ball away.
All of this was on display in the Fleet’s preseason game against the Orlando Apollos. Bercovici started the game and completed 22 of his 31 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown. His lone touchdown was an impressive 30-yard throw to Francis Owusu, showing off not only his arm, but the touch he can put on a deep pass. He also completed 25-yard passes to both Gavin Escobar and Dontez Ford.
Other than a few solid throws, however, Bercovici struggled mightily against this Apollos defense.
It should be noted that he did spend the majority of the game under pressure, as the Apollos defense racked up seven sacks on him and made it difficult to throw with a clean pocket for the majority of the game. This should be taken into consideration when evaluating his play, but Bercovici does deserve a good portion of the blame.
Bercovici was intercepted three times in this preseason game, one of which was on a deep pass to wide receiver Kameron Kelly. He also fumbled the ball four times and two of them were recovered by the Apollos.
Bercovici’s biggest flaw was on full display, as he essentially handed a victory to the Apollos. They would end up scoring touchdowns on two of his four turnovers, which would prove to be enough to secure a 31-28 victory for them over the Fleet.
Now, the question must be asked, is there still a quarterback competition brewing within the Fleet? The answer is, at the current moment, yes.
Bercovici will be given every opportunity possible to keep a stronghold on his starting job. He fits the system that head coach Mike Martz runs perfectly because of his willingness and ability to consistently throw the football deep. If he does start to turn the ball over at a high rate, however, Martz will have no choice but to replace this ideal scheme fit with someone that can win the Fleet games.
This is where Alex Ross, a player who continues to be criminally underrated, comes into play.
In my opinion, Ross is the better quarterback of the two. While Bercovici might have MVP-caliber upside, he has a very low floor. Alex Ross, on the other hand, does not have a very high ceiling but has a high floor. He is the safer pick of the two at the moment.
Ross saw a fair amount of playing time in the Fleet’s preseason game against the Apollos. He completed 14 of his 17 passing attempts for 131 yards and two touchdowns, while also successfully completing a two-point conversion. Ross entered the game at the beginning of the third quarter with the Fleet only having six points on the board.
Ross would go on to lead the Fleet to three scoring drives, essentially bringing them back into the game. He did not turn the ball over once and did not fumble when he was sacked by the Apollos. The fact of the matter is that Alex Ross gave the Fleet a chance to win that game, while Mike Bercovici put them in a position to not succeed.
A preseason game should not determine who the starting quarterback of a football team is, especially when both of these players are excellent talents. The Fleet is in a very solid position with their quarterbacks even after losing the first-overall pick, Josh Johnson, to the NFL. However, to say that this position and situation should not continue to be evaluated is a tad bit ignorant.
For the time being, Mike Bercovici will continue to be the starting quarterback for the San Diego Fleet and will be given all the opportunity in the world to hold onto his job. However, if his turnover issues continue, don’t be surprised to see Alex Ross take over that role.