Taking a Look at Fleet’s New Starting Quarterback Philip Nelson

Credit: 247 Sports

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Credit: AAF

The San Diego Fleet lost their first ever game to the San Antonio Commanders by a score of 15-6.

A myriad of things contributed to this loss, but the quarterback play for the Fleet was certainly one of the major issues.

I want to preface this article by saying that the Fleet’s offensive line does have some responsibility for the poor play of Mike Bercovici. He was sacked six times by the Commanders and seemed to be under pressure for almost the entire game. Bercovici had almost no time to throw the ball and this forced him to get the ball out quickly to avoid getting sacked, which directly translated to poor reads and turnovers.

Putting the poor offensive line play aside, Mike Bercovici is simply not ready to be the starting quarterback for the San Diego Fleet. He completed 15 of his 25 passes for 176 yards and no touchdowns but also threw two interceptions. One of these interceptions was an underthrown pass into double coverage that had no chance of getting caught by his receiver, while the other one was thrown a little behind tight end Gavin Escobar.

A nine-minute drive by the Commanders that resulted in a field goal ultimately led to a much-needed quarterback change for the Fleet. Philip Nelson took over for a struggling Bercovici with four minutes left in the game. Even though his play did not translate into a Fleet victory, Nelson showed enough comfort and promise to be named the week two starter by head coach Mike Martz. With that being said, let’s take an in-depth look at the San Diego Fleet’s new starting quarterback, Philip Nelson.

Nelson completed 5 of his 10 pass attempts against the Commanders for 68 yards and one interception. He also ran the ball three times for twenty yards. Down below is a play-by-play breakdown of each offensive play that Philip Nelson was a part of on Saturday for the Fleet:

Plays: First Drive

  1. 1st and 10 False Start on RT Terry Poole
  2. 1st and 15 Completion to TE 89 Gavin Escobar (clean pocket)
  3. 2nd and 7 Incompletion but Offside Penalty on Jayrone Elliott makes it 2nd and 2
  4. 2nd and 2 Completion to WR Dontez Ford (under pressure)
  5. 1st and 10 Ran for 1 yard (under pressure)
  6. 2nd and 9 Ran for 8 yards (ran to the right)
  7. 3rd and 1 Incompletion to WR Francis Owusu (clean pocket)
  8. 4th and 1 Paul James runs for no gain but a flag on TE Gavin Escobar makes it 4th and 6
  9. 4th and 6 Completion to WR Brian Brown for the first down (clean pocket)
  10. 1st and 10 Completion to WR Brian Brown (under pressure) (brought them into the red zone)
  11. 1st and 10 (red zone play) Interception intended for Nelson Spruce (clean pocket) (underthrown)

Plays: Second Drive

  1. 1st and 10 Ran for 10 yards (first down) (under pressure) (run up the middle)
  2. 1st and 10 Incompletion to WR Brian Brown but an offside penalty on San Antonio makes it 1st and five
  3. 1st and 5 Incompletion to WR Nelson Spruce (under pressure)
  4. 2nd and 5 delay of game penalty on Fleet makes it 2nd and 15
  5. 2nd and 15 Completion to WR Kam Kelly makes it 3rd and 10 (under pressure)
  6. 3rd and 10 Incompletion (clean pocket)

The biggest takeaway from this game, for Philip Nelson at least, should be how calm and relaxed he looked under center. The atmosphere and situation did not seem to bother him at all and he proceeded to drive the Fleet all the way down the field, giving the team a chance to win the game.

One thing that surprised me from Nelson’s play was his completion percentage under pressure vs. his completion percentage with a clean pocket. Quarterbacks typically complete more passes when they are not under pressure, but this was not the case on Saturday for Nelson. He completed three of his four passes under pressure, while only completing two of his six passes in a clean pocket.

This is more likely than not a statistical anomaly, but it is something to keep an eye on. A quarterback that can throw accurately under pressure is very valuable, especially in the situation that the Fleet is currently in. Their offensive line is not good in pass protection and if Nelson can hold his own under pressure, this Fleet offense will only benefit from it.

Credit: SD Fleet

Nelson played well for the majority of the time that he was in the game. He showcased his sneaky good athleticism, showing comfort running out of the pocket and extending plays with his legs. He did run a 4.80 40-yard dash in 2016 and is probably the most mobile quarterback on this Fleet roster.

The interception that he threw, which essentially ended the game, was not entirely his fault. It was a good read, as wide receiver Nelson Spruce was open on the fade in the back corner of the end zone. He did underthrow that pass a little bit but defensive back Zack Sanchez made a ridiculous play on the ball and snagged it out of mid-air. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that he is a safer bet with the football in his hands than Mike Bercovici.

Formulating an opinion on Philip Nelson based off one game would be ill-advised and something I just simply won’t do. While his college numbers aren’t very impressive, a deep look into the tape shows more promise than one would think.

The table below shows Philip Nelson’s career college stats. He started his collegiate career out at the University of Minnesota, where he would play as a true freshman and take over the starting job as a sophomore. After Nelson was, allegedly, not guaranteed the starting job for his junior season, he decided to transfer to Rutgers and compete for the starting job there. Unfortunately, Nelson was kicked off the team after he was charged with two counts of assault for his involvement in a bar fight. He would walk on at East Carolina University and would be the Pirates starting quarterback in his only season with the team.


Games Played

Completion %

Rushing Yards

Passing Yards

Total Touchdowns










East Carolina







Taking a deep look at Philip Nelson’s collegiate stats would reveal that he doesn’t appear to be anything special on paper. His passing numbers at Minnesota are average at best, with a below-average completion percentage and a touchdown rate of only 1.2 per game. Nelson’s rushing totals do suggest some sneaky good athleticism and his play on Saturday supports that statement as well. He has no problem moving out of the pocket and using his legs to get some extra yards.

The East Carolina version of Philip Nelson was a tad bit different. The passing numbers improve significantly, as his completion percentage increased by almost 20 and he threw for more yards in fewer games as well. While the rushing yards were significantly lower than when he was at Minnesota, Nelson is still a good athlete that can do some damage with his legs.

Credit: SD Fleet

His inconsistency as a passer is the clear-cut biggest knock on him. His college numbers alone show that there appear to be two versions of Philip Nelson and that it is unknown which one will show every weekend.

My analysis of Philip Nelson is simple: a good athlete who is at his best when he is a game-manager and lacks the ability to win you games with his arm. He will not succeed at airing the ball out on every drive and getting that “home run” type of play. Instead, Nelson is going to go through his progressions and throw the ball to the safer option.

At the current moment, the Fleet are in better hands with Philip Nelson under center than Mike Bercovici. While Bercovici is a better scheme fit, he is just simply not ready to be a starting quarterback right now. Nelson is familiar with the system and just seems to be more comfortable under center. It will be interesting to see how he plays against the Atlanta Legends this Sunday night.

1 thought on “Taking a Look at Fleet’s New Starting Quarterback Philip Nelson

  1. Diego,
    Unfortunately, the outcome of The Fleet’s 1st game was not a win, but there is still hope.
    With better protection and better progressive reads by our QB’s, we will prevail.
    I’m sending you a link to a quarterfinal FCS game to chew on:
    My grandson, Alex Ross was the quarterback for Coastal Carolina in this game. (played 3 quarters with a separated right shoulder)
    Carson Wentz ( Now QB for The Philadelphia Eagles) was North Dakota State’s QB.
    NDSU won 39 to 32 final but it was a classic.
    Hoping Alex will get his game time chance soon.
    Bud Ross

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