The San Diego Fleet just completed their first official week of practice in San Antonio, Texas.
While it is still relatively early, a lot has happened in the Fleet’s first week of practice that is worth noting. The Fleet appeared to be one of the best team’s in the entire Alliance of American Football league entering training camp, and this belief has been backed up thus far in practice.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest takeaways from the Fleet’s eventful first week:
Quarterback Competition Raves On
After the Fleet selected Josh Johnson with the first pick in the AAF quarterback draft, it was expected for him to be the team’s starter entering the season. This quickly changed when Johnson signed a contract with the Washington Redskins and played particularly well as the team’s starting quarterback for four games. While there is a chance that Johnson does return to the Fleet, it’s more likely that he does not and the team will have to move on from the idea of him being their starting quarterback.
Mike Bercovici was the next quarterback selected by the Fleet in the draft, and with Johnson likely finding his way onto an NFL roster, the former Arizona State Sun Devil was expected by most to earn the starting job.
While Bercovici has not played poorly in practice, another quarterback has been garnering most of the coaching staff and media’s attention. Alex Ross, the final player selected in the AAF draft, has done nothing but impress since practice began. He’s looked good in the pocket, on the run, and even made a fantastic deep throw to Kyle Lewis for a 40-yard touchdown in team drills.
This competition is not only an exciting one, but also something to really keep an eye on. Quarterback is the most important position on the entire field and the Fleet have two extremely talented players duking it out until someone ultimately prevails. In my quarterback preview, I named Alex Ross as a dark horse candidate to steal the starting job away from Josh Johnson, and now it appears he might do so to Mike Bercovici.
Bishop Sankey and Ja’Quon Gardner
The Fleet is going to have an extremely difficult decision when deciding which running backs they will keep come final roster cuts. Choosing from a very talented group will not be easy, but there is one player that is virtually a lock to make the team.
A former second-round pick by the Tennessee Titans, Bishop Sankey was a talented running back out of Washington that had his NFL career cut short due to several injuries. Sankey is looking to revitalize his football career with the Fleet and prove to NFL teams that he is capable of playing at that level.
Sankey has looked incredible in practice thus far. He’s running hard and has made some nice cuts in team drills. There is no doubt that, if he can stay healthy, Sankey will be one of the more impactful players throughout the season for the Fleet.
His injury concerns have appeared to resurface, however, as Sankey went down with a knee injury in practice this week. While the injury did not appear to be serious, the Fleet handled the situation very carefully and made Sankey sit out a few days before he could return. Thankfully, he practiced on Saturday and appears to have put this injury behind him.
With Bishop Sankey essentially locked into the starting role, all the other running backs on this roster will be competing for playing time behind him. Kyle Lewis and Paul James have impressed thus far, but Humboldt State’s Ja’Quon Gardner has been the most talked about running back since the team arrived in San Antonio.
Gardner is a carbon copy of Tarik Cohen to a lesser extent. He stands at 5’7″ and is extremely shifty, making it hard for defenders to wrap him up and bring him to the ground. Gardner has the height of a pass catching back, but the build of a power back with his 207-pound frame. For someone of his stature, Gardner hits holes hard and makes good cuts into open running lanes. He also excels as a pass catcher, making him a two-dimensional player out of the backfield.
If he continues to play like this, there is no doubt that Gardner will find his way onto this roster. At the moment, his role on the team is probably nothing more than a rotational running back that comes in on passing downs. Bishop Sankey’s injury concerns should be on every Fleet fans mind and if he was to go down, Gardner could step in and operate as the team’s primary back if he continues to play at this level.
Kameron Kelly Switches Positions
When the first official Fleet roster was released, I was extremely happy to see that former San Diego State star Kameron Kelly was going to be patrolling the secondary for the Fleet. He was the best defensive back on the roster entering training camp, in my opinion, and appeared to solidify that by his play earlier on in the week. Kelly recorded multiple interceptions and even returned one for a touchdown in team drills, all but securing his spot as the team’s best defensive back.
In a surprising move, however, head coach Mike Martz announced that Kameron Kelly would be moving over to the offensive side of the football and operating as the team’s “X” receiver.
Many people in the Fleet community were confused by this move. Kelly did originally enter college as a wide receiver, but was almost immediately transitioned into a safety role and hasn’t played wide receiver since his high school days. His versatility on defense cannot be ignored either, as Kelly can play both safety and cornerback at a high level. In what appeared to be a weak secondary, moving your best defensive back into a completely new role just did not seem like a good idea.
Mike Martz saw something in Kelly, and whatever that was has become apparent in the last few days. His transition to wide receiver has been a rather smooth one, as Martz has spoken highly of how well Kelly has become acclimated to his new position. Kelly’s route running has looked up to par and he has even made some impressive catches, most notably a 15-yard catch and a 20-yard toe-tapping grab in team drills. Kelly has also started to develop some sort of chemistry with his quarterbacks as reports coming out of camp have said that Kelly has been targeted a lot in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
Although he has looked impressive in his short stint as a wide receiver, it would be really hard for me to envision a world where Kameron Kelly only plays on offense. His talent and versatility on the defensive side of the football are too valuable to pass up on and I think that we may see him enter in on some packages. It will be extremely intriguing to see how this situation pans out for the remainder of camp.
The Fleet Defense Dominates
The San Diego Fleet defense had a lot of question marks going into training camps. Both the secondary and defensive line carried their own concerns and the only really strong position on this defense appeared to be the linebackers.
After just one week, some of these question marks are slowly getting erased as the Fleet’s defense absolutely dominated in their inaugural showing.
Multiple players have recorded interceptions in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, including a series where Travis Feeney and Jordan Martin had back-to-back interceptions on consecutive possessions. Former Syracuse defensive back Jude Adjei-Barimah also has an interception to his name and has been phenomenal in pass coverage. Jonathan Peterson, Na’im McGee, and Tyree Holder are some other players on this defense that had good weeks and are slowly starting to make names for themselves.
The Fleet have also found what appears to be their defensive cornerstone, as linebacker Travis Feeney showcased all of his talents this week. Feeney is an insane athlete, combining great speed with power and instincts that allow him to be the definition of a playmaker. The former Washington Husky looked really good in pass coverage, as he recorded an interception in team drills and held his own in other situations. Feeney also impressed on the ground, using his speed and tackling ability to make plays against the run. He has the makings of a complete linebacker and should be an impact player for this Fleet defense.
This section will simply detail each transaction that the Fleet made during this week. The Fleet was active this week in terms of transactions and I would expect them to continue to be. There are currently 71 players on the active roster, and that number must be down to 53 before January 31st. Here are the transactions the Fleet made this week:
Players signed: DE Damontre Moore, WR Brian Bowen, WR Shay Fields, WR Francis Owusu, OL Joe Gore
Players waived: WR Isaiah Burse, WR Wayne Capers Jr., OL Tylor King, OL Matt Cohen, WR Jordan Gandy, WR De’Quan Hampton, WR Darreus Rogers, OL Gerrad Kough, DE Brandon Hester