Every matchup in a 10 game season is important. But games against opponents in a conference where everyone is still in it double in importance.
Week in and week out, the Salt Lake Stallions have been praised for being better than their record. And while that may be warranted, they now sit at 1-3 after four weeks and are in last place in the West. Josh Woodrum has played consistently well, totaling 442 yards on a 64% completion rate. But that hasn’t materialized into points. He’s only thrown two touchdowns and the Stallions are sixth in scoring with 16.2 points per game. The Stallions are going to have to find ways into the endzone if they want to prove that Salt Lake is indeed better than their record.
Salt Lake is traveling to San Diego to face off against the Fleet, who is coming off of a loss to the Memphis Express.
San Diego hasn’t been able to stay healthy. They lost Philip Nelson and Damien Mama last week and A.J. Tarpley is still struggling with a back injury he got in Week Three. Damontre Moore is coming back, but injuries aren’t the only problem this team faces. San Diego has a -11 turnover differential. They have turned the ball over way too much and while the defense ranks third in points allowed, they have had to deal with short fields all season. The Fleet are going to have to change this trend if they plan to make it anywhere close to the playoffs this year.
In the West, every game is important as every team is within earshot of a playoff position. The Stallions look to catch up with the rest of the herd while the Fleet will try to take the number one position in the Western Conference.
- Dontez Ford and other wide receivers need to get open quick and often
One thing the Stallions excel at is the ability to get pressure on quarterbacks. Karter Schult has had a league-leading four sacks and has excelled at getting his hands on the quarterbacks, leading the league with 26 total pressures. Terry Poole, the Fleet’s starting left tackle, is going to have his hands full while dealing with him.
But Schult is eventually going to get pressure on Mike Bercovici, and if no one is open quickly Bercovici will probably get sacked. That’s where wide receivers like Dontez Ford and Nelson Spruce come in. These guys need to get open consistently if the Fleet want to have a chance at moving the football. And while Nelson Spruce and Dontez Ford have shown a limited ability to do that, guys like Brian Brown and Francis Owusu will have to step up during Saturday’s game. Quarterbacks that are under pressure don’t always make the best throws, and unless the receivers he is throwing to can get open quickly those plays can turn into interceptions or sacks. And The Fleet cannot have that if they want to win.
- The Fleet Need to pressure Josh Woodrum consistently
The Stallions have given up nine sacks this season, and the Fleet need to increase that number if they want to win on Saturday. Woodrum excels in a clean pocket. When given time, he can tear apart a defense.
The Fleet struggled with pressure last week after losing Damontre Moore. They only had one sack and couldn’t consistently pressure Zach Mettenberger. The Fleet proceeded to give up big plays in the passing game and struggled to force incompletions, as Mettenberger completed 18 of his 25 passes. If San Diego can pressure the quarterback and stop the Stallions passing game, the Stallions will have to rely on their rushing attack, which San Diego can stop.
- San Diego has to win the turnover battle
In their two losses, the Fleet has turned the ball over more than three times. In fact, turnovers have been a running problem for San Diego. They have turned the ball over at least once in every game this season. They have thrown six interceptions and fumbled the ball 10 times. That’s 16 total turnovers over four games. Much like last week against the Memphis Express, San Diego has been giving opponents great field position all season.
And while the Fleet has been giving the ball away, they haven’t taken it back very much. They have only forced five turnovers, all of them interceptions. That San Diego offense, with a relatively new quarterback taking the reigns, will want some short fields to take advantage of early and often. The Fleet defense needs to make that happen in order for San Diego to come away with a win against the Stallions.
My names Zachary Gartin. I’m a college kid going to school in Newberg, Oregon. When I’m not writing about the San Diego Fleet, I’m usually training for football or playing Xbox. Follow me @The_Sideline10