The time has finally come.
With their first-ever football game less than two weeks away, the team has trimmed what was once a full roster down to only 53 people. While this roster does not account for those who have been designated to the injured reserve list, the Fleet will travel to San Antonio with those that they choose to hang on to.
One thing to keep in mind is that these final rosters are not set. Injuries can and will occur, forcing the Fleet to send players to the injured reserve list and pick players up off the waiver wire.
With one of the most talented rosters in the entire league, however, the Fleet look poised to have a successful opening season.
Let’s take a look at who made it past the roster crunch:
On the roster: Mike Bercovici, Alex Ross, Philip Nelson
To nobody’s surprise, the Fleet maintained all three quarterbacks that they had in camp. The most notable news from this group is that Josh Johnson, the first overall selection in the AAF’s first ever quarterback draft, has been officially left off the roster. Johnson is still technically under contract with the Washington Redskins and will not be playing with the Fleet this season.
With that being said, Mike Bercovici is probably going to be the starter against San Antonio. He attempted 31 of 47 passes in the Fleet’s rehearsal game against the Apollos and has also taken the majority of reps in practice. Alex Ross will likely operate as his backup, and Philip Nelson will be the third-string quarterback. As a whole, the Fleet has a pretty talented quarterback trio that should be amongst the best in the entire league.
On the roster: Ja’Quon Gardner, Paul James, Terrell Watson
Not on the roster: Bishop Sankey, Jahad Thomas
The most notable and important news coming out from the running back position is that Bishop Sankey has not been listed on the Fleet’s final roster. It’s very unlikely that Sankey was actually cut and the AAF announced yesterday that players can receive an injury designation and still be apart of their respective teams. Sankey did appear on the Fleet’s injury report yesterday and it is likely that the team has just given him an injury designation.
As for recently acquired Jahad Thomas, I actually felt like he had a fairly good chance of making the team. His skill set fits a traditional third-down back in the NFL nowadays and I felt that Thomas added a dimension to this team that they did not have. Unfortunately, Thomas did not make it past the cuts and he is no longer on the team.
The running back situation is interesting but also slightly confusing. Without Bishop Sankey, Terrell Watson and Ja’Quon Gardner will likely split touches in the backfield. Both impressed in the rehearsal game against the Apollos and both of them had very positive things said about them in the team’s daily practice reports. If Sankey does return, it’s likely that Paul James would be released and that the team would keep just three running backs.
On the roster: Brian Brown, Dontez Ford, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Kameron Kelly, Nelson Spruce, Francis Owusu
Off the roster: Gary McKnight Jr., Kyle Lewis, Shay Fields
The wide receiver position for the Fleet looks very different from when the team arrived in San Antonio for training camp. Two players that were signed during camp (Brown and Owusu), one player that switched positions (Kelly), and two players that not many people had making the roster (Ford and Gonzalez), will be a part of the Fleet’s receiving corps this season. Spruce is the only player on this list that I had making the roster, and this should be an interesting positional group going forward.
A strong final week of practice from LaQuvionte Gonzalez probably solidified his spot on the team. He was the star of training camp in week three and that appeared to be enough for him to sneak onto the roster. As for Dontez Ford, a strong showing against the Apollos locked up his spot. Ford caught all 11 of his targets for 100+ yards and looked to be a favorite of Mike Bercovici.
The wide receivers that did not make the roster are a tad bit surprising. Gary McKnight and Kyle Lewis were both solid players that impressed in practice and gave the team legitimate vertical threats. In my opinion, McKnight is one of the more talented and underrated receivers in the entire league. Letting a player like that go does not make sense to me, but Martz did what he believes is in the best interest for the team. Just like the running back position, it is going to be interesting to see how this group performs as a unit for the duration of the season.
On the roster: Gavin Escobar, Marcus Baugh, Ben Johnson
Off the roster: Aaron Peck
It’s a little surprising that the Fleet elected to keep three tight ends instead of two, but the position as a whole is one of the better units the team has to offer. Escobar should be the opening day starter, as he is the most experienced of the bunch and could honestly be one of the better tight ends in the league. Baugh is a great athlete that is a legitimate goal-line threat and can hold his own in the trenches, while Ben Johnson may be the best overall tight end on this team. The Fleet have themselves a special group of tight ends.
As for Aaron Peck, he did not really have a solid chance of making this roster in the first place. A converted wide receiver, Peck is still learning how to play the tight end position. There is no denying that he is a good player, but those who made the roster are just simply better than him.
On the roster: Jeremiah Kolone
Off the roster: Khaliel Rodgers
The Fleet elected to only keep one center on their roster, but the fact that Kolone made it over Rodgers is quite surprising. Rodgers is a better overall player, in my opinion, and he was the favorite to be the starter all training camp. Kolone did take a lot of reps at center against the Apollos and he should hold his own at the position, but Rodgers just seemed to be a better fit.
On the roster: Chris Gonzalez, Darrell Greene, Damien Mama, John Mentelus
Off the roster: Ben Huss
The biggest reason the Fleet lost to the Apollos in their dress rehearsal was their offensive line play. The unit as a whole surrendered seven sacks to the Apollos front seven and forced Mike Bercovici to throw under pressure for a good part of the game. Sure, the Apollos have a very talented front seven, but the unit as a whole needs to do a better job protecting whoever is under center for the Fleet.
When looking at the offensive guards for the Fleet, the position as a whole is pretty good. Damien Mama is an absolute mauler and could be the best offensive lineman on the entire team. Chris Gonzalez and Darrell Greene are both fairly good run blockers, with John Mentelus being just a depth piece. Mama is a virtual lock to start, but the other guard position is up in the air.
In my opinion, the one guard to not make this roster was either John Mentelus or Ben Huss. It was a toss-up as to who would make the roster and Mike Martz believed that Mentelus was a better fit.
One interesting thing to note is that, with the Fleet only having one center on their roster, some of these guards may see some time at center if Kolone goes down at some point.
On the roster: Beau Nunn, Brett Boyko, Daniel Brunskill, Brandon Hodges, Terry Poole
Off the roster: Joe Gore
Every single player that was listed as an offensive tackle, except for Joe Gore, ended up making the roster. Not all of them are still playing the tackle position. Kolone is now at center and Mentelus is playing guard, but the Fleet clearly value their offensive tackles.
When I did my offensive tackle breakdown, the one player I really focused on was Beau Nunn. Originally listed as an offensive guard, Nunn was a standout tackle in college and was arguably the best pass-protector in the country at one point. He should be one of the starting tackles for the Fleet this season and could be a pivotal piece for protecting Mike Bercovici.
Daniel Brunskill was a late addition to the roster, but ended up making the roster anyway. He is an experienced tackle that was a staple for San Diego State in his college days. Terry Poole saw a lot of playing time against the Apollos in the dress rehearsal game and Brandon Hodges is a very physical run blocker. Brett Boyko has the prototypical size of an NFL left tackle, standing at 6’7″ and weighing in at about 310 pounds.
The Fleet has a talented unit protecting Mike Bercovici on the outside that just needs time to gel together and get used to each other. This offensive line is way better than it showed against the Apollos, and that should show throughout the season.
PAGE 2 LINK BELOW